Are Narcissists Evil?
Some, including narcissists and politically correct social workers, protest plain talk about narcissists and claim that they are not evil. Even Sam Vaknin does this, and he makes no excuses for narcissists. In fact, in several of his writings, he admits in one breath that “some” are sadists and then tries to tell us that narcissists are not evil in the next breath.
I’m not afraid to know a lie when I hear one, but I see no reason to think that he is lying when he says this. I think he is just failing to be completely honest with himself. Which is perfectly understandable, because EVERY person’s most prized possession is their self concept of themselves as an essentially good person. No one can bear the thought of being inherently evil. Here I mention a narcissist who told me she contemplated suicide when confronted with the fear of being inherently evil, saying that she would have been one of those suicides “who doesn’t even leave a note.”
So, I don’t blame narcissists for denying that they are evil. No one must condemn himself. Ever. No matter what.
And though I disagree, I think Vaknin makes a valid and important point here – a distinction that we all should recognize.
First, where I disagree.
As I often say, I am convinced that the only rein on a narcissist’s behavior is what he thinks he can get away with. So he will be as sadistic as he can. All are sadistic then, but only some are sadistic all the time, and most are sadistic some of the time.
Also, if you hurt others because hurting others makes you feel good, you like hurting others. Sorry, there’s just no getting around that. Trying to makes as much sense as trying to say that you don't like eating steak, you just eat steak because it tastes yummy. Sorry, that means you LIKE eating steak.
And, to LIKE hurting others is wickedness, malignance, malice, malevolence. No matter what other euphemistic name you prefer to cloak it with.
BUT, Vaknin is correct in viewing the narcissist as inconsistent with our image of “evil beings.” The mythology of the devil portrays him as a being who loves evil and does evil for it’s own sake. Just to do evil.
This is an understandable error, because the (truly) good love goodness for its own sake and do good just to do good, for its own sake. Naturally then, we just take the flip-side of that coin and apply to our image of the Evil One.
First, there is no such thing as the devil. It’s a symbol for something. Ill will. It is not some other kind of being from an eternal realm, a bodiless PERSON. It is the malevolence in some people.
Since it is the product of human nature gone awry, at bottom it is LIKE human nature. It differs ABOVE the root, not at its root.
Narcissists don’t love evil. They don’t do evil for its own sake. Which is why they don’t ALWAYS choose evil. Sometimes they advance their plan by choosing to do good for the wrong reasons. They do what they do because it makes them feel good. They are people in pain, and Narcissistic Supply (various forms of attention) are like a pain-killing drug to them. They must have it all. Like any addict who can’t get enough of his or her pain-killing drug, the narcissist will attack you and steal any you have.
That’s all. It may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a difference. They don’t hurt you just to hurt you: they hurt you because they like hurting you = hurting you makes them feel good.
The worse they hurt you, the better they feel, so they are sadistic.
I say that makes them evil. BUT, I also say that this should teach us an important lesson about evil.
Nobody does evil just to do evil. Nobody loves evil. Nobody does it for its own sake. Indeed, this is why the narcissist can’t face the facts about his conduct. He hates evil as much as anyone does. So he lives in denial of the evil he does, in deniel of the sickness/malignance within him. For, he too has brought up in the belief that the evil are inherently evil because they love evil and do it for its own sake. The dread of knowing himself as THAT is what compells him to malignantly narcissistic behavior.
But both he and we are WRONG. Narcissists are NOT inherently or essentially evil. No one is. They just make themselves evil by choosing to do evil, disregarding the consequences to others. Like selfish three-year-olds. Like us, they are the sum-total of all their life’s choices to date. So, they can become un-evil by making a 180-degree turn and living the other way.
Which will cost them each an arm and a leg, and Vaknin explains why here. Yet theoretically, it can be done. And perhaps the first step is to realize that this doesn't make them INHERENTLY evil. Not any more than stomping people makes them INHERENTLY superior.