Dealing With Narcissists* – Case Study on “Let Them Alone”


How Jesus handled His encounters with the narcissistic* Pharisees are very instructive.  The following encounter is a case in point.


Matthew 15

15 Then some Pharisees and scribes* came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:


This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”


10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

12 Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement? 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

There are several things to consider here:
  1. The narcissistic* Pharisees (see here and here) were doing a classic indirect attack on Jesus – criticizing Jesus by criticizing His disciples.  The Pharisees’ goal was to weaken their competition (Jesus).
  2. The Pharisees were using another classic narcissistic* move of setting up a standard of their choosing (the tradition of the elders) as the basis for acting as judge over someone else (see here for more on this classic narcissistic tactic)
  3. Jesus decided to challenge the narcissists* (scoffers)  in this instance.  It could be that (as discussed here) He took them on in order to defend His disciples.
  4. His challenge to the Pharisees was not a direct defense of the Pharisees’ accusation.  That would have imputed some credibility to their accusation.  Instead His challenge went straight to the heart of the Pharisees’ real issues
    1. They transgressed God’s law in order to uphold their “own law” (the traditions of men)
    2. They were being hypocrites (see here for more on that), saying the right things (“honor Me with their lips”), but with evil in their hearts (“their heart is far from Me”) (see here and here and here for how narcissists are outwardly righteous but inwardly rebellious)
  5. Jesus did not respond to the Pharisees regarding their accusation, but He did make sure that the other listener’s were not deceived or confused by what the Pharisees had said.  So, HE did provide them with the clear truth (defilement comes from the heart, not from what you eat), in contrast to the Pharisees’ self-centered “doctrine”.
  6. The result of the narcissistic* Pharisees being actually challenged by Jesus was that they were offended.  No surprise with that.  Narcissists hate being reproved (see here).  “Normal” people would have cowered in fear over the Pharisees’ displeasure, but Jesus did not.
  7. Jesus used the Pharisees’ offense at his statement to make 3 points to the disciples
    1. The Pharisees were not of God, and as a result would ultimately be uprooted
    2. The Pharisees were “blind guides” – they were not qualified to point the way for others.  (The “blindness” of narcissists is discussed here)
    3. Those who followed the Pharisees were also blind
    4. As a result, the best course of action is to “leave them alone” – ie – don’t try to fight them, but also don’t seek to follow them.  Jesus was saying “get on with doing the right things yourselves, and don’t worry about what the Pharisees are or are not doing”


So, one key way of dealing with narcissists is to “leave them alone” to live in their own little world, knowing that God will sort it all out in the end.  (See here for other discussions on the how “avoiding” is one way of dealing with narcissists.)

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