Dealing With Narcissists – Focus On What You’re Doing, Instead Of What They’re Saying

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“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 

Matthew 11:16-19

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Solving Intractable Problems

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Some of life’s problems seem intractable – unsolvable.  While some of these problems are not our fault, we are a major contributor to others.  We make problems far worse when we take things into our own hands and look everywhere except to God for solutions:

The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; 

Psalm 16:4

What do we do with unsolvable problems?  We can despair and lose hope, just waiting for life to end so that we can escape into the brighter hope of heaven.  Or we can take a path of faith, realizing that as long as we have breath and God is involved, the final chapter of our lives has not been written.  This path of faith realizes that nothing is impossible with God.

 

27 But He [Jesus] said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” 

Luke 18:27

This was illustrated by Abraham and Sarah having their first child when he was 100 and she 90 years old.

Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 

Genesis 18:14

God’s ability to “fix things” does not mean that He will put everything back the way they should have been before we “veered off course”.  And it does not mean that He will create the future that WE want, according to our plan – an attitude that indicates we still are trying to force God to serve us in our goals, rather than us allowing Him to be Lord.  It does mean, however, that He can give us joy, satisfaction, and purpose by weaving our past into a fruitful, loving future.

Godly, even Biblical “wisdom” is helpful and essential in finding our way forward.  But we also need to bring God directly into the equation.  We have discussed previously (here and here) this essential aspect of bringing God into the middle of things.

But there is one more thing – some will call it radical, others will not.  When we consider that earthly battles are actually spiritual battles…

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 6:12

.. we may need to kick our “crying out to God” up a notch and consider fasting with our prayer.  This does not automatically make the answer come faster, but does show an added level of seriousness.

 In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed…

… Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was standing in my way for twenty-one days;  

Daniel 10:2-3, 10-14

This added seriousness of fasting might be more natural than we think.  In times of severe distress many of us tend to lose our appetite (others may binge eat or drink).   Why not use that loss of appetite as additional impetus to show God our sincerity through fasting?

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Click here to see the initial steps to peace with God.

 

 

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Psalm 91 – Security Of The One Who Trusts In The Lord

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Psalm 91

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91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”

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For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

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You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

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A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.

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For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.

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11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

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14 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

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Narcissists Are Quick To Take Credit For Other’s Work

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Most of us have likely observed a narcissist who focuses on taking credit instead of getting a job done well – even to the extreme of  taking credit for something they had absolutely nothing to do with.  It’s infuriating when it happens, and makes you wonder if they are intentionally lying or just delusional.  It could be either – most of my experiences have been of the delusional variety.  This is consistent with the fact that their heart drives their mind.

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. 
Luke 6:45
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Because their root heart attitude is “I’m best” or “I’m better than you”, the narcissist’s heart believes that if  something good happens it must have been them, and if something bad happens it must have been you.

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Many times you can’t argue with or fight their assertion, because it’s a “he said, she said” situation that is unprovable.  I once had a lady take credit for an answer to prayer I mentioned.  I was highly suspect, but it was not something to argue about – I just let it go and left it in God’s hands.

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There may be a time that you really need to set the record straight.  But be aware that you’re doing this vs. someone who will pull every trick in the book to not be wrong.  It would be wise to be very, very, very selective on when you fight the battle.  In most cases, it is better to simply trust God to defend you or to make it work all out for your good in the end.  When you bring the sovereign, loving, powerful God of the universe into the equation, it changes how you approach your response.

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You can step back and ask God to humble their hearts, and to enlighten their eyes so that they would see themselves in comparison with God’s greatness (they are small, He is big).  And you can pray specifically that God would help you and deal with, fix, and overcome the specific negative circumstances created by the N’s proud and evil response.  Rather than make your fight with the N, tactically use the circumstance as an opportunity for God to show His love and power and grace in working on your behalf.

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This may sound trite.  Our natural instinct is to fight for our justice and win.  But letting God fight the battle in their heart, and exercising His great power to defend and counteract the effects of their evil action (or better yet to use that evil action for our even greater good), is often a wiser, more peaceful course of action.

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Back to a narcissist possibly taking credit for our work.  Can we toot our own horn if we do something good?  In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) the guys given ten talents and five talents came back with tangible, measurable results.  They didn’t boast of their results, but were pleased to present to their boss tangible results.  Jesus didn’t rebuke their presentation of those results.  He only rebuked the “no results”.  (This was a business reference illustrating investing in God’s kingdom).  There is a difference between boasting and presenting facts.

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Measurable, identifiable results can be one means of countering a narcissists false claim.  Proverbs says,

The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17

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The narcissist may be the first to plead his case, but if you calmly present your provable, measurable, tangible results, you can let the facts speak for themselves in response – without getting into an unwinnable contest with a lying narcissist.

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Click here for initial steps on how to find peace with God.

 

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Dealing With Narcissists – Jesus, Simon, and the Woman

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While Jesus often taught about how to respond to life situations from a “Heavenly perspective”, He also frequently demonstrated it.  One example that is relevant to our study on how to deal with narcissists is when Jesus was invited to dinner by the Pharisee, Simon.

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Luke 7:36-50

36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume,38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” Continue reading

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Gaslighting

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Gaslighting.  You hear this pop-psychology term-du-jour a lot lately.  It is kind of cringeworthy, often making me wonder, “what do they really mean”?

The term “gaslighting” originated from the British play Gas Light (1938), and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations.  It is now used in clinical psychological literature, as well as in political commentary and philosophy.

The name of a play / movie is used to describe behavior.  This is similar to the origin of the psychological term “narcissism” which uses a character from Greek mythology in the “science” of psychology.  Hmmm…..

Here’s how Wikipedia defines it.

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Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgement.  It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction and disinformation,  Gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.

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A shorthand way to get your mind around it is to think of gaslighting as “deceptive manipulation”.   It is a particularly subtle, underhanded, tricky, manipulative form of lying.  Lying is very difficult to detect and guard against.  This “deceptive manipulation” form of lying is even more difficult to detect and guard against.

Of course, the Bible is way ahead on this as well as “narcissism”.  There is nothing new under the sun.

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Satan is the original liar…

You (Pharisees) are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He (Satan, the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44

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…. and the original practitioner of “deceptive manipulation”.

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness….  2 Corinthians 11:3
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Since deception is one of the primary tools of the narcissist, “gaslighting” or more precisely “deceptive manipulation” can be one of the tools in their toolbox.  Prudently guarding against it is foundational.  We cannot prevent them from lying to us and attempting to deceive us.  They will speak according to their internal nature, and God will hold them accountable for their lies.  However, there are things we can do.

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How can we defeat lies?  With truth.

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Click here for initial steps on how to know God personally

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you might imagine, I have a strong bias toward using Biblical terms rather than the popular secular term of the moment.

 

 

 

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Narcissist Case Study – The Prodigal’s Brother

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Luke 15:1-2

15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

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In response to crowds coming to hear Jesus, the (narcissistic) Pharisees and scribes did not publicly reveal their jealously, but rather grumbled among themselves with a haughty and holier-than-thou attitude about His “receiving sinners”.

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Rather than directly rebuke them for their attitude, Jesus responded by telling them three parables.  Jesus’ main point in each of the parables was God’s loving grace in seeking those who are “lost”, and joy when they return to Him.  This was in obvious contrast with the Pharisees who did not care about the people to whom Jesus was ministering, but only about the fact that they were not the center of attention.

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In Jesus’ third story of the “prodigal son” [read the entire parable here], He also used the narcissistic older brother’s response as a mirror to point out to the narcissistic Pharisees their prideful, self-centered obstructionism (Luke 11:52), and lack of mercy.  Jesus was not defensive at the Pharisees’ grumbling, but took the path of grace by gently pointing out their error via through this story – if they were willing to listen.

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Dealing With Narcissists – Don’t Take It To The Boss

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Do not slander slave to his master, Or he will curse you and you will be found guilty.

Proverbs 30:10

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It is very tempting when you are dealing with a narcissist co-worker to “take it to boss”.  However, this has a high likelihood of backfiring.   In the process you will likely get something wrong – the way you approached it, your attitude, getting one or more facts wrong, etc.  The narcissist will typically quickly figure out what you have done wrong, and somehow use that to turn the tables on you.

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Dealing With Narcissists* – Crying Out, Seeking God – continued

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James 1:5-8

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

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When dealing with an N that is driving us crazy, in addition to crying out “God help me!”, God invites us to ask Him for wisdom.  This is HIS wisdom – not human wisdom – including practical  tips, things of the heart, and even things from God’s perspective.  James says that if you ask for wisdom, He will give it to you – generously.

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But there is an important qualifier to getting this wisdom – “not doubting”.  The doubting here is not so much doubting as to whether you will receive the wisdom, but doubting as to whether you really want it – whether you really want to do things God’s way even if He gave you the clear right answers.   We know this is through James’ statement in verse 7 – ” For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”   Double-mindedness is to have two minds or opinions on the same subject – wanting to do things God’s way, but at the same time wanting what we ourselves want.  With that heart, God could tell us the right answer, and we might not even know we received the answer because we were only looking for the answer we wanted to see.  In order to ask for true wisdom in dealing with the situation, to receive it, and to KNOW that we have received it, we must start with the heart attitude that we will act on the wisdom God gives us without interjecting our own “will” into the matter.

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This invitation to ask for wisdom is in the context of trials, which James describes as tests (we will look into this later).  Of course, our challenge with our narcissist certainly qualifies as a trial and a test.

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James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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So go ahead – ask for wisdom in how to deal with your challenging narcissist.  But don’t expect to get what you are asking for unless you are truly serious about doing it His way instead of your own way.  All along being aware of the admonition in Proverbs:

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Proverbs 14:12

12 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

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Dealing With Narcissists* – Crying Out, Seeking God

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Psalm 34:4-7

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
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Often, we will not have any idea what to do with the difficult Narcissist-caused circumstance in which we find ourselves.  After struggling and searching about on our own for answers, we may ultimately reach the end of our rope – where the only thing we are able to do is to cry out to the Lord to help us, to save us, to deliver us.  We may not know what to ask for, but simply to ask God for a miracle.  While we may not see any immediate answers, this crying out to God and asking for help can be the first step of a process where He will bring us to much firmer ground.  We may not even see that this crying out is the first step – until we look backwards months or years in the future.
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We probably needed to get to our wit’s end, to be exhausted of all our answers, in order to motivate us to finally look up to Him for help.  And even though we made God our last resort instead of our first resort, He will graciously and lovingly respond in helping us – although it may be a process instead of a bolt-of-lightning miracle.  God has been there waiting to help us all along.

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Dealing With Narcissists – Let God Defend You Through His Goodness

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Psalm 119:41-42

May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord,
Your salvation according to Your word;
So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.

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For those of us who have tried to defend ourselves in the face of a narcissist’s* attack, we have typically seen that it does not work.  Any defense we make usually just gives the N additional ammunition.  Continue reading

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Dealing with Narcissists – Do Not Turn To Them For Help

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How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. 

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You.   Psalm 40:4-5

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In our zeal to get something done, or out of desperation to resolve a situation we often look for help in the wrong places.  And the result may be that we find ourselves worse off than before.  This can be especially true of reaching out to narcissists (insolent pride / proud / haughty / scoffers) for help.    There are practical reasons why God warns us not to reach out to narcissists:

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  1. The narcissist will many times “get it wrong” (see here and here)
  2. God is fundamentally opposed to a narcissist’s pride, so HE is not likely to bless the work of their hands (James 4 and here)
  3. Narcissists are unreliable (Psalm 5)
  4. Narcissists have a self-centered agenda, so they will turn things around from helping you to somehow helping or glorifying themselves – while making a big show about helping (Proverbs 25:14 and here and here)
  5. Narcissists will likely try to take over – but only to the extent that they can command you what to do, not to the extent of actually helping (see here)
  6. The Narcissist will likely create much more conflict than any actual help they provide (see here)
  7. Narcissists will make sure to tell you that they themselves would never have gotten into the situation that you’re in (see here)

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But there are also other reasons “why” God wants to turn to Him in our time of need, rather than to an arrogant human.  He is constantly seeking to help us further see and understand His unlimited love, knowledge, wisdom, and faithfulness.

“Many O Lord My God are the wonders which You have done” is a wild understatement.  David is saying, “You have already worked an infinite amount of miracles”.

God has already demonstrated His unlimited ability to work, so why should we go for a false source of help?

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Please see here for initial steps to peace with God.

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  • Narcissism is the modern colloquial term for what the Bible calls “insolent pride” – see here

 

 

 

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The Four Pillars Of Trust

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Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
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This is one of those almost-too-familiar passages that we can often gloss over and say “yes, yes, I already know that one”.  But digging deeper it offers some clear guidance on dealing with the situations in our lives – including the situation with our difficult N.

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Proverbs 3:5-8 describes a very positive outcome, as well as three conditions for that outcome to take place.

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God’s Final Word On It All

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Many people like to read a book from front to back and wouldn’t think of starting at the end of the story. But when it comes to the Walk of Life knowing the end of the story is extremely helpful for persevering through the ups and downs.  For those who are downtrodden, especially at the hands of arrogant people, it’s especially good to know that God is completely aware and will have the final word on it all.

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To give an example from Isaiah 2,

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The proud look of man will be abased
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.  (Isaiah 2:11-12)

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The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,  (Isaiah 2:17)

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In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.  (Isaiah 2:20-21)

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Isaiah’s conclusion is to stop worrying about what people think, since their true standing will be revealed in the end.

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Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?  (Isaiah 2:22)

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There are many similar passages, for example:

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“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  Malachi 4:1

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I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.  Isaiah 13:11

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In the middle of our day to day grind of dealing with people with insolent pride, it is occasionally helpful to step back and see the end of the story.  In the end, God will put every proud and haughty person into their proper place, and will show that He alone deserves to be exalted.

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Having a proper view now of that future state of affairs can give us the perspective needed to see the proud and haughty narcissist as they really are – and through that to give us a measure of freedom from the control they seek over us.

 

 

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The Ultimate Fact Check

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As we stated in a previous blog post, one way of dealing with narcissists is to fact check everything.

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The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.  Proverbs 18:17

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The ultimate fact-check will come on the day of judgment.   Jesus said

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“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits …

 “…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’  Matthew 7:15-16, 21

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While this could apply to anyone trying to get into heaven through their “good deeds” (instead of through true repentance and faith in Christ), I can envision narcissists in particular trying to talk their way into heaven through an inflated opinion of what they did on Earth – trying to pass it off as an act of faith with good motives.

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We know why someone would try to do this – they’re desperate to get into heaven to avoid God’s judgement. But why would they think they can get away with this? One possibility is that they have an inflated view of what they accomplished.  As Proverbs says,

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Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.  Proverbs 25:14
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The other possibility is that they actually did what might be seen as good works by an outside observer, but did it out of self-centered motives and not from a heart of love.  1st Corinthians 13 says even if you do good works, if they’re not done from the right heart they are of no profit in the end.
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If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  I Corinthians 13:2-3
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Jesus said the same thing.
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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.  “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.  Matthew 6:1-2

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The hypocrites Jesus refers to in Matthew 6 are the Pharisees Jesus directly speaks to in Matthew 23.

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Claiming good works as the justification to get into heaven will be the narcissist’s typical but final move.  Jesus, in the ultimate fact-check, will see right through the N’s inflated view of themselves and their false boasting for why they deserve to be in Heaven.

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