Common Descriptions, Different Terms

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While there is a degree of common ground between the secular and Biblical approaches to narcissism – mostly in the description of narcissists and how they behave, i.e. narcissistic traits – the approaches diverge substantially in the areas of root causes, possible solutions, and ways in which “victims” should deal with these troubling people.

To simply illustrate the overlap and divergence between the different approaches, the overlapping areas in the following Venn diagram below are primarily descriptive (how do narcissists behave), and the non-overlapping areas tend toward the causal (why are narcissists the way they are) and the prescriptive (what to do about it).

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Human nature has been the same since the beginning of humankind. Since the Bible speaks about the nature of man and interpersonal relationships, we should see the kind of people the secular world refers to as “narcissists” in the Bible.  By accurately identifying the terms the Bible uses to describe the people which the secular world calls narcissists, we can then study those terms for a comprehensive look at what the Bible says about narcissism.

Since the term narcissism derives from the character Narcissus in Greek mythology, and usage in the world of psychiatry only began in the early 1900’s[i], we would not expect the Bible to use that term.  Some of the terms the Bible regularly uses for narcissism are “insolent pride,” “proud,” “haughty,” and “scoffer”. These terms, as well as others, can be considered synonymous with narcissism.

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

Proverbs 21:24

Prior to the widespread use of the term narcissism, people commonly recognized the traits of these people by other labels, such as: megalomania, egocentricity, conceit, arrogance, haughtiness, vanity, self-absorption, etc.  We can equate the Bible’s terminology with the term narcissism used by the secular world, based on comparable descriptions of the same people.

Among many others, this equivalence in terms is illustrated in Wikipedia’s definition, which says that narcissistic traits derive from “arrogant pride:”[ii]

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“Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride. The term originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.”

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One of the differences between the secular and Biblical approaches is that the secular psych world is “outside in” – observing characteristics, grouping them, and then labeling them – whereas the Biblical approach is “inside out.”  God alone knows the heart and character of a narcissistic person.  He gives the person with that kind of heart a name and then describes that type of person and the damage they leave in their wake in cascading detail.  Here’s a simple chart illustrating these approaches:

In a sense, the secular psych world only observes and categorizes the characteristics which God through the Bible has already defined.

[i] Sigmund Freud wrote the essay “On Narcissism” in 1914, see wikipedia.org/wiki/On Narcissism

[ii] From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism)

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The Range Of Perspectives On Narcissism

If you’ve found this blog, there is a good chance you – or someone you care about – has experienced some of the more damaging consequences of genuine narcissism.

Maybe you didn’t realize you were dealing with a narcissist at first, but the pain and damage this selfish, arrogant, condescending, and domineering person caused might have driven you to search for answers about what was going on, and how to deal with them.  As you searched online or in books, perhaps you read more about who this type of person is, and how he or she operates.  You likely have read explanations on causes, and advice on how to deal with this “narcissist.”

Those looking for help with understanding and dealing with a narcissist have typically turned to the following five sources:

    • Professional psychologists or psychiatrists
    • The pop-psychology world of books, blogs, self-help forums, etc.
    • Christian psychologists
    • Biblical counselors[i]
    • A shoulder to cry on (i.e. – a caring friend)

Of the above, by far the most commonly sought sources have been the world of pop-psychology and caring friends.  My own journey of discovery started with asking God for “help!”, but my first stop on the road was the world of pop-psychology.  However, God soon showed me that He has something to say on the subject. Continue reading

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Narcissism = Insolent Pride in the Bible

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Proverbs 21:24

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

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You may have found this blog because you have a “narcissist” in your life, or  in the life of someone you care about.   At first, you may not have known that you were dealing with a narcissist, but the pain and damage this selfish, arrogant, condescending, domineering person caused might have driven you to search for answers on what was going on, and on how to deal with this difficult person.  As you went online or to books on  Amazon, you read more about who this person is, and how he operates.  And you likely read some explanations as to how he got this way, or advice regarding how to deal with this “narcissist”.  In the process of trying to learn everything possible in your search for answers, you may have decided to explore what the Bible has to say on the subject.

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While the Bible does not specifically refer to “narcissism” –  which takes its name from Greek mythology – it does speak to the subject.

Continue reading

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Narcissist Tactics – They Conceal Their Hatred

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One reason dealing with Narcissists is tricky is that they do not play honestly.  They readily employ deception to accomplish their purposes.

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N-Laying Up Deceit In Their Heart

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A Narcissist hates anything or anyone that gets in the way of their “glory”.  (Yes, hate is a strong word, but if you consider things on a spectrum of love vs. hate, they are on the hate side of the spectrum.)   While they may respond with an immediate full frontal assault, they might also keep their feelings hidden until such time that they can do the most damage.    They will try to disguise their hatred with their lips, by speaking graciously even while they hate you in their heart.  But don’t believe them.  They still fully intend to “trash” you (Proverbs 9:7 – “he who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself”), or undermine you – they’re just waiting for a better time or opportunity. Continue reading

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Narcissist Traits – They Stumble A Lot

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Proverbs 16:18

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

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Narcissists seem to frequently step into “holes” and stumble – constantly creating difficulties for themselves which result in their scrambling around in order to extricate themselves.   There are several practical reasons for this: Continue reading

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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

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Narcissist Traits and Tactics – They Are Deceivers (and Liars)

Isaiah 28:14-15

14 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, O scoffers,
Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
And with Sheol we have made a pact.
The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by,
For we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.”

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Proverbs 21:24

Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, Who acts with insolent pride.
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Isaiah 28:14-15 is referring to the Pharisees during Jesus’ time (we will demonstrate that more fully in the near future).  But, by calling these people “scoffers”, the passage in Isaiah clearly indicates that they had “insolent pride”, which is the scriptural term for narcissism.    And verse 15 also indicates that falsehood and deception were central to their mode of operating.
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