Causes of Narcissism – The Impact Of Generational Sin

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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. 

Ezekiel 18:20

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. 

Isaiah 55:7

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.

Leviticus 26:40-42

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.

 Isaiah 16:6

“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. 

Jeremiah 48:29-30

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. 

Jeremiah 49:16

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.

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Click here for the initial steps to peace with God

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Narcissist Case Study – Uzziah

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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

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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…….

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 He did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 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…….

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……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. 

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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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Why Do Narcissists Have Addictive Personalities?

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Consider this blog post as “thinking out loud” about something.  It is not intended to be definitive, but simply the start of working through a subject.

Conventional wisdom holds that narcissists tend toward addictive personalities.  I have no reason to dispute it, and have seen traces in my own life in the past – a sample size of one.  However, assuming this is true, what could be the cause?

Here are some overlapping possibiilties:

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  • ONE – they forfeit God-given grace.

James says,

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 

James 4:6

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A working definition I use for grace is “God gives us what we need (in abundance), when we need it”.  The big example of course is salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) – something we all desperately need.  But grace can include many other things, ranging from the “common grace” of sunshine to the grace to live properly – God giving us the desire and the power to do the right thing.  Paul describes that in Philippians.

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So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure. 

Philippians 4:12-13

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If we are proud and determined that our way is best, God says, “OK, go ahead, do it your way.  But you’re on your own for this one”.  In doing this we reject His help, His grace, forfeiting the desire and power from His hand to rise above sinful practices, and increasing the likelihood of sinking into destructive patterns.

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  • TWOthey are naive and think that consequences are for someone else

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Narcissists are smart and very clever, but lack good judgment – a popular phrase is that they know the price of everything but the value of nothing.  This lack of good judgment results in not clearly anticipating the full consequences of their actions.  Proverbs says,

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A prudent person sees evil and hides himself, But the naive proceed, and pay the penalty.
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Proverbs 22:3, 27:12
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This lack of prudent caution means they have no solid boundaries, resulting in leaping before looking, jumping into things.  They will look at something that could lead to addiction – let’s say alcohol or gambling – and assume that outcome won’t happen to them.
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  • THREE – opening themselves to the wrong side

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This one is going to be a bit more difficult, but let’s try.

Spiritual warfare is real.  In Paul’s famous statement on the armor of God he explained that the real battle is in the spiritual realm, not the earthly realm.

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Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Ephesians 6:10-12

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There is no neutral territory in the spiritual world.   Jesus said

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The one who is not with Me is against Me; and the one who does not gather with Me scatters. 

Matthew 12:30

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This goes deeper than you may think.  When King Saul disobeyed God, the prophet Samuel told him.

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For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 

I Samuel 15:23 (KJV)

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This is the flip side of point number one.  When someone says to God “my way is best, I don’t need you”, they are proud, but proudly rebellious.  So, not only do they forfeit God’s grace, but they open themselves up to “the other side”.

Witchcraft is inviting the influence of Satan, the most wicked taskmaster possible, into your  life.  Samuel said that rebellion is “like” witchcraft.  There is no neutral territory in the spiritual world – if we rebel against God we implicitly choose the other side, giving Satan a much stronger foothold.  Since Satan is out to destroy us, he (and his demons) will use their greater influence to ensnare us in whatever way they can.

(This is a much deeper subject than we can discuss here – I can recommend the book “Spiritual Warfare” by Karl Payne for those who want to dig deeper.)

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The antidote is to have a full view of God and who He is – His unlimited knowledge, wisdom, power, holiness, and love – and to yield (humbling ourselves) to Him – resulting in an abundance of His grace.  If we are trapped in a pattern as a result of our proud rebellion, we also need to confess our sins (I John 1:9) – not only for His forgiveness but as also part of the humbling process which results in greater grace.  He is then able to reclaim ground that we have yielded to the opposing kingdom (see Karl Payne’s book).

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As I said at the beginning, view this as simply food for thought and a starting point for further exploration.

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Click here for initial steps on how to know God personally

 

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Why Does God Allow Evil People To Remain?

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When we deal with narcissists there is always a big question lingering in the background.  This question is the same whether dealing with them on an individual basis.

The question is “why”.  Why does God allow evil (including narcissistic) people to remain on the earth, and by extension, to continue to cause us trouble?

We will address here evil people as a group, not individuals.

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The answer is found in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares: Continue reading

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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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Dealing With The Dread of Getting Through Another Day

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Matthew 6:34

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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Many of you may think “how am I going to get through this one more day”?  Or possibly living in dread of an event coming up that you are pretty sure your N is going to spoil.  Or something similar.

There’s another way to look at it.  If you look at this through the lens of God’s goodness (i.e. – everything that happens to you is good – it is just a matter of HOW it is good), and if you believe that God’s grace is fully sufficient for every need and that He will provide it as needed – then you can view the impending possible difficulty as an opportunity for God to show Himself strong on your behalf – either through working to shield you, or to give you the measure of internal grace needed to experience joy in the midst of trouble.  In other words, rather than dreading it, you can  anticipate seeing God work on your behalf.

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2 Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His……

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2 Corinthians 12:9

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

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But as Jesus taught His disciples to pray….

Matthew 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

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……He does not give us tomorrow’s provision today.  He will give that tomorrow’s provision tomorrow – and give today’s provision today, as it is needed.  This gives us the opportunity to rely on Him, to trust Him, to need Him just a little bit more.  And that daily need for Him further builds our relationship with Him.

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John Piper has a very helpful illustration in his book “Future Grace“.  Piper said to picture God’s promise that His provision of grace will be there when needed as a river flowing toward the edge of a waterfall.  The river illustrates the grace coming to us in the future, and the edge of the waterfall is “today” or “this minute”.  God promises the river of grace to continue to flow toward us, while we experience this moment’s grace at the edge of the waterfall.  The constant river of grace coming toward us gives us peace today that the grace needed tomorrow will be there tomorrow.  Therefore, we can simply focus on applying His grace at this moment, and trust Him for future moments.

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Moving-picture-Niagara-Fall-waterfall-animated-gif

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Part of our peace today that grace will be there tomorrow is the anticipation of the opportunity to learn and grow, and to see God act (in big or little ways) on our behalf.  While for some, the particular trial may not last very long, for others it may last a lifetime.  But we can trust that God has His loving purposes in either case, and that the lesson of trusting Him today for the grace needed tomorrow will carry us throughout our entire lives.

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Click here for initial steps on how to know God personally

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

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True Intimacy

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Underlying much of our struggle with a narcissist is our deep-down quest for true intimacy.  That desire for intimacy is what often got us involved with them in the first place.  A narcissist fakes intimacy at the beginning, but their drive for dominance and self-absorption prevents it from truly taking place.  The failure of intimacy may tempt you to throw in the towel and try again, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for it will be futile.

True intimacy arises from someone who cares about you, who knows you deeply, and who is deeply interested in what you think about it – and with you in turn caring for them and what they think about.  Imagine sitting across from your soul mate, someone you love and who loves you, and being able to say, “you have complete insight into my soul”.

That would be wonderful if you could find it in the form of another person.  How many people do you know who have found that?   People are fallible in many ways, and self-centered, to the detriment of intimacy.  Putting an expectation  of intimacy on someone who is not up to it, puts extra stress on the relationship.  Of course, as with many things a measure of intimacy is possible, even if not to the degree you might hope.

God knows that we will never be completely fulfilled apart from Him.  That’s not a self-centered move on His part, but the reality that only He is completely satisfying, and His creations – even at their best – a dim reflection of His magnificence.

Ultimate intimacy comes from God and is reflected in what are the most intimate chapters of the Bible Psalm 139.

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O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it. 

Psalm 139:1-6

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Think of being so in love with someone that you watch their every move.  That’s what David is talking about here.  I originally of God’s awareness as an “accountability” thing.  That is true, as God does see everything we do from a moral perspective. But we can also simply take it for what it is – the God who cares for us knows us intimately.

The Bible phrases it in other ways.  For example, just think of taking your concerns, and handing them to someone who is able to carry them, and who cares enough to do so.

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“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”  

I Peter 5:7

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And one of my favorites,

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Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Psalm 73:25-26

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Is this just a cop-out or rationalization for a bad situation?  No. The fact is that this intimacy with God is the ultimate goal for God’s creation of us.  Paul says,

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For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  I Corinthians 13:12

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While God knows us perfectly now, and knows that He is our true soul-mate, we can partially understand that now, but will full understand it when we see Him face to face.  In the meantime, He uses the disappointments of our current relationships to gently encourage us toward the real goal of intimacy with Him – the One who can truly satisfy us.

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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”.

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Psalm 10 – David’s Prayer Asking God To Act Against Proud, Wicked Men

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Psalm 10

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted;
Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire,
And the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord.
The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance,does not seek Him.
All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

His ways prosper at all times;
Your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them.
He says to himself, “I will not be moved;
Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity.”
His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression;

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The Proper Perspective Of God

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Psalm 8:3-5

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!

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When you think about it, both narcissists and their victims underestimate God.  Narcissists, in their overvaluation of themselves and undervaluation of God’s majesty, attempt to take His place.  Their victims underestimate the power and ability of God to act on their behalf and in their defense.

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Begin to gain perspective by getting outside to look up at God’s handiwork in the heavens.  I have been doing it frequently, and it has been very good.

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The following clip may also help.

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When Narcissists Ruin Our Plans

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Narcissists (aka those with insolent pride) in our lives may sometimes interfere with our plans.  It can be frustrating and maddening.  We must deal with N’s wisely.   However, it is also helpful to know that God is sovereign even over mangled plans – even if those plans were mangled to due to things beyond our control.  John Piper briefly discusses this in God’s Sovereign Plan Behind Your Most Unproductive Days.  It’s worth a quick look.

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Romans 8:28-29

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

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A blog update:  I am working on an extensive review on how Jesus dealt with the narcissists of His day (the Pharisees).  If you would like a sneak peek at my raw incomplete notes you can see them at How Jesus Dealt With The N’s.

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For an overview of what this blog is about, please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective.

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The Rivers Will Not Overflow You

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Isaiah 43:1-3

43 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.

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This classic, beautiful statement by God to His beloved Israel is a clear reminder to us that when God allows us to go through deep waters He will be with us in it, and that He will not allow those deep waters to overcome us.

But we might say, “that applies to Israel, and not me”.  He repeats the same sentiment toward believers in Romans 8:28-39 when He says that nothing can separate us from His love.

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Your Narcissist Cannot Interfere With God’s Love For You

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Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

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31 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?

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How Does Someone Become A Narcissist? Five Possible Ways

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I prefer to have blog entries “locked down” before publishing, but in this case I felt it best to go with my work in progress of analyzing the difficult question of how someone might become a narcissist.  This is an extra special case of “Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective“, where this post should be taken simply as a fellow searcher sharing some thoughts and analysis which you could possibly use as a starting point for your own study rather than looking to it for “the answer”.  Some of the following adds a bit of Biblical perspective to what is already discussed in secular literature.

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How does someone become a narcissist?  In It’s Not NPD, It’s A Heart Issue, narcissism is discussed as a heart issue, but how does this happen?  I am currently working through five possible reasons someone can become a narcissist.  The following has to be considered in light of God’s ultimate Sovereignty as described in Proverbs 16:4, as well as the sin nature and pride inherent in every man.  I want to emphasize again that this post is a work in progress, and should just be taken as food for thought.

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The five causes we’re considering are:

  1. Internal response to childhood wounding
  2. Internal response to childhood indulgence
  3. The result of the “Progression of Fools”
  4. A consequence of the “sins of the fathers”
  5. Cultural-driven narcissism

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These causes are likely interconnected in many cases.  Let’s look at each of the five in a bit more detail.

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