Jo Saxton asks some tough questions of leaders in her talk at the Q Conference. Saxton believes there is a thin line between narcissism and calling that most leaders—including Christian leaders—walk on a daily basis.
“Our ambitions and our appetites and our longings for approval will take us to places our characters won’t sustain. They’ll take us to places we don’t have the capacity to resist,” Saxton warns. Leaders have power, privilege, and opportunity, Saxton says. And sometimes, even Christian leaders will use the resources at their disposal for selfish reasons.
Christians are constantly told we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we’re gifted, talented, here to change the world, amazing, worth dying for. “Narcissism never touches our lives at all, does it now?” Saxton asks the audience with a grin.
In the Christian world, leaders are in danger of using their callings as a cover-up for self-actualization or “wish fulfillment”. “In those places, our dreams become our rights; our popularity determines our success; our needs can become our necessities; and our celebrity is interpreted like it’s an anointing,” Saxton explains.
“Where is this calling a call? And where is this calling a need about us?” Saxton asks. This is where we need to understand the nature of narcissism so that we can avoid using our calling to cover up a problem with narcissism.
Symptoms of Narcissism
Taking some information from the Mayo Clinic, Saxton moves into the symptoms of narcissism.
Exaggerated sense of self-importance
Sense of entitlement that requires constant and excessive admiration
Exaggerate their achievements and talents. Saxton gives a Christian example for this one: How big is your church? There is a temptation to give the “Christmas numbers”, Saxton says, when we are asked that.
Believe they’re superior and can only associate with special people
Expect favors and take advantage of people to get what they want. The ends always justify the means here, Saxton says.
Saxton has thought about this problem of narcissism on a personal level. She says she is “one breath away” from allowing her appetites, dreams, ambitions make her the center of it all. We call it serving, Saxton explains, “and it actually is about me meeting my desperate needs”.