|Rediscovering Christian contemplative practice: day 5|
|Thursday, 23 August 2012 10:12|
A series on Christian contemplative practice with Shaun Lambert
Day 5: The distortion of narcissism
If ego is the poison of leadership, then narcissism is the primary ingredient of that poison. Narcissism is a post-modern psychological term with ancient roots that should have real interest for churches and leaders.
It is also a real problem for ordinary people in the workplace who have a narcissistic boss. It is a classic factor that distorts relationships between people.
Clinical Professor of Leadership Development Manfred Kets de Vries says that on the continuum of human behaviour there is healthy narcissism and unhealthy narcissism - what he calls reactive narcissism. (i)
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR),(ii) reactive narcissism, which is on the increase amongst leaders, is characterised by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and a lack of empathy. Causing great damage in organisations, danger signals of reactive narcissism include:
There are also a host of recognisable techniques for acquiring position and power, usually covertly, that go with these patterns of behaviour.
One of the theological challenges is that in their extreme form, personality disorders, including narcissism, appear to be almost untreatable from a psychological perspective. One of the main ethical challenges is how to manage a narcissist who is trying to gain power covertly, without utilising the same underhand and behind-the-scenes tactics.
We probably live in the most narcissistic culture of all time, so narcissism as a problem is only going to increase, and not just among leaders. Research including books on the subject of narcissism is burgeoning rapidly, with titles ranging from Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (iii) to Manfred Kets de Vries' The Leader on the Couch.(iv)
In another theological parallel, Jonathan Burnside, writing for The Jubilee Centre (a Christian social reform organisation) sees the modern secular society and its fascination with using power covertly as giving in 'to the same attitudes that are manifest in witchcraft'.(v) Cultic leaders might well be called 'snakes in suits' in the light of the sinister sway they exercise power over others.
The key questions are, 'How do we spot reactive narcissism in ourselves and in others?' and 'How do we tackle it?'
One of the problems is the lack of awareness among leaders and followers about the whole area of narcissism. This is not only a lack of self-awareness but an inability to diagnose reactive narcissism when it manifests itself.
Another problem is that narcissists are often good at impression management and hiding their real agenda and desire for power until they get in a position of power. By then it is often too late and very difficult to get the person out of that position of power.
A further problem is that a reactive narcissist will not tolerate any criticism, with attack being their first form of defence. People soon learn to avoid criticising a narcissistic leader, even constructively, because of the aggressive counter-responses.
Within the church, a leader can of course say that God is behind him - and who can argue with God? When God is used to support an authoritarian, controlling and 'untouchable' ministry, then this is a 'red-flag' danger signal.
Part of the solution is to ensure that love as the heartbeat of Christian ministry is a challenging love that diagnoses the afflictive thoughts and worldly patterns of behaviour of our fallen minds.
It is ironic that searching our hearts (which is commended) lies next to the theme of secrecy (which is condemned) in the thematic index of the NIV Thematic Study Bible. 'Search me, O God, and know my heart,' says the psalmist (Psalm 139:23).
Bringing the shadow side of leadership into the light of God is the next part of the story.
When we are narcissistic, and we are all on that spectrum, we replace the 'eco' of ecology with 'ego' and we damage the biosphere of all our relationships. We are often unaware of how culturally shaped we are in this direction.
We need to become aware of it as a primary distortion in our lives and culture. The question then to ask is, 'What can we do to change?'
Taken from A Book of Sparks Click here for more on A Book of Sparks, including how to purchase
The Revd Shaun Lambert is a Baptist minister based in Stanmore, North West London. He is part of the New Wine leader's network, and PREMIER Mind and Soul network.
For the last ten years he has studied integrative and relational counselling at Roehampton University and has written regularly for The Baptist Times.
He believes that all truth is God's truth and that Christians need to be learners and thinkers who help critique and transform culture.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 11:00|
By A Web Design
It's time to reject masculine and feminine stereotypes in favour of men and women becoming more Christ-like, writes Sarah Fegredo
Five different types of church which are attracting young adults have been identified in a new study
Many of Jesus' parables were about the realities of money. What does he say about loans, tax and financial rewards?
Lynn Green has been elected the next General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
Regular updates from the Assembly - click here for a full list of The Baptist Times coverage
The May edition of Baptist Voice is ready to download
The Baptist Times produces weekly news round-ups. Click here for more on these free emails.
A new section highlighting how the Baptist Union of Great Britain is changing its way of working.
BMS World Mission
News and views from around the world
Download the latest monthly audio magazine. Produced as a ministry to those who are blind or have impaired vision.
The church planting arm of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
News and views from the 18-30s - the website of the Baptist Younger Leaders' Forum
Baptist Times link on your site
Connect your church website to The Baptist Times by adding this button.
By Plimun Web Design