Thursday, August 24, 2006


I was talking with someone the other day who knows a lot about the human personality. He made a profound statement in the course of our conversation. He said, "a lot of argumentative, hateful people are an example of what I call pathological narcissism and intellectual laziness." I have to confess, I didn't know what he was talking about. So I asked him to explain.

But first, let me give a couple of old fashioned definitions. No Greek [excuse the pun] just Webster's dictionary. "Narcissism"...undue dwelling on one's own self, achievements,attainments or beliefs. "Laziness"...disliking exertion. You get the picture. Eyes for no one but me or mine and an unwillingness to exert energy or time thinking about someone else's thoughts or ideas.

He went on to say, "for some people, the pain of examining their own inner struggles, weaknesses, and failures [which we all have] is so great that they pathologically focus on what they do, believe, and accomplish, and must be correct in it all. [This is to avoid having to face those inner struggles and failures.] Their desire to be correct in accomplishments and beliefs, born out of this fear of personal inner inspection,leads them to an intellectual laziness about engaging ideas that are held by another. So, you have a person who becomes argumentative, opinionated, hateful and judgemental.

You can't dialogue with them because that takes two people listening as well as talking, and you'd better not disagree with them because that is an affront to their need to be right."

Well, I don't know much about the human personality but I think I've met some of these people. One thing for sure, I don't want to "be" one of these people.

By the way, do denominations have personalities?

Paul Burleson


Bob Cleveland said...

Not in my opinion. They aren't persons.

My freshman year in High School, our yearbook won national awards. It was the retirement year of the veneral principal who'd been there for eons. The theme of the yearbook was "An Institution is the Lengthened Shadow of One Man".

I think that's the case with denominations. Maybe a few men. But you get the idea.

If the shadow ain't Jesus, we're barking up the wrong tree.

annie said...

As much as I dislike encounters with the type people you describe, these encounters have thaught me that I surely would rather see, than be, one.

Bowden McElroy said...

I think your friend almost got it right. Narcissistic people don't have a "need" to be right; they have a world view that simply precludes any possiblity of being wrong.

Therefore, there is no "pain" involved in examining their failures because they have no failures. They may have been the victim of others' conspiracies or incompetence, but they have never failed.

Narcissists don't dialogue, they blame.

(BTW, ask your friend about "pathological narcissism": what, exactly, would healthy narcissism look like?)

Paul Burleson said...


I do get the idea, sadly.


I agree. And I'd rather not be around one either for that matter.:)


Great thoughts. Since I know little about this stuff I'll ask him. But it looks to me as if it could be a little like "unique". There is no "very unique" or "almost unique". It is "unique" and that's it. [But some do seem to be a little farther along in "unique" than others don't they even if the english language won't permit it. :)]

Paul B.

Gordon Cloud said...

Good article. Your friend is very insightful. Unfortunately there have been times in my life when I found myself on the negative side of what he was describing. When, by the grace of God, I was able to begin honestly examining myself, it radically changed my perspective on a lot of things.

I enjoyed your blog and will be back.

Paul Burleson said...

Welcome. Glad you've dropped by.

I'm not sure just how accurate my friend is in terms of classic definitions, but, he nailed me with enough truth that I knew where of he spoke from my own experience unfortunately.

Makes one really grateful for the GRACE of God.


tim walker said...

While a denomination by itself would not have a personality, I think the style of worshp, teaching of the bible, congregational attitudes and other factors would probably appeal to people of a certain personality. And that would lead to a sense of "personality" for a denomination.
One example of this understanding of personality would be seen in the area of musical syles in worship. Some denominations would prefer a high church approach to music and others would not even know what a pipe organ is. I am sure we could think of many other examples of differences in denomination that could be seen as "personality."

Bryan Riley said...

I would add that I think blogging is a perfect haven for one with such a personality and have worried that God is working on my own flirtations with self-centeredness through my flirtations with blogging. How many times have you written something that was intellectually lazy but you wanted everyone to see and agree with??? Ugh. Guilty. I hate it. Lord save me. I also believe I have seen others who exemplified this as well. We definitely should pray often and fervently that our comments and posts would do nothing to make God's reputation empty!!!!