Best Match Between Secular and Biblical Definitions of Narcissism

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you’re not given the special favors or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.

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The phrase above “inflated sense of their own importance” is the key linkage between the secular and Biblical definitions.  It has echoes of

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Romans 12:3, 16

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith……. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but[n]associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

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“Inflated sense of own importance (Mayo) is approximately = “haughty in mind” (Romans 12:16) = “insolent pride” (Proverbs 21:24).  Therefore, Mayo’s definition (of narcissism) is approximately equal to the Biblical term (insolent pride).

 

Is Narcissism = Insolent Pride in the Bible?

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As we have mentioned previously, one underlying premise of this blog is that what is defined as “narcissism” in the secular world of psychology is called “insolent pride” in the Bible.   The basis for making this assertion is the substantial, but not necessarily  1:1, overlap of traits.

 

TheBibleOnNarcissists

 

As Narcissistic Personality Disorder is still being researched in the formal field of psychology, and is only generally defined in the world of pop psychology, it does not have a clear, official definition  (see here).   Therefore, it stands to reason that there won’t be a clear 1;1 match between the terms “narcissism” and “insolent pride”, when one of the terms is not precisely defined.   But, there is enough overlap of traits that we can use the term “narcissism” as an approximation for “insolent pride”.

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The reason we are even using the term “narcissism” is that many people who are searching for answers on how to deal with these troublesome people will likely search using the term “narcissism”, as that is the term with which they are most familiar.  But the most precise and real answers will come from the Biblical understanding of “insolent pride”.  That is why we are using the terms synonymously, even though there is not a precise match-up between terms.

 

 

 

Narcissism* = Insolent Pride – A Psychiatrist’s Perspective, Part 2

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from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._Scott_Peck

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People of the Lie

First published in 1983, People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil (ISBN 0 7126 1857 0) followed on from Peck’s first book. Peck describes the stories of several people who came to him whom he found particularly resistant to any form of help. He came to think of them as evil and goes on to describe the characteristics of evil in psychological terms, proposing that it could become a psychiatric diagnosis.

Evil

Peck discusses evil in his book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil,[7] and also in a chapter of The Road Less Traveled.[6] Peck characterizes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness in which there is an active rather than passive refusal to tolerate imperfection (sin) and its consequent guilt.[6][7] This syndrome results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children), which is the paradoxical mechanism by which the People of the Lie commit their evil.[7] Peck argues that these people are the most difficult of all to deal with, and extremely hard to identify.[7] He describes in some detail several individual cases involving his patients. In one case which Peck considers as the most typical because of its subtlety, he describes Roger, a depressed teenage son of respected, well off parents.[7] In a series of parental decisions justified by often subtle distortions of the truth, they exhibit a consistent disregard for their son’s feelings, and a consistent willingness to destroy his growth. With false rationality and normality, they aggressively refuse to consider that they are in any way responsible for his resultant depression, eventually suggesting his condition must be incurable and genetic.

Some of his conclusions about the psychiatric condition that he designates as “evil”, are derived from his close study of one patient he names Charlene.[7] Although Charlene is not dangerous, she is ultimately unable to have empathy for others in any way. According to Peck, people like her see others as play things or tools to be manipulated for their own uses or entertainment. Peck states that these people are rarely seen by psychiatrists, and have never been treated successfully.

Evil is described by Peck as “militant ignorance”. The original Judeo-Christian concept of “sin” is as a process that leads us to “miss the mark” and fall short of perfection.[7] Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this, at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience (through self-deception), and views this as being quite distinct from the apparent absence of conscience evident in sociopathy.[7]

According to Peck an evil person:[6][7]

  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets (scapegoats) while being apparently normal with everyone else (“their insensitivity toward him was selective” (Peck, 1983/1988, p 105[7]))
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
  • Abuses political (emotional) power (“the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion” (Peck, 1978/1992, p298[6]))
  • Maintains a high level of respectability, and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim (scapegoat)
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

Most evil people realize the evil deep within themselves but are unable to tolerate the pain of introspection, or admit to themselves that they are evil. Thus, they constantly run away from their evil by putting themselves in a position of moral superiority and putting the focus of evil on others. Evil is an extreme form of what Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, calls a character disorder.[6][7]

Though the topic of evil has historically been the domain of religion,[7] Peck makes great efforts to keep much of his discussion on a scientific basis, explaining the specific psychological mechanisms by which evil operates. He was also particularly conscious of the danger of a psychology of evil being misused for personal or political ends.[7]Peck considered that such a psychology should be used with great care, as falsely labeling people as evil is one of the very characteristics of evil. He argued that a diagnosis of evil should come from the standpoint of healing and safety for its victims, but also with the possibility even if remote, that the evil themselves may be cured.

Ultimately Peck says that evil arises out of free choice. He describes it thus: Every person stands at a crossroads, with one path leading to God, and the other path leading to the devil. The path of God is the right path, and accepting this path is akin to submission to a higher power. [editor note = opposite of insolent pride]  However, if a person wants to convince himself and others that he has free choice, he would rather take a path which cannot be attributed to its being the right path. Thus, he chooses the path of evil.

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Narcissists are evil in three ways.  First they want what they want, and are totally self-willed in seeking that – and in the process put their needs before everyone and everything else (= insolent pride).  They are exalting themselves in making what they want the prime objective.  Second, they are unwilling to acknowledge (to themselves and others) the evil in the first thing – so they cover it up through consistent deception, lying, and other forms of falsehood.  They are exalting themselves in a projecting a superior image as opposed to accepting the reality.  And third, they aggressively attack anyone who would challenge them on the first and second points.

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

Narcissism* = Insolent Pride – A Psychiatrist’s Perspective – Part 1

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“Narcissism, or self-absorption, takes many forms. Some are normal. Some are normal in childhood but not in adulthood. Some are more distinctly pathological than others.  The subject is as complex as it is important.  It is not the purpose of this book, however, to give a balanced view of the whole topic, so we will proceed immediately to that particular pathologic variant that Erich Fromm called ‘Malignant Narcissism’.

Malignant Narcissism is characterized by an un-submitted will.

All adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal.  They do what God wants them to do rather than what they would desire.  “Thy will, not mine, be done” the God-submitted person says. They believe in what is true rather than what they would like to be true.

To a greater or lesser degree, all mentally healthy individuals submit themselves to the demands of their own conscience.  Not so the evil, however. In the conflict between their guilt and their will, it is the guilt that must go and the will that must win.  The reader will be struck by the extraordinary willfulness of evil people.

They are men and women of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way.  There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others.”

[Emphasis mine]

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M Scott Peck, The People of the Lie, Simon and Schuster, Inc., copyright © 1983, pg. 77-78

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“Unsubmitted will”, “attempt to control others”, are characteristics of insolent pride.  One with insolent pride will NOT submit to God or others, and will seek to have “their will be done”, instead of “Thy will be done”  M Scott Peck called it malignant narcissism.

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

The Divergence of Secular and Biblical Approaches To Narcissism*

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When we are discussing traits and tactics of narcissists*, there is not much difference between secular and biblical perspectives.  This is because narcissist traits and tactics are basically observational and/or descriptive – focused on “facts”.   The secular world “observes” the traits and tactics of narcissists* (those with insolent pride), while the Bible “describes” them.

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But it is as we dig deeper that the secular and biblical perspectives on narcissism will diverge.  This is because the biblical perspective brings God into the equation (of course), while the secular perspective does not.  Bringing God into the picture will affect our understanding of why narcissists do what they do, how they became narcissists, how we should relate to and deal with them, and how God deals with them.  Bringing God into the picture will also impact our understanding of whether things in our “relationships” with narcissists can ever change or improve.

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We will try to explain as we progress both how and why bringing God into the picture changes things.  And we will also occasionally highlight the differences between the secular and biblical approaches.

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I am mentioning this now, because while we will continue to discuss traits and tactics of narcissists, the emphasis is going to shift over time to a much deeper search into what is really going on with these “difficult people”.

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* Narcissist/narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride”.  Please see here for an explanation.

Narcissistic Traits – They Will Trash You If You Reprove Them

As mentioned earlier, “scoffer” is one name to describe narcissists who act with “insolent pride”.  Therefore, we can learn more about the characteristics of a narcissist by seeing what the Bible says about scoffers.


This comparison list focuses on the narcissistic characteristic of absolutely hating to be told they are wrong in any way, shape, or form.

 

Level

Scoffer (Insolent Pride) Trait

Narcissism Trait

1

Proverbs 15:2 – A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise

A narcissist will first avoid situations where he may be told he is doing something wrong…..no matter how wise the “reprover” might be

2

Proverbs 13:1 – “…A scoffer does not listen to rebuke”

But if a narcissist somehow does find himself in position of being rebuked, he will refuse to listen.  Have you ever tried to rebuke a narcissist?  He will ignore you, verbally fight you, tell you why you are the one who is wrong – anything to keep from admitting that they may be wrong.

3

Proverbs 9:8 – “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you..”

Proverbs 26:24-26 – “He who hates disguise 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.”

Not only will a narcissist refuse to listen, but he will also hate you for reproving him.

He will disguise his hatred, and even speak graciously to you, but when he has the chance to trash you publicly he will take it.

4

Proverbs 9:7 – “He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself…”

This results in a narcissist trashing your reputation – a narcissist will not hesitate to trash the reputation of those who try to correct them – resulting in dishonor to you for daring to correct them.

So, if it’s not a good idea to rebuke a narcissist, what do you do?  There are other ways to deal with them…. we’ll be exploring those in future blogs.

Narcissism = Insolent Pride in the Bible

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Proverbs 21:24 – “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 have a lot of wisdom on the subject.   Continue reading

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