Monday, June 8, 2020

Narcissists in the church

The term narcissist in common usage is often associated with vanity and self-centeredness. However, clinical narcissistic personality disorder goes much deeper than that. A simple layman definition can be summarized with the three E's. A narcissist acts Entitled, are Exploitative, and lack Empathy. Because of a rise in the frequency of this disorder, many blogs and YouTube channels have sprung up in the last decade to assist in dealing with their abuses. So I thought it time to address it myself.

While the average narcissist would never be a part of anything as altruistic as a church, there is a specific type that will. Which would be "the communal narcissist." They will often align themselves with a cause, charity, or religion; but their motivation is not for a greater good. They do it for the praise they receive, and to deceive everyone into believing that they are good people. (Which they are not) While they may technically do some good, albeit for the wrong reasons. They can also do much harm as well. So these stealthy and covert individuals need to be dealt with very strategically. So we will go over ten important things we need to know about the communal narcissists we may encounter in the church.
  1. Whitewashed tombs. (Matthew 23:27-28) While they go to great efforts to project an image of perfection. The one person they are trying to convince the most is themselves. Underneath all the bravado, there's a very insecure person with a very fragile ego. So they need as much grace and understanding as anybody. So don't be too quick to boot them out of your church. You never know when you might be able to get through to their heart of stone. So pray diligently for these damaged people.
  2. Very dangerous to confront them. They don’t like being vulnerable, so they are very prone to outbursts of rage if you back them into an emotional corner. They may also start to spread gossip about you to discredit anything bad you may say about them if you do so. So it’s best to not let them know you are on to them. It is quite impossible to reason with a narcissist, so you can easily get sucked into an adversarial relationship if you try. If they are truly doing more harm than good, then the safest way to get rid of them is to make sure everyone stops feeding their ego. The narcissist will only associate with people and institutions that stroke their ego. (That person who is always hopping from church to church MAY be a narcissist.) 
  3. Know how to fake empathy. As indicated before, a true narcissist has no empathy and doesn't care who they hurt to get their way. So any so-called empathy they seem to be projecting is all an act for the sake of their church persona. Don't be deceived by it.
  4. Habitual liars. They will say absolutely anything to maintain their false persona and get what they want out of you. So don’t be surprised if they tell you exactly what you want to hear Sunday, only to deny saying it Monday.
  5. Live by double standards. They are hypocrisy personified, and often defame any institution they are connected to because of it.
  6. Never admit to a mistake. They will play the hero, or even the victim, but never the one at fault. Even when presented with irrefutable evidence. 
  7. Judgmental. They are very critical people, offering lots of unsolicited advice. As well as being very vocal with opinions about people they find inferior. 
  8. May seek positions of authority. Narcissists love power, but the only person they are really serving is themselves. They will try to direct everything to revolve around them and their preferences with said authority. If they don’t have an official position yet, they will likely bully those in power with veiled threats. Constantly reminding leaders of their perceived obligations to them. (Congregational type churches that give as much authority to its laity as clergy tend to be more narcissist friendly.)
  9. May use their money to influence people. While some narcissists are tightwads but don’t be surprised if they can be quite generous with their offerings. They will make sure everybody knows it too because it’s only done for praise, admiration, and camouflage, not the good of the church. Also, do not be surprised if they suddenly withdraw financial support if they are not getting their way.
  10. Steal affirmation from others. If someone else accomplishes something good or is recognized for their deeds, a narcissist will likely try to make it seem like the person in the limelight owes their success to them. If that is not an option they will just plain dismiss and belittle that achievement. A narcissist cannot stand someone getting more attention than them.

Did you notice all the negative church stereotypes on the list? Apparently, this has been an issue far longer than our current heightened awareness of the disorder. All the more reason to address it. Just remember, they are often experienced advisories, so you can be like a sheep facing a wolf. So it's important to remember Christ's words of "be as shrewd as serpents, but innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16) A narcissist can very well be that proverbial mountain that needs to be moved, (Matthew 17:20) so one truly needs divine guidance and strength to make it happen. So I urge you, seek that first if you have a communal narcissist in your church. So, you can maintain your integrity despite them.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. -Philippians 1:15-18

a man exalting himself above God to the devils delight.
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