"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble."
- Daniel 4:37
Like I said in my last blog, to say 2022 has been a crazy year would be an understatement. Two weeks ago, I donated a portion of my liver to an eight-month-old baby girl I have never met before (and hopefully will get to meet once we both heal if her family agrees). I published a book and started a book blog. After ten years, I returned back to school to get my Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In addition, I also enrolled in a two-year Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program. However, the craziest thing I did this year was to fall in love with (and become engaged to) a complete narcissist and then have to call off the wedding after the constant gaslighting/stonewalling became more than I could bear.
Our relationship started like a fairy tale, with him entering the story with an over-the-top entrance. He declared a loud and proud devotion to Christ and told me everything I wanted to hear. He gave me excessive attention and admiration. He was quite the gentleman. He took the boys and me out to expensive dinners and opened the door every single time I got in the car. I have learned now that grandiose romantic gestures in the early days can indeed be a sign that you are dating a good man. Or they are a sign that you are dating a narcissist, and they are love bombing you so that you become dependent on their affection and they can manipulate you with it later. Less than a month into dating, he was already talking about marriage, and like a love struck idiot I said yes three months later when he proposed. Narcissists have to get you to commit early before they get tired of faking being nicer than they really are. The engagement was the beginning of the downfall. Dr. Jekyll left and Mr. Hyde made his grand entrance.
At the beginning of August, I was forced to break off the engagement via text message because he refused to answer my calls/texts and had ghosted me. The week prior, we had a brief conversation in person where he told me his company was more important than our relationship, therefore he couldn't talk to me anymore after 6 or 7pm. He would turn the sleep focus notification on his phone so no calls could come through. Then he just stopped responding altogether. I don't know what the idea of marriage looks like to him, but I'm not interested in repetitively being stonewalled time after time as a form of cruel punishment. My kids already have one dad who disappears for months at a time, they don't need two. Instead of responding to my cancellation text message (since he was refusing to see me so we can talk about it in person), he had his mother call me because he knew it would hurt me more to continue to ignore me. To this day he still refuses to acknowledge my existence and has blocked me on social media. I had put thousands on credit cards to pay for the December wedding we were planning. I had paid for pretty much everything for the wedding because he promised to reimburse me. Instead of paying me back, he took a fancy trip to Belize. To top the whole ridiculous situation off, I found out he has already proposed to another woman with two children. Our wedding was scheduled for this upcoming December, and he's already engaged to another woman for crying out loud?! Part of me thinks this has more to do with the reason he disappeared after 6 every night, but only him and the Lord know.
If anything finding out the news of his new engagement was therapeutic. Why, you might ask? Because for weeks after I called off the wedding, I beat myself up relentlessly trying to figure out what I did wrong in our relationship, wondering where I could have been more loving or kind. I questioned whether I should have continued to endure all the psychological abuse and if I had continued to love him if he would have changed. For the past two months, I have grieved. I have cried. I have wrestled with God. I've been angry at times. I have prayed a ton. I have prayed for him even more. I have done a lot of soul-searching. Yet it wasn't until I found out he was already engaged again that I finally felt free from this throbbing heartache that wouldn't disappear. His actions made me realize he never really cared about me, just like he probably doesn't care about this new woman. He only cares about himself.
Throughout the grieving process, the word "narcissism" kept coming up over and over again in conversations with others. So being the bibliophile I am, I went on a quest to find a book on narcissism. The word is trendy these days, and I wanted to know precisely what narcissism is. They say you become like the people you hang out with the most, so after being engaged to a narcissistic man with borderline personality disorder, I figured it was important to know if I had become a narcissist.
That's when I came across How to Stop Being a Narcissist: The Complete Guide to Stop Controlling People, Stop Being Abusive and Fix Your Relationships by Jamie Williams on Audible. Jamie explains that we all fall somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum. It becomes a problem when it is taken to the extreme. That is when it becomes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Recognizing the difference between narcissistic personality disorder and simply having narcissistic traits is essential. We would all benefit to ask ourselves where we fall on this spectrum. Sadly, those with the personality disorder rarely dwell too long on this question because, in their minds, the problem is everyone else's fault.
He explains that cognitive distortions are what make narcissists think they are the only ones able to see reality. They are prone to black-and-white thinking (also called dichotomous thinking). You either agree with them or you are wrong. The truth is that our thoughts and feelings are not always based on facts. We aren't always right. Narcissists can't accept this and will use abusive techniques such as gaslighting/stonewalling until the other person questions their own sanity for having thoughts/feelings that differ from the narcissist. They will invalidate the feelings of others, minimize their own harmful actions, and maximize their own good qualities. They are always right and lack the ability to reflect honestly on the situation. Their need to be "right" is more important than the other person's feelings. They make empty promises and only change because they aren't getting what they want. When they can no longer control a person, they will move on to the next victim. Typically a codependent person with boundary issues and poor self-esteem (thaaaaaat's me!!).
Western culture encourages narcissism, to the point it is surprising that we all don't develop narcissistic personality disorder. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people."
What do we do when we are all such people? As Jamie mentioned in his book, we are all somewhere on the narcissism spectrum.
Back in Biblical times, there was a king back in the book of Daniel who shows us an extreme example of this personality disorder. Narcissistic Nebuchadnezzar, or Nasty Neb as I like to call him. The man even erected a golden statue in his own honor and set a decree that anyone who didn't bow down to worship it when the music played would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Enter our heroes: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three reverent young men had no codependency or boundary issues. They knew their identity and worth came from the LORD. So they refused to bow down to this fool's golden replica when the beat was dropped. Nasty Neb threw them in a furnace, and an angel of the Lord saved them. Not even a hair on their heads was burnt. Some scholars speculate the angel was actually the preeminent Christ. Either way, after being made a fool in public, Nasty Neb was temporarily humbled by the experience. He changed his mind by making a decree that everyone must worship the God of these three brave young men, and then he promoted them (probably for his own selfish reasons).
Fast forward a bit, and in the next chapter, we discover that Narcissistic Nebuchadnezzar hadn't had a genuine change of heart after being the only one burned in the firey furnace incident. Once again, his incessant pride rears its ugly head. Standing on the roof of his palace, he proudly exclaims, "Is this not great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" The words hadn't completely come out of his mouth when God straight-up called him out on his BS by telling him that he was now having the kingdom taken away until he realized to who truly deserved the glory. Nasty Neb's sanity was stripped from him, and he was sent into the field to eat grass like an ox for seven years. The man lost his ever-loving mind. It wasn't until he lifted his eyes towards heaven and gave the credit where credit was due that the Lord restored him to the throne. A more humble version.
Jamie Williams lists several suggestions in his book on how to stop being a narcissist: Becoming mindful of our actions, focusing outwards instead of inwards, practicing an attitude of gratitude habitually. All very important steps towards a less self-centered existence. I would like to add one more to his list: becoming Christ-focused. As we learned from Nasty Neb, it is God who deserves all the glory. As a recovering addict, two of the first lessons I learned in sobriety were that I am powerless (my addictions leave my life unmanageable) and that I need a Power greater than myself (aka Christ) to restore my sanity. Self-centeredness is usually at the root of every addiction. It was in my case.
While I am confident that I do not have narcissistic personality disorder, I admit I am at times self-centered and exhibit narcissistic traits. I hope that by recognizing the problem and humbly offering my heart to Christ, that He will continue to change me for the better. I'll continue to pray for my ex-fiance so that his pride doesn't lead him to Nasty Neb's fate in Belize. Eating chigger-infested seaweed or something.
Either way, I pray that God continues to open my eyes to see the people around me and how I can be more of a blessing to others instead of only thinking of myself. The blessing doesn't always have to be as dramatic as giving part of my liver away to a baby I haven't met before. Sometimes it is just smiling at someone instead of looking away. Or saying an encouraging word to someone who looks like they are struggling. Or remembering it is better to be kind than right when in an argument. The littlest actions sometimes make the most significant difference.
God graciously saved me from a narcissist and restored my sanity so that I can help others going through similar situations. Remember, God gives us the gift of sanity so we can share what we have been blessed with.
"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:7-10
I pray that you have a fantastic week friends! Know that you are loved, then go love others.