NARCISSISM

Set Me Free

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Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant will be no more
and the arrogant will have gone;   ~  Isaiah 29:17 – 20

          Oh dear Lord, I pray almost incessantly these days, Let that come to pass. That the tyrants and the arrogant at work be gone. Twenty years and counting, I cannot go on anymore. So many times, I imagined leaving this place. There were opportunities – but I turned away from each one for they would have taken me away from my husband and children. Any move would have entailed a long commute. With my husband already working away from home, my long hours would have broken and splintered this life we worked so hard to build. And each time I turned away from the hope of freedom to return to my prison cell of work, I knew this was the price of putting family first. Yet, it was also a price I would willingly pay over and over for choosing family.

         …the tyrant will be no more
and the arrogant will have gone

          Today though, a deep weariness overwhelms me. It contrasts sharply with my happiness and the heightening inner skip of my spirit as Advent deepens towards Christmas. This tells me how wrong it is to feel so afraid of work – simply because of those in charge – not work itself. If there’s anything I’ve learned this difficult year it is that I have an enormous capacity for work even if I often don’t realise it, and that I can adapt and succeed, despite being rather slow in understanding so many things.

          Yet, what blights my day and wounds me continuously is the arrogance of my superiors in the way they force us to bend to their whim. There are no productive discussions, little respect for genuine effort but plenty of meddling and interference. Today, it is very clear that what I am struggling with is not my inability to work nor is it my inability to be obedient to authority. We welcomed a new boss early this year, and like most new leaders, he had his own ideas of what he wanted implemented in our organization. This otherwise gentle and likable guy didn’t really take the time to understand what we were already doing and if anything needed change. Yet, I didn’t have a problem adapting to his vision and direction. For a while that puzzled me. What this new boss was asking had put me under extra pressure but I seemed able to comply and cope – cheerily too. By contrast, I was in a constant state of tension, fear and anger when working under my other superiors.

… the tyrant

          Today, I understand why: I am struggling under tyrannical authority. That, for me, is the mark of the beast that differentiates those others from my new boss – tyranny.

For tyranny is born of narcissism and narcissism is the plague that has taken so much away from me.

          God has told us to love one another, to love our enemies, to love those who do us harm. But is there a demarcation between this love and subjection to tyranny? Jesus loved in every instance of His life, right to His death on the Cross – but He never allowed Himself to be subject to the tyrannical authority of the Pharisees. He didn’t bend to their vision of God and of life. He didn’t walk the paths they set out.

          How do I do as Jesus did?

          I think I have tried to love, albeit imperfectly. This mottled love I’ve mustered under the pain of sacrifice for those who do me harm has not been a tale spanning a mere few years. It’s been twenty years. But there’s no escaping the fact that my twenty years wilts in comparison to the Israelites’ suffering of forty years in the desert. Held up against that gold standard of what suffering truly is, mine sure seems like a petulant whine.

          And still I cannot rise to my feet, suitably shamed to contrition. Please GodI can’t go on anymore, for today, I know my enemy’s name. Having lived in the chokehold of fear for most of my life, I don’t want to be a prisoner to tyranny any longer.

          Yet, with eight long years left to retirement and no other work options, I have nowhere to go.

…the tyrant will be no more
and the arrogant will have gone…

          Please, Lord. Please, take them away.

          Set me free.

Lent 11 ~ As Often As I Draw Breath

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‘I love You, O my God’
by St. Jean-Marie Vianney

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally. . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

 

          It is never easy to love one’s enemies – more so when they persist in reminding you of why they are not your friends and never can be.

          Yet, it is written in stone,

But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,…
for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.   ~  Matthew 5: 44 – 45

          On this blue~grey morn, hushed by the sweep of dawn rains, today’s Gospel reading brings 2 faces before me. They are not my enemies but I am surely theirs. They make no attempt to disguise their contempt for me and nothing pleases me more than not having to see them, for they can only live on the sustenance of my subservience.

          But my Jesus is very clear.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?   ~  Matthew 5: 46 – 47

          The lines prod me to do something.

Love your enemies

          I’d rather plunge head first into a swamp, Lord.

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you

          I can certainly pray for them but what if today God is asking something more of me? The God Who has given me so much? Can I turn my back on my God?

          Those 2 faces again. Reluctantly, I drag my will out of the swamp and place it in God’s hands. Tell me how You want me to love them, I tell the God Who didn’t have to love me but did.

          Rising to my feet, the angel comes to stand before me. I look up and he gently places a prayer in my hands.

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally. . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

 

          There is only one line I can earnestly say in all truthfulness. There is nothing of ‘enemy’ in it, thankfully, and I pray the line from my heart.

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

          Suddenly, the very moment I say the line, the sun tips over a huge pool of shine through the rain~pearled fir boughs. In an instant, the light renders the millions of rain diamonds a knife-bright gold. The timing and the sight stun me.

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

          To love God is to love my enemies.

          And to love my enemies is to love my God.

If my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

          If I cannot speak and show the 2 women I love them because it is sure to be taken a sign of acquiescence to their narcissism, to their perceived right to subjugate me to their will, I can certainly love them in the hiddenness of my heart. No turning the corner when I see them approach. No speedy shifting of my gaze. No need to jump into swamps.

           If my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love them, then, as often as I draw breath, in the heart where no secret is kept from God, I can tell these women,

I love you

          Because His sun rises on you as it does on me. Because His rain falls on you as it does on me. Because He loves you as He does me.

          So, as often as I draw breath, in the place known only to the God I love,

I love you as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 27 ~ Light the Darkness

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Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of my understanding and sharpen my conscience, so that I may recognize God’s will in all things. Send forth Your light and truth into my soul!

 

          Susan Skinner has written about a disturbing dream that speaks to our now and to what is coming:   a deadly confusion – embraced as truth and reality  – by more and more people. A confusion that will lead us to leave our faith – willfully – or without realizing it. We will give up all that is important for what isn’t.

          Because the world will become our master and it will guide our choices. No longer will we choose Jesus in our families, in our places of work, or even, I suspect, in our worship. We will choose the god of the moment – anything that the world compels us to worship at any one time.

          What Susan wrote hits very close to home as this is my suffering, my family’s suffering too. Each and every day, we are spiritually and emotionally hurt, sometimes even assaulted, by people who are angry that we are trying to choose Jesus when they won’t. My husband and I are suffering this on a daily basis at work. Our kids are struggling in school. It is not the usual disagreeable co-worker antics or the errant student or teacher.

          It is far, far worse. It is a pervasive, multi-headed slave-owner mentality that seeks to control and force us all to bow down and worship its many gods – money, self, whatever the idol of the hour.

          At the root of this abuse is the spirit of narcissism. We have the Holy Spirit. Satan’s is the spirit of narcissism.

          It is the spirit of narcissism that will encourage us to neglect our children, spouses and loved ones, to favour ourselves. It will delude us to believe that as we try to break the glass ceiling at work, we are doing what’s best for our kids at home. Narcissism will whisper accolades into our ears as we go deeper and deeper into work, drawn not by need, but by the siren’s call to worship of money and self idolatry, leaving our homes, our marriage, our kids emotionally and spiritually starved. It is not about earning the honest dollar; it is about money replacing our hearts.

          The spirit of narcissism feeds the winds of boredom. Suddenly, the Rosary is slow and ineffective, the Mass dull and uninspiring. Why isn’t the priest prancing around, where are the sermons of fire-and-brimstone? Narcissism pretends to commiserate with our spiritual lethargy  – only to slyly draw us away from the Eucharist, from the Word of God, from the hard truths of the tenets of our faith, towards fads and trends, modern gurus and spiritual ear candy.

          As the hour deepens, the voices that insist that we obey satan’s spirit will become louder and more convincing. It is easier to resist this nefarious wrecker’s wiles when it’s a single voice.

          Not so when it is a chorus gaining in size and volume by the day as more and more people succumb to narcissism in all its shades and forms. People like our closest friends, co-workers, our superiors.

          Our own family members.

          Not so when those who have fallen employ various means, even emotional blackmail, to get us to cross over to their side.

          Not so when we can no longer discern the fading line between truth and deception.

          It will be very, very hard to resist but it will not be impossible. Susan Skinner’s words to us are to walk blind to know what is real. To not depend on our sight but to allow the Holy Spirit to lead.

          To seek God in every way the Holy Spirit reveals to us, and then to depend on God to light the darkness for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Boundaries

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          It’s strange, the journeys we go on when we step back and let God take charge. After months of trying to quiet myself, of trying to discern, of being as obedient as I could, I had hopes of a new Advent journey into some unknown. I longed for something new and refreshing – because I was tired out from the work year. Tired of the same ruts and trenches. The same struggles.

          I wanted a change and I hoped for this Advent to give me that. I tried to direct God a bit too – by asking to be gifted with the book, A Pathway Under The Gaze of Mary. I went to a place where I was sure I would find it. Being the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it made me doubly certain that my prayers would be answered.

          Once more, I learned that my way was not God’s way. There was no book.

           So, I allowed my disappointment to steer me towards hearts that needed to be filled. The 12th of December passed quietly. The 13th brought little parcels of sweetness as we took a break for a quick holiday with the family.

          But the 14th dawned and the familiar restlessness was back. It was the feast day of an old friend, St. John of the Cross, to whom I owe my very life. There being no spot in my heart that I cordon off from him, I lay my seeking at his feet, asking,

What am I supposed to learn?

There is always something to learn when you come. So, what is it this time? All through my washing, my baking and cooking, I badgered. Tell me. Teach me.

          He helped me as I cooked. Watched over me as I napped. Yet, not a word passed through St. John’s lips.

          But as the rain-soaked night air pressed the hidden sun to sleep, two words from of old appeared once more,

Narcissist

Boundaries

          As any adult survivor of Narcissistic Personality Abuse will tell you, celebrations like Christmas are really tough. Because you’re expected to go home, to light fires of cheer and goodwill where your love is demanded in ways and means beyond you, but not valued nor treasured. Times like these, though brief, fill all the barrels for the coming year with enough hurt and tears to keep the sun out.

          And yet, the barrels keep filling and spilling over because the abuse never stops as long as contact remains. For the NPD parent firmly entrenched in narcissism, to stop abusing is to die. They keep hurting us in order to live on, believing in the deception that they have only our best interests at heart.

          But if we choose to draw the lines in the sand to cut off and separate our lives from theirs, we erect a wall they cannot climb – which is what I finally did, after more than 40 years of pain and madness that took my marriage and family life to the brink of tragedy and life-long sorrow. I was at the very edge of the cliff. Just before the rocks beneath me gave way, St. John of the Cross pulled me away. But he didn’t just leave me a safe distance from that cliff-end.

          St. John brought me face to face with God.

          And that day, I learned that Christian NPD parents are not above abusing the 4th Commandment: Honour thy father and mother, that all may go well with you. That day, I learned that I had been trained and conditioned to worship, not honour. And that was wrong. That day too, I learned that no vocation must be forsaken for the love of earth.

          My submission to Narcissistic Personality Abuse was destroying my vocation of Marriage and Family.

          In my situation, there was no option of standing up to my abusers. Not a chance of gently making them understand or even of forcing them to respect my vocation, because not only did this abuse in my family stretch back to two generations with multiple abusers and secret victims and abuse of varying degrees, it was also fed from both bloodlines. For every limit I had endeavoured to impose, there was always someone else with NPD in the family to back them up, to enforce the idea that they had done no wrong.

          That it was I who was wrong. And that they had been wronged by me.

          In God’s heart that day of my epiphany, I finally saw that the only way to save my marriage and family was to yield to a boundary my abusers could never cross.

          It’s now been 5 years since I’ve begun to learn the meaning of lying down in green meadows where a brook gurgles past blooms that dance in winds of freedom. Yet, every celebration time, the mist of fear and worry rises a little within me: Should the boundary remain? Should I return? And each time the question forms, I become afraid. I begin to fret over unlocked gates, passing cars. I tense up in familiar family grounds. I fear the phone, the mailman. All the things that bear the stains of past encounters.

          In those minutes when I give that question life, am unable to live. My mind gets caught in the trap of what-ifs. Prayer becomes careless, patience erodes, anger creeps in. And that is ominously telling. The boundary must remain for the vocation to live.

          In today’s coming though, St. John brings me a second reason for the boundary – it is to enable me to pray for my parents. The existence of the boundary means I am no longer trapped and held in bondage to the abuse that takes hostage my very mind and will. I am no longer caught up in anger and hurt and frustration. My mind is no longer clouded by lies and deception. My time is no longer taken up in paying homage to those who believe themselves to be God. I am free to live as God wants me to.

          But I have also been freed – to pray heart and soul, for my abusers. Because as the good priest made clear to me that day – the abuse makes me the person who knows exactly what to pray for them – that one day, like me, they too reach that shore where God’s outstretched Hand awaits them.

          And like me, they reach out and take It. And be freed.

          For that reason, the boundary must remain. The court of public opinion would assert that these are lines drawn with hate and unforgiveness.

          They are wrong. It is love.