I read an article that struck me. I’ve replaced a few words in hopes you focus more on the general tone, not the specific situation:
“This is a person who has, throughout his life, lived in a self-created bubble. He keeps a very tight inner circle, which he populates, primarily, with family members and ‘yes’ men and women. Anyone who veers from the preferred storyline—which is always, ‘you’re great’—is pushed out of his inner circle.”
I know we see this in leaders, and it’s not a good thing. It’s sometimes seen as confidence or assertiveness. It is sometimes revered—but usually only in limited situations. Chronically, this personality trait is damaging. Don’t we all know people like this? Hopefully not many. Hopefully not ourselves, but we wouldn’t see it in ourselves anyway.
I have personally experienced this, and I’ve walked alongside several friends who have experienced it. People in those inner circles would say things about the person like, “They are the kindest, smartest, most generous person.” When you’re on their good side, they often are. As an example, I know someone who has a child too young to get bothered by some of his behaviors. He showers her with gifts and time. The older child, who has for years looked out for the younger child, has been respectful but truth-speaking, which includes sometimes calling him out on something. He belittles her, accuses her, and often ignores her. I don’t know for sure, but I believe, if she decided to begin affirming his behaviors unconditionally, he would embrace her once again.
These people often have been identified by parents, themselves, or others as the “golden child.” It seems odd that I or anyone else would even have to bring up the fact that fostering narcissistic tendencies is ridiculous and damaging. I know, people excuse it as building confidence and affirming. But we are not building at all. We are destroying.
People centered on themselves seem amazing to the people close to them, because as long as they see that inner circle as supporters, the inner circle feels like an extension of self. People centered on themselves sometimes get wider support with people they don’t really come in contact with because broad, bold statements sound good. “You did that? You can do that? You can do that for me? I’m in!” Those next-circles often include casual coworkers and neighbors, people who have only occasional contact, not every day. Long distance relationships and part time custody are often perfect situations for narcissistic tendencies to thrive. There is enough contact to engage and emphasize some highlights, but there’s not enough “in the trenches” experiences to see the cracks and inconsistencies.
Why do I mention this? Because we’re fostering narcissistic tendencies in people. Not because of social media and other technology (although that has an influence for sure) but because we’re not calling it out. We’re not speaking truth. We’re not asking questions. We’re not inviting accountability. I’m not talking about angrily confronting and blaming people. That doesn’t work. This is about engaging in ways that honor God. Speak the truth in love. And it’s not just about what we speak to others; it begins with how we’re willing to listen.
Are we willing to listen to truth? Are we willing to answer and explore tough questions? Are we willing to invite accountability? We all have room to grow. and if we’re not willing, we’re contributing to the problem, a problem not a single person can fix but together, we can shift from narcissistic tendencies to humility and generous compassion.