Narcissists can make good first impressions, but they're selfish
By Dennis Diehl
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- I have felt for years that a minister, pastor or priest who in fact has mental and emotional problems can hide in the ministry for years because his quirkiness and his obedience and demands for obedience to whatever he defines as "God's laws" seem so sincere.
Many mental-illness quirks are mistaken for piety and spiritual insights. Leadership styles and public-speaking approaches that Christians would never tolerate in the workplace are encouraged in the pulpit.
A minister who is mentally imbalanced rather than spiritually inspired can wreak havoc on a congregation, and I am amazed at how often few, if any, members of the congregation will confront the problem until it has all but destroyed the church.
Therefore I'd like to politely ask pastors, priests and ministers -- you who have taken it upon yourselves to speak for God, Jesus, the apostles and the intent of Scripture -- to examine the quirkiness that drives your membership nuts and harms more than helps.
Take this test and like it
You -- who think you know the mind of God and can clearly see what the Bible wants humans everywhere to understand through you -- need to find a personality disorder test and take it.
Since you claim to know all of what God is, has done and is doing, along with the truth of every important question about things past, present and future, it's important that your church members understand the filter -- your mind -- that this information passes through before it arrives on their doorstep.
You say you know the mind of God. But do you know how your own mind works and why you inspire the reactions you do from the faithful? Do you even know how people feel about your way of being and doing? Is it just you and God against the world?
Are you mentally fit to lead and speak? Do you responsibly handle the moneys your congregants entrust to you, believing they are sending them to you to do "God's work"? Or do you teach them that, once they send it in, it is no longer their business what "God" does with it?
I recall a leading evangelist in the Worldwide Church of God telling church members that, once they sent their tithe in, Herbert W. Armstrong could throw it off a bridge if he wanted and it was not their concern.
What's the truth?
What about truth, justice and the American way? Do you tell the truth at all costs? Or do you improve on it now and then for your own glory rather than God's?
It's important you find out these things about yourself, because others who have gone before you have ripped the souls out of millions of would-be followers of the Eternal.
Those millions failed to take the time to ask their leaders to divulge a little bit about themselves before they got teary-eyed over the doctrines and other teachings they endeavored to superimpose over their spiritual hopes and dreams.
Mr. Minister, you're invited to see if you can see yourself in the following descriptions of mental disorders. If any of these disorders sound all too familiar to you, maybe now is the time to ask why.
o Paranoid-personality disorder: This ailment is characterized by a distrust of others and
a constant suspicion that people around you have sinister motives.
People with this disorder tend to place excessive trust in their own knowledge and abilities and usually avoid close relationships.
They search for hidden meanings in everything and read hostile intentions into the actions of others.
They are quick to challenge the loyalties of friends and loved ones and often appear cold and distant. They usually shift blame to other people and tend to carry long grudges.
Its symptoms also include an unwillingness to forgive perceived insults; distrust and excessive self-reliance; projection of blame onto others; a consuming anticipation of betrayal; combative and tenacious concern for personal rights; and relentless suspicion.
A minister with this disorder may believe the brethren are always talking about him behind his back and may blame all his problems on someone else.
o Schizotypal-personality disorder: Many believe that someone with the schizotypal personality has a mild case of schizophrenia. This disorder is characterized by odd forms of thinking and perceiving. Folks with this malady often seek isolation from others.
They sometimes believe they have extrasensory abilities or that unrelated events relate to each other and to them in some important way.
They engage in eccentric behavior and have difficulty concentrating for long periods. Their speech is often overelaborate and difficult to follow.
Symptoms also include odd or eccentric mannerisms or appearance, superstitious or other preoccupation with paranormal phenomena, difficult-to-follow speech patterns, feelings of anxiety in social situations, suspicion, shyness, aloofness.
Some of these symptoms might explain the tie, collar, robes or crown you wear during sermons. It might also explain the quasi-Jewish paraphernalia in the form of phylacteries and tassels that have found a home in your wardrobe.
These symptoms might also help us understand why we can't understand what the heck you're getting at in your sermons or how you wrested a particular idea out of Scripture.
Lacking social graces
o Antisocial-personality disorder: A common misconception is that "antisocial personality" refers to people who lack the social graces.
The opposite is often the case. Indeed, antisocial-personality disorder is characterized by a lack of conscience. People with symptoms are prone to criminal behavior, believing their victims weak and deserving of being taken advantage of.
Antisocials tend to lie and steal. Often they are careless with money and take action without thinking about consequences. They are sometimes aggressive and are much more concerned with their own needs than the needs of others.
Symptoms include disregard for the feelings of others; impulsive and irresponsible decision-making; a lack of remorse for harm done to others; lying; stealing; other criminal behavior; and disregard for the safety of self and others.
If you have an antisocial personality, that might explain your cruelty to church members or anyone who questions you, or it may be a clue as to why most of the members of your congregation are reduced to tears when they question your stewardship of their money.
It might also explain why you think you need a ministerial bus, or even a small jet aircraft, for your travels around the country.
It could even explain why you made fun of the guy who wasn't able to come to church and then died at home without your taking time to visit and encourage him.
In and out of the mood
o Borderline-personality disorder: A borderline personality is characterized by mood instability and a poor self-image.
People with this disorder are prone to constant mood swings and bouts of anger. Often they take their anger out on themselves, inflicting injury on their own body.
Suicidal threats and actions are not uncommon.
Borderlines think in stark black and white terms and often form intense, conflict-ridden relationships. They are quick to anger when their expectations are not met.
Symptoms also include attempted suicide or other self-injury; strong feelings of anger, anxiety or depression that last for several hours; impulsive behavior; drug or alcohol abuse; feelings of low self-worth; and unstable relationships with friends, family and boyfriends or girlfriends.
Your borderline personality might help us understand why you yell all the time or are so darn negative in sermons about everyone and everything on this beautiful planet.
It might even help us to understand why you disappear on missionary trips or evangelistic journeys for weeks at a time or your visits with brethren we have never heard of in places we have to look up.
The next stage
o Histrionic-personality disorder:
People with histrionic personalities are constant attention seekers. They need to be the center of attraction, often interrupting others so they can dominate the conversation.
They use grandiose language to describe everyday events and seek to garner constant praise.
They may dress provocatively or exaggerate illnesses to gain attention.
Histrionic types also tend to exaggerate friendships and relationships, believing that everyone loves them. They are often manipulative.
Symptoms include rapidly shifting and shallow emotions; exaggerated friendliness; and overly dramatic and occasionally theatrical speech. Histrionics are easily influenced and highly suggestible.
Whoa! If we realize you're a histrionic personality, we might then understand why nothing we say is good enough for you or correct and why you make such mountains out of our molehills. We might also understand why you think the whole world is just amazed at your wonderful self.
Good first impressions
Narcissistic-personality disorder: Narcissistic-personality disorder is characterized by self-centeredness.
Like histrionic disorder, people with this ailment seek attention and praise. They exaggerate the number and worth of their achievements, expecting others to honor them as superior.
They tend to be choosy about picking friends, since they believe that not just anyone is worthy of being their friend.
Narcissists can make good first impressions, yet they have difficulty maintaining long-lasting relationships. They are generally not interested in the feelings of others and may take advantage of them.
They crave praise and admiration, have a grandiose sense of self-importance, lack empathy, lie to themselves and others and may be obsessed with fantasies of fame, power or beauty.
How many narcissists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Just one. He holds the bulb and the whole world revolves around him.
If you're a narcissist, Mr. Minister, that may explain why we have to call you "Mr." and why the in-group you surround yourself with seems to quit working for you or gets thrown out every month or so.
o Obsessive-compulsive–personality disorder (OCPD): While OCPD is similar in name to obsessive-compulsive–anxiety disorder, the two are not the same.
People with OCPD are overly focused on orderliness and perfection. Their need to do everything "right" often interferes with their productivity.
They tend to get caught up in the details and miss the bigger picture.
They set unreasonably high standards for themselves and others and tend to be critical of people when they do not live up to their high standards.
They avoid working in teams, believing others to be too careless or incompetent.
They avoid making decisions because they fear making mistakes and are rarely generous with their time or money. They often have difficulty expressing emotion.
Symptoms include a need for perfection and excessive discipline, a preoccupation with orderliness, inflexibility, a lack of generosity, a hyperfocus on details and rules, and excessive devotion to work.
If you're an OCPD person, maybe that's why no one is ever good enough in your church or tries hard enough to become perfect.
We might then understand why you rant in every sermon about "God's law" and Jesus' imminent return with a rod of iron. Heck, a hug would be better, don't you think?
We'd also come close to understanding why once you make up your mind it never changes and why you brag about all the work you do for the church. It could also explain both your and our ulcers.
If you decide to consider a personality test, please print the results in your local church's bulletin. Even taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test would be helpful.
I recommended this to WCG administrators and got an instant no.
That told me a lot right there. However, taking the Myers-Briggs survey would be only fair, since lives, emotions, finances, faith, hope and love depend on whether you really do speak for God, Jesus and the apostles or would just like to be the boss of the world.
"Know thyself" was good advice in ancient times and is still valuable counsel today.
What about Dennis?
I know, I know. What about you, Dennis?
That's a fair question. Here is the result of my own personality outlook, according to a well-known personality test: Paranoid: low. Schizoid: low. Antisocial: low. Borderline: low. Histrionic: low. Narcissistic: low. Avoidant: low. Dependent: low. Obsessive-compulsive: low.
I also turned out to be an ENFP according to Myers-Briggs. That's Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceptive.
That's the same as 2 percent of the population.
ENFP types like myself make good negotiators, counselors, pastors and massage therapists.
Alas, the first three didn't work all that well in my experience as a pastor in the Wild World Church of God. I'm presently doing okay in the fourth one.