THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR- 1 in 25 Ordinary Americans Secretly Has No Conscience And Can Do Anything At All Without Feeling Guilty


By Martha Stout, Ph.D.

            Sisters, drop everything else and read this book!  It explains, from a psychological and scientific point-of-view, just what is wrong with truly malevolent, devious, cunning abusers.  This book will answer all your questions about how anyone could be so cruel or treat those who love them so wickedly.  It is a disturbing and creepy look at the cold-blooded, ruthless among us.  Until now, they were free to “get away with murder” by staying under our radar, but The Sociopath Next Door “outs” them.

            Did you know that “1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty”?  In our ministry,  we teach that such people are referred to in the Bible as being of a “reprobate mind.”  Reprobates are cannot be redeemed- they are “foreordained to damnation” by their consistency in choosing Satan’s way over God’s throughout their lives.  The Lord gives them many opportunities to turn to him and repent, but they choose evil every time.  Eventually they are no longer capable of doing good, and Satan has complete control over them.  God then “turns them over to their reprobate mind” to suffer the consequences of their evil in this life and the next, and to be used to teach the rest of us.  Many Scriptures tell us to avoid, outcast, shun, or not associate with, such people.

            Reading such an in-depth, modern day analysis, in contemporary language, of the Biblical “reprobate” is fascinating indeed.  From the first paragraph, I was riveted.  The Sociopath Next Door begins, “Imagine-if you can- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members.  Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.  And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.  Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs.  Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.  You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness.  The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.”

            After this opening, I could hardly put the book down until I had finished it.  The number of people I recognized in my own family, and that I had heard of throughout our ministry, who fit this profile, was astonishing to me.

            The Sociopath Next Door is a book about most aspects of conscience- its origins, biological, anthropological, societal, religious, etc.  A number of amazing studies are explained which demonstrate various aspects of conscience or the lack thereof.  Also discussed are fascinating studies on why normal people don’t question or confront those who are doing evil, especially when the evil ones are perceived to be authority figures. 

            Many “enablers” tend to make excuses for abusers, and a favorite excuse is that the abuser himself had an abusive childhood.  But “there is no convincing body of findings linking the core characteristic of sociopathy- that is, the absence of conscience- with childhood maltreatment.  Furthermore, sociopaths as a group are not afflicted with the other tragic consequences of childhood abuse, such as depression and anxiety.”  One surprising study found some evidence that sociopaths are actually influenced LESS by their early experience that are nonsociopaths.  I do urge you not to be discouraged from reading this book because it discusses scientific studies- it is still very readable and easy to understand.

            Sociopaths (formerly referred to as “psychopaths” by the medical community)  do not feel emotions, especially positive emotions, and most especially, love.  They have different goals in life- some may want wealth and power and stab others in the back to get to the top, some may want only to dominate and terrorize their own family, some may want to live off others and never have to work.  Their life is a game of manipulation of others to reach their goal, whatever it may be.  Their interactions with others consist of battles of will, mind-games, and other ploys for domination and control of others.  Many times they will “bite their own nose to spite their face” in their quest to win the “game” of making others “jump”, just for their amusement.  They blend in well, and could be anyone from a political or church leader, to a sweet-looking young mother, to an elderly neighbor.  Sociopaths can never be “cured”, and don’t want to be cured.

            We are given suggestions for recognizing sociopaths. They are often hypocondriacs, and use their “ailments” to get out of doing work, helping a friend out, taking on a responsibility,  etc.  They often have an aversion to sustained effort and hard work and prefer to get others to take care of them.   A reliable clue to a sociopath is some variation of the “Pity” ploy.  This is because they know that “good people will let pathetic individuals get by with murder, so to speak, and therefore any sociopath wishing to continue with his game, should play repeatedly for none other than pity.  More than admiration- more even than fear- pity from good people is carte blanche.”

            Very useful is the author’s “Thirteen Rules For Dealing With Sociopaths In Everyday Life”, which include “suspect flattery”, “question authority”, “redefine your concept of respect”, “do not join the game”, “question your tendency to pity too easily”,  “never agree to help a sociopath conceal his true character”, and “the rule of threes (basically three strikes and you’re out)”. 

            One of my favorites, which the Bible also teaches in numerous scriptures, is  “The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication.”  The author explains that, “Psychologists do not usually like to recommend avoidance, but in this case, I make a very deliberate exception.  The only truly effective method for dealing with a sociopath you have identified is to disallow him from your life altogether.  Sociopaths live completely outside the social contract, and therefore to include them in relationships or other social arrangements is perilous…..You will not hurt anyone’s feelings.  Strange as it seems, and though they may try to pretend otherwise, sociopaths do not have any such feelings to hurt.  You may never be able to make your family and friends understand why you are avoiding a particular individual….Avoid him anyway.”

            The author’s observations on what ends up becoming of these people are consistent with my own experiences. Such remorseless, ruthless, and demonic beings may do well for a while, or even for many years, but they eventually begin a downward spiral.  In the end, they tend to self-destruct and their lives become dreary, lonely, and boring.  Many of their schemes will be uncovered, they may lose jobs, go to prison, and have no one who will have anything to do with them.  The author tells us that “One might even say that, for the extraordinarily patient observer, one technique to determine whether or not a questionable person is a genuine sociopath is to wait until the end of her life and witness whether or not she has ruined herself, partially or maybe even completely.  Does she really possess what you would love to have in your life, or, instead, is she isolated, burned-out, and bored?  Is it perhaps stunning the way the mighty have fallen?”