An Update

You may have noticed that I have gone silent on this blog for the past few months.  The reason is that I have been working very hard on a new book, and despite my “good” intentions have not been able to work on new blog posts while trying to get this book out (in addition to my other responsibilities).

I am not a very efficient writer, and keep blowing past my self-imposed deadlines.  At this point I hope to release “Escape From Futility” somewhere in the late October to mid-November range, and will announce it here.  After that I hope to spend more time on this blog.  There is the odd chance that I will post here between now and then, but wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

Thank you for your patience!

 

A Narcissist’s Layers Of Defense

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As we have seen throughout this blog a scoffer is the Biblical analog of a narcissist.  The Bible outlines how, in his pride, a scoffer creates layers of defense to prevent being proven wrong – as that would be an affront to his position of superiority.

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The Scoffer Fights against Being Wrong

A scoffer (“luts”, aka narcissist) actively fights against anyone who attempts to criticize him, give him advice, or tell him that he is wrong in any way.  These actions may be based on their strong determination to get their own way, their belief that they are fundamentally always right, or a strong drive to refuse anyone else telling them what to do (resistance of any authority over them).

In fact, a scoffer will actively push back against anyone who attempts it – even going as far as trying to destroy at least the credibility, if not the reputation of anyone who dares to diminish him.  There are layers to the narcissist’s resistance.

First

First, the scoffer (narcissist) will not seek counsel from someone who might see through him (“the wise”) or might possibly tell him he is wrong.

A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise. 

Proverbs 15:12

In my own experience, I can think of cases where a narcissistic, insolently proud scoffer was on a course of action that was both not helpful to them and damaging to someone else.  In each case, many people advised them that they were off-course and needed to change direction.  The narcissist refused to listen and refused to change course.  He thinks:

    • “I want what I want, and no one is going to get in my way.”
    • “My vision/faith/etc. is superior, and others just don’t get it.”
    • “Everyone talking to me is inferior/stupid/wrong/etc., so why should I listen to them?”

The result was that the narcissist pushed ahead and ran into a set of negative consequences – which, among other things, further isolated them.  Of course, even then, they were unable to learn from what happened.

Second

If the scoffer does receive a rebuke, he will not listen – out of a prideful self-delusion that he knows that he is right, and out of a total refusal to admit being wrong.

A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. 

Proverbs 13:1

The scoffer not only refuses to listen but may even attempt to shut down even the slightest objection to their plans or actions.  This may include pushing back disproportionately hard against any hint that what they are saying or doing is not correct.  Or it could mean impulsively dismissing a suggestion out of hand, with a bit of a condescending tone (hence the term scoffer).  The phrase “will not listen” could be somewhat passive, but it could also take a very aggressive form.

Third

In his battle to never be wrong, the narcissist further escalates the fight by looking to take you down.

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself.  Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.

 Proverbs 9:7-8

In his prideful refusal to be wrong, the scoffer secretly hates anyone who challenges him and his image of self-perfection.  A narcissist hates anything or anyone that gets in the way of their “glory.”  He will look to take down or trash (i.e. – dishonor) the person challenging his image, because if he succeeds, he is able to maintain his superiority.

He might do it by direct confrontation, in an aggressive attempt to get you to say you were wrong – making him correct and leaving his image intact.  While he may on occasion respond with an immediate full-frontal assault, he might also keep his feelings hidden until such a time that he can do the most damage.  In this case, he will try to disguise his hatred, speaking graciously even while hating you in his heart.  But don’t believe him.  He still fully intends to “trash” you or undermine you – waiting for a better time or opportunity to maybe even thrust the proverbial knife into your back in front of an audience of his choosing.

Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are burning lips and a wicked heart.  He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart.  When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart.  Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.    

Proverbs 26:23-26

One reason that dealing with narcissists is so tricky is that they do not play honestly.  They readily employ deception to accomplish their purposes.  But, as Jesus said, what is in their heart must ultimately reveal itself.  Jesus said,

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” 

Luke 6:45

The following illustrates the layers of protection which the scoffer puts in place, driven by his proud heart at the core.

 

 

An Alternative To The Secular Approach

[The following is a excerpt from early pages of the book, The First Will Be Last:  A Biblical Perspective On Narcissism]

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Common Descriptions, Different Terms

While there is a degree of common ground between the secular and Biblical approaches to narcissism – mostly in the description of narcissists and how they behave, i.e. narcissistic traits – the approaches diverge substantially in the areas of root causes, possible solutions, and ways in which “victims” should deal with these troubling people.

To simply illustrate the overlap and divergence between the different approaches, the overlapping areas in the following Venn diagram below are primarily descriptive (how do narcissists behave), and the non-overlapping areas tend toward the causal (why are narcissists the way they are) and the prescriptive (what to do about it).

Human nature has been the same since the beginning of humankind.  Since the Bible speaks about the nature of man and interpersonal relationships, we should see the kind of people the secular world refers to as “narcissists” in the Bible.  By accurately identifying the terms the Bible uses to describe the people which the secular world calls narcissists, we can then study those terms for a comprehensive look at what the Bible says about narcissism. Continue reading

The Range Of Perspectives On Narcissism

If you’ve found this blog, there is a good chance you – or someone you care about – has experienced some of the more damaging consequences of genuine narcissism.

Maybe you didn’t realize you were dealing with a narcissist at first, but the pain and damage this selfish, arrogant, condescending, and domineering person caused might have driven you to search for answers about what was going on, and how to deal with them.  As you searched online or in books, perhaps you read more about who this type of person is, and how he or she operates.  You likely have read explanations on causes, and advice on how to deal with this “narcissist.”

Those looking for help with understanding and dealing with a narcissist have typically turned to the following five sources:

    • Professional psychologists or psychiatrists
    • The pop-psychology world of books, blogs, self-help forums, etc.
    • Christian psychologists
    • Biblical counselors[i]
    • A shoulder to cry on (i.e. – a caring friend)

Of the above, by far the most commonly sought sources have been the world of pop-psychology and caring friends.  My own journey of discovery started with asking God for “help!”, but my first stop on the road was the world of pop-psychology.  However, God soon showed me that He has something to say on the subject. Continue reading

From Bad To Worse

My brother recently told me of two incidents of blatant selfishness and disregard for others which he observed in the space of a one week.  Both incidents were from the type of people who 20 or 30 years ago would be expected to show at least some consideration for others.  Insolent pride appears to be increasing, everywhere you turn.  Paul said to Timothy.

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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. 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

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Many of these descriptions apply to narcissists, implying that in “the last days” narcissism around us will get worse, not better.  Not a pleasant message.  It is presumptuous to declare that we are in the last days, as many over the past centuries have believed it as well, yet we’re still here.  However, it sure feels that we are.

The good news is that “it is darkest right before the dawn”, and those with sincere faith in Jesus are that much closer to a magnificent future.

How do we handle even more difficulty than we already have?  Paul went on to tell Timothy how to respond:

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12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:12-17

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Paul told Timothy

  1. Avoid them
  2. Expect to be persecuted (God tells us elsewhere in the Bible not to fear it.  He will give us the grace needed and reward us in the end)
  3. Expect people to go from bad to worse
  4. Expect people to try to deceive us
  5. Expect people to be easily deceived by others
  6. Continue in the truth you have learned and know
  7. Remember the faith and walk with God of those from whom you learned truth
  8. Remember that it is God’s written word (“sacred writings”) which provide true wisdom and true faith, and everything we need to effectively minister to those around us

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We all desire lives of peace and prosperity.  That will come in far greater measure than we can imagine – in Heaven.  But God knows and informs us that the road between here and there will be bumpy.  If we walk hand-in-hand with Him, He will see us through to that fantastic future.

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

 

 

The Cornerstone of Trust

It is easy to be filled with doubts of all kinds.  If we trace those doubts to their roots, they are doubts of whether God really loves us, doubts on God’s knowledge of our situation, doubts on God’s wisdom in allowing our situations, or doubts on His power to control absolutely everything for our good (and His glory).

In these times, it is important to place our feet firmly on the ultimate solid ground, the Rock, Jesus.  His resurrection is the ultimate proof of God’s existence – through demonstration of His power to raise someone from the dead.  Man in all his haughtiness and self-achievement is absolutely unable to do what only God can do.

Because of this, acceptance of Jesus’ resurrection as a fact, and not merely a “belief”, is an important foundation stone of our ability to trust God.  The Desiring God website has a good article on the proof of the resurrection.

If in fact God went to the ultimate extreme to solve our biggest need – reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus – why would He not be “for us” in everything else?  It wouldn’t make sense.

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Romans 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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His death is the ultimate proof of His love, and His resurrection is the ultimate proof of His existence and power.  If He is with us in our biggest need, He will surely be with us in life’s daily needs.  Because of this, we can “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us”.

Can A Narcissist Change? Nebuchadnezzar Case Study

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One of the most frequently asked questions is whether a narcissist can change.  To answer this properly we need to know what kind of change we are talking about.

It is possible for people to modify their behavior for a period to accomplish a short-term goal.  And it is possible for people to moderate how they handle certain situations to avoid consequences.  However, in both cases, when under stress the narcissist will revert to “type” and reveal what is really in his heart.

While a narcissist’s short-term tactical behavior modification may provide temporary relief for those suffering at his hands, the narcissist has not truly changed.  Since the source of his thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions is the insolent pride residing in his heart, true and lasting change can only come from his heart.

The conventional wisdom is that narcissists rarely, if ever, truly change.  However, that does not mean it is not possible.  Continue reading

Narcissists Create Conflict & Add Fuel To Fires

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Scoffers are not only naturally defensive, they are also naturally contentious creators of conflict.

Through insolence[i] comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.  Proverbs 13:10

When pride [insolence[ii]] comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

This makes sense, since narcissists are typically “fighting” or “contending” for supremacy and to get what they want.  They’re routinely irritated and angry at everyone and everything when things do not go their way.  They take actions that run people over rather than “wasting their time and energy” on having peaceful relationships.  So, if you see considerable drama or conflict, look around to see if a narcissist is involved. Continue reading

Narcissistic Projection – Part 2, An Example

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Please see A Biblical Perspective On “Narcissistic Projection” for Part 1

To recap Part 1*, scoffers are hypocritical judges who accuse others of the very things of which they are guilty.  This action is the Biblical equivalent of what the secular world calls “projection”.  From Wikipedia:

“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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An example of this is in Mark 3: Continue reading

Can A Narcissist Be A Christian (& vice versa)?

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“Is this narcissist even a Christian?” is a question frequently asked about an obvious narcissist who claims to be a Christian. The narcissist’s claims may stand in stark contrast to how they treat you and others in private.  The answer to this question impacts our understanding of how God will deal with the narcissist, and how we should deal with them.

Jesus alluded to the inconsistency between insolent pride and genuine faith when he asked the narcissists of his day,

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

John 5:44

Continue reading

Narcissist’s Create “Righteous” Reasons For Their Agenda

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He was also saying to them [the scribes and Pharisees], “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” 

Mark 7:9-13

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The Mosaic instruction for honoring parents was serious, as illustrated by the severe consequence for speaking evil of them.  The Pharisees were caught between a rock and a hard place – in their greed and selfishness they wanted to hoard the money designated to support their parents.  But they also did not want to be seen (by God, or by man) as violating the clear Mosaic law.

Their devious solution created a mechanism that projected an image of “righteousness” while giving them what they wanted.   They would give their money “to God”, but would still control the spending – they would be the recipient of their own “generosity” instead of their parents.

This was not just about the Pharisees giving to a “greater and more worthy cause” than their parents – although they certainly wanted it to look that way.  They were deceitfully hoarding the funds, shirking their responsibilities, and using false “piety” to further glorify themselves while masking their evil behavior.

It is a classic narcissist move – creating an excuse that cannot be criticized or questioned as a smokescreen for their self-centered and self-serving actions.  And, if the smokescreen itself is useful as the means of achieving their goal – all the better.

One Difference Between Secular and Biblical Perspectives

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One of the differences between the secular and Biblical approaches is that the secular psych world is “outside in” – observing characteristics, grouping them, and then labeling them – whereas the Biblical approach is “inside out.”  God alone knows the heart and character of a narcissistic person.  He gives the person with that kind of heart a name and then describes that type of person and the damage they leave in their wake in cascading detail.  Here’s a simple chart illustrating these approaches:

In a sense, the secular psych world is only observing and categorizing the characteristics which God through the Bible has already defined.

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There Is an Evil Underneath

While the descriptions are similar between the secular and Biblical world, God does not view “narcissism” as a mere personality disorder.  He sees narcissistic behavior as an evil that is driven by what is in a person’s heart.

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 

Matthew 15:18-19

The battle is between good and evil, and it is waged at the heart level.  We can see the outward results of this battle through actions and words, but God sees directly inside.

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“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

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Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.   Psalm 44:21

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The problem’s source and solution start in the heart.  The mind simply serves the heart.  That’s one explanation for why a narcissist can appear to be self-contradictory by quickly taking the direct opposite position of something he just said.  His mixed signals display the mixed motives of his heart.

People who are casually around narcissists may only find them annoying.  However, those hurt by narcissists are quite aware there is something deeper – an underlying evil.  Call a spade, a spade – it helps when learning to deal with it.  Narcissists typically don’t see themselves as evil – in fact, they usually see the contrary in themselves – but their victims are eventually forced to see them for what they are.

[i] See also Mark 7:21, Luke 6:45

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Narcissist Case Studies – Haman

Haman – Xerxes’ Viceroy

Haman was an Amalekite who became viceroy in the Persian empire under King Ahasuerus’ (Xerxes I) after an assassination plot on the king was foiled (Esther 3:1). He was most likely a narcissist with insolent pride, which we will see shortly. Let’s look at his case study in the order that book of Esther tells it:

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All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage……When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage.  Esther 3:1-5

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Even though Haman had achieved “everything”, he was still obsessed with the one thing he didn’t have – Mordecai’s acknowledgement of his “glory”. So, Haman resolved to destroy Mordecai. Continue reading

Narcissist* v. Narcissist* – A Pure Power Play

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Many of the posts in this blog are about how narcissists (scoffers, haughty, those with insolent pride) relate to non-narcissists, whom they manipulate and push around in order to achieve their “rightful” place of superiority and/or dominance.  But what happens when narcissists come up against each other?

The following can take place:

1 – Initially they play a game of flattery with each other.  At this point, they’re not really engaging in a contest for dominance, although in the middle of their flattery each narcissist is likely dropping hints to the other narcissist about their “greatness”.  Even though each N may know that the flattery is fake and a possible trap, they accept it because it appeals to their pride.

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Psalm 12:2-4 –

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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Proverbs 29:5

A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps.

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Proverbs 26:28
A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin.
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The N’s are (most likely) knowingly allowing themselves to be baited, probably thinking they are smart enough to escape any consequences.
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2 – They may attempt to use their standard tactics, but this is not likely since they both know the game each other is playing.  Therefore, since their normal schemes won’t work to gain an advantage, they would either

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2A – Avoid each other, and avoid an outright conflict – based on both N’s not seeing much value in winning that particular power play (see below) vs. the effort required.  In other words, their greatness means they have bigger fish to fry, and this “little” skirmish is not worth bothering with

OR

2B – Engage in a pure power play.  In this case both of the N’s feel compelled that their position is inherently right either based on its merits or their personal “worthiness”.   Therefore, in their mind and heart it is correct and right for them and their position/goals to prevail.  As it is right for them to win/achieve dominance, they are unwilling to cede any ground to anyone.  And, since to an N anything goes in the pursuit of their superiority, its a fight with no “rules” .   A pure power play means a fight until one of the two N’s comes out victorious.  It could be a simple fight where the N with the strongest position easily prevails and vanquishes his opponent, or it could be a protracted contest of equal power that focuses on tactics.

There may be a lot of collateral damage in the fight (ie – others getting hurt in the process), but the N’s absolutely do not care about that.  The only thing that counts is their winning.  If you see 2 N’s in a fight, get out of the way so that you do not become part of the collateral damage.

You’ve heard of “power politics” – it’s one example of a pure power play.

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Even though we need to understand scoffers and their tactics, we are not to be like them

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Matthew 10:16 –
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
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God has a different way of dealing with N’s than merely engage in a human vs human power play.  HE is in the equation with us, which changes everything.    We will dig much deeper into this in the upcoming book, as well as future blog posts.
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Narcissistic Traits – They’re Impossible To Please

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Matthew 11:16-19

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

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The linkages between these verses and narcissism are a bit more difficult, but “this generation” is epitomized by the Pharisees.  And as we discuss in other posts, Pharisees as a whole (there were individual exceptions) were classic narcissists (those with insolent pride).

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Narcissists are never happy with how others do things.  They “sit in the seat of scoffers”, sitting in judgment over others (see Sitting In The Seat Of Scoffers / Narcissists As Judge) – and their standard is based on whatever standard they decide at the moment.   Because their main goal is being superior, not achieving justice.  They often set their standards in such a way that they can declare those they are judging to be in the wrong.  So, you can jump through their hoop to meet the standard they set for you, only to find them change the standard so that they can still criticize you.  That is behavior Jesus described for “this generation” in the words above.

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There are various permutations of how this trait can be described:

  • Narcissists want everything both ways
  • Narcissists are never happy with what you do and/or how you do it
  • You “can’t win” in your dealings with a narcissist (you can rarely even “win/win”)
  • Narcissists consistently complain

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How do you deal with people who are impossible to please?   As Jesus said, “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds”.   In other words, put your focus more on “doing the right thing” than on pleasing the person who is impossible to please.   That way, whether the narcissist is happy with you or not, at least you can stand before God as having acted with integrity.

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