A Biblical Perspective on “Narcissistic Projection”

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Those who have dealt with narcissists* most likely have experienced a situation where the narcissist accused you of a negative character trait or action, while at the same time they were far more guilty of the very same trait.  Yes, there may have been a speck of truth in what they said, as none of us are perfect and “we all stumble in many ways“.   But you may have been dumbfounded that someone who had the same issue in multiples would feel justified in attacking you for your little speck.

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Secular literature in the field of psychology has termed this behavior “projection”.

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One secular definition of projection is…….

“Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.”

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See also http://winning-teams.com/definitions.html#projection, for another angle on the secular term.

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Just as in many of the other secular versus Biblical perspectives on narcissism, while the external descriptions are similar, the core understanding of the causes diverge.

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Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

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The key term that unlocks the Biblical perspective is “hypocrite”.  The hypocrite has a “log in his eye” – a euphemism for a “big problem” or “big character flaw”.  But, out of pride the hypocrite minimizes his log to be “nothing” – saying to himself “I’m OK”.  He then pretends helpfulness by offering to take the speck (a little problem) out of his brother’s eye, but in fact is acting as a proud judge, setting himself up as superior.  His judgment is proof that he has a problem in the same life area in which he is trying to “help” his brother.

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Romans 2:1

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

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The root cause of the hypocrite’s behavior is insolent pride.  We know from here and here and here that Jesus used that term in other places to describe those who were scoffers / those with insolent pride.   A scoffer minimizes or does not want to even acknowledge his own flaws, while at the same time sets himself up as a superior judge over others’ flaws.

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Therefore, what secular literature calls projection – as a defense mechanism – is in fact a heart issue of pride.  So, while outwardly it appears that the narcissist is “projecting” in order to “defend himself” (which sounds innocent) – he is in fact simultaneously doing two things – minimizing his own flaws while judging others’ flaws – from a single root motivation (pride).

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While the outward actions may appear the same, and while the outward results may be the same, the root causes are different.

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

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Narcissist Case Study – Eliab, David’s Oldest Brother « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

  2. This is helpful because once a foothold was given, a stronghold was taken. Doubt, disbelief, and a wavering mind set in. Before I became unequally yoked, I liked myself. I started doubting my perception, my motives, and what God wanted me to do.

    It is crazy making, and I have a sound mind. The word of God is true. Thank you for giving practical advice and combining it with what I know is truth.

  3. Pingback: Narcissist Tactics – The Shaming Woman « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

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