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How Christians Can Deal With Narcissists

Updated on August 10, 2017
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a Christian writer and author of three books. She writes about Christian living, the Bible, relationships, and other topics.

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Narcissist. The name may conjure up an image of a self-absorbed, megalomaniac boss who is constantly bragging about his accomplishments. He is a sponge that can't get enough praise and approval from his staff. He has unreasonably high expectations and is vicious with anyone who falls short.

It's also the vain drama queen who constantly demands attention from others. If people don't measure up to her expectations, she ignores them or takes revenge.

Characteristics of a Narcissist

What does a narcissist look like? According to various sources, about 75% of narcissists are men but they can be hard to spot as they are extremely charming and easy-going at first. Narcissists are very difficult to deal with because they have a false belief system that includes some or all of the following characteristics.

They believe:

  • They are superior to others and deserve the best of everything.
  • The rules don't apply to them.
  • They are special and are so self-absorbed that they have no empathy and don't care about other people's feelings.

They tend to:

  • Brag because they have an insatiable hunger for love and approval.
  • Become workaholics and high achievers to earn more praise.
  • Have unrealistic expectations of others and are vicious when they are not met.
  • Want people to admire them. If they're not admired, they want others to fear them.
  • Bully, cheat, and lie to get their way.
  • Become defensive when criticized and will retaliate.

God hates these signs of selfishness, vanity, pride, and arrogance. Here is what the Bible has to say about many of the traits of narcissists.

What the Bible Says About narcissistic characteristics

 
Verse
Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not.
Psalm 101:5
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Proverbs 13:10
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18
Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.
Proverbs 18:12
Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!
Proverbs 21:4
A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.
Proverbs 29:23
Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6b
Source

A Fictitious Example of a Narcissist

Here is a fictitious scenario that plays out in life every day:

Jenna, a new employee, liked her boss at first. He seemed charming and outgoing. She soon felt uncomfortable, however, when she heard Mike bragging about his accomplishments to her co-workers. She noticed that he always kept his cell phone on in case customers called, even on his brief lunch breaks and after hours, and bragged abut his dedication. Jenna found that his stories didn't match the information she heard from customers and her written files.

One day, Mike boasted to some other staff members that he now had 40 clients. Before she could stop herself, Jenna blurted out, "but the records show you only have 20." Mike gave her a dirty look and ignored her.

From then on, Jenna lost respect for Mike and did not "oooh" and "ah" during his next bragging session like the other staff did. Mike saw it and resented it. He became infuriated when she started deliberately ignoring him when she could. He started to criticize her work.

She became afraid of him and dreaded seeing his looming form coming toward her. She would shake with fear when he was around. Mike saw her fear and took satisfaction from it. He showed no empathy for the mental anguish he was putting her through.

Jenna had attacked his inflated self-esteem, and that was a crime in his eyes. She finally started to look for another job and did not give Mike as a reference.

Narcissists are dangerous when their expectations are not met or their delusions of grandeur are challenged. How can we as Christians handle them, especially when they are in a position of authority over us?

Blake's Nebuchadnezzar
Blake's Nebuchadnezzar | Source

A Biblical Example of Narcissism

We can look to the example of how Daniel handled King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the ultimate narcissist (see the first few chapters of Daniel).

Daniel was just a slave from the conquered Israelites who was called into the king's service, but he was also an exceptional man who obeyed God.

Nebuchadnezzar was so full of himself that he used his power to control his universe. He was really frustrated one day when he had a dream about a gold statute that his advisors could not interpret.

Like most narcissists whose unreasonable expectations have not been met, he went into a destructive rampage. He didn't get his way, so he was ready to kill all of his advisors. He didn't care about the people themselves or the anguish of their families. Because they didn't do what he wanted, he said "off with their heads!" as the queen of hearts said in Alice in Wonderland.

Lessons we can learn from Daniel

He prayed: Daniel prayed to God for guidance and praised Him when He gave him the interpretation of the dream. Daniel went before the king and told him what the dreams meant. He was thoroughly grounded in his life as an Israelite who obeyed God.

In the same way, we need to be in a state of obedience and submission to God when facing the challenge of dealing with narcissists. It is easy to reach for a phone to call a friend or dig in a self-help book, but what we really need is to spend some time on our knees to seek God's guidance.

Narcissists can be very dangerous when crossed. We need to have a true understanding of how narcissists think and operate as well commit a lot of time to prayer for the wisdom to know how to handle them.

He spoke and acted wisely: When the guards came for Daniel, he spoke to them with "wisdom and tact." Like Daniel, we need to be wise with our words and actions around narcissists.

Many narcissists are very angry people who retaliate on impulse without considering the consequences. They believe they are entitled to act in whatever way they choose, no matter how outrageous. Our wise words could make them reconsider their harmful behavior.

He did not take revenge: It is easy to respond to narcissists by become defensive and striking back, but that would just aggravate the situation. If Daniel had started mouthing off to his executioners and criticizing the king, he would have been killed and the book of Daniel would not have been written.

Instead, Daniel focused on solving the problem at hand by seeking God's guidance and offering to interpret the king's dream. Each situation like this with a narcissist is different and should be considered carefully.

He let God deal with their pride: Many narcissists are blind to their personality disorder. It will probably take an extreme intervention such as a rebuke from an authority figure much higher than themselves or legal action to make them change their megalomaniacal behavior.

In the end, God does bring down the proud. Of the seven things that God detests, Proverbs 6:16-17 lists haughty eyes first. God hates pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13).

Concluding thoughts

God says that the proud will fall one day. We have to be careful that we don't fall with them by becoming angry and vengeful ourselves. In the end, we should feel compassion for these lost souls and pray for them as Jesus commanded.

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  • chukseze profile image

    Eze Chukwuma 5 weeks ago from Nigeria

    A word to the arrogant rich

  • SkylarWong profile image

    Skylar Wong 2 months ago from Toronto, ON

    Wow, I have never seen an article like this one before!

  • Carola Finch profile image
    Author

    Carola Finch 10 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    I do not have the answers you are seeking, however, I believe that a narcissist can believe they are Christian. Christianity and narcissism are opposites. Christianity focuses on selflessness such as surrendering your life to God, repentance, serving others and living according to Biblical principles. Narcissism, on the other hand, focuses on selfishness and pride - things God hates. I do not think narcissism is a mental illness or demon possession. I think it is based on self-delusion, pride, self-centeredness, and possibly environmental factors in childhood.

  • profile image

    Fluffiness99 10 months ago

    But, can a narcissist be a Christian? Is narcissism a mental illness? If a narcissist believes his or her self to be a Christian, can he or she be? The lies, the slander, the hatred of others...all of the classic symptoms...can the narcissist remain symptomatic & go to Heaven? If narcissism is a mental illness, doesn't that excuse his or her behavior in the eyes of the Lord? Or, is narcissism a manifestation of demon possession or demonic opression? I'm not looking for justification or excuses. I am just not finding these viewpoints addressed in any of my research yet.

  • Ezria Copper profile image

    Ezria Copper 12 months ago

    Well, everyone will run into someone like that at some point in time. I just really needed to read this.

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    Humbled-T-Wade 17 months ago

    You write great pieces. I have been receiving lessons from the Holy Spirit recently concerning narcissism and carnality. Great Hub! Also, to agree with an above comment - the Jezebel Spirit is related to this based upon my former experiences.

  • newjerusalem profile image

    victor 19 months ago from India

    Jennifer Mugrage

    It's not the matter of labelling someone as a narcissist. As long as a Narcissist doesn't victimize someone, no one bothers about him or her. But, those who live closer to them suffer sooner or later. The position and power also may fuel the self-love. When a person is truly born again the self-love will be dealt with thoroughly by the Lord for self-denial is the primary condition for discipleship. I think a narcissist is not only selfish but also self-possessed. Only God can him or the true deliverance.

    The hardest fact is that narcissist won't easily accept their syndrome.

  • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

    Jennifer Mugrage 19 months ago from Columbus, Ohio

    It makes me sick when I remember how self-absorbed I was as a teen and young person. Don't think I actually had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but definitely a hunger for attention & approval that made me very annoying and often (not always) unempathetic. When I look back, I just want to slap my former self and I am so grateful for all the folks around me who were so gracious and often dealt with me very gently.

    In the case of Nebuchadnezzar and others in positions of great power, they are at a major disadvantage because nothing in their environment naturally crosses them or teaches them their own flaws or limits. Many people would become narcissistic in such circumstances.

    But I do think we should avoid being too quick to slap on the "Narcissist" label. There are many people who are quite self-absorbed but are not clinically disagnosable as narcissists and who are still capable of empathy, humility, and realism, or of being led to these traits. Above all, the Holy Spirit can do amazing things with the self-absorbed, given time.

  • newjerusalem profile image

    victor 23 months ago from India

    It's not so easy to discern a Narcissist in the beginning as it takes a long time to understand this personality. But, self-centered approach in everything is the touchstone. They don't consider the feeling of others even to a small extent. To them, their self is God and anyone who touches it will have to face the serious consequences at any cost. As soon as the self is touched they will become violent and they can't be calmed. How dangerous is this personality.

    Good points you've covered in this article.

  • slk121772 profile image

    slk121772 2 years ago

    Glad I found this article! Thank you very much!

  • profile image

    Jim 2 years ago

    Great post but I would not recommend "compassion" for these people. Compassion implies sympathy, and those these people are lost souls they do know EXACTLY what they are doing. Many times it is cold and calculated. They do it to hurt, sabotage, slander, and destroy lives. They feel powerful in doing so. They lack empathy so they can't relate to an individuals pain on an emotional level, but they know what they do hurts the victim and they do what they do for this reason. They are predators. Certainly pray for them, and I would in no way retaliate or try to see vengeance. These people thrive on exploiting people's emotions, especially sympathy. They use a person's sympathy and goodness against them. Be VERY careful with people like this. Pray for them but do not get close enough for them to turn your heart cold and vengeful.

  • profile image

    Ronald D Bruno 2 years ago

    Very good article. I would like to comment on these characteristics you mentioned. I would agree that all of these are possible to exhibit but not all are pre-requisites .

    Simply put, they are lovers of themselves.

    As you said they are superior, rules don't apply and are self absorbed.

    However, I don't agree that they don't have empathy or care for others -- my mother caring and thoughtful but definitely narcissistic. She just always has to be right and will twist things to make it appear so. She won't acknowledge that she's EVER DONE ANYTHING WRONG! In her mind, she's never sinned.

    Does she brag and hunger for approval ... absolutely. It's always me, me, me, I, I, I ... Oh well, that's my mom and I've been chipping away and praying for her as long as I've been a Christian. Since she doesn't believe in a personal God, a universal energy force is more appealing since she can still be divine without having to bow to anyone! "God is in everything and in everyone and if you are good, you get to go to heaven." So she thinks we get there by works. Interestingly enough, laughter, kindness, warmth and encouragement are her traits.

    I do believe that God is guiding those who are blind ... to a time and place when He draws them, a divine appointment. When we examine people who aren't really evil and wicked (by our standards) and we see fruit of the Spirit in their lives, it must mean that God is working with them and they are on his list for future conversions. I always thought it would take a Great Tribulation period before the rebelliousness in their lives is broken ... maybe he'll have to brake one leg so that she'll bow a knee?

    Some may be workaholics and high achievers but others would prefer to charm you into serving and working for them, as my cousin does• He's had 5 kids with 4 different women, can't hold a job down and makes excuses for jobs not working out. He can teach a class on how to drift through life without having to work really hard. How? Find a successful woman who owns a house and charm your way into her life, get her pregnant and just stay home with the kid. And after the kids and wife are too much to handle, dump her and get another woman. He initially fills their minds with all these pie in the sky dreams and plans of doing great things that never pan out. He even attends classes, pursuing degrees, but in the end, never accomplishes much and off he goes after another woman and on another dream. He brags how his fellow classmates look up to him and he got 3 A's last semester -- he's 51 years old, they're 18. And of course he tells them of all the great things he's accomplished and looks forward to this new chapter, bla, bla, bla. If they only knew him. "I'm a mentor ... they admire me ..." Makes me want to vomit!

    So, having unreal expectations and craving admiration definitely fits in to these cases.

    Lying to others and to themselves to get their way? Absolutely! If you tell a lie often enough, you begin to believe it yourself.

    I had a friend whom I traveled with when I was a teenager. We had a summer of adventures out west visiting the national parks, the Rocky mountains, the California coast, etc. One story he told for the last 40 years is that our car got stuck in the Yuma Desert sand dunes (true) but then he added, since we were there, with no one around, we decided to hike over the dunes naked! I just heard this story for the first time a couple years ago to my astonishment ... of course it wasn't true. At the time he mentioned that we could do this ... it would be fun, stripped down to nature, get away with it and just laughed. Enamored with the thought, he decided to add it to our adventures as something that actually happened. Exaggeration comes in many forms with these folks.

    •can't endure any criticism without becoming defensive and retaliating -- Wow, absolutely ... big time!

    Sorry, I got carried away. Great post though.

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    lynn 3 years ago

    I know more narcisstic women than men. I think the women are better at hiding it and controlling their anger. My mother, sister, two ex friends and my brothers ex-girlfriend are narcissits. I've only met one male. My family seems to attract narcissits.

  • profile image

    GLT 3 years ago

    I agree noticing More women since they are now in higher positions. I think they call it the Jezebel Spirit which is very much the same as a Narcissist.

  • Carola Finch profile image
    Author

    Carola Finch 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for sharing your story. Sad that narcissists do so much harm in a church.

  • deorganicchurch profile image

    deorganicchurch 3 years ago from Newark, DE

    Unfortunately, I am very familiar with this character trait, since the pastor of a church I attended for many years was extremely narcissistic. Many people were spiritually and emotionally hindered by the acts of this person. He used his place of authority to elevate himself and abuse others. He got away with it for many years until God destroyed the church. He fed his own ego and wallet at the expense of the church.

    Jude 1:12 ESV These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;

  • Carola Finch profile image
    Author

    Carola Finch 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thank you for reading my hub. I don't doubt that narcissism could on the rise in women. All the information I have researched on this topic (see my references) say that male narcissists far outnumber females. If there is new information regarding this, I would be interested in reading it.

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    Gladys 3 years ago

    The information about men being the majority of narcissist today is wrong. There is an increasingly growth of narcissism in women today. It is scary.