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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Narcissism and The Progression of Fools – Continued

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In part 1 of “Narcissism and the Progression of Fools” we discussed the basic sequence of how a person can progressively harden their hearts as they wander away from God’s path.   A scoffer (one of the Biblical terms for a narcissist), is one stop along that path.

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For your further study, following is a list of all the verses which include the Hebrew words which were used in the previous post.  I have made a rough attempt at grouping them by subject matter in order to make it easier to digest the large number of verses, but the groupings and their headings are simply a guide.  I encourage you to study them for yourselves.

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Narcissism and The Progression of Fools – Introduction

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We have until now focused this biblical study of what the secular world calls “narcissism” primarily on the term “scoffer”, as one of the labels applied to those with insolent pride – the Biblical analog to the secular term.

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Proverbs 21:24

24 “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names,
Who acts with insolent pride.

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While not specifically called by the English term “fool”, the scoffer is part of a progression of foolishness described in Proverbs, starting with the “simple fool” (or “naive”), and moving all the way to the “committed fool”.  Each is a progressively greater degree of turning away from God’s wisdom, and walking an increasingly proud and self-seeking path which is independent from God.   Pride is a primary root to this self-seeking path independent from God, with increasing insolence up to the level of “insolent pride” (aka “scoffer”) and beyond.   Knowing this progression is helpful in identifying at least one of the ways in which someone can become a narcissist.

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The progression is as follows:

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(Types of Fool)     naive  ->  perverse ->  scoffing  ->   stubborn ->   committed

(Hebrew word)     pthiy  ->     ewil       ->     luts       ->      kecil      ->      nabal Continue reading

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

Narcissist Traits – They Contradict Themselves

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Luke 6:45

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

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We read in Psalms 5:9 of a narcissist (aka one with insolent pride*), that “there is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself.”   And we read in secular sources (and have experienced) that narcissists can say something in one sentence, and contradict themselves in the next sentence (or even in the very same sentence).  It seems crazy when they do this – they seem crazy when they do this – and they have no clue that they are even doing it.  What’s going on?  

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Ultimately, as Luke 6:45 indicates, it is our heart that drives our words and actions. Continue reading

Anxiety Is A Form Of Pride

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[A daily devotional by John Piper originally published by BibleGateway.com.  Reprinted under permission]

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God Cares for You    by John Piper

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7)

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Why is anxiety about the future a form of pride?

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God’s answer would sound something like this:

I — the Lord, your Maker — I am he who comforts you, who promises to take care of you; and those who threaten you are mere men who die. So your fear must mean that you do not trust me — and even though you are not sure that your own resources will take care of you, yet you opt for fragile self-reliance, rather than faith in my future grace. So all your trembling — weak as it is — reveals pride.

The remedy? Turn from self-reliance to God-reliance, and put your faith in the all-sufficient power of future grace.

We see anxiety as a form of pride in 1 Peter 5:6–7. Notice the grammatical connection between the verses. “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God . . . [verse 7] casting all your anxieties on him.” Verse 7 is not a new sentence. It’s a subordinate clause. “Humble yourselves . . . [by]casting all your anxieties on him.”

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This means that casting your anxieties Continue reading

The Emptiness of Pride

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[From time to time I pass on articles that are helpful in our quest.  The following is John Piper’s daily devotion at BibleGateway.com]

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Look to Jesus for Your Joy – John Piper

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others . . . and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” (Matthew 23:5–7)

The itch of self-regard craves the scratch of self-approval. That is, if we are getting our pleasure from feeling self-sufficient, we will not be satisfied without others seeing and applauding our self-sufficiency.

Hence Jesus’s description of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:5–7.

This is ironic. Self-sufficiency should free the proud person from the need to be made much of by others. That’s what “sufficient” means. But evidently there is a void in this so-called self-sufficiency.

The self was never designed to satisfy itself or rely upon itself. It never can be sufficient. We are but in the image of God, not God himself. We are shadows and echoes. So there will always be an emptiness in the soul that struggles to be satisfied with the resources of self.

This empty craving for the praise of others signals the failure of pride and the absence of faith in God’s ongoing grace. Jesus saw the terrible effect of this itch for human glory. He named it in John 5:44, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” The answer is, you can’t. Itching for glory from other people makes faith impossible. Why?

Because faith is being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus. And if you are bent on getting the satisfaction of your itch from the scratch of others’ acclaim, you will turn away from Jesus.

But if you would turn from self as the source of satisfaction (repentance), and come to Jesus for the enjoyment of all that God is for us in him (faith), then the itch would be replaced by a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

Why? – Family Patterns of Narcissism*

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Exodus 20:5-6

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

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Secular literature discusses the tendency for narcissism* to run in families – you may have seen it in families that you know.  The secular hypothesis is that narcissistic parents set up the conditions for their own children to develop narcissism.  And the pattern continues.  This hypothesis is based on the aging nature vs nurture argument (see here or here).
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God makes it clear that narcissisim (insolent pride) running in families is not just a natural phenomenon, but is one of His principles on how He governs life.  He is sovereignly involved.  The importance of this is that to truly break a pattern of narcissism in a family, the “generational sin” referred to in Exodus 20:5-6 needs to be accounted for and dealt with.
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