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.
We know that empathy capacity varies in human beings. But we also know that the mere capacity for empathy does not make a socially conscientious human being. Empathy must be nurtured. That’s often a very challenging task for individuals who lie somewhere on the character disturbance spectrum. And there’s mounting evidence that it’s most likely an impossible task for those at the extreme end of the spectrum.
Having proper care and concern for others is essential to a sound character.
Perhaps there’s no more urgent question needing answering in our age of more rampant character disturbance than how we can better foster empathy development in our children.
It’s one thing to think really highly – perhaps even too highly – of yourself and to be self-centered. But it’s quite another to view others with disdain or even contempt because, after all, they’re just not you. A pathological degree of grandiosity (i.e. malignant narcissism) is always at the root of bigotry.
Malignant narcissists don’t really need anyone nor do they particularly care about anyone other than themselves.
Misperceptions abound about why people commit serious crimes and eventually find their way into prison. Some of the misconceptions have been around a long time and persist despite mounds of evidence to the contrary.
People use and abuse others with alarming frequency these days. It’s an outgrowth of the culture of narcissism – a culture that promotes at least indifference to if not outright disregard for the welfare of others.
The “smoothness” or social facility psychopaths display is generally not matched by congruent and concomitant emotion. They may have a very easy “way with words” (sometimes accompanied by equally charming nonverbal gestures), but usually their smooth talk is not accompanied by any emotion that matches what they’re saying or that can be sensed and felt by others as genuine.
In the absence of empathy, it’s impossible to form a functional, mature conscience, and in the absence of conscience, civilization cannot be sustained.