It’s hard for me to think of a human dilemma I’ve encountered that didn’t have at its root a lack of positive regard for a person and the preciousness of their life.
Grandiose narcissists so wantonly use and abuse because they have little heart. They lack empathy. And they have little shame. And the more lacking they are in these things, the more easily they exploit.
Vulnerable narcissists haven’t fashioned a balanced or well-grounded view of their own worth. Pay attention to them and revere them, and all is fine. Ask anything of them, and you’ll quickly learn how “shallow” they are. This makes true intimacy impossible. They may do all sorts of things to “prove” they’re love-worthy. But they don’t know their true worth. And they neither know how to love nor how to be loved.
Each and every moment is an unearned gift. And it’s up to us to make every moment count. We do that by living each moment mindfully, in communion with the larger reality that connects us all. And whatever you call it, it’s this “higher power” the narcissists among us refuse to even recognize let alone serve. Truly noble characters place all their trust in this ultimate reality, and not in themselves or anyone or anything else.
We live in an exhibitionistic, self-aggrandizing, and self-indulgent society. It’s also largely an everyone for himself or herself society. It’s hard to become a conscientious, obligated, civil, and generous person in such an environment.
I’ve worked with thousands of person’s struggling to understand and deal with various disturbed characters in their lives. And it’s been most rewarding to equip these folks with both the understanding and tools they needed to empower themselves. I’ve also worked with thousands of disturbed characters. And to have witnessed many of these individuals become better people has been the blessing of a lifetime.
We humans are not merely products of our constitution or our environment. Yes, we have innate predispositions. And yes, things that happen to us influence us. But we’re unique among all creatures in our capacity for choice. And a variety of powerful experiences has taught me that a person’s will is capable of being nurtured, strengthened, and correctly directed.
Mindfulness as a character quality is more than a particular practice like meditation. It’s a state of being and a way of living. Being mindful is about keeping ourselves maximally aware of both our inner world and the outer world, as well as the impact of our choices on those worlds. To be of sound character, one has to be mindful.
To be of good character, we must become master of our appetites and aversions, our likes and dislikes. We must become master of instead of slave to what has been commonly called the “pleasure principle.”
Narcissism is pathological self-love. And noble character is largely about healthy self-love. Getting the balance right is what the third commandment of sound character formation is all about.