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* 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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The Pharisee and the Publican

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Jesus illustrated how a scoffer operates through a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple:

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And He (Jesus) also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’.  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

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Key phrases in the story match the definition of a narcissist given in Proverbs 21:24 (“proud, haughty, scoffer are his names who acts with insolent pride”).

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The Pharisee was

  1. Proud (of his accomplishments) – “(Jesus) told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous”, “(The Pharisee) was praying this to himself”, “I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get”
  2. Haughty – “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…”
  3. A scoffer – “Viewed others with contempt”

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The Pharisee viewed himself as better than “others” (as represented by the guy standing next to him).  And Jesus specifically says that he “exalted himself” and “viewed others with contempt.”  The Biblical word for contempt here is eksouthenéō[i].

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eksouthenéō[ii]:  to cast out as nothing; “to count as nothing, to treat with utter contempt, i.e. as zero”; “despise utterly”; to regard something as lacking any standing (value).

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Contempt[iii] is disapproval tinged with disgust; i.e. – to feel contempt for a weakling.  Disdain is a feeling that a person or thing is beneath one’s [a narcissist’s*] dignity and unworthy of one’s notice, respect or concern.  Noun – The feeling with which a person regards anything considered worthless

The Pharisee’s self-exaltation left no room in his heart for the man next to him, whom he considered to be not even be worthy of his consideration.

The term “Pharisee” was shorthand for this character type, but not all Pharisees were this way.  For example, Nicodemus (John 3) was a secret believer, and Gamaliel (Acts 5), the grandson of Hillel the Elder, was genuinely open to God’s purposes.  Also, John 12:42 says that “many even of the rulers were believing in Him”.

The above example is derived from a comparison of traits pointing to this Pharisee as a case study on the Biblical equivalent of narcissism, but we have an even more direct connection.  The Bible called out the Pharisees in general as scoffers hundreds of years before they appeared.  They provide a particularly robust case study.

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[i] https://biblehub.com/greek/1848.htm

[ii] From HELPS Word Studies

[iii] From dictionary.com

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Narcissist Case Studies – The Pharisees – How Jesus Responded To Their Backbiting

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”  ut when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassionand not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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[Note:  Please see herehere, and here on how we know that the Pharisees were narcissists]

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Here are some observations:

  1. The Pharisees wouldn’t be caught dead eating with the tax collectors and sinners – they were too much above that.
  2. But, Jesus showed them up by eating with the tax collectors and sinners, and not doing things “the Pharisees’ way”
  3. So,while the Pharisees could not criticize Jesus for who He was (ie NOT a tax collector and sinner), they criticized Him for associating with people that they had deemed “unacceptable”.  He was not following THEIR self-made rules of who you could and could not associate with
  4. But rather than taking their issue to Jesus, they sniped at him to His disciples.  Cowardly?  Trying to undermine Him by driving a wedge between Jesus and His disciples – planting seeds of doubt in their minds?
  5. In this instance, Jesus proactively responded to their criticism.  As the Pharisees’ comments were not directed directly to Him He could have let it go.   It says “when Jesus heard this” – it may have been that the disciples reported the Pharisees’ comments to Him.

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Why and How did He respond?

  1. He may have wanted to deal with the doubt about Him which the Pharisees seeded in the minds of His disciples
  2. He used the Pharisees’ criticism of His ministry as an opportunity to teach the disciples what His ministry was all about.  God used the narcissists to present Jesus with a teaching moment.  And Jesus knew what to do with that opportunity.
  3. Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees (do not rebuke a scoffer or he will hate you).  Instead He gave them them the same lesson He taught His disciples – “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”
  4. But then He also admonished them with an instruction / challenge – “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassionand not sacrifice,’”
  5. And finally, He explained Himself with a truth (“for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”) that they could easily use to justify themselves – if they were further hardening their hearts by continuing to think that they were  – or use to seek Him.   IE – a Pharisee who heard Jesus’ last phrase could easily say, “Oh right, He’s here for the bad guys, not me”, or he could humble himself and say, “I’m a sinner, and He’s here to help guys like me”, and begin to seek Him.  Its a parable that gave enough truth to seek Him with, for those who were willing.

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Narcissistic Traits – “I would never have done it that way”

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Matthew 23:29-30 –  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

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The Pharisees were saying in effect, “I would never have done it the way they did it.”  This is a classic statement from a narcissist / scoffer (see here and here how the Pharisees were narcissists / scoffers with insolent pride).   In this situation these narcissists were doing two things at the same time

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  1. They were setting themselves up as judge of other’s actions (see here for Scoffers – Narcissists as Judge)
  2. They were setting themselves up as superior to the other person.  But as typical of the Narcissist, the superiority was only in their own minds – not in reality – and didn’t actually have to be demonstrated.  It is very easy to say after the fact “I would never have done that”, when you don’t have to actually prove it through your actions.

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To top it off, they were so arrogant that they were willing to trash their own ancestors in order to exalt themselves.

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But Jesus turned the tables and called them on it:

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Matthew 23:31-32 – So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

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Entrapment To Destroy

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The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.  So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 

They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.  Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  

But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”  And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Luke 20:19-26

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The Pharisees here were clear examples of narcissists.  There are several lessons on how narcissists operate from the above narrative:

  • The scoffers (narcissists) tried to eliminate the threat to their supremacy.
  • They attempted to entrap Jesus by presenting a no-win situation, on a subject that could get Him in deep trouble with the authorities if He answered wrong.
  • They sent others to do their dirty work (this time).

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Notice the flattery these Pharisees used as part of their work to ruin Jesus.   In verse 21, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.”  This is what is discussed in Proverbs:

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A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Proverbs 26:28

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They Snipe At Those Of Whom They Are Jealous

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And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 5:29-32

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The Pharisees were jealous of the attention and honor Jesus was receiving at this reception organized especially for Him.  Rather than recognize their own jealously, they began to sneeringly condemn and criticize everyone else at the reception.  They took a condescending, judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude toward the entire crowd by labeling them all as sinners, and then arrogantly judged Jesus for not separating from the guests.  They showed their insincere cowardice by whispering against Jesus behind his back instead of approaching him with their concerns.   This was all an arrogant outflowing of their jealously – cloaked as “holiness”.

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Jesus knew about the Pharisees grumbling to His disciples.  He could have rebuked them for the jealously at the root of their comments, or for their insolent pride at looking down upon virtually everyone in the room.  However, lowering himself to their level, He pointed them and anyone else listening to a much higher point – the need for the willing to recognize their spiritual sickness.  The proud Pharisees naturally would not recognize their need and would not receive healing.

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This was both a subtle rebuke to the Pharisees’ self-centered blind jealously, a demonstration of His willingness to confront others’ error for the disciples’ benefit.  And in the process, He demonstrated Proverbs 26:4-5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.  Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:4-5

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective…

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This blog started as part of a personal journey when God responded to my cry to Him for help during a particularly difficult period with a narcissist.  While we spend most of the time here exploring the depths of the Bible for solutions, I occasionally remind myself of three underlying purposes for this blog: Continue reading

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Narcissist* Traits – Using “Faith” As Justification For Personal Ambition

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Among narcissists* in the Christian community, there are sometimes those who will use “faith” as justification or cover for their personal ambitions.  And they will quickly accuse those who oppose their plans as having “a lack of faith”, or possibly use other manipulative means to clear out the opposition and continue with their plans.  One such other manipulative method would be for the narcissist to say “I heard this straight from God”…..who can question “God’s leading”?  (Actually it is still possible to question based on scripture, the counsel of others, etc., but the narcissist will fight very hard to not be challenged in any way or by any means).

These narcissistic actions are consistent with narcissist’s tendency to use any means available to them to achieve their goals – including religious means.  This was discussed in the following blog entries:

“Narcissistic* Traits – Outwardly Righteous, Inwardly Rebellious

“Narcissist* Tactics – Saying Whatever They Have To, To Get What They Want” 

“Narcissistic* Traits – Religious, But Not Truly Moral or Righteous”

 

The narcissist’s way is not God’s way.  In fact, the narcissist’s way of pride and self-exaltation is the exact opposite of God’s way of humbly serving others.  Narcissist’s actions give unbelievers an excuse to hate Jesus.  But God will ultimately deal with these narcissists.

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Matthew 7:15-19

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. [Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

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* Narcissist is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride”  please see here for an explanation

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Narcissistic Traits – Outwardly “Righteous”, Inwardly Rebellious

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Matthew 23:27-28

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

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As we discussed here and here, the scribes and Pharisees are a particularly robust case study of narcissists.   They were experts at putting on a righteous act – partly for show, and partly because they actually believed it (see here) – while in reality being rebellious in their hearts toward God.

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This same trait of appearing godly outwardly, but being the opposite inwardly, will also be true of the narcissists that appear in the “last days”, as discussed here.
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2 Timothy 3:5 – holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

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The key to detecting this is to

  1. watch what they do, and compare it to what they say,  and
  2. watch what they do in public vs. what they do in private.

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Matthew 23:1-5

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

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Please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective for an overview of what this blog is about

 

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Narcissist Tactics – Saying Whatever They Have To, To Get What They Want

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John 19:15

So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate *said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

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As we saw in

Narcissism Case Studies – The Pharisees, Overview

Narcissist Case Studies – Pharisees – How We Know They Were Narcissists, Part I

Narcissist Case Studies – How We Know “The Pharisees” Were Narcissists, Part 2

Additional Perspectives on The Pharisees

 

the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were classic Narcissists.   A careful analysis of their actions can give some clues as to how narcissists approach things.  In this case, there was no way that the chief priests really wanted Caesar to be their king – the whole nation of Israel was chafing at Roman rule and would have loved to cast it off.  And they were actively looking for a Jewish king.  So when the chief priests, said “we have no king but Caesar”, they were blatantly lying simply to make sure that Pilate did not let Jesus go.

As discussed in other posts, some of the Messianic Psalms clearly lay out the characteristics of the narcissistic / insolent pride Pharisees.  And a key tactic was speaking falsehood to get what they wanted.   That is a prime tactic of all narcissists.

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 Psalm 12

12 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
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?”

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Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride”

Please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective for an overview of this blog

 

 

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Narcissism Will Increase In “The Last Days”

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2 Timothy 3:1-7

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

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Narcissism “feels” like it is on the increase, doesn’t it?  The drive for some groups to absolutely dominate other groups or individuals, and the general Me-Ness of people seems to be dramatically on the rise.  While not every characteristic listed here applies directly, two reasons indicate that this list is about narcissists / scoffers / those with insolent pride

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  • First are the key words that these people are “lovers of self”, “boastful”, “arrogant”, “conceited”
  • Second are parallels to other descriptions in the Bible of narcissists / scoffers / those with insolent pride

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For one example

2 Timothy 3:7 – always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

is a parallel to

Proverbs 14:6 – A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none,  (see here and here and here and here for an explanation on how scoffers are narcissists)

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For a second example

2 Timothy 3:5 – holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

is a parallel to

Matthew 23:27-28 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

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Are we in the last days?  It feels like it, and there are early warning signs – but other generations in various places have felt the same.  At any rate, with the apparent rise of these people, we need to take Jesus’ admonition to heart

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“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.    Matthew 10:16

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(see here and here on how we know Pharisees were Narcissists)

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Narcissists Whisper To Fan The Flames of Conflict

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Narcissists create strife in their pursuit of dominance, winning, or getting what they want, but may also throw fuel on fires that are already burning.

Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.   Proverbs 26:21

The Hebrew term in this verse is translated “kindling” – throwing a lit match onto fuel – but in Jeremiah, it’s translated with an image of a bellows – blowing air on a lit fire to make it hotter[i].   So, a contentious person will either take the “seeds” of conflict and turn it into a real conflict or take an existing small conflict and turn it into a full-blown conflict.  Narcissists can be agents of chaos.

How does this play out?  One example may be when someone is criticizing someone else, the narcissist “piles on” and tries to top the story already being told – with a statement like “that’s nothing, you should’ve seen what he did to me last week.”  But sometimes the narcissist will whisper a criticism that stirs up a negative spark deep in someone else’s heart.

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.   Proverbs 26:20

The reason the tactic of whispering gossip works to stir up contention and strife is that most people love to hear dirt on someone else.

The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.   Proverbs 18:8 (& 26:22)

The narcissist takes advantage of people’s natural desire to hear dirt on others (“dainty morsels”) to create the doubts/controversy that in the end puts them in the lead or controlling position.  It is a common move on the narcissist’s part to stir up strife in a way that is not readily visible to others.

This process can expand to infect an entire group or organization.  Proverbs describes this metaphorically when it says:

Scorners[ii] set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger.   Proverbs 29:8

This is also what James meant when he said:

So also, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell…….

….. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.  This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.   For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing……

……What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?   You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.  

James 3:5-6, 13-16, 4:1-2

[i] See http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2787.htm  for a more complete discussion.

[ii] Same root word as scoffer, see https://biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_3944.htm

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Narcissist Case Study – Deflecting Responsibility Through Technical Loopholes

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Luke 10:25-37

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

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As was made clear by his answer, the lawyer already knew the Biblical answer to his question, implying that his question was not a sincere inquiry.  Luke called it a “test” – the lawyer was simply asking the question to see what kind of response he would get, with the chance perhaps that Jesus would say something that the lawyer could use against him – or possibly to show that he was somehow better than Jesus.  This is a typical narcissist tactic. Continue reading

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