Relationships naturally grow in strength, depth, and wholesomeness in the absence of character disturbance. And when our most important relationships are solid, we can expect the makings of a healthy community. It all starts with character.
Loving relationships can promote character growth, that’s for sure. But when someone has significant character disturbance no amount of loving care alone can fix things.
Everyone has a distinctive way of seeing things and doing things. And we develop unique “styles” of relating to others. That’s what defines our personality. But sometimes a person’s style of relating is in itself problematic. Character disorders always present problems for relationships.
Authenticity is not so much a character trait as it is a state of being. To be authentic, you have to choose to be transparent. Doing so naturally makes you quite vulnerable. But it also opens the door to true intimacy with another.
We become the master of our appetites and aversions when we face and pass crucial tests of character. And the most crucial tests come with temptation, adversity, and power. These tests come early on and often throughout life. We build strength of character by facing and passing life’s little tests in our early years. This prepares us to face the bigger tests later on.
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.”
At a primal level, we are all animals with basic desires, instincts, urges, and raw emotions. And these primal characteristics of ours are not inherently evil. They’re a part of who we are. But because we are more than mere animals, we’re capable of functioning on a much higher plane. Before we can elevate ourselves to that plane, however, we must first “own” and then reckon with our baser inclinations. Of course, this is neither appealing nor easy. In fact the burden of self-reckoning is a “cross” we’re all called to carry if we’re to fashion a better world. Failing to accept this burden and instead lying about the flaws within ourselves that we need to reckon with is the ultimate evil.
The tragedy of our times is that far too many folks lack the attributes of character necessary to function in a mature, responsible way. But we all have it within us to become a better person.
Sometimes reality challenges the grandiose self-image narcissists have. And when a narcissitic wound is deep and the reality behind it too self-evident to deny, the consequences to those made to take the blame for failure can be profound.
Narcissists come in two main varieties: vulnerable (neurotic) and grandiose (character disturbed or disordered. Of the two types, grandiose narcissists are the more problematic. Unfortunately, because of the nature of our times, they’re also the more prevalent. The disdain they have for those they view as inferior often engenders a dismissive attitude that can really get under the skin of a relationship partner.