To Be or Not to Be… Kind

Dear Christian Counselor,

My boyfriend just told me that I was getting on his nerves by saying, “Justin Bieber is cute, oh Usher is amazing,“ a couple of times to make him smile and laugh. And it’s normal for girls to say that kind of stuff. But instead he said I hurt his feelings again. I don’t know what to do.

Emily


Dear Emily,

I think your boyfriend has been pretty clear about what he would like you to do. The real question is why you don’t want to do it. When someone you care about asks you to stop hurting them, the kind response is to stop. What do you care about MORE than your boyfriend which makes you tease him this way? Is it being cool, knowing he is jealous about you, keeping some distance in your relationship or something else? Once you figure out why you don’t want to be kind to him, then you need to make a decision about whether that reason is really more important than he is. And if it is, then you probably shouldn’t be his girlfriend.

What’s in a Friendship?

Dear Christian Counselor,

Is it really that important to have a lot of friends? I think that I can feel just as lonely even when I have a lot of friends. I am the one that tends to not call or not let people get too close to me. I think it’s the little girl in me that doesn’t want to be hurt over and over again. So I just keep a handful of friends, and I tell each of them just how much I want them to know about me. When I thought that I had a good friendship starting, all the other person wanted to do was talk about her life, her day and her everything. I understand that she obviously needs to talk, but when she is done she immediately says ok, well I have to go. What’s up with that????

Your blogs make me think and also think deeper about Jesus. Thank you.

Afraid of Friends


Dear Afraid,

No, I don’t think it’s important to have lots of friends as long as you have a couple of great friends you can really count on and confide in. Even before the fall, when everything was right with the world, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” We do need other people. But after sin entered the world, friendships got harder and messier. I had a wonderful professor who taught, “People get hurt in relationships, and they get healed in relationships” – but once you’ve been hurt, it’s harder to risk making friends.

The kind of one-sided relationship you are talking about is not mutual, and so I would not call it a real friendship. A friendship can be one-sided for a season, during a time of extraordinary need, but to be a real friendship there should be give-and-take over time, risk-taking on both sides, room for mistakes, space for confession, true forgiveness, love and laughter. When only one person is sharing, giving, taking, etc., you are talking about a role you have in their life, not a relationship. It might be appropriate in some cases for you to have a role like that – with an elderly relative, for example. But if you are feeling used, as though you are simply a warm body on the other end of the phone, I think you are free to step back from that relationship and look for one that feels more like a friendship. You are not being fed and refreshed, and the sad part is that you are becoming resentful.

I know it will take courage for you to reach out and try again. I pray that God will give you that strength. You’ve already been hurt in relationship – may you now find some healing in a true friendship.

Can You Love a Narcissist?

Dear Christian Counselor,

 

I’ve read a few blogs and been told by a counselor to cut off the narcissist in my life because it’s too difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who thinks about themself all the time. I admit I’ve been hurt in the past, but I’m not sure I’m ready to take such a big step. What do you think about black-and-white advice like this?

 

Wondering How to Love a Narcissist

 


Dear Wondering,

 

I’d need a lot more information to give you my best advice, but, in general, I think it’s unwise to make black-and-white rules about a whole category of people based on a subjective diagnosis. It would be rather like saying you should never pet large dogs. While that decision might keep you safe, it would also limit your life in a way which might not be necessary and might not be God’s best for you.

 

We all start life as narcissists. We all come into this world seeing ourselves as the center of it, possessing little or no empathy for others, manipulating those around us and believing in our own hyperbolic specialness. Most of us are able to grow past that stage, but for reasons no one understands, a few people never do. Yet even for adults diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, there is a continuum; all personality disorders are variable and subjective in their diagnosis, presentation and degree. Most narcissists are not serial killers, though an extreme few are. Some are quite good at their jobs. Some maintain marriages and families and friendships. A few even manage to improve over time.

 

For the reasons stated above, I don’t think you can lump all narcissists and their loved-ones together and make blanket statements about how to deal with them. Are we talking about a lover, an employer, a sibling, a friend? We have more responsibility toward some than others. And what of the person asking the question – what are they strong enough to do? What are they being called to do? You might need to separate from a narcissist, either temporarily or permanently, because your heart has been so damaged that you can no longer relate to that person at all, in any helpful way. But that is not always how Jesus dealt with difficult, unsafe people (Judas and even Peter, for example). In many cases there is probably some middle ground between being consumed and ending all contact. The mistake generally comes in believing that love means allowing yourself to be consumed.

 

I am not sure we can say God has the exact same ‘no-contact’ plan for every person who is afraid of large dogs – nor for everyone who knows a narcissist.