In life there are individuals who are psychopaths, people who are different. These people lack remorse and empathy and feel emotion only shallowly. In extreme cases, they might not care whether you live or die. Fortunately they don’t represent a big part of our population.
It is also true that most people have some of the characteristics of psychopaths (see list below) and now we have a crude measurement that can used to assess whether a person is a serious psychopath or not.
Recovery groups of all kinds typically have an over-representation of this type of person. This makes an understanding of psychopathy relevant to recovery group leaders. Christian recovery is no different on this issue than secular recovery, where we differ is in our trust of God to help the individual remove these character defects from their life.
Here is the test and list developed by Professor Robert Hare, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia. It is a little subjective, but here is how to use it:
Give a person a score of zero (does not have characteristic), one (has partial trait) or two (definitely shows attribute) for each of the following twenty character traits.
- Glibness and superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Pathological lying
- Lack of remorse
- Emotional shallowness
- Callousness and lack of empathy
- Unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions
- A tendency to boredom,
- A parasitic lifestyle
- A lack of realistic long-term goals
- Lack of behavioral control
- Behavioral problems in early life
- Juvenile delinquency
- Criminal versatility
- A history of “revocation of conditional release” (i.e. broken parole)
- Multiple marriages
- Promiscuous sexual behavior
According to Professor Hare, a score of 30 or more qualifies for a diagnosis of psychopathy, a score of 35 or higher qualifies as seriously ill and a score of or close to 40 can be expected to be dangerous.
Don’t do a self-assessment! This issue in someone’s life is best dealt with by a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist. But do understand that these traits characterize some people and it helps us as facilitators, mentors or sponsors to know them, for the purpose of suggesting that an individual might benefit from one-on-one therapy as well as group attendance.
A true psychopath is highly unlikely to voluntarily join a recovery group because they like the way they live life, making change unattractive to them. However if they do, and they receive the message with genuine acceptance, they can make some serious progress. If they join a Christ-centered recovery group they can make serious progress and have God working with them!
God says this in His word:
Phil 2:12-13 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
And this promise applies to psychopaths as well as the rest of us!