A narcissist is described as a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. Narcissists can be incredibly harmful people to have relationships with. How can you know if someone in your life is a narcissist? And how should Christians respond to narcissists? Learn more in this Little Lessons series with Bible teacher David Servant.
How Should a Christian Respond to a Narcissist? (Part 1)
How should a Christian respond if he or she finds themselves in a relationship with a narcissist? Now you may or may not have ever heard that term narcissist or know what that is. That’s actually a term that psychologists have coined to describe a particular personality disorder, just like the term sociopath or psychopath, well, the narcissist is a much lesser degree of those two exhibits of a very selfish human behavior.
But nevertheless, it’s one that has been categorized by psychologists, and psychology is a science. It’s been developed through observation and human beings are a varied sort, and we are spirit, soul, and body. Now many, and perhaps most psychologists don’t recognize that we are spiritual beings, but they recognize that we do have a mind and emotions and intellect, what the Bible would refer to as the soul, and so they have studied that and there are people that exhibit antisocial behavior, usually it’s some degree of selfishness and they coin terms.
And actually for narcissism, psychologist have broken it down into different types of narcissism, I think there’s at least three or four types. So if you’re interested in it, you can Google it and find all kinds of YouTube videos. Apparently there are so many people that are finding themselves in relationships with people who exhibit narcissistic personality disorder, that it’s almost created a cottage industry of psychologists who are offering lots of advice on their YouTube videos and so forth.
I’m not a psychologist, I’m just a Bible teacher, but I have studied this one a little bit simply because I needed to, because of some of my own encounters with people who exhibit some antisocial behaviors.
So a narcissist fundamentally is a person who is just extremely self-centered, but there are certain traits that betray their self-centeredness. They have just an extreme, kind of a grandiose view of their own self importance, they are the center of the universe.
Now you won’t pick that out necessarily right from the start in the classic narcissist, because if a narcissist comes across as very self centered, that’s going to hurt them having any chance of bringing anybody into their circle and to have relationships. And so they often come across as very charming individuals and maybe even caring individuals, intelligent, but beneath the surface, once you get to know them, you realize that they think that they’re really, really, really important.
And they’ll be sending you clues to let you know that before too long. And if you keep listening to them they’ll be just outright telling you how you can’t get on without them, because they’re just so important. And so they’re living in a bit of a fantasy world where everybody else is expendable, except for them.
Let me just tell you, here’s a Christian response to that: nobody is expendable. And pride goes before a fall. And this is how God teaches us humility by disciplining us when we allow pride to get hold of us. And the narcissist definitely is in that category.
And unfortunately, narcissists aren’t quick to learn. When they do fall, it’s everyone else’s fault, it’s not their fault, they’re just purely the victim. And if you were involved in any way, well, you’re the problem. And people who are soft hearted and empathetic, sometimes take the blame themselves because the narcissist is able to successfully convince them that, “You’re the whole problem here.”
But eventually those people do wake up and that’s where that whole cottage industry of how to recover from a narcissistic relationship, that’s the justification for it. And any psychologists you talk to about narcissism, they’ll know something about them. So the narcissist also deals with disappointments when they don’t get their way, again, because they’re the center of universe. So they usually deal with disappointment with anger. And it’s usually beyond just normal anger, it’s rage, and everyone’s walking on eggshells around them because you just never know when they’re going to get upset. And it shows on their face, it’s a red face, it’s clenched fists, it’s a raised voice and so forth.
And again, everyone who knows them is always walking on eggshells around them because, you just never know when they’re going to blow up. And what’s so strange about the narcissist is that as fast as they can turn it on, they can turn it off. And they go right back into that charming mode again and it’s like it never happened. And people who are their victims, within their sphere of influence, they’re saying, “What just happened? What just happened?” It hit us, it hit me, but now it’s gone, did I see that rightly? Is something wrong with me?
The narcissist, they’re often great gas lighters, and if you can look up that term, it’s an interesting term, but basically they’re causing you to question your perceptions, that your perceptions can’t be right, because their perceptions are right. And they really play mind games with people.
I’m looking at a website that is, all these articles by psychologists and so forth, to look at the classic definition of the narcissist and here’s another one, “they need constant praise and admiration.” Now, as I go through these traits, you realize of course that we’re all narcissists to a small degree, at least. Because we’re all imperfect beings and frail and fragile and we all do appreciate encouragement and affirmation. But the narcissist takes it to a much higher level than that. And if you don’t give them the admiration and affirmation that they believe that they are due, oh my goodness, you’re going to hear from them.
And again, it’s all your fault. You’re not affirming, you’re not supportive, there’s something wrong with you. But in reality, something is wrong with the narcissist. They just have an excessive need for admiration. And so they tend to gather people around them who feed them that admiration. And if you don’t fall into that category, again, you’ll hear from them, and you will find yourself before long, persona non grata, because that’s not the kind of people the narcissist wants around. They want people who admire them and are always telling them what a great job they’re doing, what a great person they are, and if you try to practice, as a Christian, any degree of confrontation, oh, you’re going to hit a brick wall. You’re going to hit a brick wall.
Well, I’m so sorry that I’m out of time for this Little Lesson. We’ll have to pick up here in the next one, do a part two on this. So all we’ve done so far is really just begin to identify what a narcissist looks like by psychological terms. And in the next lesson we’ll have to talk about the biblical response to the narcissist.
Until next time, may the Lord bless you.
How Should a Christian Respond to a Narcissist? (Part 2)
We’re talking about a phrase, a psychological profile that’s called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And in a nutshell, it’s just selfishness at a much higher level than what you see in the average selfish person, like you or like me, okay? Because we’re all selfish to a degree. And as we endeavor to follow Jesus and allow his Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us and to dominate us rather than what the Bible refers to as the flesh, which is the old nature but still there’s a residue within everyone who believes in Jesus. We’re two natured. Paul talked about how the Spirit Wars against the flesh.
Well, in the narcissist, the flesh is winning a little bit too much of the time. Okay? And so they’re characterized by a grandiose view of themselves. They’re much more important than they actually are, but only in their own fantasy world.
And they tend to gather people around them who will affirm them because they have an excessive need for affirmation and it’s almost borderline adoration. They’ve always got to hear what a great job they’re doing and if you don’t tell them what a great job they’re doing, then you’re non-supportive and it’s all your fault that you’re having a problem with this person.
Narcissists, because of the whole world centers around them, they have a sense of entitlement. So rules that apply to other people don’t apply to them. And again, it’s the fault of the rule makers. They have some ulterior motive, they’re trying to stop me from being all that I can be. I deserve much better treatment than this because A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and so they’ve got a whole list of reasons why you should be admiring them. And if you don’t admire them, when they finally part ways, the last thing they’ll say to you is how you didn’t admire them and they’ll be talking about their accomplishments and why they deserved better treatment from you. It’s always your fault. The narcissist never takes the blame.
The narcissist exploits other people without guilt or shame. Again then of course, that would be a lower degree of what’s displayed by the psychopath and the sociopath, where they can kill people in some cases and it doesn’t bother them in the least. They have no remorse whatsoever. Well, the narcissist is not to that degree, but the narcissist still sees other people as pawns in their universe. They are used to build them up and so again, that’s who they gather around them. And anyone who’s not in that category finds themselves … Well, you’re going to be hurting.
Another characteristic of the narcissist is that they really express their disappointment by means of rage and outbursts of anger and everyone walks around eggshells around the narcissist. And here’s one last one, the narcissist frequently intimidates and bullies other people. And so if you’ve run into a person, if you have a relationship with a person who’s like a bully, they’re always demanding and they’re going to get their way and they’re going to force their way no matter what, then you’ve probably run into a narcissist.
So psychologists, again and this is a science, they have studied it, so I’m going to tell you what they say then I’m going to tell you what I believe the Bible says. Psychologist say that Narcissistic Personality Disorder cannot be cured. And so the only response, the only intelligent response, if you find yourself in a relationship on any level with a narcissist is just to get out of the relationship. You cannot win. You cannot win, so do not waste your time. Narcissist do not change they say. And so that’s the solution. Don’t try to argue with them, don’t try to have a discussion with them, don’t try to confront them and get a mediator and so forth. Hopeless, absolutely hopeless according to psychological studies.
Now I wonder, of course, if psychologists have all studied what happens when someone’s born again? I don’t know if they acknowledge that actually happens, but those of us who are believers know that God’s pretty good at turning people from selfish to unselfish. And from people who are the center of the universe to where God becomes the center the universe. And he commands us to love others as we love ourselves. He’s acknowledging, interestingly enough, in that commandment that we do love ourselves. And so that’s the standard, we should love others just like we love ourselves. We’re all a little narcissistic. And God’s in the business of curing little narcissists and he can cure big narcissist as well by the same Holy Spirit, nothing is too difficult for the Lord.
So with keeping all that in mind, the question that I posed at the beginning of this and the last of the lesson was, how should Christians respond to narcissists? And I think they should respond to them realistically in recognizing that the chances of them changing are slim, but the way to do it is through the gospel. Now you say, “Well, I’m dealing with a person who is a narcissist, has all the characteristics of it, but they say they believe in Jesus and they’re Christians.” Well, that does present a problem.
I don’t know how a person who consistently displays the traits of being a narcissist as defined by a psychological profile, a personality disorder, could actually be a Christian because the work of the Holy Spirit is real and he specializes in curing people. And so what you might have is a person who thinks they’re a Christian because they prayed a prayer, or they got baptized, or they joined the church, or whatever, or they had some kind of a moral reformation at one time and so forth. But are they truly born again?
So here’s why I say this, because if you then confront them, as again that will be a Christian response, “if your brother sins against you go to him.” Isn’t that what Jesus said? So if there’s an outburst of anger by a narcissist against you, well then according to Jesus, you should go to that person and confront that person. Well, a Christian when confronted with facts of truth, Christians are supposed to yield to the truth because we are lovers of the truth. But again, one characteristic of the narcissist is that he is never wrong. He doesn’t take the blame for anything. He would never get up in front of a crowd or even personally and say, “I’m sorry. I blew it. I didn’t do the right thing. Would you please forgive me?” because it’s not his or her fault. It’s your fault.
I had a narcissist one time blow up on me and immediately justified it by saying, “this is the only way I can get you to listen,” already justifying it. And what he meant was “it’s the only way I can get you to do what I want you to do by intimidating you,” like a bully, like he’d done so many other times before and so many other people had experienced it.
So I would say confrontation is the biblical response, but don’t get your hopes up. And then I would say sharing the gospel, trying to help them to see that … I mean, the Bible says that one of the works of the flesh is outbursts of anger and those that do such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. This is in Galatians chapter five, read it for yourself. Those who are characterized by the works of the flesh, they give evidence to the fact that they’ve not been truly born again. And so that’s the real problem, but thank God there’s a real solution. But again, God resists the proud and the narcissist has a big dose of that. The narcissist thinks that they’re so important that you can’t make it without them. Okay?
So that’s probably not very encouraging advice, but hopefully it helps you to have something to latch onto and at least give a try. But once you’ve tried that, Jesus talked about if they don’t receive you, shake the dust off your feet and go on. Now there are people that God knows he can’t have relationships with, and so if God can’t have a relationship with them, how are you and I are going to have a relationship with them? Are we better than God? Pretty unlikely.
Okay. Well, out of time for today. Until next time, may the Lord bless you.
What Should You Do When a Narcissist Turns Your Friends Against You?
What should you do when a narcissist turns your friends against you? In our previous two Little Lessons, we’ve been talking about a personality disorder that psychologists have coined narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissism is characterized by a grandiose view of oneself. A very, very important person who sees other people as a potential admirers, and that’s what they’re trying to collect. A person who never takes the blame for anything because they’re living in a fantasy world where they do everything so well. And they’re very quick to tell you how well they are doing. And they’re often bullies and they often deal with disappointment by anger, outbursts of anger and rage so that everyone walks on eggshells around them.
So one of the things that narcissists will do if you let them into your life, is that they will begin to target your friends, especially if you’re not giving them quite the admiration that they feel that they deserve. And again, narcissists have an extreme need for affirmation and even adoration. And so they are looking for people who will provide that for them. And they’ll go after anyone who admires you, because they actually become jealous of the admiration that you’re receiving. And they’ll try to take it for themselves. And how can they do that? Well, they can do that if they could turn your friends against you.
I know it sounds hard to believe, but again, narcissism is a higher form of selfishness than what you would normally see in standard human behavior. And narcissists, it’s a moral issue and it’s a conscience issue, but they’re ignoring their conscience in these instances. And so they’ll be jealous if people admire you, and so they’ll go after those people to try to get them to change their view of you. And of course they can’t go against you overtly, it has to be very covertly.
And so they’ll say lots of nice things about you to your friends, but once they’ve won the confidence of your friends, then they’ll say, “I think you should know this about David.” I’m just using myself as an example here. “Now he is a great guy, but a lot of people don’t realize, and I do because I’ve gotten to know him so well, blah, blah, blah.” And they plant these seeds in the minds of people they trust. So then you discover that your friends are kind of avoiding you because the narcissist has turned them against you.
And this narcissist is a person in your life whom you trust. Hard to get along with, but you’re putting up with them. And you just don’t realize the damage that they’re doing behind the scenes. And, in order to get admiration the way that they can lift themselves up is by putting you down. If you squash a bug it elevates you a little bit, and that’s how the narcissist thinks. And so what should you do if you find yourself victimized by that common characteristic of the narcissist?
Well, you’re fighting a battle now because if your friends have bought in to the lies, when you go to them and defend yourself, you’re the second person coming now, you’re defending yourself. You weren’t the first to bring the news. You’re the second to bring the news, and they’ve already believed the first person who brought the news. If they were a true friend, they would’ve come to you and said, “Hey, so-and-so is saying these things about you, and I don’t want to believe it. In fact, I don’t believe it. And I think I should warn you of what they’re saying about you. But if there’s any truth, I’m going to give you a chance to talk.”
But friends that aren’t worth having are people who will listen to rumors and slander, and lies against you, and keep it quiet from you. And when you discover it, and then you try to defend yourself, it’s too late. It’s too late. So you have to, surely at that point in time, consider is this really a friend worth striving to keep? Because they believed a lie about me, they’re not even willing to listen to facts, examine the truth. They feel like I’m attacking them because I’m challenging their viewpoint. Are these really friends that I want to fight to keep? And they’re probably not. They’re probably not. So let them go. Just let them go. And you need to get that narcissist out of your life. That’s all you can do.
Now, I’ve talked in the previous lesson about biblical confrontation, and that’s something that we are obligated to do. With the narcissist, your chances of success are slim to none. Nevertheless, we have an obligation. Jesus sends us to preach the gospel to people he knows aren’t going to receive it. We still have to tell them the truth because then they’re held accountable for it. And so it’s not a pleasant experience, but you go to the narcissist and say, “Hey, you’re spreading lies about me and I don’t appreciate it. And here’s what you said.”
And you’re going to run into every objection. There’s a very good chance that you’re going to come out the loser in that. But then you can wash your hands. And the narcissist will never be… In fact, if the narcissist knows you’re coming to confront him or her, they’ll find an excuse to not meet with you. And if they do meet with you and you are at loggerheads, the narcissist would never agree to follow the biblical principles of reconciliation, of getting one or two to come with you and mediate. Nah.
And what will they say? They’ll blame you again. “Well, you’ll never change.” To the narcissist, it’s always your fault. Okay. And you can begin to second guess yourself and wonder, and you begin to think, “maybe there is a problem with me,” and so forth. This is why there’s so many psychologists who specialize in recovery from narcissistic relationships, because people come out of them with their minds spinning. And they’ve been gaslighted. They’re questioning their own sanity and so forth. And it’s a terrible, terrible experience. Your heart goes out to anyone who’s been through that.
So, you get better as time goes on. And you get to see these signs of the self-centered narcissist once you’ve encountered one, and you learn to avoid having relationships with them so that they can’t turn your friends against you. Because in many cases you introduce them to your friends as a courtesy to them, and then what do you get in return for it? They turn your friends against you. It’s horrible. It is horrible.
But God up in heaven sees it all. And again, friends that can be pulled away so easily by the lie, and again, the very, very sly, very calculated, very charming lies of the narcissist. But still, the friend who can be pulled away from a friendship with you because they believe the lies of the narcissist is not a friend worth keeping. They’re not really a friend. Okay. So you just have to face up to that and say, “Well, I’m glad God opened my eyes. God gave me some real friends. People that wouldn’t just listen to anything about me. And if they did, they would definitely tell me.”
Okay, until next time, may the Lord bless you richly.