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.
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.
Grandiose narcissists will use and abuse you. And they’ll do so without compunction. They lack two important capacities: shame and empathy.
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.
It’s not enough to simply think before acting. What you think and how you’re thinking matters, too. You have to think with social awareness. And your thinking has to be guided by sound principles. Disturbed characters operate on the pleasure principle and the self-serving principle. But healthy characters operate on the principle of the greater good.
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.
Some individuals have a particularly hard time mastering this pivotal first commandment of healthy character formation. And most often, the reason for that involves their impaired capacity for empathy.
People who have overcome their infantile narcissism and have learned to care beyond themselves are altruistic and empathic. And people who are altruistic act for the greater good. They are the folks who see the big picture.
Teaching the important life lessons necessary to overcome our natural, inherent narcissism and making sure the environment supports and reinforces those lessons is a significant challenge, especially in a culture where people who glorify themselves get mounds of attention and are even held up as heroes.
It was once widely believed that children naturally move toward positive growth unless they experience trauma of some type. But we now know that what doesn’t happen in the way of learning certain crucial life lessons is just as important to good character development as the tragic events that might beset a person and arrest or impede their character formation. And that’s what prompted me to catalog what my experience has taught me are the 10 essential “commandments” of good character development.