I’m not a doctor or mental health professional of any kind, so read this accordingly, but the longer I seek healing for the damage my childhood left on me, the more I realize that I grew up surrounded by narcissistic and borderline personalities. Do you know what happens when you tell a narcissist or someone with BPD that he or she is wrong? That he or she is hurting someone else, especially the source of that person’s narcissistic supply? An explosion happens. The narcissist being confronted with his or her imperfections is Ground Zero. The shrapnel flies outward from the narcissist and hits the other person—the person who is already hurt.
This happens because narcissists are so fragile in their self-image that any hint that they aren’t perfect is so very, deeply painful. The same goes for BPD. Somewhere along the line, these people picked up the idea that they’d be abandoned if they don’t produce perfection. The challenge is that, while someone with that feeling could have chosen the (still-destructive, don’t get me wrong) path to perfectionism, the NPD or the BPD person is internally compelled to lash out at anyone who suggests he or she might be wrong, might not be worthy of constant attention, affirmation, and adoration.
They’re so afraid of being hurt themselves, that they’ll protect their fragility at any cost. Any cost—as long as it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from their own pockets.
In today’s gospel reading, for Monday of Holy Week in Year B, Jesus and the apostles are at Lazarus’s house for a celebratory dinner, old Laz being non-dead and all. Lazarus’s sister Mary shows her gratitude by cracking a jar of super-expensive, scented ointment onto Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair. Judas, of course, doesn’t see a thank you gift for Jesus. He only sees what he thinks he’s not getting for himself.
Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.
How many things do people demand in the name of “the poor,” when really we just want someone else to make us feel rich? This springs from a lack of gratitude stirred up by a guilty conscience. We seek to discredit people who remind us that we do bad things, so we trash the good things they do. Moreover, we trash the people who are doing good things or receiving good things, because they remind us we could do good things, too, but good for others, we fear, takes away from good for ourselves.
We’re not just talking Judas here. Offing Jesus wasn’t enough. The chief priests wanted Lazarus dead, too.
So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’
Once again, Mary chooses the better portion. Once again, Jesus defends not himself but another. He knows what’s coming. He knows that He’s about to drop the biggest truth bomb of all time on some pretty earthly-powerful narcissists, and He knows which way those explosions go.
He knows they’re so afraid of the truth that they’ll cut down any mouth that speaks it. He knows the pain of anyone who’s ever confronted a narcissist.
This is the fear that I have, whenever I think of life-giving legislation coming down into our culture, as it stands right now. I don’t fear humans being treated justly; I fear the people who are so afraid of that justice that they’ll protect their own perceived fragility at any cost—any cost at all. It’s the same fear I feel when I think and pray over going to court over crimes committed against me. Honey, I do not want to be that close to Ground Zero, not when I’m the one lobbing the truth bomb.
And this year, through this morning’s lectio divina, I discovered that Jesus himself was no stranger to that fear. It was the fear that sweat blood in the Garden of Olives. Of course, it was a fear that Truth could face down, suffer through, and rise above.
And this is very likely my biggest cross, my biggest cup to drink. What is yours? Narcissist or victim, you still have a cross.
If you’re, like me, afraid of the backlash of any truth bombs that have been placed in your care… I have no answers beyond those Jesus gave us: to take up our crosses—our heavy, heavy crosses—and follow Him.
If you’re convincing yourself that the best way to peace is to cut off someone else, you’re not seeking peace. Don’t blow out someone else’s candle and expect more light from yours. If you’re like Judas and the chief priests, you have a cross, too. Your cross is whatever truth bomb you’re avoiding.
The Good News? Jesus is offering you the same resurrection that He offers everyone else. You can be made perfect, if you’ll let Him.