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Posts Tagged ‘character disorders’

I once got thrown out of Dodger Stadium.

It’s true.

When I was in eighth grade, my uncle took his son, my brother and me to a Dodgers-Mets game at Chavez Ravine.  It was the last Friday game of the season, Game 160.

We sat where we always sat at Dodger Stadium: in the general admission deck at the very top of the stadium.  Back then, I think it cost 75 cents for a kid to sit there.

My brother, cousin and I all sat in the front row of the top deck.  My uncle sat a few rows back.

The Dodgers weren’t very good that year, and the game was boring.  My brother and cousin would do anything on a dare, so I dared them to do something.

Expectorate over the railing and try and hit a certain bald guy in the head.

The two of them tried to hit him.  Oh, how they tried.  And when the guy below turned around and looked up at them, they pulled back and hid their faces.

But when he angrily stormed up the aisle – presumably in search of an usher or a policeman – the three of us hid in the men’s bathroom … where we were quickly caught … and discharged from the stadium.

My uncle was not happy.

“Honestly, I didn’t do it.  I didn’t do anythingThey did it all.”

But I suggested the idea … even if no fluids ever left my mouth.

I certainly bore at least some responsibility for our having to leave the ballpark that night … and I never tried a stunt like that again.

Does my little story have a familiar ring?  Remember what happened in the Garden after the first couple ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Adam told God, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Eve told the Lord, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Wanting to maintain the illusion of perfection … before both God and each other … the parents of humanity did not claim any responsibility for their sinfulness.  They chose to say instead, “She’s the one to blame!” and “The devil made me do it.”

The two stories above are just a microcosm of what’s happening today in our culture.

A woman hates everyone … and blames her parents for her isolation even though they’ve been dead for years.

A man gets divorced … and blames his wife for her controlling ways.

A boss gets reprimanded … and blames three of his subordinates for all his troubles.

A church member is corrected for gossipping … and blames her misbehavior on her husband.

A president is overwhelmingly elected … and still blames many of his problems on the previous administration.

Maybe the woman’s parents were abusive … and the man’s wife was controlling … and the boss’ employees were problems … and the pastor did overreact a bit … and the previous president did leave things in a mess.

But does this mean that the accusers bear no responsibility for their failures?

Thirty years ago – can it be? – in his classic work The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck wrote a chapter called “Neuroses and Character Disorders.”  Peck writes:

“Most people who come to see a psychiatrist are suffering from what is called either a neurosis or a character disorder.  Put most simply, these two conditions are disorders of responsibility, and as such they are opposite styles of relating to the world and its problems.  The neurotic assumes too much responsibility; the person with a character disorder not enough.  When neurotics are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that they are at fault.  When those with character disorders are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that the world is at fault.”

The statistics indicate that an increasing number of people are developing character disorders.  They fail to take responsibility for their actions, blaming others for their misbehavior.

When I was a pastor, I suspected that some of the people I had difficulties with had character disorders.  The tipoff was that they would never admit that they made a mistake or did anything wrong.  Even when they were caught redhanded telling a lie, they didn’t say what I heard them say.

In other words, it was all my fault.

It’s one thing to deal with someone with a character disorder occasionally at church.  It’s another thing to have a person with this condition as your parent, your boss, or your spouse.

Peck concludes his brilliant chapter this way:

“When character-disordered individuals blame someone else – a spouse, a child, a friend, a parent, an employer – or something else – bad influences, the schools, the government, racism, sexism, society, the ‘system’ – for their problems, these problems persist.  Nothing has been accomplished.  By casting away their responsibility they may feel comfortable themselves, but they have ceased to solve the problems of living, have ceased to grow spiritually, and have become dead weight for society.”

If you recognize such a person in your life, how can you relate to them?

First, realize you cannot get close to them.  We can only become close with people who display authenticity.  If you admit a weakness in your life to this person, don’t expect them to reciprocate.  They will disappoint you because they cannot be vulnerable.

Second, avoid working with them if at all possible.  When things go poorly, guess what?  They’ll blame you as a way of diverting the spotlight away from themselves.

Third, understand that you cannot work for them.  Some supervisors are sociopathic.  (There’s a lot of literature online about this problem.)  They charm their superiors while demeaning those who work underneath them … and divert any and all responsibility for failure to those they supervise.  When they make a mistake, they find someone else to blame.  It’s a sickness, and it can’t be resolved through prayer, office politics, or going to HR.  You can either quit, seek a transfer, or visit a counselor.

Finally, realize that people with character disorders will not change.  Why not?  Because somewhere along the line, they stopped taking responsibility for their choices.  Neurotics can change because they take responsibility – albeit too much – for their lives.  But people with character disorders are frozen in immaturity.  They may have the intellect of someone 42, but they’ll forever have the emotional intelligence of someone 13.

My guess is that you have a co-worker, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a supervisor, or a family member in this category.  Pray for them … and protect yourself and your family from them.

Imagine that you and the team you’re leading at church fail to meet a project deadline.

A healthy person does not say, “I’m 100% innocent … and my team is 100% to blame.”

A healthy person does not say, “I’m 100% to blame … and no one else bears any responsibility but me.”

The healthy person says, “I bear some responsibility for that mess-up.  Others do as well.  But I’m going to admit my part first … whether or not others admit theirs.  And I’m going to learn from this experience and not repeat my mistakes.”

Our Savior said it perfectly in Matthew 7:3-5:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

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