Some problematic cultural norms have become so commonplace and deeply ingrained that we hardly ever think of them. Moreover, we rarely think of the impact they have on character formation. The values a culture promotes and the behaviors it rewards shape not only individuals but also the society at large. Societies of noble character are built upon people of solid character.
Narcissistic bullies act out of a sense of entitlement. And they injure without compunction because they lack shame and empathy.
Character matters more than ever in our age of widespread narcissism – a culture of entitlement, relativism, and permissiveness that has kept too many from outgrowing their infantile egocentricity and developing the character necessary to be socially responsible.
An unfortunate number of folks bring all sorts of pain into their lives because they neither love themselves enough nor know how to love themselves properly. But self-love can be pathological, too, which is what the narcissism spectrum is all about.
Environments can be structured in a way that promote – even reward narcissistic behavior. Narcissism was once regarded as both an aberration and a significant disturbance or disorder of character. But a culture of entitlement, permissiveness, and relativism has helped make it more the norm. And sadly, in far too many aspects of modern life, narcissism has actually become quite adaptive.
Narcissists get “stuck” at the egocentric stage of emotional, psychological, and spiritual development. And their self-absorption keeps them from paying attention to and learning from what only caring, intimate relations with others can teach them.
Thanksgiving means more than a single holiday. Responsible people render it daily in their undertakings. But in this age of rampant narcissism and entitlement, cultivating gratitude is difficult. So, far too few give thanks with their actions. Rather, they take, use, exploit, and injure – all for their own gratification. And they do such things without compunction because they feel entitled.
I have much for which to be grateful. Your validation and promotion of my work has always inspired and sustained me. It’s impossible to say how much such support means to me. So, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you!”
Relationships with heartless characters follow a typical course. You get seduced by the tremendous interest someone shows in you. And most importantly, you mistake the interest for caring. Only later do you realize how utterly expendable you are, especially once you’ve outlived your usefulness.
Brash and vulgar narcissists naturally offend us. So, we naturally want to keep our distance and watch our backs. But charming narcissists are in some ways more dangerous. Like I say in In Sheep’s Clothing, dealing with them can be like getting whiplash. You only fully realize who they are and what they’ve done to you after the fact.
Researchers now know the reason disturbed characters have a hard time developing a healthy sense of obligation. When you feel entitled, you simply can’t feel obliged. You have to feel indebted before you can feel obliged. And you have to be deeply grateful before you can feel indebted.