How Do You Know There’s A Covert Narcissist In Your Midst?

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One subject we have not talked about much is the difference between overt and covert narcissism.  At its most basic:

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  • An overt narcissist is an in-your-face braggart and bully
  • A covert narcissist plays the victim, and uses manipulation and deceit to get what they want,

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There is not a clear line between the two – an overt narcissist may use manipulation and deceit, and a covert narcissist may be a bully if they get the chance.

As the covert narcissist is far more subtle, they are harder to spot.  How can you recognize one in your midst?  Look for non-stop drama and wide-spread conflict that you can’t quite identify nor be sure of the source.

Proverbs 22:10 makes clear that scoffers – a Biblical term for narcissist – are a source of contentiousness:

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Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease. 
Proverbs 22:10
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The fact that if you drive them out, contention leaves as well means that narcissists are a source of contention.  Proverbs 26:20 indicates that this contention can be very subtle.
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For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. 
Proverbs 26:20
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The Hebrew word for whisperer means “talebearer” or “slanderer”.
Covert narcissists will “whisper” as part of their toolbox to spread rumors, lies, and even true things that undermine others as part of their manipulation of a situation to achieve their own ends.  The “whispering” is a source of contention and conflict, but they do it subtly and quietly so that they seem “innocent” even while they are wreaking destruction.
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So, if you are in a group that is roiling in conflict, look around and see if you can identify a covert narcissist who is subtly undermining others in order to achieve some goal of self-exaltation or dominance over one or more people.
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Narcissist Tactics – A Story Of Manipulation

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I am currently dealing with a counseling situation, elements of which I have seen before in a missions context.  The short version is that a narcissist has subtly manipulated a group of people in her (I would call it evil) attempt to undermine and dominate her husband.  Her insolent pride arose from growing up in a tough situation, resulting in deep underlying fear which has resulted in an ongoing attempt to control her world in insolent pride.  The book The First Will Be Last:  A Biblical Perspective on Narcissism explains this more fully.  While we can be empathetic to her root causes, and pray for healing, she is also responsible for her own responses to her early trauma.

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Like in other cases, the narcissist has spread lies and half-truths to turn everyone against the husband.  And as usual, he in this case is not perfect or blameless. In addition, he responded to the manipulation against him in frustration and and anger.  Both of these helped the N more easily succeed in painting herself as a saint and her husband as the bad guy.

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Most people, especially in a Christian context, expect those they are talking with to be truthful.  As a result, we naively tend to believe what we’re being told without fact-checking it.  This is contrary to what God warns us in Proverbs

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The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.
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Proverbs 18:17
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This has made it far easier for the narcissist to manipulate the situation.
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There are examples in Scripture of narcissists manipulating others to become tools in reaching their goals.  The primary one is how the Pharisees (Biblical examples of narcissists, see here) manipulated Pilate to do their dirty work.  John 19:1-16 describes the entire sequence, but the following statements by the Pharisees demonstrate how they manipulated and bullied Pilate to accomplish their goals
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Jesus answered, “You [Pilate] would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” 
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John 19:11-12
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and
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And he [Pilate] *said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!”  So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate *said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 

So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. 

John 19:14-16

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The chief priests did not truly see Caesar as their king.  They said that to manipulate and force Pilate into doing their bidding.  Pilate did not take the time nor had the courage to dig into what they were really doing, with the serious consequence of becoming complicit in the death of Christ.  As we saw earlier, Jesus said that the chief priests had the greater sin, but He did not let Pilate off the hook.

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Back to our counseling situation – what is the husband to do if the narcissistic wife successfully recruits others against him?  Lies against you are virtually impossible to fight on your own.  We must always remember that we can have the God of the Universe as our defender if we are righteous before Him.  The husband first must look to himself and own his mistakes, and yield to God.
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Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart,
I am pure from my sin”? 
Proverbs 20:9
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The process starts with looking internally, and rather than defending yourself admit that there is some measure of sin in your own heart.  If you have done something wrong confess and ask forgiveness, even if the N will use that against you.
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But once that is done, boldly ask God to work on your behalf to protect and defend you
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  1. Ask God to humble the N
  2. Ask God to expose the N’s lies and manipulations
  3. Ask God to defend your reputation (to the extent He sees it is necessary)
  4. Ask God to thwart or counteract specific moves the N makes …
  5. Ask God to bring you specific encouragement and blessing

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Psalm 17 illustrates this:

Hear a just cause, O Lord, give heed to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips.
Let my judgment come forth from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look with equity.
You have tried my heart;
You have visited me by night;
You have tested me and You find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips
I have kept from the paths of the violent.
My steps have held fast to Your paths.
My feet have not slipped.

I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God;
Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech.
Wondrously show Your lovingkindness,
O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand
From those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
From the wicked who despoil me,
My deadly enemies who surround me.
10 They have closed their unfeeling heart,
With their mouth they speak proudly.
11 They have now surrounded us in our steps;
They set their eyes to cast us down to the ground.
12 He is like a lion that is eager to tear,
And as a young lion lurking in hiding places.

13 Arise, O Lord, confront him, bring him low;
Deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword…

Psalm 17:1-13

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On top of this is to pray that God would “enlighten the eyes of the heart” of the narcissist (Ephesians 1), so that they would have a radical revelation of who God really is, and see themselves clearly in comparison to God’s greatness and glory.  This is the foundation to their healing.  This discussion is way beyond the scope of this blog post, but outlined in the book, “The First Will Be Last:  A Biblical Perspective On Narcissism“.

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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

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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”. Continue reading

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Narcissist Tactics – Creating Rules , But Acting Above Those Same Rules

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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. 

Matthew 23:4

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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.

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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.

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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.

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God’s way is just the opposite.

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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.” 

Matthew 20:25-27

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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.

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Click here for initial steps to know God personally

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Please see http://biblicalperspectivesonnarcissism.com/2013/10/21/narcissist-case-studies-in-the-bible/  for an introduction to narcissism case studies in the Bible.

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Narcissist Tactics – Bullying To Suppress Opposition To Their Goals

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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).

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From Dictionary.com – a bully is
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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:
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The Pharisees – prime examples of insolent proud narcissists in the Bible – exemplified this.  They tried to squelch anything and anyone supportive of Jesus by using their power to expel them from the synagogue – shaming and possibly even economically damaging that person.  This was illustrated in John 9’s description of their response to Jesus healing a man blind from birth.
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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.
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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.” 
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John 9:18-23
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“The People Of The Lie”

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John 9:39-41

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.

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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.

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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

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All The Reward They Will Ever Get

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“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

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“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

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When The Mask Comes Off

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Narcissists will conceal their intentions, their heart, and their actions to make sure things look good while still working toward their goal of self-exaltation and dominance.  However, while they may hide their intentions for awhile, once they feel they are in a position to truly “go for it” they will discard their mask and fully show their true colors.  They likely showed glimpses of their true nature before taking their mask off, but when given the opportunity they revealed themselves fully.  This is true of many prominent megalomaniacs in the past, but you likely also see examples much closer to home:

    • The “cooperative employee” that becomes a tyrant when he gets to be boss
    • The girlfriend who makes joking digs at her boyfriend, but “becomes” a contentious wife after she ties the knot
    • A congenial cooperative politician who becomes a dictator once in power

Proverbs hints at this phenomena of people showing their true colors when given the chance:

Under three things the earth quakes,
And under four, it cannot endure:
Under a slave when he becomes king,
And a fool when he is satisfied with food,
Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
And a female servant when she dispossesses her mistress. 

Proverbs 30:23

Biblical examples might include

    • Satan gave a seemingly little temptation to Eve in the Garden of Eden, but showed his full true intention – to usurp God – when he told Jesus in the wilderness

Again, the devil *took Him along to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 

Matthew 4:8-9

    • The jealous Pharisees couched their opposition to Jesus in pious sounding questions, but when they saw the opportunity they orchestrated his death.

It IS a mask they wear, as narcissists are hypocrites.  The very definition of the word “hypocrite” is wearing a mask to cover intentions and behavior.

Proverbs says that charm is deceitful (Proverbs 31:30), and that scoffers (narcissists) are flatterers.  They will use those tactics to “win you over”, but after they have accomplished that the mask will come off and they will begin to reveal their true nature and agenda.

This underscores the importance of keen discernment in looking for the clues ahead of time, and avoiding the consequences

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A prudent person sees evil and hides himself, But the naive proceed, and pay the penalty. 
Proverbs 22:3

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Once N’s have their hooks in and feel they are in a position of power – whether personally or at a geopolitical level, they are much more difficult to deal with.  It is better to recognize the clues early, and take action early (like steering clear), than to wait until their mask comes off.

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Narcissists Will Never Celebrate Your Success (Because They’re Jealous)

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You may occasionally be surprised when a narcissistic “friend” fails to be happy for, or even acknowledge, some accomplishment in your life.  An exception might occur if they have already done the same thing before you, or at a higher level than you.  In that case, your accomplishment provides them with the opportunity to boast about what they did first or better.

Two examples from narcissists in the Bible illustrate this point:

The first came from Jesus’ parable of the “prodigal son”, where Jesus described the narcissistic brother of the lost son this way as the prodigal son returned:

 

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’

But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you never gave me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;

Luke 15:25-29

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The older brother – who owned the full remaining inheritance after his little brother squandered his portion – was focused on what he did not get instead of celebrating his brother’s return.

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Another prime example is the Pharisees’ unwillingness to acknowledge the Messiah – Jesus – when He came.  They were jealous of His success and chided each other for losing their status among the people,

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For this reason [the healing of Lazarus] also the people went to meet Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.  So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not accomplishing anything; look, the world has gone after Him!”

John 12:18-19

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in another instance, instead of being happy when a man was healed on a Sabbath (John 5:1-18), the Pharisees immediately began to criticize that it had happened on the Sabbath – looking for some spurious reason with which to undermine the miracle.

Failure to acknowledge another’s success – or going further to tear down or undermine it fits with the narcissistic modus operandi – in the insolent pride of their heart they must be first, best, top dog, ahead of you.  Everyone else’s purpose is to support their exaltation – and nothing less can be tolerated.

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In contrast to the Pharisees, John (the Baptist) – whom Jesus described as the greatest man who ever lived (Matthew 11:11) – readily deferred to Jesus when He came on the scene:

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And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing and all the people are coming to Him.”  John replied, “A person can receive not even one thing unless it has been given to him from heaven.  

You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’  He who has the bride is the groom; but the friend of the groom, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly because of the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.  

He must increase, but I must decrease. 

John 3:26-30

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To those who have experienced this – we need not worry.  God sees and rewards actions which flow out of a right heart of love, and even if a narcissist ignores, discounts, or destroys your accomplishment in the eyes of man, God will have the last say – as He always does.

We do not need to defend ourselves or make sure we are acknowledged or recognized – God will take care of that in His way and in His time.  Ultimately God wants others to see that the true accomplishment was Him working in our lives – demonstrating it in a way that points people to Him, so that they can also experience His love and goodness for them.

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Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. 

Matthew 5:16

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Click here for initial steps on how to know God personally

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Narcissist Traits – They Set Themselves Up As Lawgiver

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James 4:11-12

11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

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Someone who “speaks against a brother” is doing something far more serious than may appear on the surface.  James says that he is actually setting himself up (in his mind) higher than God as the law-setter and judge of what is right and wrong.  He then uses the standard he has created as the basis for passing judgment on others for not matching up to his standard.  This is exactly how a scoffer (aka narcissist) operates. Continue reading

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Is God Narcissistic? (No)

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I receive the occasional comment from haters saying something to the effect that “your God is the biggest narcissist of all”.  I erase those immediately so as to not let blaspheme continue, but let’s address it.

People may make such a comment for a variety of reasons, but let’s assume they mean that God is narcissistic because He wants worship and obedience.  Yes, He does – but the “why” is where they get things backwards, and is the starting point of their blasphemous error. Continue reading

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They Think They’re Indispensable

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Narcissists tend to consider themselves indispensable, the “key” to the success of the enterprise at hand, whether it’s running the operation to handing out pencils.  Their insolent pride starts with their own importance, and then imputes that to the importance of their role and also to  the larger enterprise.

It is (proud) human nature to think our _____ is best, but N’s take this to an extreme.  This inflated view of themselves assumes they are more important than others and even God.

Paul told the Athenians at the Areopagus,

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The God who made the world and everything that is in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made by hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 

Acts 17:24-25

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N’s tend toward work and professions that allow themselves to “play God” (politics, etc.), but they can pursue their superiority no matter what venue they find themselves – even as simple as how to arrange the tables and chairs for the church social function.

It is one thing to have a healthy sense of responsibility and value the task at hand.  But, feeling as though our enterprise is the most important and that we are indispensable to it opens the door to all kinds of unkind and abusive behavior.  It can result in the N treating people with a haughty, superior attitude –

  • criticizing others for not doing things the way they would have
  • demanding that everyone around make their piece of the work the top priority
  • making sure that everyone is there to serve them and their needs
  • praising those who fall in line with their self-serving plans, and snubbing those who don’t
  • feeling justified in lashing out when things don’t go their way

As Paul told the Athenians, if we truly understand that  1.  it is God’s priorities that really matter – to love Him and others,  2.  that He is the source of all accomplishment and  3.  that He does not “need” our service, it would put ourselves and our service (even if it is “secular work”) in the right perspective – humbly and kindly serving in collaboration with others, with God and not ourselves at the center.

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Click here for an overview of what this blog is about

Click here for initial steps to peace with God

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not NPD, It’s A Heart Issue

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1 John 2:16

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

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According to I John 2:16, ultimately all “sin issues” that people have (“all that is in the world”) can be boiled down to one of three root causes

  1. Lust / sexual immorality (“the lust of the flesh”)
  2. The desire for things (“the lust of the eyes”)
  3. Pride and the desire to exalt oneself (“the boastful pride of life”).

It could also be a combination of one or more as illustrated by the Pharisees’ taking actions to fulfill desires (“lust of the eyes”) that they then covered up so that they would not look bad (“boastful pride of life”). Continue reading

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Narcissist* Traits – Don’t Rely On Their Inflated, False Claims

 

Proverbs 25:14 – Like clouds and wind without rain Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.
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 “Clouds and wind without rain” may not mean much to today’s urbanites – its a word picture from an agrian time.  But to a farmer looking for the crucial rain needed for a successful crop, clouds and wind are signs that the necessary rain should be coming soon.  Then, if does not come, the farmer is let down that the promise of rain did not result in actual rain.
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