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How Christians Can Deal With Narcissists

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.

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

In women, narcissists are vain drama queens who continually demand attention from others. If people don't measure up to their expectations, she ignores them or takes revenge.

Some people exhibit narcissistic behavior while others may be formally diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. This condition is more common in men than women. According to The Cleveland Clinic, narcissists make up approximately five percent of the population.

Characteristics of a Narcissist

Narcissists are very difficult to deal with because they have a false belief system about themselves and others. According to the Mayo Clinic and other sources, the following are the more common signs of this condition:

How Narcissists Feel About Themselves

  • There is nothing wrong with them
  • Are special and superior to others
  • Have an inflated sense of entitlement and deserve the best of everything
  • Are selfish and self-absorbed
  • The rules don't apply to them
  • Fantasize obsessively about power, position, and success
  • Have difficulty managing stress.
  • Secretly feel insecure, vulnerable, ashamed, and humiliated

What Narcissists Think About Other People

  • Do not care about other people's feelings have no empathy
  • Have unrealistic expectations of others and are vicious when their agendas are not met
  • Want people to admire them; if they are not admired, they want others to fear them
  • Are jealous of others and think that others envy them
  • Feel that others are supposed to do them special favors
  • Find relationships unfulfilling and disappointing.
  • Have difficulty maintaining relationships

How They Treat Other People

  • Have a manner comes across as arrogant, condescending, boastful, and pretentious
  • Manipulate and exploit others to get what they want
  • Bully, cheat, and lie to get their way
  • Become defensive when criticized and will retaliate

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?

how-christians-can-deal-with-narcissists

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. However, she soon felt uncomfortable when she heard Mike bragging about his accomplishments and his workaholic ways to her co-workers. Jenna found that his stories didn't match the information she had 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: "But the records show you only have 20 clients." 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 began to criticize her work.

Jenna became afraid of Mike 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, which was a crime in his eyes. She finally started to look for another job and did not give Mike as a reference.

Nebuchadnezzar while he was in exile.  Art by William Blake

Nebuchadnezzar while he was in exile. Art by William Blake

A Biblical Example of Narcissism

A biblical example is of someone with narcissistic traits is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (see the first few chapters of the book of Daniel). 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.

When Nebuchadnezzar did not get his way, he was ready to kill all his advisors. He didn't care about the people themselves or the anguish of their families. They did not do what he wanted, so he said the equivalent of the "off with their heads!" demand of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.

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Lessons We Can Learn from Daniel

Daniel was an Israelite who was a slave who was called to serve Nebuchadnezzar's household. He had several frightening encounters with the king, who was so volatile that he even threw Daniel into a lion's den. Fortunately, God was with Daniel and saved him.

Daniel Prayed

Daniel prayed to God for guidance. He praised God for giving 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 into a self-help book, but what we really need is to do is to spend some time on our knees seeking God's guidance.

Narcissists can be very dangerous when crossed. We need to understand how narcissists think and operate and commit ourselves to a lot of time in prayer for the wisdom to know how to handle them.

Daniel Spoke and Acted Wisely

When the guards came for Daniel, he talked 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.

Daniel Obeyed God’s Law

Daniel’s life under Nebuchadnezzar was challenging because the king’s rules went against Daniel's religious beliefs. Daniel refused to bow to a statue of the king and to eat food that went against the dietary laws he followed at the time.

Daniel Did Not Take Revenge

It is easy to respond to narcissists by becoming defensive and striking back, but doing that would just aggravate the situation. If Daniel had started mouthing off to his executioners and criticizing the king, he would have been killed. Instead, Daniel focused on solving the problem at hand by seeking God's guidance and offering to interpret the king's dream. In Daniel’s time, the king was all-powerful. Any attempt to contradict or challenge the king would mean certain death.

These days, narcissists who are authority figures or bosses are dangerous and difficult to fight. However, they are accountable for their actions. We should be report them to their superiors or to law enforcement if they break the law. Doing so protects us and others from harm.

Daniel Let God Deal with His Enemy’s Pride

Many narcissists are blind to their personality disorders. 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 God detests, haughty eyes are listed first (Proverbs 6:16-17). God hates pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13).

As Christians, we should try to avoid or limit interactions with narcissists for our own safety and peace of mind. If we cannot avoid them, the principles listed above can help us deal with them in a godly way. Confrontation and setting boundaries may help us overcome our anger if we can do them safely.

In the end, King Nebuchadnezzar was exiled and lived like an animal for seven years. When Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven, his sanity was restored (Daniel 4:33-34).

God says that the proud will fall one day (Proverbs 16:18). We must 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.

References:
Holy Bible, New International Version
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Mayo Clinic
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Cleveland Clinic
What Does the Bible Say about Narcissism?, Joel Ryan
3 Tips from the Bible on Dealing with Narcissists, changingus.org

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Carola Finch

Comments

Echo Apologetics from Kansas City on October 17, 2019:

Interesting article, Carola! We write in the narcissism niche, too.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on September 12, 2019:

I worked for someone like and it is scary. I started praying and the next thing I knew they were removed.

BBYCGN from Uninhabited Regions on April 17, 2019:

This is a very important post you have written! Thank you for sharing it.

Hugs,

Tamara

Ellie Shumaker from Richmond on April 13, 2019:

What a helpful article. Clear. Punchy not preachy. Great advice, with solid Biblical foundations.

Shizette on July 19, 2018:

Love the examples rooted in scripture!

Natosha Maria Williams from Florida on April 28, 2018:

Great article! Very informative and I love how you used biblical examples! Keep up the good work! Natosha

BBYCGN from Uninhabited Regions on October 17, 2017:

This is a positive, and well-penned article. Thank you for sharing!

victor from India on September 27, 2017:

Fluffiness99 You're right. No one can start the spiritual life without self-denial. There're people who accept Christianity and become Christians while only a few accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and become the followers of Christ. The disciples were first called as Christians. True disciples are those who give the supreme priority to Christ on the cost of their own self.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 26, 2017:

I used to live with a narcissist, before I became a Christian. I believe he was demon possessed or at least demon influenced, and he did too. He had a dream or vision of a demon telling him he'd never get the demon to leave. He considered himself Catholic, but I saw no real dedication to that. Narcissism is a dreadful personality disorder, and I believe the only real cure is to surrender to Christ and repent. Jesus can work miracles but aside from that, narcissists don't change. Your article will help Christians identify the problem, but what is the solution? I believe if the narcissist won't be saved, the best solution is to go no contact.

Goodnews Edet Bassey from Nigeria on August 18, 2017:

Carola, this such a powerful article and i hope that a lot of people will get to read this article. Christians should learn how to deal with narcissists.

Eze Chukwuma from Nigeria on July 10, 2017:

A word to the arrogant rich

Skylar Wong from London, ON on June 18, 2017:

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

Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 14, 2016:

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.

Fluffiness99 on October 14, 2016:

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 on August 20, 2016:

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

Humbled-T-Wade on March 22, 2016:

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.

victor from India on January 24, 2016:

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 from Columbus, Ohio on January 19, 2016:

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.

victor from India on September 24, 2015:

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 on June 06, 2015:

Glad I found this article! Thank you very much!

Jim on November 28, 2014:

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.

Ronald D Bruno on August 22, 2014:

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!