Narcissism = Insolent Pride in the Bible

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Proverbs 21:24

24 “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names,
Who acts with insolent pride.

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You may have found this blog because you have a “narcissist” in your life, or  in the life of someone you care about.   At first, you may not have known that you were dealing with a narcissist, but the pain and damage this selfish, arrogant, condescending, domineering person caused might have driven you to search for answers on what was going on, and on how to deal with this difficult person.  As you went online or to books on  Amazon, you read more about who this person is, and how he operates.  And you likely read some explanations as to how he got this way, or advice regarding how to deal with this “narcissist”.  In the process of trying to learn everything possible in your search for answers, you may have decided to explore what the Bible has to say on the subject.

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While the Bible does not specifically refer to “narcissism” –  which takes its name from Greek mythology – it does speak to the subject.

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Narcissist Case Study – Eliab, David’s Oldest Brother

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Psalm 19:7

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

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A “testimony of the Lord” is a Biblical account of God’s dealing with someone in accordance with His nature and His ways.  While those accounts often do not specifically outline the Biblical principles at play, they are excellent illustrations of truth gleaned in other parts of the Bible.  A “case study” or a “cautionary tale” might be modern ways of referring to these accounts.  And as Psalm 19:7 and I Corinthians 10:11 state, these accounts can provide wisdom to those who are naive (or simple).

One such account is that of Eliab, David’s oldest brother.

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1 Chronicles 2:13-15

13 and Jesse became the father of Eliab his firstborn, then Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14 Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh;

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Narcissism Case Studies – Diotrephes

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3 John 1:9-10

9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

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The tip-off to Diotrephes’ narcissism / insolent pride was his “love to be first among them”.   His insolent pride resulted in

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  • Not accepting what the apostle John was saying.
  • Accusing John with wicked words
  • Not receiving (ie – providing the opportunity) others who might challenge him
  • Getting rid of those who might possibly side with others

Classic narcissist behavior.

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Tragically, there are too many pastors and leaders of ministries who have the “Diotrephes Syndrome”.  Their core purpose is self-exaltation instead of shepherding the flock of God.  They construct their “ministries” and message around what will best serve their delusions of grandeur.  These are some of the false prophets whom Jesus warned us about

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Matthew 7:15-16

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.

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God will ultimately deal with these guys.  One way of protecting against them is to use a Biblically-based church leadership model of shared leadership.
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Gaslighting

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Gaslighting.  You hear this pop-psychology term-du-jour a lot lately.  It is kind of cringeworthy, often making me wonder, “what do they really mean”?

The term “gaslighting” originated from the British play Gas Light (1938), and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations.  It is now used in clinical psychological literature, as well as in political commentary and philosophy.

The name of a play / movie is used to describe behavior.  This is similar to the origin of the psychological term “narcissism” which uses a character from Greek mythology in the “science” of psychology.  Hmmm…..

Here’s how Wikipedia defines it.

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Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgement.  It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction and disinformation,  Gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.

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A shorthand way to get your mind around it is to think of gaslighting as “deceptive manipulation”.   It is a particularly subtle, underhanded, tricky, manipulative form of lying.  Lying is very difficult to detect and guard against.  This “deceptive manipulation” form of lying is even more difficult to detect and guard against.

Of course, the Bible is way ahead on this as well as “narcissism”.  There is nothing new under the sun.

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Satan is the original liar…

You (Pharisees) are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He (Satan, the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44

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…. and the original practitioner of “deceptive manipulation”.

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness….  2 Corinthians 11:3
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Since deception is one of the primary tools of the narcissist, “gaslighting” or more precisely “deceptive manipulation” can be one of the tools in their toolbox.  Prudently guarding against it is foundational.  We cannot prevent them from lying to us and attempting to deceive us.  They will speak according to their internal nature, and God will hold them accountable for their lies.  However, there are things we can do.

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How can we defeat lies?  With truth.

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Click here for initial steps on how to know God personally

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you might imagine, I have a strong bias toward using Biblical terms rather than the popular secular term of the moment.

 

 

 

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Narcissist Case Study – The Prodigal’s Brother

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Luke 15:1-2

15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

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In response to crowds coming to hear Jesus, the (narcissistic) Pharisees and scribes did not publicly reveal their jealously, but rather grumbled among themselves with a haughty and holier-than-thou attitude about His “receiving sinners”.

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Rather than directly rebuke them for their attitude, Jesus responded by telling them three parables.  Jesus’ main point in each of the parables was God’s loving grace in seeking those who are “lost”, and joy when they return to Him.  This was in obvious contrast with the Pharisees who did not care about the people to whom Jesus was ministering, but only about the fact that they were not the center of attention.

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In Jesus’ third story of the “prodigal son” [read the entire parable here], He also used the narcissistic older brother’s response as a mirror to point out to the narcissistic Pharisees their prideful, self-centered obstructionism (Luke 11:52), and lack of mercy.  Jesus was not defensive at the Pharisees’ grumbling, but took the path of grace by gently pointing out their error via through this story – if they were willing to listen.

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Ananias And Sapphira

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Narcissists will often lie in order to both get what they want while at the same time looking good in the eyes  of others.

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There is a case study in Acts 4:34-5:11 about a couple – Ananias and Sapphira – who wanted to maintain their standing in the community and get the acclaim that came from being outrageously generous, without being as generous as they pretended.  They faked it.

The book of Acts describes a very early church that was incredibly generous in meeting each other’s needs, to the point that “there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34).  People were even going so far as to sell their land and houses to provide for the needs of their fellow believers in Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look like they were as generous as everyone else – pride in maintaining an outward appearance – but they really did not want to give up the full proceeds from the sale of their property (inward greed).  So, they deceptively made it look like they were bringing the whole proceeds when in fact they were not.

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But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.  But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 

Acts 5:1-4

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The consequences to both Ananias and Saphira were surprisingly severe – God struck them both dead on the spot.  Ananias and Sapphira brought into the church the Pharisaic tendency to feign righteousness while hiding greed.  God’s severe response sent a clear message to His emerging Church – lying for the sake of appearances, combined with selfish motives and secret deception, was not acceptable.

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Actions Speak Louder

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Most of you have heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words”.  This well-worn phrase from the past, like many others, actually has a Biblical foundation.  Consider these for example,

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By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;    I John 2:3-4

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John’s point is that the proof of your what’s in your heart is in what you do, not in what you say.  If you say something and do the opposite, it is what you do that counts.

Titus said the same thing;

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They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.     Titus 1:16

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As did James

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What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?   James 2:14-16

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No matter what they may claim, a narcissist’s functional (actual) philosophy is just the opposite.  They believe that what they claim is what really counts.

David accurately described them in Psalm 12

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They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”   Psalm 12:2-4

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Narcissists believe that they can achieve what they want through words, even if those words have no underlying substance.

A narcissist may get away with this “all talk, no action” approach for awhile, but it will catch up with them at some point.  They may fool some people for awhile, or jump from person to person to avoid being found out, but as always God has the last say in everything.

He sees their act, knows the lack of substance, and makes the final judgment based on actions, not words.

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“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.     Matthew 7:21-23

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Dealing With Narcissists – Don’t Take It To The Boss

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Do not slander slave to his master, Or he will curse you and you will be found guilty.

Proverbs 30:10

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It is very tempting when you are dealing with a narcissist co-worker to “take it to boss”.  However, this has a high likelihood of backfiring.   In the process you will likely get something wrong – the way you approached it, your attitude, getting one or more facts wrong, etc.  The narcissist will typically quickly figure out what you have done wrong, and somehow use that to turn the tables on you.

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Narcissist Case Study – Simon The Magician

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Acts 8:9-24

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, Continue reading

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Dealing With Narcissists* – Crying Out, Seeking God – continued

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James 1:5-8

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

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When dealing with an N that is driving us crazy, in addition to crying out “God help me!”, God invites us to ask Him for wisdom.  This is HIS wisdom – not human wisdom – including practical  tips, things of the heart, and even things from God’s perspective.  James says that if you ask for wisdom, He will give it to you – generously.

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But there is an important qualifier to getting this wisdom – “not doubting”.  The doubting here is not so much doubting as to whether you will receive the wisdom, but doubting as to whether you really want it – whether you really want to do things God’s way even if He gave you the clear right answers.   We know this is through James’ statement in verse 7 – ” For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”   Double-mindedness is to have two minds or opinions on the same subject – wanting to do things God’s way, but at the same time wanting what we ourselves want.  With that heart, God could tell us the right answer, and we might not even know we received the answer because we were only looking for the answer we wanted to see.  In order to ask for true wisdom in dealing with the situation, to receive it, and to KNOW that we have received it, we must start with the heart attitude that we will act on the wisdom God gives us without interjecting our own “will” into the matter.

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This invitation to ask for wisdom is in the context of trials, which James describes as tests (we will look into this later).  Of course, our challenge with our narcissist certainly qualifies as a trial and a test.

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James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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So go ahead – ask for wisdom in how to deal with your challenging narcissist.  But don’t expect to get what you are asking for unless you are truly serious about doing it His way instead of your own way.  All along being aware of the admonition in Proverbs:

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Proverbs 14:12

12 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

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Dealing With Narcissists* – Crying Out, Seeking God

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Psalm 34:4-7

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
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Often, we will not have any idea what to do with the difficult Narcissist-caused circumstance in which we find ourselves.  After struggling and searching about on our own for answers, we may ultimately reach the end of our rope – where the only thing we are able to do is to cry out to the Lord to help us, to save us, to deliver us.  We may not know what to ask for, but simply to ask God for a miracle.  While we may not see any immediate answers, this crying out to God and asking for help can be the first step of a process where He will bring us to much firmer ground.  We may not even see that this crying out is the first step – until we look backwards months or years in the future.
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We probably needed to get to our wit’s end, to be exhausted of all our answers, in order to motivate us to finally look up to Him for help.  And even though we made God our last resort instead of our first resort, He will graciously and lovingly respond in helping us – although it may be a process instead of a bolt-of-lightning miracle.  God has been there waiting to help us all along.

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It’s Not NPD, It’s A Heart Issue

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1 John 2:16

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

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According to I John 2:16, ultimately all “sin issues” that people have (“all that is in the world”) can be boiled down to one of three root causes

  1. Lust / sexual immorality (“the lust of the flesh”)
  2. The desire for things (“the lust of the eyes”)
  3. Pride and the desire to exalt oneself (“the boastful pride of life”).

It could also be a combination of one or more as illustrated by the Pharisees’ taking actions to fulfill desires (“lust of the eyes”) that they then covered up so that they would not look bad (“boastful pride of life”). Continue reading

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A Prayer For God To Show Whose Side He’s On

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David dealt with three big narcissists in his life – his oldest brother Eliab, his benefactor Saul, and his son Absalom.  As David was “a man after God’s heart” who turned his hurts into prayers, it is divinely natural for David to talk to God about those in his life with insolent pride.  These prayers in the Psalms provide a range of examples for how we can pray in our own difficult situations.

One example is in Psalm 86:14-17

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O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

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The word David uses for “arrogant” in verse 14 is “zed”, the same word for insolent pride found in Proverbs 21:24 – “proud, haughty, scoffer, are his names who acts with insolent pride”.

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David specifically prayed for 4 things.

  • “Turn to me and gracious to me” – David humbly asked God for His gracious help
  • “Grant Your strength to Your servant – David didn’t ask that he would be stronger, but that God would give David HIS strength – a much stronger strength
  • “Save the son of Your handmaid” – David cried to God, “save me!”
  • “Show me a sign for good, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed”

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This last one is particular interesting.  David asked God to do something special for him that would prove to the arrogant narcissist that God was on his side.

Narcissists are in a power play with their targets in a quest for dominance.  This leaves the target with two “natural” choices – fight back to win, or acquiesce and be a doormat.  (In some cases you can avoid them – see here).   But there is another option – rather than do head to head battle with someone seeking superiority, David showed that we can invite God into the picture.  God can exalt us in front the narcissist in a way that puts the narcissist in his place.

This sign of favor may not always come on our timetable, but just as God will ultimately show with Jesus, it will come.

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Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.    Philippians 2:5-11

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Please see here for initial steps to peace with God

 

 

 

 

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Dealing With Narcissists – Let God Defend You Through His Goodness

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Psalm 119:41-42

May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord,
Your salvation according to Your word;
So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.

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For those of us who have tried to defend ourselves in the face of a narcissist’s* attack, we have typically seen that it does not work.  Any defense we make usually just gives the N additional ammunition.  Continue reading

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Narcissist* Traits – Don’t Rely On Their Inflated, False Claims

 

Proverbs 25:14 – Like clouds and wind without rain Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.
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 “Clouds and wind without rain” may not mean much to today’s urbanites – its a word picture from an agrian time.  But to a farmer looking for the crucial rain needed for a successful crop, clouds and wind are signs that the necessary rain should be coming soon.  Then, if does not come, the farmer is let down that the promise of rain did not result in actual rain.
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Dealing with Narcissists – Do Not Turn To Them For Help

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How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. 

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You.   Psalm 40:4-5

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In our zeal to get something done, or out of desperation to resolve a situation we often look for help in the wrong places.  And the result may be that we find ourselves worse off than before.  This can be especially true of reaching out to narcissists (insolent pride / proud / haughty / scoffers) for help.    There are practical reasons why God warns us not to reach out to narcissists:

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  1. The narcissist will many times “get it wrong” (see here and here)
  2. God is fundamentally opposed to a narcissist’s pride, so HE is not likely to bless the work of their hands (James 4 and here)
  3. Narcissists are unreliable (Psalm 5)
  4. Narcissists have a self-centered agenda, so they will turn things around from helping you to somehow helping or glorifying themselves – while making a big show about helping (Proverbs 25:14 and here and here)
  5. Narcissists will likely try to take over – but only to the extent that they can command you what to do, not to the extent of actually helping (see here)
  6. The Narcissist will likely create much more conflict than any actual help they provide (see here)
  7. Narcissists will make sure to tell you that they themselves would never have gotten into the situation that you’re in (see here)

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But there are also other reasons “why” God wants to turn to Him in our time of need, rather than to an arrogant human.  He is constantly seeking to help us further see and understand His unlimited love, knowledge, wisdom, and faithfulness.

“Many O Lord My God are the wonders which You have done” is a wild understatement.  David is saying, “You have already worked an infinite amount of miracles”.

God has already demonstrated His unlimited ability to work, so why should we go for a false source of help?

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Please see here for initial steps to peace with God.

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  • Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here

 

 

 

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