Why Writing on Narcissism in the Church is So Hard

I was reading a description of my “INFJ” personality this week and it hit me again – I’m a mess. My head spun as a I read painfully true quotes about my personality type:

You may become easily entangled and absorbed in how others are behaving or what they think of you. 

Due to their high sensitivity, they tend to be very compassionate people who are overly generous and conscientious to the needs of others. This makes them a target for predators like narcissists who seek to exploit them. That’s why it’s important for INFJs to develop a “radar” for emotional con artists and move slowly in relationships to ward off these toxic types.

They are easily overwhelmed by bullying types who treat others with a reckless disregard or abrasiveness. The exception being, of course, manipulative charmers who can “present” a more gentle personality type at the onset, but later unmask themselves to be cruel and callous. INFJs can have a more difficult time detoxing from these types of manipulators simply because of the trauma this “unmasking” reveals.

Ouch. Of course, there were stunningly positive lines that should have soothed my self-deprecating, INFJ/E4 soul. But these, and a few choice others, sent me spiraling. That, and perhaps the fact that I’m slowly tapering off of Zoloft after 20 years.

I’ve been pastoring and counseling and teaching for two decades now. That ought to provide some sense of self-assurance, confidence, even a sense of “expertise,” as these new friends described it when I did a recent podcast on narcissism.  But as I put it in a book on narcissism I’ve been chipping away on for 2 years, narcissism’s bite stings, and it stays with you a long time. I hear those lines above and they say to me: “You’re too broken, too confused, too enmeshed, too gullible.”

For years, I’ve watched the debris field – on a personal level, in close relationships, with clergy, in clients I care about, on church staffs. I am personally involved in this book in aImage result for narcissismway I’ve not been involved with any other. But, as the INFJ article also indicates, people with my personality see things – we see systemic issues before others do, we have an eerily intuitive sense of impending crisis, we have a highly active imagination which plays out multiple possible scenarios. This makes me a pretty good counselor – one who can see the contingencies, who can imagine multiple pathways, who can assess troubling systemic dynamics. It’s also…exhausting. Thus, my on-again-off-again relationship with this book I call When Narcissism Comes to Church. 

It is coming along. Seven chapter are complete, and I think they’re helpful. But a final piece is tough – I am mindful of all of the possible pieces I’m missing, whether I’ve just neglected to follow a lead or whether I’ll be courageous enough to say the hard things or whether my own issues blind me to something or whether I’ll write something worthy of the courageous people who’ve been bitten by narcissism’s angry bite. Mindful of this during my times of contemplative prayer, these sessions have been more difficult than usual, as my sense of focus, presence, and clarity is all over the place.

So, if you’re inclined to it, pray for me. If you’re up for it, send me a note to say, “Please write on this.” If you want, send me some encouragement! If you’ve got an idea – I’m all ears. I’d love to offer the church the most helpful, the most honest, and the most challenging book I can on narcissism.

 

13 responses

  1. Chuck,

    Please finish this book. I have been enjoying your recent snippets. Or rather, they have shone light on a situation in my past and brought some healing and comfort. I have shared the quotes with others and they are waiting for you to finish as well.

    Ike Hughes

  2. Chuck!!!! As I read this I thought that perhaps somebody told you about MY story!!!!! I am still recovering from the trauma of this very experience in the church. It has been a year and I still think about it daily and process the pain daily. While I have intentionally drawn wise voices to myself for self care, the church’s weakness in this area is EVIDENT! Please continue to write about this. The church and those who have been hurt by the church need this material because sadly, it is clueless that it is so bad!

  3. Chuck, the healing and better coping that has come since my family has learned about, recognized and named a couple of family members as narcissists has been incredibly helpful. I can only imagine what a wonderful book this will be to help congregations with “turn the other cheek” and what does Jesus truly mean when he says this … when narcissists demand/expect both cheeks, and an arm and a leg too!
    May the Holy Spirit inspire your writing.

  4. Hi Chuck! as a “fellow” INFJ I truly resonate with what you write. Also, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. This concept has helped me tremendously. I think I read that approximately 70% of Highly Sensitive People are INF’s. Thanks for this and YES absolutely keep writing! 🙂

  5. Please write this book!!! Educating myself about narcissism has been the most transformative knowledge for understanding my family/church culture, but the information was hard to find.

  6. Chuck, looking forward to reading the book. Perhaps you could dedicate a chapter to narcissistic denominations and the way they do damage to their people!

  7. Keep writing Chuck! The world needs more people like you and people need to hear your words. I love how they come from a deep place of contemplation and the Spirit’s leading and nudging and not just your own wisdom.

  8. I think it’s Rohr who talks about the adolesence of the American church- we are not yet fully developed. This narcissism epidemic in her leadership seems to validate that point. We can’t grapple with it unless it’s exposed and studied & brought into the light. (Which I’d imagine is not an easy task.). Also, I searched and searched for a resource that would help me understand the dynamics of a church falling apart, what you’re writing about would have given so many of us in that time a good & helpful word and possibly minimized some of the confusion and pain. Writing about narcissism is probably engaging it, which is always tricky, whether it’s in person or in theory!

  9. This book sounds like a must read! Praying the Lord provide wisdom and peace as you navigate through the process of writing and publishing it.

  10. Chuck, Thanks for your keen self-awareness and the wisdom you draw from it. I believe there is some narcissism in all of us, whether in self-inflation or self-absorption. Since a pastor’s narcissism affects others’ souls, we need to be attuned to our vulnerability and our vulnerability toward narcissism. I love your comment about the importance of doing the deep, long-term personal work involved in knowing our authentic selves. How does a narcissist (how do we) become aware of the deep emptiness or wound within that leads us to develop a popular veneer? Your book is needed. I look forward to reading it when it is ready.

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