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Is Malignant Narcissism a Spiritual Disorder?

Updated on May 20, 2016

Why People Hurt Others

Are people born wicked, or does evil behavior develop, incrementally, over time? Do people intentionally hurt others because they've sinned so much that their hearts become hardened?

I don't have the answer to these questions. I'm not sure anyone does. But, as a Catholic who blogs about malignant narcissism, I often wonder what's behind the apparently rising incidence of personality disorders, such as this one.

This condition we call "malignant narcissism" was first described in 1964, by a German psychologist named Erich Fromm. He was the first to put a label on the highly inappropriate behavior he observed. This included exploiting others, as well as being manipulative and dishonest.

A malignant narcissist will try to take whatever they see. When they set their sights on something, they're like a runaway train. Nothing can stand in their way. They have no problem destroying friendships, marriages or someone's good name.

Nowadays, nearly every office has a workplace bully. These are the folks who try to get other people fired, just for sport, or because they want to claim their target's position as their own.

Malignant narcissists are also prone to exacting revenge. If their feelings are hurt, even if you didn't mean to do this, watch out. A payback is headed your way, and it's not going to be fun.

Have you ever shared a secret with a malignant narcissist? If so, you've made a big mistake. That's because morally disordered people can't keep a secret. In addition to spilling it, they'll add their own sinister twist, all in an effort to make you look bad.

I could go on and on about malignant narcissism, but I won't. Instead, I'll defer to Dr. Fromm. He described it as "the quintessence of evil."

Source

Character Disturbance in Our Society

A Severe Mental Sickness

Dr. Fromm also believed the behaviors he saw represented "a severe mental sickness."

People who practically live to hurt, and even destroy, others are very disturbed indeed.

Therapists know that someone who incessantly gossips and tries to stir up trouble, two other characteristics of this disorder, are not mentally grounded. They are miserable inside, filled with jealously and a deep-seated rage. What they have is never good enough. They always want more. If someone else has something, that possession (or person) becomes all the more attractive to them. So they will do anything, even to the point of breaking the law, to achieve their goal of getting what they want.

Malignant narcissists have poor impulse control, so they oftentimes do really stupid things. As much as they try to mask their disorder, this liability often exposes them.

Another characteristic of this disorder is inability to control their anger. Not being able to stop themselves from lashing out most of their relationships are short lived.

All of these are signs of great mental distress.

Source

What About the Ten Commandments?

As Christians we need to refrain from judging one another? But what does this really mean? Certainly, we should never try to judge the state of someone's soul, or where a particular person is headed for all eternity?

But we are free to disapprove of aberrant behavior. We need to believe that murder is wrong, as is anything else that breaks one of God's Commandments.

Malignant behavior is not according to God's plan. He asks us not to lie and not to bear false witness against our neighbor. He asks us not to covet our neighbor's goods. He also commands us not to kill. It's part of Catholic moral teaching that we can kill someone's reputation as well as their physical bodies.

So, in an objective sense, we can determine that this sort of vexatious behavior is sinful. Whether or not an individual is committing a mortal (or serious) sin is where things become fuzzy. That's something known only to God.

But, objectively speaking, the behavior associated with malignant narcissism is very sinful.

Conditions for Mortal Sin

The Catholic Church teaches that three conditions are necessary for mortal sin. First, the sin must be serious. Second, the person must know it's serious, and in violation of God's law. And, third, the person must know what he or she is doing is wrong, but decides to do it anyway.

If all three of these conditions are not met, any sin committed would be considered "venial." All sin offends God, but venial sins do not separate us from Him.

Since the conditions required for a sin to be mortal are subjective, whether they are met are not for us to judge.


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Malignant Narcissism Involves Breaking the Commandments

The Eighth Commandment (according to Catholic tradition) explicitly tells us not to bear false witness against our neighbor. But the deviant behavior associated with malignant narcissism usually involves a well-executed smear campaign. Although a narcissist's accusations may contain some truth, it's their particular spin on this tale that causes so much damage.

Morally disordered people have a propensity for mixing a little bit of truth with a lot of lies. This is very sinister because it make the fabrications easier to digest.

We are also bound by the Fifth Commandment not to kill. This includes "killing" anyone's good name. In fact, it's Catholic teaching that if you malign someone, God requires you to try to set the record straight. Of course, this is impossible because, at this point, the people who've heard the gossip have probably formed a negative opinion of the target. It's virtually impossible to erase the damage.

However, malignant narcissists rarely admit they are wrong. In order to make reparation, they would have to backtrack and remember every conversation, and then beg the listener to not believe their lies.

Source

What Sin Does to the Soul

It's a well-known fact, based on Scripture and Catholic teaching, that mortal sin hardens the heart and closes one off to God' grace. It's grace that helps us avoid sin in the the first place, and keeps us on the right path. It's this same grace that prompts us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Have you ever heard the expression, "There but for the grace of God go I?" This is usually said in response to the knowledge that one of our brothers or sisters has fallen. It underscores the fact that without God's help, we'd do something similar, or even worse.

Sin also blinds us to the fact that we're sinning in the first place. It is very true that one sin (or one lie) leads to another. A soul mired in sin doesn't really love God, or anyone else. When love is lacking, all bets are off. So we're much more likely to abuse others.

A Catholic Take on Calumny, Detraction and Whispering

Pope Francis Speaks About Corruption

Before Pope Francis was elevate to the Papacy, he wrote about the spiritual effects of corruption back in 2005, when he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires. He believes corruption is "worse than any sin," according to a published news report in a Catholic media outlet. This is because it "hardens the heart" against feeling of remorse, which someone would normally feel after they've done something wrong.

In his published writings, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, explained that before corruption is set in one's soul, there is potential to repent, and to ask for God's mercy. However, someone corrupted becomes oblivious to the fact their wicked acts are sinful, in the first place.

The behavior of the corrupt, described by Pope Francis, sounds a lot like what psychologists today call malignant narcissism. He noted that those who engage in corrupt acts have an overblown sense of their own importance. He compared them to the Pharisees, whom crucified Jesus and would neutralize anyone who disagreed with them, or attempted to expose them.

The Pope also noted that those who've fallen into such deep sin then exploit and take advantage of those around them.

Our Troubled Society

As someone who's survived narcissistic abuse, I appreciate the fact that malignant narcissism is now getting a lot of attention in the secular press. Many of us have been harmed by these deceivers. Learning how they operate is our best defense against future problems. Modern psychologists have done us a great service by shining a lot of light on this insidious "personality disorder."

However, I prefer the word "moral disorder." That's because I firmly believe this aberrant behavior we're seeing is the result of sin, as well as a reflection of our very troubled society.

Disclaimer

I am not a psychologist, just someone who became well-versed inNarcology through a series of incidents involving a morally disordered "friend" I met at church.

Disclosure

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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  • rustedmemory profile image

    David Hamilton 2 years ago from Lexington, KY

    It is a disease that is spreading.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi rustedmemory, it sure seems to be.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

    No, I don't think anyone is born evil. I think evilness has to be taught or these people really have midwired brains which is not their fault. These types of people you describe are sad people.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    MizBejabbers 2 years ago

    I believe that most cases of malignant narcissism fall under the heading of “Spiritual Disorder”. I am not a psychiatrist either, but I have nearly 40 years of training in parapsychology and metaphysics. I believe in reincarnation and a spiritual process called “Karma” in which the narcissistic characteristics can carry over through many lifetimes. I believe that a normal person (spirit) may learn a certain amount of narcissism from his or her surroundings in one lifetime, but it would take more than one lifetime to make a soul a Maliginant Narcissist. I also believe that because of Karma, that person will in time pay for their actions. I am not arguing with or judging your Catholic beliefs, just sharing mine.

    I am a former member of the Baptist Church, but my metaphysical training allows me to see truths in all Christian denominations. I’ve heard Christian theologians and preachers say that the “killing of someone’s reputation,” as you so aptly put it, is a violation of the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" because they translated the original Fifth Commandment as reading Thou shalt not commit murder” in the original texts. They maintain that the Ninth commandment isn’t just about gossip or lying about another person but actually swearing a falsehood about that person in court.

    This is a good analysis of the malignant narcissist. I have been a victim of one in the workplace and although the truth finally came out, it put the skids on my career where I work. I am so close to retirement that I didn’t want to go elsewhere and learn another job. I have no love for them myself. Voted up++

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi MizBejabbers, I am Catholic, so I don't share your beliefs. However, I do think we agree upon the fact that someone who tries to destroy someone else has a very sick soul. Thanks so much for reading.

  • blueheron profile image

    Sharon Vile 2 years ago from Odessa, MO

    When it comes to good and evil, and thee reasons for things in general, I'm of the "How could anyone possibly know anything about it?" camp. But, you know, the most satisfactory explanation I've ever run across is that stuff about us being "third density" beings who must polarize either positively (service to others) or negatively (service to self) to progress to "fourth density" in our spiritual progress.

    It kind of seems like a lot of people are just polarized negatively, partly maybe through their own inclination--as encouraged perhaps by family and upbringing, and also most likely by our culture's encouragement of selfishness and narcissism.

    While some people are just responding to evil influences and are by nature neutral or somewhat positive in their orientation, I think there are a few people out there who are genuinely and solidly negatively polarized. These latter are just on the negative spiritual path and are unlikely to be "converted." They don't even mind being "outed"--as in, confronted with their wrongdoing--because right and wrong simply have no meaning for them. They will lie about wrongdoing, but that's not because they are ashamed of it but because fessing up doesn't serve their interests.Their actually moral basis is that "good" is whatever is good for them, regardless of its effect on others--and that anything that is harmful to others is good for them, and that subjugating others to their will is good for them. I don't think a person needs to feel "called" to do anything about this, since there's nothing you can do--but run.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

    Wicked, sinful, and morally bankrupt are perfect descriptions for the manipulation, deceit and ill intent that motivates these people. Having experienced the wrath of one and investigated many others in an HR role, I have seen that what afflicts them is some deep-seated stuff.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

    Thank you for the explanation on venial sins. Of course, the entire article is informational and well-presented.

  • WalterPoon profile image

    Poon Poi Ming 2 years ago from Malaysia

    QUOTE: "The Catholic Church teaches that three conditions are necessary for mortal sin. First, the sin must be serious. Second, the person must know it's serious, and in violation of God's law. And, third, the person must know what he or she is doing is wrong, but decides to do it anyway. If all three of these conditions are not met, any sin committed would be considered "venial." All sin offends God, but venial sins do not separate us from Him."

    I find it hard to agree with the second condition because it favors those who refuse to find out what is right and what is wrong. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as they say.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Walter, objectively speaking, ignorance is no excuse because once we reach the age of reason, we are required to keep seeking the truth. But we can't judge someone's interior motives, nor are we privy to the graces that each person has been given, nor do we know if they've been given the graces to respond to these gifts. All of this must be let to God. But what you've cited is what the Church teaches.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi blueheron, I agree with you that some individuals are very sick in the soul. They are in desperate need of a spiritual conversion. I think the older they get, and the deeper involved in sin, the more difficult this becomes.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Flourish, you certainly must have seen some very interesting things working in HR. You could probably write a book about it, filled with great advice. It's a good thing you're out of that viper pit now. It sounds like a hellish experience.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi Ms Dora, thanks so much for reading.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    People learn as they grow about evil and good. One can only hurt another if they were taught that way. An interesting insight here.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi DDE, thanks for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi suzette, they are very sad indeed. They are not happy inside, or else they would not try to harm others.

  • WalterPoon profile image

    Poon Poi Ming 2 years ago from Malaysia

    QUOTE OBLOGSINQUITO: "Hi Walter, objectively speaking, ignorance is no excuse because once we reach the age of reason, we are required to keep seeking the truth. But we can't judge someone's interior motives, nor are we privy to the graces that each person has been given, nor do we know if they've been given the graces to respond to these gifts. All of this must be let to God. But what you've cited is what the Church teaches."

    Now, I can understand Malaysian Muslims better. They told me that even a corrupted politician or a murderer can go to heaven, depending on Allah's grace. Conversely, even if you do everything good, there is no guarantee that you will go to heaven for the very same reason stated. This concept is so different from that of Buddhism, where the law of cause and effect applies. Again, I find Buddhism more logical and fair. Supposing in a court system, a judge releases a murderer or a corrupted politician, simply because he likes him. Would you trust or respect such a judge?

  • blueheron profile image

    Sharon Vile 2 years ago from Odessa, MO

    I think the idea of wicked people getting into heaven--assuming there is such a place--is predicated on our inability to know all the circumstances that led to a person's wrongdoing. Often when I've done something wrong, I'llbe darned if I can figure out why I did it. Not only can we not easily establish facts, as in a court case, we can't know motives or outside influences. Sometimes people aren't responsible for everything they do and everything they think and believe. Their way of thinking was taught to them and much of their behavior modeled for them. This is why you get bad parenting, for example. Bad parenting is the only kind many people are familiar with, and they can't imagine another mode of behavior--especially when their way of doing things may be something they were actively taught was correct, and sanctioned by Scripture. And their parents were bad parents because THEIR parents were bad parents, both in teaching and modeling.

    How many evils are we taught are good?

    If there really is a judgment day, we will all just have to forgive each other.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

    This is very interesting. It brought to my mind the scripture Heb 10:29 "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" There is another like this in the New Testament; possible Thessalonians which says there is no more forgiveness; a verse I have always wondered about. Anyway I do wonder if they sort of sell their soul?

  • Sam OWheelohan profile image

    Sam OWheelohan 2 years ago from Midwestern USA

    Narcissism is a disease of the mind, body, and soul, no matter how they ended up the way they are now a Narcissist won't change back because they don't know how nor do they want to. In mind the Narcissist can do no wrong, is above all, and never needs to apologize, they are always right, their views are right, their needs supersede all, they view people as a means to an end and you must never expect a narc to apologize because it will never happen. They are right, pure, and almighty, in essence they are their own god feigning worship or non worship of another. The mind of a Narc is more terrifying in ways than that of someone with merely sociopathic tendencies, because generally someone with tendencies can still care for others, a Narc cares only for himself/herself.

    In Soul this radiates outward, the pain they cause others no longer affects them because they are so self obsessed and withered, if you are sensitive to energy you can sense a narc it is like a massive negative or leeching pressure is engulfing you and alarms go off in your head as you start to feel drained. That pressure fluctuates and changes but in the narc's presence it is always there, the Narc's soul is like a black hole sucking you in and stretching you before reducing your own self to atoms that are devoured then spit out the other side (white hole). You can try to run from a narc but they won't let you until they find another source to feed from, they need you to feed their withered inner self, their wounded self that will not truly age beyond that of a twisted child. If you are strong you can get away without help, but if you are not you will be sucked in again and again until you are exhauted and of no use at which point the Narc drops you for good and moves on.

    In body the Narc is never the same, he could be that stunning classmate or the geeky nerd, the outcast or the cheerleader, one thing is for certain you will know him/her by his/her eyes they are shallow like a puddle of water. When they talk to you their eyes don't change, always this glassy or perpetually rage filled appearance, the face and body language will say one thing but those eyes..you will know him by his/her eyes. To make himself/herself more appealing they will work out and change appearances to suit their desires but those eyes never change. Their voice too will seem oddly false, if you know how to read vocal tones you will sense it the almost hollow feeling of their voice and those of their enablers/followers it feels unreal and recorded. I speak from personal experience, if you want to know if it is a narc look into their eyes and truly listen to their voices, both are hollow shells, black holes that will work to suck you in and drain you dry.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    I know what you mean by that blank sociopathic stare. You are right, the eyes are the window to the soul. These morally disordered types come in all shapes, sizes and styles, from the jock to the geeky nerd. Thanks for reading.

    As a Christian, I believe that God can do anything, including change people's hearts. But a change is so unlikely that it will take Divine intervention.

  • profile image

    Francesca Romana 2 years ago

    As we choose how to behave (and what to think and feel), it seems to me that Narcissism is a moral disorder, but that it also opens up a person to be influenced by Screwtape and his minions. Temptation to sin usually affects our feelings (and then the intellect kicks in to provide rationalisations). While "temptation" to abstain from sin often causes our minds discomfort -- there is a thorn in our conscience, or doing the right thing will cause discomfort, or we may be shunned by others for not doing what they do. Being virtuous tends to hurt, at first. Sinning seems so much more pleasant, at first.

    A narc's child runs a high risk of becoming a narc themselves. I know I have been faced with a few key choices in my life that got me onto a better path. One such choice happened when I was 11 years old or so. I discovered that I could dominate my best friend and even make her do things she didn't want to do. At that moment, I experienced a wild dark sense of triumph and power. Simultaneously, I got the strong conviction that it was fundamentally wrong. I had to choose between right and wrong. Now, decades later, I thank the Lord for giving me a love for what is right, as I chose what was right and rejected the power. The "power" would have been false, but I didn't know that then, so for the 11-year old me it was a real choice.

    It is chilling to realise that each one of us is a spiritual battleground. The choices we make shape us as persons.

    Which leads us to free will. A narc's free will is as free as anyone's, and if their will is to stay malignant, then they will do so. And God will respect their free will. But as God seeks us way more than we seek Him, He'll rejoice if a narc truly wants to repent. I'm thinking He'd do all he could to help the narc become a human, but it would still be their choice.

  • profile image

    Mad man 2 years ago

    God has nothing to do with any of this, Narc's are Narcs' for life. Just get away from them.

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