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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Don’t Let Them Suck You Into Their Drama

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Narcissists are notorious for engaging in self-focused drama, while attempting to suck every one else in.  It’s one of their go-to moves to attract attention.  It might look like this:

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Jesus was well aware of the danger of allowing His narcissists – the Pharisees – to throw Him off His mission.  He engaged with them when they approached Him with a test, but did not make them the focus of His ministry.  He expressed His overall view to His disciples,

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“Let them [the Pharisees] alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”  Matthew 15:14
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“Let them alone” could be considered a version of the pop-psychology concept of “low contact”.  [As stated earlier in this blog, “no contact” and “low contact” greatly depends on the nature of the relationship.]
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One reason that Jesus did not make the Pharisees a focus of His ministry is that they did not feel they had a need, and were not genuinely open to what He had to say (with a few exceptions).   When the Pharisees slyly criticized Jesus for ministering to tax collectors and sinners, He responded:
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Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.   Matthew 9:10-12
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Jesus correctly focused on His true ministry, and did not let the drama which His narcissists tried to stir up to sidetrack Him.
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Let your Narcissist have their drama on their own time and in their own space, and don’t let them waste your time and life by drawing you in.

 

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The Foundation of Freedom From Codependency

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How do you escape from “codependency”, or avoid it in the first place?  The first obvious step is to see that it’s happening.  Tragically, recognizing codependency is difficult for the naive, and especially the young.

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The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.   
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Proverbs 22:3

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Awareness and admission of dependency requires a gut check.  On the one hand, am I over-reliant on someone for my needs, fulfillment, or happiness?  On the other hand, is someone over-reliant on me for his/her needs, fulfillment, happiness?  Is my controller’s apparent reliance on me genuine, or a cover to make themselves the center my world?  Am I constantly walking on eggshells around this person?

Everyone has legitimate needs – both physical and emotional – and God intends for people to help each other with those needs.   Galatians 6:2 says:

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Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ  ….. 

Galatians 6:2

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But right after this, Paul goes on to say that in the end we must assume responsibility for ourselves:

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…..  For each one will bear his own load.   

Galatians 6:5

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The controller will turn your God-given motivation to help others into enslavement and dominance.  He ignores the both/and balance discussed in Galatians 6 that while we are called to bear each other’s burdens, in the end every one carries their own load and must trust God. 

There are many things for which we must trust only God, instead of looking to others.  The simplest example is breathing.  We breathe for ourselves…. and every breath we take comes from God.  Paul told the Athenians….

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…. nor is He (God) served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;     

Acts 17:25

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To break free of our controller’s emotional control, we need to make clear distinctions between legitimate needs and manipulative actions.  We can help them with legitimate needs, but should also give them space to take personal responsibility and look to God for the rest.  This is easier said than done.

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We also need to place the meeting of our own needs in God’s hands.  Breaking free requires that we transfer our hope and and source of strength from our controller to something or someone else – a better source that truly cares and has real strength themselves.  Yes, we can turn to human solutions …..

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    • Someone else.  For the the emotionally weak, they may once again gravitate toward a “strong personality”, controlling, narcissistic type, and simply repeat the same loop.  “Someone else” is the great illusory hope for many, but typically just substitutes one false hope for another.

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    • A “group” of some sort, such as
        • An affinity group – college alumni, sports teams, fishing, stamp collectors, Star Wars junkies, etc.
        • The “government” – the problem with this is that this can easily become simply a bigger “controller”, and does not provide any emotional support

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    • Ourselves – advocated by the self-help crowd.  It is not without merit, as it may help develop a mindset of personal responsibility.  However, total self-reliance is an illusion.  There are limits to our capacity for complete self-reliance.  God designed us most importantly to need Him – so that we would seek Him – and to also need others (to a point)

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…. but, while these solutions may help you break free from the emotional dominance of your current controller, they all have serious limitations.  The only true source of strength is God Himself (supplemented by those He brings into our life).  God has communicated this to us in many ways throughout the Bible.  He says,

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‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ 

Isaiah 41:10

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God invites us to look to Him, instead of our proud, unreliable, narcissistic controller

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I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.

 

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.   

Psalm 40:1-4

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Once we realize that we need to switch our dependency from our controller to God, how do we actually do it?  Where do we start?  It starts with

    1. A commitment to breaking free
    2. Transferring your emotional dependence to God
    3. Developing a plan for establishing and maintaining boundaries
    4. Understanding that your N controller will not like the change and fight to keep it from happening through every means at his disposal

 

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Dependency – Do Not Become Slaves Of Men

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As we discussed in an earlier post, co-dependency is a fuzzy pop-psychology term.  The more precise Biblical concept is that of someone becoming a “slave of men” (I Corinthians 7:23) by subsuming their inner self to another person, rather than to God.  But we will use the term codependent interchangeably as shorthand.

How do we know that this phrase did not refer to the physical slavery of the day?  We know it because Paul made several other clear statements that while it is better to be free, it was also ok to be a slave.

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Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.   For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.    I Corinthians 7:22-23

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In fact, slaves were to not just chafe under their masters, but seek to honor the Lord in the situation.

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All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.   I Timothy 6:1
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Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.   Colossians 3:22
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Paul could make these statements, because slavery was a feature of his era’s economic system, not focused on the control of people’s inward selves but their outward performance.  In fact, in Christ everyone was equal irrespective of their socio-economic status.
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a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.    Colossians 3:11
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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28
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Therefore, Paul’s admonition to “not become slaves of men” referred to who we are as a person, who we are on the inside, how we live our lives before God and with others.  We are not to subsume who we are on the inside to someone else.
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All scripture taken in isolation is subject to misinterpretation and abuse.  “Do not become slaves of men” could easily be twisted to mean, “no one will rule over me” (including God-given authority), leading to “I can do whatever I want”, or “I should exit any relationship that restricts my freedom”.  This does not mean that.  We are referring to an inward freedom to be yourself and the person God wants you to be, regardless of the circumstances.
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There are different tactics a “slave master” might use to make someone their slave (codependent).  For example,
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  1. Bullying
  2. Manipulation
  3. Use of fake authority
  4. Abuse of true authority
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Underneath the success of all of these is an element of the fear of man on the part of the codependent person – worried about what the other person thinks of you or can do to you, rather than what God thinks of you or can do to you.  Proverbs says,
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The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.  Proverbs 29:25

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and Jesus said
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 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!   Luke 12:4-5
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As narcissists have an inner drive to be the unquestioned #1 around which others’ lives orbit, they are particularly driven to make others their emotional or physical slaves.  It is difficult for them to achieve that with “hard targets” (those who are on to them or not afraid of them), so they focus on available “soft targets”.  And one of the easiest of soft targets are their own children.
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Next up:  Possible paths to co-dependency

 

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Dealing With Narcissists – Boundaries and Consequences, Not Rebukes

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Proverbs 9:7-8

7 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

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Proverbs 19:29

29 Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And blows for the back of fools.

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As we saw in a previous blog, if you rebuke a scoffer (aka narcissist) he will simply try to “trash” you in order to totally discount your validity and therefore the validity of what you’re saying.    They do this to make sure that they can stay on the pedestal which they have created for themselves.

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So what can you do?  Even though they may not respect you, they may respect (or rather, try to avoid) enforceable boundaries.   “Preparing Judgments” implies setting up consequences for violations of some clear standard.  So, rather than reproving a narcissist / scoffer, try the following:

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  1. Define a clear standard or boundary for the narcissist
  2. Explain to the narcissist a clear consequence (“judgment”) if the standard or boundary is violated
  3. Clearly and consistently execute the consequence if or when the standard is violated

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The narcissist will likely test this a few times to see if you’re serious.  But if you consistently apply it, and if the consequence or “judgment” is painful enough, the narcissist will learn over time to avoid triggering the consequence.

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It is important to understand this is one possible tool to use in dealing with narcissists, and how you apply it will depend on the situation and the relationship.

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Please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective for an overview of what this blog is all about

 

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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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Dealing With Narcissists – “Avoid Them” Using An Employment Test

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Proverbs 22:3

The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.

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As we discussed here, one way to deal with Narcissists (= “proud, haughty, scoffer”, see here) is to avoid them altogether.  This is especially useful when you’re making hiring decisions.  The best way to deal with a narcissist in the workplace is to keep them from getting into your company or onto your team in the first place.

The problem with avoiding the hiring of a narcissist is that they are especially good at presenting themselves in the best light in an interviewing process.   And the interviewing process is typically brief enough that it is hard to sort out fact from fiction in such a short period of time.

I found a simple 10 question test to administer in order to quickly find out how “narcissistic” a prospective employee or team member may be.  You can find it here.  The test is not exhaustive or definitive, but it may give you some indication as to whether you have a potential narcissist on your hands.

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You need to score the test yourself

  1. Put the number in each box
  2. Add up the total
  3. The “narcissism scale” runs from 10 to 50.  The closer to 50, the more narcissistic the candidate, the closer to 10, the less narcissistic the candidate.

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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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Dealing With N’s – Abandon A Quarrel

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Proverbs 17:14

14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

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This verse brings to mind pin-pricking a balloon filled with water.  It does not just spring a little leak when pricked, but immediately gushes out all the water.  You cannot hold it back once it starts.

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A narcissist is constantly striving to exalt themselves in their hearts – battling anything that gets in the way.  Their pride makes them unable to admit that they are wrong.  Therefore, whenever a fact is in dispute (i.e. – who said what, who did what, etc.) it is impossible for them to concede that you were right and they were wrong.  This is true even if they made up the “fact” in question out of thin air.

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If you directly engage the N in trying to get the record straight, you are walking straight into a conflict.  If you do succeed in proving your point, the N will be angry that you proved them wrong.  They will then attack you on how you approached the issue with statements like:  “Why do you always have to pick on me”, “You pick at every little thing I say”, “I try so hard”, “I can’t do anything right in your eyes”, etc.  Because there is probably a little grain of truth to what they are saying, it will be impossible to defend yourself without continuing the strife.  So they’ve still got you.

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In many cases, the issue about which you are trying to correct the record does not really matter, and you are likely arguing the point simply out of your own pride.  Maybe make your point once.  If the N pushes back out of their own drive to be correct, drop the issue without any final passive-aggressive digs at the N.  Then trust the Lord.  It may not seem right that you have to “concede”, but God will ultimately have the last say.

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This in fact is one application of the general admonition to “avoid them”.

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Please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective to better understand what this blog is about.

 

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Psalm 17 – David’s Prayer For Protection Against Oppressors

Psalm 17

Prayer for Protection against Oppressors.

A Prayer of David.

17 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,
14 From men with Your hand, O Lord,
From men of the world, whose portion is in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your treasure;
They are satisfied with children,
And leave their abundance to their babes.
15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.

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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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In Whom Are Hidden All The Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

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Colossians 2:2-3

that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

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