My yoga teacher Nancy offered a profound thought the other day, which originated with Ben Mandrell, pastor at Storyline Fellowship.
“The depth of your humility is equal to the height of your joy.”
Why do I find this simple phrase so meaningful? I’ve been pondering that for days.
The Value of Humility
The word “humility” is derived from humus, or earth. It means “on the ground.” I my own words, that means grounded in What Is, and able to assess What Is by having the ability to see your life as not only the subject of it, but also somewhat objectively.
In other words, in each person’s life story, we are the star, the main character, but in other people’s story we are merely part of an ensemble cast around the star. A grounded person can hold both viewpoints much of the time.
Humility is knowing, therefore, that you aren’t the be-all and end-all of the show. It requires, as we say in yoga, roots to rise.
Just as a skyscraper can soar above ground only thanks to its undergirding below ground, so can humans experience joy only to the degree they are humble.
Shallow Humility = Shallow Joy
So if you need humility to experience joy, as this quote indicates, does this mean that narcissists don’t get many moments of joy?
I mean true joy. Not the kind that comes from getting what you want, especially at someone else’s expense, or having money or power over others to acquire things or experiences, but the joy that comes from a deep sense of self-worth, of deep awareness of connection with others, of groundedness and centeredness that can’t be shaken from you, for it comes from within.
I kinda think so. And if I’m right, this is the tragedy of being a narcissist. Even if consequences never come from the outside, they are inescapable from the inside: the missing ability to experience joy.
I know there are several regular readers who grew up with a narcissist in the house. Some may be saying, “no way does a narcissist deserve any of my pity.”
I would not argue with you. I get that I am coming at this from a place of privilege. I did not have a narcissist in my family or origin nor have I in any later family configurations.
But I’ll say this. I bet my dog experiences more unbridled joy during an hour-long walk than an narcissist experiences in a year, a decade, half a lifetime. Sniffing away, Dexter giddily scans the ground (humus) with his nose, his way of connecting with fellow canines. The sheer joy of a walk radiates through his whole body and out his tail.
I suspect that narcissists, unable to enjoy even simple pleasures due to an inability to be grounded and to connect with others, are in a terrible prison of their own making.
And that, I believe, is a reason to feel sorry for narcissists.
Can you point to very many joyful narcissists?
So who’s with me. Who wants to become the greatest at being humble? Won’t it be joyous to brag about? Hehe.
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.
I agree with you about narcissists and joy. I think deep down many of them are aware that something is wrong because despite their actions they aren’t forever happy and often get left out in the cold. And I do think that it catches up with them later in life.
The problem is, there’s a lot of damage they do prior to that “huh” moment and that damage can have generational effects. So though I do agree that we should feel sorry for narcissists, I also think we need to provide support for their victims, offering support and counseling so that the cycle can end. It will be difficult to do, but all things with long-term benefits usually are.
We should absolutely pity narcissists. They sure are miserable people. At the same time we must all create and maintain effective boundaries to protect ourselves from them, because they will make us just as miserable as they are.
I agree with you, Noemi.
I have a potentially reformed narcissist in my immediately family. For sure he has been miserable his whole life and now that it appears he is on the other side of it, he seems so much happier, content, appreciative, and so many other good things. While it was difficult to be around, I always did feel sorry for him like you describe. And now, it is so wonderful to get to experience joy with him.
I love that there is hope for reform, and that you are experiencing it!
I had never even heard the word, “narcissist” until several years ago. A therapist said from my descriptions of my adoptive mother that it sounded like she was “narcissist.” I still don’t know what was wrong with my adoptive mother. One of the only times, I heard my big brother (my adoptive mother’s only biological child) cry was in a phone conversation when he said, “Oh, Jo, you didn’t know something was wrong with mom.” Nobody ever bothered to tell me what was wrong with her. but it certainly appeared to be more than just narcissism. Both of my brothers said separately, “Mom sure didn’t like you very much!” While our mother said to me one time just out of the blue, “You sure have a lot of friends and everybody likes you.” My aunts and relatives by adoption (my mother’s family) for the most part pretend I don’t exist. I believe they felt sorry for her and make excuses for how mean-spirited their blood relative could be to others. But that her slate is wiped clean after she dies. Perhaps, that’s their joy, but my humility goes much deeper. Yes, I do feel sorry for her as having been a flawed human being. Obviously, to be as cruel to me and others as she was not a healthy person. I am not sure I will ever totally be able to forgive her, but the way I have found joy is to know that I didn’t allow her to break my spirit. I am not even sure if someone would tell me what mental health issue that she struggled with that it would make any difference.
Your story of resilience in the face of deceit and narcissism and whatever else was going on is truly inspiring, JoAnne.
While I can clinically observe that narcissists lead very joyless and empty lives…I don’t know that it amounts to pity. I’m kinda mean that way.
There is a disconnect in logic there (one should feel pity for one who is joyless). I see that now.
I’m not sure I know any true narcissists. But I would believe Dexter is happier.
Also, this post made me crave hummus.
Lol. Me, too!
Nope. I can’t think of joyful narcissists. Because even if they are experiencing joy, it’s shallow. Nothing can ever live up to the polished, aggrandized version of things that lives in their heads. Memories are put through that filter, too. It is incredibly difficult to see (and to be subjected to). I do feel the pity. It is a personality disorder, and while it’s super harmful to those around the person, the person with it is suffering in their own way. I love Dexter. May we all have the joy he has on his walks!
Dexter rocks! His energy and yours feel similar to me <3