Toxic Narcissistic Leaders
My parents joined WWCG in the mid 70s. It was not great. I am not going to go through the horror stories but to be honest there were some good times and I made some good friends. I went to Ambassador College at Big Sandy. I did not want to attend but did so for my parents and for the local church (yes, it was a silly reason to go). While I was there, I was told many times that I was not a leader and that I had none of the qualities of a leader. I thought that was a strange thing to say since I took the lead on a lot of things. What I didn't know they were really saying was I was not WWCG leadership material.
After four years of AC, I realized that I was not where I wanted to be. I bounced around for a bit and ended up in the Army. A couple of times in the Army I was told that I was not leadership material. This actually made me pause and start thinking what was I missing. I started looking into what makes me...well, me. What I learned is that I am actually pretty good at leading and I have been gaining rank at an accelerated rate to my own surprise. (I would advise you to take the Meyers Briggs personality test if you have not already; there are places on the web you can take it for free.) I got into leadership and the Army has let me explore what makes a good leader and I learned a lot.
Being told that I was not leadership material by these two different groups made me start to connect the dots of what leadership is. First, did I respect the people that told me that I was not a good leader? Well, no. Did I think that they were good leaders? Not really. I learned more of what not to do than what to do. So what made the people above these people think that they were good leaders? I really didn't know. So what I did was punch what I thought was the characteristics of these "leaders" into the web and it spit out "Toxic Narcissistic Leaders" and WWCG was full of them!
A Toxic Narcissistic Leader is characterized by a couple of different things in different combinations of what is below:
Poor listener (have you talked to a minister who has decided the answer to your question or request for help before you even open your mouth?
Being overly sensitive to criticism (I am God's appointed Minister and you better not question God)
Taking advantage of others to achieve one's own goals (I cannot think of many ministers in WWCG while I was there that did not do this)
Lacking empathy or disregarding the feelings of others (if this didn't happen to you in WWCG or the splinter groups, buy your lottery ticket now!)
Having excessive feelings of self-importance (I can actually hear you laughing at this one)
Exaggerating achievements or talents (hint: how many time did you hear "me" and "you" from the pulpit. Very little "us" or "we.")
Needing constant attention and admiration (did you have start a conversation with your minister with "Your sermon was wonderful" before you could get what you really needed to talk to them about?)
Reacting to criticism with rage, shame or humiliation (How many ministers would gang up on you at one time if you suggested some type of change?)
Being preoccupied with success or power (how many splinter groups were there again?)
Some of you have already put names to these traits and in some cases the list is long. There may be some of you that aren't quite sure yet so let me add some more:
Lacks integrity, breaks promises and dishonest (do as I say, not as I do)
Causes dissention in the ranks (sets up own superiority and keeps others from scrutinizing)
Speaks loudly and rudely and bullies people because of the position they hold (kiss up and kick down)
Loves brown-nosers, tattle tales, and people that report the bad behavior of others (this is a big one)
Fails to accept feedback or suggestions for improvement
Fails or takes credit for good positive performance of others
One last quote on toxic narcissistic leaders from the January-February 2013 Military Review and I will move on:
Narcissistic individuals also tend to be egotistical, manipulative, self-seeking and exploitative. Narcissists do not accept suggestions from others. Doing so might make them appear weak, which conflicts with their need for self-enhancement. Some narcissists have such an inflated self-confidence that they do not believe that others have anything useful to say to them. They also take more credit than they deserve, often at the expense of taking credit for the contributions of coworkers and subordinates. Conversely, they avoid taking responsibility for shortcomings and failures. Narcissistic individuals often are influential in group settings because they have such conviction in the worth of their ideas that others tend to believe them and follow.
Note: A little narcissism is a good thing; even a lot channeled properly can be useful. You have self-worth and you have good ideas. Without loving yourself and believing in yourself these thoughts and ideas will never get out. You have something to contribute to everyone and you need to have a the self-confidence to act on it.
So how in the world did WWCG and its splinters get these guys in charge of local congregations and why didn't they recognize what these people were? This is the hard to swallow part for most of us because of what we think a church is supposed to be. They wanted them in these positions! Here is why: toxic narcissistic leaders think that they are right beyond the point of reason. They can justify any action they do because they are "chosen by God." If they are right and chosen by God then God wants others just like them in positions of power! I do not know if Herbert W. Armstrong was a toxic narcissistic leader (from what I have read he probably was) but somewhere in the history one got high up in the food chain of WWCG and started promoting copies of himself to ministers in the WWCG. It is really amazingly that simple.
They are usually very adept at talking up their own accomplishments and blaming others for their failures. This is the kiss up and kick down principle. They display one self to their superiors and another to their "inferiors." They actually look good going up the food chain and can embellish their own accomplishments to what they think that superiors want to hear. It is easy for them since the guy above them is the same way they are. Not only that but if the guy above them put them in that position then they will not accept that they were wrong to put him in that position because that would mean they are wrong. Do you see the cycle?
What are the best strategies for dealing with a toxic narcissist? Get as far away from them as possible! They make you feel bad about yourself. They make you feel worthless. They berate and belittle you. They have no consideration for you. THEY WILL CAUSE YOU TO HAVE HEALTH PROBLEMS!!! Ask yourself: do you feel better or worse after talking to ministers or try to avoid talking to them at all? I know there were some ministers that I would hide from.
Here is the final kicker. Toxic Narcissism is an actual defined mental disorder. We actually had the nuts running the nuthouse! Many of you are saying right now, "I knew it!" It is a lot harder to see it on the inside but in hindsight it makes complete sense. Now why didn't we see it then and why are people not seeing it now? Easy. Being beaten over the head with these people God has placed above you, means that if you do not follow them then you are disobeying God. It is that simple. They took something that people in WWCG and the splinter groups have loved and they perverted it to their own narratives of them being special above everyone else.
There is no help for them either. To fix a problem they have to recognize that they have a problem. For them to recognize that they have a problem means facing what they did to people because they are not as special as they thought they were. The idea that they are not so much more special than anyone else is something that they cannot accept. This also lends itself to something very interesting. Because they are so full of themselves you can manipulate these people and talk about them like a dog right in front of their face. I don't advise this but if you have to suffer at least get some entertainment out of it. Search for strategies for dealing with and manipulating toxic narcissist if you are so inclined. It is better to just get away from them. If you are in one of the splinter groups and are ready to leave have some fun. Mail or e-mail the headquarters and tell them you are leaving because so and so is a toxic narcissists and list a couple of examples with a copy or link to one of the many articles describing toxic narcissism. It will mess them up thinking that they promoted this guy that is just like them. Of course they will set him out to dry and never recognize it in themselves but it will make them more paranoid and crazy than they already are.
This has turned out a lot longer than I intended but there might some gems in here that you can use and maybe cover some of the scars that you received or it may help you get out of one of the splinters because God loves you too much for you to put up with what you are going through now. There is a lot more information on the web about toxic narcissists in churches, business and the military on the web for you to look at.
So why did all these leaders think that I did not have leadership characteristics? Well, I took a Gallup strengthsfinder assessment awhile back and I will list you my top 5 leadership tools in order of strength that I use and let you decide if I fit into the WWCG idea of what a leader is.
1. Individualization - People who are especially talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
2. Context - People who are especially talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.
3. Learner - People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
4. Analytical - People who are especially talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
5. Input - People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
No, I don't think that I fit in as their definition of a leader. (Just for fun, can you recognize which of strengths I used to write this letter? Give you a hint: it was more than one.)
By Kenneth Carey (real name used with permission)
Profile of a Sociopath (A number of religious cult leaders may exhibit many of these behavioral characteristics)