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Religious "N"
November 13, 2008
11:21 pm
Forum Posts: 259
Member Since:
September 30, 2010
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Or course, I don't have to say again that I don't share this man's religious beliefs, but I like his explanation of achieving balance in life and with the job- the patients and the employer. Another perspective on pathologising *codependency*.


"the Co-Dependent Pastor...
Two basic types of pastoral disfunction- the narcissist and the co-dependent. We all lean one way or the other on that continuum- some so little it's not really an issue, others, well...

The need to succeed or the need to please and avoid conflict.

The narcissist, with his or her need to succeed really doesn't care what others think. When these people leave ministry, it's because they are driven out. Their self-centeredness and inability to empathize/think of others often looks for all the world like a person with vision and leadership charisma- someone who knows what needs to be done and does it. Unfortunately, when the truth becomes known, it's usually after people begin to see the long, long trail of metaphorical bodies that get left in the wake of these people- years of stepping on and over people may get you up the ladder, but sooner or later the toll becomes obvious and either the narcissist leaves or everyone else begins to. [whoa]

On the other side is the co-dependent. Helping professions are ripe soil for people who need others to help them establish a sense of identity... and the pastorate is no exception. It's a job where I can be fully and completely co-dependent and get rewarded for it. In fact, the more sold out the pastor is to you and your needs, the more he or she is (often) praised. The narcissist doesn't mind conflict- in fact, they kind of enjoy it. Another chance to focus attention on them and their leadership skills, but the co-dependent is motivated by the need for others' approval and will avoid even necessary conflict whenever possible.

The narcissist needs empathy and what they do must begin to be motivated more and more by the needs of others, not just their own. In other words, they need to care more about what other people think.

So, is the corollary true? Does that mean the co-dependent needs to care less about what other people think?

No. The co-dependent... heck, I need not to care less what other people think but know more what I think and who I am, apart from what others think about me and who I think they think I am.

In other words, the answer for those who tend to be driven by what others may or may not think of us, for those who tend to be hurt when others express disapproval or dislike is to be self-differentiated.

"Differentiation is the ability to remain connected in relationship to significant people while choosing not to allow our behavior and our reactions to be determined by them... The differentiated person lives an 'undivided life' by remaining true to his or her principles even though it may involve rejection or conflict."
-The Leader's Journey

I've been thinking through these things the last couple of days... every once in awhile you run into one of those speed bumps in ministry that make you question where you are at and what you are doing (well, not if you are the narcissist type...) and occasionally, for some of us, even who we are.

And that right there is the clue... when your identity is based on what others think of you (which, let's be honest, is a huge part of the pastoral gig), you are already in deep trouble.

Here's the truth, and it applies to everyone, no matter what you do. A healthy person doesn't disregard the thoughts and feelings of others, but rather, uses that input appropriately, to help make decisions... not identity.

I told you that narcissists get driven out of ministry by others. The other type drive themselves out. Co-dependent types hit a point mid-forties or fifties and drop out or burn out. The burden of being all things to all people, of maintaining an identity built on the approval of others and an agenda that gets ruled not by an inner compass but by a finger in the wind often leaves a burned-out husk... one who would have no idea who he or she was apart from their role as a helper of others. The narcissist leaves a trail of bodies in his wake- the co-dependent does the same thing, but it's usually a spouse and children who suffer. This type often sacrifices family for "ministry" and in the end hates and regrets ever listening to the call of Jesus. . . . . . .

.....To care what people think, but not be consumed by it. It's the key to sleeping well at night, to empathic and yet values (not opinion)-driven leadership... and I know for me, and maybe for you, it's the difference between making it and being completely shipwrecked by a vocation, a calling, that, not lived out in a healthy manner, has killed better men or women than you or I. "

Ok- y'all know I don't buy into the BigJ stuff, but he mentions helping professions. I wanted to make a difference to every patient - I wanted to contribute to my field, and make a difference. When disillusionment came, I retreated and became a good-money-making automaton, doing assembly line health care, my heart no longer in it. Over the last 12 years, at times I have had to strive to apply my ethics to patient care, whether or not the corporation that pays me staffs accordingly, or shares my beliefs about making the experience the most comfortable and the least frightening possible for the patient. I do what I can with the time allotted, it's all I can do.

This is not to say I am impervious to disappointment. I had to have a lesson reinforced to me recently. No big news to me there, just a reminder. This time, I am confident the disappointment won't take me down, if I don't become bitter over something outside myself that I can't change.

November 14, 2008
1:37 am

Interesting stuff as always, bev. It took me a minute to re-orient when you switched from quoting from the article to talking about yourself... but I think I've got them differentiated now (ha ha, little wordplay joke ;~)

I'm just in the midst of typing up something for the N thread on the other side. It's kind of exciting, I feel like all these insights gleaned from so many different sources are like pieces of a mosaic, and we're filling in a pretty comprehensive picture of how narcissism functions and plays out in our lives and our culture.

About the "good-money-making automaton, doing assembly line health care".... oh boy, do I hear you. But I too have opted for keeping a roof over my head while I do the personal healing work necessary to discover and grow into my identity. Sometimes one just has to be practical, eh? But I understand the toll it takes when it clashes with the values and ethics one aspires to. (((bev))) take care - thanks as always for sharing your personal musings.

November 17, 2008
2:43 pm
on my way
New Member
Forum Posts: -1
Member Since:
September 29, 2010
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This is very a interesting article, wow. There are some sick pastors out there to be sure. I have not known any like this, but I beleive they are there. Employers as well!

I can identify with the codependent stuff though..it is something I work on constantly not to allow others define my identity. I am finding though, and I wonder if others do this too....I have tended to gravitate to those people, employers, relationships, etc. that compliment that poor self-esteem issue that I have had, not knowing that this is what I was doing because it was familiar or comfortable, but then became very uncomfortable. It takes stepping out which is sometimes scary to even do. It is a horrible way to think. And it's true it is about leadership...a matter of leading one's self and taking ownership of our own stuff and loving ourselves through it all. Great article thanks for posting it.

November 20, 2008
11:11 am
Forum Posts: 453
Member Since:
September 30, 2010
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I have known a genuine, narcissist who was a pastor. Ditto a doctor. Ditto a company CEO. They're out there, all right. I can see why an N would gravitate towards pastoring a church...all that admiration and humble respect? Where the weaker, gentler sheep are leaning on your every word? That can be very heady stuff indeed, N or not!

As you know, I pastor a small church, myself. Each time people leave for any reason, it translates into my heart as personal rejection. There is my codependency and low self-esteem showing, eh? But I am getting better with it. I won't describe myself as "closed off" because I do, indeed, pour myself into the emotional and spiritual needs of those, entrusted to my little flock. But, I am learning not to get TOO close or take their friendship/loyalty too seriously. It can evaporate in a heartbeat, if I have to confront them with a hard Truth or say something they just don't want to hear. And sometimes, I must.

Will I burn out? I hope not. We all have days when we long to curl up in the fetal position and pull and blanket over our heads, until the day is over. Sometimes, I simply unplug my phone for a day. (And yes...I actually had five people leave my church because of this!! I am supposed to be available 24/7 and -- if not -- many get offended and leave.)

So, I don't know if winding up in this vocation is a byproduct of being codependent? or if it simply suits my personality, spirituality and love for people. Will keep you posted.

Thanks again for this article. I got alot out of it.

- Ma Strong

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