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tion close to perfection, in an infal- lible and all-knowing way. Because of impossible standards, his pastor is doomed to fail.


And Sorensen did pledge not to make changes during his first year of ministry. So when he leads the charge for a contemporary worship service, Anderson experiences this contradic- tion between word and deed as a nar- cissistic injury, that is, an injury to his sense of self. The hallmark of narcis- sistic injury is rage.


In the second half of the 20th cen-


tury, narcissistic disorders began to steadily increase. A study from San Diego State University and the Uni- versity of South Alabama, Mobile, concludes that from 1994 to 2009 there has been a surge in narcissis- tic personality traits among college students.


“What this means is that we have generations of people entering the workforce that expect special treat-


ment, are demanding of others and are making risky decisions,” said Amy Brunell, a researcher at Ohio State University, Columbus. Depression and anxiety, the two most medicated mental health condi- tions in America, often are symptom- atic of a narcissistic disorder. Other symptoms include hypochondria, hypersensitivity to slights, lack of vigor, inability to concentrate on tasks, irritability, insomnia, feelings of emp- tiness, a sense of entitlement and the loss of meaning about life. Again, the fragile or vulnerable self is prone to narcissistic injury, as seen in the case of Anderson, and rage is the affective outcome.


This perspective helps us view Anderson with compassion and mercy, allowing Sorensen an opportu- nity to model “loving the enemy” for the congregation. Anderson’s world is threatened by a pastor who no longer appears


trustworthy and is perceived as mak- ing a radical change in his safe, con- gregational world. He feels helpless, unable to stop the change taking place. Such a self-state is unbearable and for Anderson, the offending person must be removed.


The ever-present hope As hard as it is to be in Sorensen’s shoes, he must resist his inclination to become defensive or reactive. Instead of just seeing a bully, he must ask what’s going on inside Anderson. This is a difficult task. We have trouble with anger or rage, particularly when they’re directed at us. All too often, ordained and lay leaders feel helpless and hopeless in the face of such powerful emotion. Instead of approaching the bully, we talk to oth- ers in the congregation, enlisting them as allies, or we avoid or ignore the person.


Sorensen is being asked to engage March 2011 31


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