Yesterday I was scrolling through my Facebook traffic and saw the following comment from my friend Crissy, “If I ever wrote a Christian book it would be called “The Need to Lead; narcissism exposed.” This comment grabbed my attention. When I went back later to read all of the follow-up comments, I read, “Would it be dedicated to all men of our generation and those that follow?” Although the original comment didn’t specifically say, men need to lead, some of the follow-up comments suggested to me that some of the women interpreted it that way.
This was a great post, and although the goal of it may have been good-natured sarcasm, as a man, I’ll man up and admit that there is probably some truth to these comments. Now before you guys (and gals) go off on me, let me say that I can only speak for one man, the man writing these words. Those that know me, know that I like to talk and that I’m not afraid to say what I think. And yes, sometimes I feel the need to lead.
Occasionally I stop talking (and writing) long enough to listen to others. When I practice this dying art of restraint, I usually learn something. In my opinion, all of my fellow armpit scratching, bodily noise making, football watching, meat eating, gun shooting, muscle car driving, truth-stretching brothers would learn something if we listened more to our wiser, smarter, more caring, more giving, more empathetic, more mature, and sometimes brutally honest sisters.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know what narcissism meant until I read Niccolò Machiavelli’s book, The Prince a few years ago. Narcissism is defined as, “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type,” and worse yet, ” self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.”
So basically, this post was saying that men who “need to lead” might be doing so because they really think that the world “needs” them and they expect the world’s admiration in return. Adolf Hitler is a male poster child for narcissism. I’m not a shrink, but I think that it’s safe to say that Hitler had narcissistic personality disorder which is defined as, “a (mental) condition in which people have an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lack of empathy for others.”
So are we narcissistic guys? I can’t speak for other men, but to be honest it does describe me sometimes. Sometimes I crave admiration from others. Sometimes I think that I’m more important than I should. Sometimes I am self-centered, and sometimes I’m not very empathetic towards the needs of others. Thankfully, God gave me a beautiful, loving, patient, kind, empathetic, discerning, wise and Godly wife who calls me out when I’m being, well…narcissistic. God certainly knew what He was doing when he made woman. God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18). Thank you Lord for my helper! God knew that man would need a good kick in the butt sometimes and I would contend that He created woman to do it for Him! I know that my life would be a complete mess without help from my sweetie.
I don’t want to be narcissistic. I’m not exactly sure what drives this nasty behavior. Maybe it’s because I was picked on as a child. I was short, fat and slow most of my childhood (and adulthood). When the neighborhood boys were picking teams for football or kick the can I was always the last one picked. I also remember working up the courage to tell a little girl that rode my bus that I liked her. I was devastated when she laughed at me and said, “Lenny you’re nice, and I would be your girl friend if you weren’t so fat.” I’m not writing these things to embarrass myself and make excuses for my narcissistic behavior (although I’m doing a very good job of it). I’m just willing to be honest in my self-analysis to try to figure out why in the heck I act narcissistic sometimes. My guess is that a lot of the men out there who are narcissistic have similar stories of being picked on, being rejected by a father, or growing up feeling rejected by women. I’m sorry ladies, we can’t all be tall, dark and handsome. To make matters worse, many of us lose our hair to boot!
I don’t know how to land this thought plane, so I’ll just end with this. Guys, just stop it! Stop acting like spoiled, selfish little boys. Shut up and listen to your wives. Wives are a blessing to protect you from yourselves. And you don’t always need to lead. Some of the best leaders that I’ve followed were women. And women, please continue to be patient with us. When we act narcissistic it may be because we are “damaged goods.” We may act tough, but we are really soft in the middle, and we need to hear that you love us and are proud of us often (whether we deserve it or not). Try it ladies and see what happens to your caveman. Most of my species are easily broken when we feel respected and loved.
Maybe we would all be better leaders if we learned how to be better followers.