O Lord, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth!
2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth,
Render recompense to the proud.
3 How long shall the wicked, O Lord,
How long shall the wicked exult?
4 They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.
5 They crush Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
6 They slay the widow and the [d]stranger
And murder the orphans.
7 They have said, “The Lord does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”
8 Pay heed, you senseless among the people;
And when will you understand, stupid ones?
9 He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see?
If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
.The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Matthew 5:4
For those who have been hurt by a narcissist*, a serious amount of comfort and healing are needed. While a certain amount of comfort can be provided by friends, there is a limit to what a friend can provide. Even if your friends have not also been fooled or tainted by the narcissist’s deceptions, they may not really understand the damage the narcissist has done. But even more fundamentally, no other human can truly feel everything you’re feeling.
In Part 1 we discussed the fact that most people want intimacy, especially with someone who is somehow beautiful or worthy – as illustrated by the popularity of love songs and people wanting to attach to celebrities. But selfishness and self-centeredness on both sides of a potential “intimacy connection” makes it very difficult to actually achieve intimacy. This is especially true in a relationship with a narcissist – their total selfishness and self-aggrandizement makes it impossible to have 2-way intimacy with them, as they really do not care about you – just themselves. However, since the narcissist is a pro at “doing intimacy” early in a relationship, they can easily reel you in as an unsuspecting person hoping for true intimacy. Then, when the narcissist’s true selfishness is revealed, you discover that the intimacy you thought you had is nonexistent. The loss you feel is especially painful since you are worse off than from the time before you met the narcissist. Going from zero “intimacy” to “100”, back to zero feels worse than if you had just stayed at zero. Even though the “intimacy” you thought you had with the narcissist was never truly there, the sense of total loss you feel is very real.
At the end of the day, there is only one person who is truly non-selfish, who genuinely loves us, who wants our best, who wants to know us, who wants us to know Him, and who is the most beautiful person we could ever be around. God’s better way is to center our search for intimacy on the one relationship where intimacy is definitely possible – with Him – and then springboard from that intimacy to greater intimacy with those around us. The intimacy with Him makes us to be less selfish, more beautiful, more compassionate ourselves – and those changes in us become the basis for greater intimacy with others. As we become more beautiful and attractive ourselves, others will seek to be around us and closer to us.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and [b]when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.Psalm 27:4
We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.I John 3:2b
We love, because He first loved us.I John 4:19.
As we will see in future posts, this intimacy with God is also directly connected getting to maximum comfort and healing of hurts that have resulted from our dealings with narcissists.
Additional Reading – to get started on the path to true intimacy
- Is God arrogant, selfish, or an megalomaniac?
- How to have a relationship with God
- Knowing God Personally – The Starting Point
Many, if not most people feel a deep inward need for intimacy. This desire can influence a lot of our decisions – it is real, and strong. If you doubt that, just look at the success of love songs or love story movies over the years. Of course the intimacy desired is with someone who is somehow “beautiful”.
One reason narcissists can so easily reel in unsuspecting people especially in a dating relationship is that they are very good at “doing” intimacy early in the relationship. And they push hard for instant intimacy. The narcissist’s “intimacy imperative” could be due to their strong drive to win you over quickly in order to achieve their ultimate self-serving goals. But, they could also be genuinely searching for intimacy themselves in order to fill gaps in their own soul – even though their narcissism will ultimately undermine the intimacy they seek.
When the narcissist has won you over, and then inevitably shows their true colors of selfishness and self-exaltation, it is an especially painful loss since you lost the intimacy that you thought you had finally found. The “intimacy” was never on a true foundation, but the sense of loss is nonetheless very real.
It is helpful to understand that it is partially our desire for intimacy that makes us vulnerable to the narcissist. This inward desire for intimacy is ok – and God-given. But instead of being a source of intimacy as we originally thought, the narcissist was actually the last person who was going to provide that intimacy. Our desire and search for intimacy contributed to our pain and sense of loss, but as we will see ahead is also the best way forward out of that pain.
23 Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
9 For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His……..”
2 Chronicles 16:9
Narcissists* are driven to set themselves up in a position of power over us in some form. By extension, they seek to put us in a position of weakness versus them. Our natural response is to resist, and to somehow defend ourselves against them. This ultimately makes it a power play between us and the narcissist, even if it is of the passive-aggressive variety. The unappealing alternative to resisting is to become a doormat of the narcissist, and allow them to damage us as they run roughshod over us.
God’s way is for us to be powerless in our own strength, but to then let Him take on the narcissist with His power. This allows us to be humble and learn trust, while He more fully shows His power, love, and goodness through protecting us. In this way, “He gets the glory, and we get the help”. Continue reading
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.”
An example of this is in Mark 3: Continue reading
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.
Secular literature in the field of psychology has termed this behavior “projection”. Continue reading
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.
Jesus explained a key trait of insolently proud, narcissistic people (illustrated by the Pharisees – see here and here and here) to create rules for others which hypocritically not keeping those same rules. This is consistent with their arrogant “I’m above you” attitude. Not only do they believe that they have superior wisdom and standing that makes it right and natural for them to tell you what to do, but their high position of “heavy” (in their own minds) responsibility justifies their not keeping those same rules. After all, in their own mind they deserve a break since they are doing “so much” for you, right? Both are clear demonstrations of the assumed superiority of their insolent pride.
The Pharisees used their limited co-opted authority as an opportunity to lord it over those whom they could. One means they used to do this, as well as to prove their superiority, was to create performance requirements which they could then hang on people. Of course, due to their own exceptionalism, the Pharisees did not bind themselves by those same rules. That’s for the little people.
This is a typical narcissist approach – constantly maneuvering, manipulating, and creating situations where they can exercise their rightful position (in their own mind) as top dog – both by creating requirements for others, and by hypocritically and arrogantly thinking they are above those same requirements.
God’s way is just the opposite.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Narcissists full of insolent pride only look at their immediate gain, with no thought for what God values and will reward for all eternity. They may think they are becoming “first”, but it is only temporary – lasting for this life at most.
Please see http://biblicalperspectivesonnarcissism.com/2013/10/21/narcissist-case-studies-in-the-bible/ for an introduction to narcissism case studies in the Bible.
The secular psychological world has observed that narcissism tends to run in families. In Biblical terms, this is referred to as the persistence of “generational sins”. God talked about it around 3500 years ago:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Exodus 34:6-7 (see also Exodus 20:5-6)
God does not explain how sins are transmitted from one generation to the next. For example, we observe that alcoholism runs in families, but there is no clear evidence for how that happens. In the case of narcissism, however, there is a logical sequence of how narcissistic parents could have narcissistic kids. The parent in example #1 above who puts down their child could very likely be a scoffer. The self-exalting defense of their child in the response described above would continue the pattern of insolent pride which began with the parent.
In addition, families develop their own “DNA” or family culture. This could include a scoffing, prideful approach to everyone else “out there”. Even though the children may be prompted in their heart to be kind, they choose to respond in the same self-exalting cynical manner as the parents.
However, there are also issues with this logic. For example, why are not all the children of narcissistic parents narcissistic? It still comes back to an individual’s moral heart choices on how they respond to life.
Three additional points must be mentioned:
First, generational sin is not an excuse for the child. He is ultimately responsible for himself and his own life responses before God. He cannot say, “it’s all my parents’ fault”. God makes clear that everyone is finally responsible for their own sin.
The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
The sins of the fathers become the sins of the children as the result of the child embracing the same sin for himself. Therefore, while the parent might rightly feel responsibility for getting the ball rolling, he does not have final accountability for his child’s heart response to God.
Second, this may seem like a hopeless situation, but it’s not. It is always possible to turn things around, due to God’s compassionate, forgiving nature.
Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
Jesus came to break the bonds or chains of sin, including the chains of generational sin.
the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
I John 3:8
Third, when we talk later in the book about battling entrenched patterns, we should be aware that part of that battle includes confessing not only our own sin but also the sins of the fathers.
‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me…..or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
Generational sin underscores narcissistic cultures
One logical, and Biblical, extension of the concept of generational sin has been little explored. Just as there can be narcissism / insolent pride within an individual, there can also be entire cultures and nations that have narcissist characteristics.
What is a narcissistic culture? A culture where the preponderance of the people are narcissists and act in narcissistic ways. Or a culture (or nation) where the entire group acts toward other groups with the heart and patterns of behavior of a narcissist.
Two Biblical cases were the nations of Moab and Edom. The Moabites descended from the incestuous relationship between Lot and his older daughter. The Edomites descended from Esau, Jacob’s twin brother.
Referring to Moab,
We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride;
Even of his arrogance, pride, and fury; his idle boasts are false.
“We have heard of the pride of Moab—he is very proud—
Of his haughtiness, his pride, his arrogance and his self-exaltation.
“I know his fury,” declares the Lord, “But it is futile; His idle boasts have accomplished nothing.
Referring to Edom,
“As for the terror of you [Edom], The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, O you who live in the clefts of the rock, Who occupy the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as an eagle’s, I will bring you down from there,” declares the Lord.
I can think of cultures that I would consider “narcissistic”. However, a narcissistic culture does not mean that everyone in the culture is a narcissist. For example, Ruth, the god-fearing grandmother of King David, was Moabite.
When seemingly “normal” people become arrogant and abusive after they get a little power or success, we may reasonably wonder whether the seeds of that pride were latent in their heart prior to their success. Uzziah, King of Judah is a case in point, as described in 2 Chronicles 26
26:1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah…….
4 He did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him…….
……Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong. 16 But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
If you are ever in doubt about whether God is passive about insolent pride (narcissism, see here), Proverbs 6:17-19 puts it at the top of the list of things which God hates.
“There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him
- Haughty eyes (“Proud, haughty, scoffer are his names who acts with insolent pride” Proverbs 21:24)
- A lying tongue
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that devises wicked plans
- Feet that run rapidly to evil
- A false witness who utters lies
- And one who spreads strife among brother
Look closely and you will recognize most of these actions as those of narcissists. We may fear that they “get away with it”, but God assures us that they do not.
,Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.
We may not know how or when He deals with the proud person, and may not see it, but we should not doubt that He will indeed do what He says.
Note: Narcissism is the colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” (see here)
Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.
Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.
Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.
Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
In our previous post we discussed how insolently proud, narcissistic bullies will use a position of power to coerce compliance on the part of others through bullying tactics. Sadly, until Jesus returns to set everything right, this will be part of the world we must navigate.
How do we deal with the bullies that inevitably cross our paths? Here are options we have:
- Avoid them – bullies may have the upper hand on their turf, but who says we have to stay on their turf and play their game?
- Try a power play – sometimes we’re in a position to “fight back”
- Get our “big brother” – sometimes we can recruit someone stronger (the image of bringing your big brother to the playground) to defend us
I had a friend tell me the story of his children bullied on the school bus on the way to school. One morning he got on the bus and told the bullies “This is going to end. The only question is how much pain you are going to take before you stop, because I will do whatever it takes until you stop”. In the face of what the bullies knew was an unwinnable battle, they stopped their bullying.
What if none of the above three options are available to us? We can take a bigger view of the situation and invite God to be our defender and protector.
People who have dealt extensively with narcissists will often feel “beat up” by the narcissist – sometimes without understanding how or why they feel that way. This is because a narcissist frequently uses coercive behavior in order to get what they want in a specific situation, or to achieve or maintain a position of dominance over someone. Sometimes this bullying is overt (think playground bully) sometimes covert (manipulative, demeaning comments).
a blustering, mean, or predatory person who, from a perceived position of relative power, intimidates, abuses, harasses, or coerces people, especially those considered unlikely to defend themselves:
The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know..Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”.John 9:18-23.
39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
One of the primary traits of the narcissistic Pharisees was their attitude of moral superiority and refusal to acknowledge that they had any sin – even though their inward lives were full of sin. In this they deceived and lied to both themselves and others. This can also be seen in Luke 18:9-14, Matthew 23:25-28, and Matthew 9:10-13.
M Scott Peck was a psychiatrist whose personal journey ultimately led him to commit to Christianity. By observation and analysis, through the lens of Christianity, he reached the same conclusion that Jesus had already made clear above.
Following are excerpts from a book he wrote on the subject