One Of Us Is Crazy


One Of Us Is Crazy

Charles Misja, Ph.D.

Ever had the experience of listening to a loved one talk to you and something just didn’t make sense because you walked away feeling like you were crazy?  Or, maybe he/she was crazy?  Well, one of you is crazy but you’re not sure whom?

We can feel off-balance, even a bit psychologically disoriented because we’re just not sure what, or who, to believe.  It’s like someone coming to you and informing you that the world is indeed flat, regardless of what you’ve been taught, and they say it with such conviction that you find them compelling, on one hand, but on the other hand you’re saying to yourself. “That’s nuts!  What’s he talking about?”
You may be talking to someone who is a liar.  Perhaps a pathological liar.  Perhaps someone with a personality disorder.  And despite your best efforts, you somehow find yourself believing them, or nearly believing them.   Are you crazy?
No, you’re not crazy.  You’re being caught up in a whirlwind of twisted truth, a line of reasoning that only that person believes but few others ever will.  So what’s going on?
First, the big picture:  The way God built us is that we have a sort of built-in lie detector called a conscience.  That device is supposed to hold us back when we are tempted to lie, or deceive (passive lying is withholding pertinent information from the other party causing them to believe one thing is true when the person is question knows full well it is not, with adverse implications to the other party).  We work hard to strengthen that capacity in our children so they tell the truth and ultimately are governed by internal constraints, i.e., a conscience, such that when they don’t tell the truth they feel guilty and the guilt motivates them to resolve the inner tension they feel, even if they “get away” with the lie.
But things can go wrong.  For some, that capacity is never fully developed.  They can lie, and do lie, without any guilt.  The inner mechanism isn’t developed to the degree that it controls their behavior.  Why and how this happens is a matter of great speculation and undoubtedly many factors play a role in it.  In any case, the person can lie with little if any internal conflict.
One of the implications that impacts others in their lives is that these people simply don’t feel the kind of pain that most people do feel, and should feel.  Most people will feel guilty even if they get away with the lie.  They know they’ve done something wrong.  They know they’ve wronged another person, harmed another person in some way and there’s something inside most of us that says, “I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me, it’s not fair that that I do that to them.”  This is The Golden Rule, which in some form is a basic morality theme in virtually all cultures and religions (Luke 6:31).  
In other words, we have a sense of “other;” that is, someone exists separately from us with their own identity, values, needs, and so on.  But for these people the sense of “other” is missing.  The only way others exist is in relationship to that person, others are only an extension of that person but they have little to no value in and of themselves.  So when the person in question performs a behavior that some might say is harmful, it isn’t harmful to that person if that person isn’t hurt.  It’s only harmful if that person is hurt, not another. This is an extended version of calling it “sin.”
This is why some people can do outrageous sorts of things and then wonder why others get upset.  They don’t “get it,” that they’ve inflicted harm on another person.  It doesn’t seem that way to them at all.  They don’t feel what most people feel.  They only know what happens to them, not to others (except if what happens to others directly affects them).
We call this a personality disorder.  We expect people to feel certain things and when they don’t, consistently and over a period of time, with consequences most people would find painful, we say that’s not normal.  That’s not how we’re built.  That’s not God’s design.  These people are sometimes called narcissists.  If they break the law they might be called sociopaths or antisocial.  
Worse, they believe the lies they tell others.   To them, it’s not like they’re telling a story knowing internally it’s a lie.  They really believe it and will defend it.  They demonstrate conviction and have a compelling presentation because of that conviction. 
The result of all of this is that if you don’t understand this stuff you can be made to feel like you’re the crazy one.  You start second guessing yourself and saying really dumb things like, “I’ve always been told that the world is round and believed it but John, I don’t know, he seems so sure of himself and so confident that the world is actually flat.  Maybe he knows something I don’t know.  Maybe he’s a genius or something.  I mean, he’s so convincing.”
The example about the world being flat is a simple and benign one, but of course in real life the stakes are far higher.  What happens when the topic is not something absurd like the world being flat but instead it’s how you are raising the children or someone’s use of alcohol or who is to blame for the latest marital misunderstanding?   What if the person you’re talking to is telling you what you consider to be untrue at best and absurd at worst and they are calm, collected, and compelling?
You need to have an accurate perspective.  You need to be grounded in information and context.  You need to have an opinion.  More than that, you need to develop a conviction about the matter.  Simply put, you need to be prepared to stand your ground.
Ahh, easy to say, not so easy to do.  And what if the person you are talking to is not willing to discuss, to negotiate, to reason things out?  What if they insist on being “right?”  What if they get loud? And what if that person is your spouse, someone you can’t just walk away from?
Keep in mind that you don’t want to be that person!  Just because you have differing perspectives on an issue doesn’t make them a liar.  And if you insist on being “right” (which of course means they are “wrong”), well, conflict is likely to follow.
Do your homework.  Do your research.  Get all the information you can.  To make sure your own thinking is accurate, talk to third parties without betraying confidences and be sure to not simply find people who agree with you but will not challenge you but instead talk to people who will truly help you think issues through including challenging you on your position.  
 If you are talking to a person who fits into one of the above categories, you have your work cut out for you and will need all the support you can get.  Individuals married to alcoholics often find useful support in Al-Anon, a support group for those who are married to or are involved in close relationship to an active alcoholic.  You may find value in consulting a professional counselor.  You need close friends.
Be prepared to defend yourself and stand your ground, and also be prepared to love the person you’re talking to.  This is a balancing act that requires wisdom and maturity.


  1. This is an excellent article. When we receive feedback from others about what we say or think or more important about who we are, it is important to consider several factors. 1)Who is this person? Is this someone I respect and has his or her life together? 2) Does this person care about my feelings or reaction? Like the blog says people with no empathy can be unsafe.3) Is this consistent with what I already know to be true or what others have told me 4) Does this fit God’s words? I have learned to carefully examine feedback before just accepting it.

  2. Carolyn Rodecker says:

    I totally agree that we need to do our homework!!! Becoming an investigator is critical. Seeking wise counsel is instruction given to us that has been recommended to us for centuries. Finding good support groups to help is in agreement with the “one another” principal. To remember that the person we are struggling with is an “image bearer” of the most high God helps to regain focus on loving this person. Balancing our own emotions, thoughts and behaviors is complex but necessary.
    These suggestions may seem somewhat formulaic… they are not; however, your suggestions are foundational to building a bridge for relationship verse blowing it up!
    Good blog!

  3. Rachael Hunyadi says:

    Thank you SO much for this article! I’ve been there and even done that! Today? I live in T.R.U.T.H! God gives me the strength to handle truth…just DON’T feed me a lie!

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