Recognize and deal with a narcissist

Does anyone here have insight and a Biblical perspective on recognizing and dealing with narcissism? How does one see it in oneself? How does one interact with someone who demonstrates disorders of this nature in a way that is healthy to both individuals?
Thank you.

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@Rebekah Here are some resources from psychology today on identifying a narcissist. However, they seem to caution that true narcissism is more than simply being a little too into yourself. The Bible does not use the term narcissism, but does deal with the issues like pride, not listening to advice from others, thinking you’re always right, etc. A prime example of a Biblical example of pride would be Nebuchadnezzar and his pride - sermon from Tim Keller below.

I think the key difference between a secular definition of narcissism and a Biblical definition of pride is that in the Bible humility begins with the fear of God and the expulsion of selfishness. In the secular world we are encouraged to seek self-esteem as long as we do not unduly harm / devalue others.

Some really simple diagnostic questions from Scripture might be:

  • am I quick to listen and slow to speak? Am I slow to become angry?
  • do I seek out advice from others or assume I am correct?
  • do I change my behavior when a well meaning person offers hard to accept feedback?
  • am I always thinking of myself or do I take time each day to help / pray for others?
  • do I allow God’s Word to overrule my own desires or do I twist God’s Word to match my desires?

An appropriate Biblical response in one’s own life might be Philippians 2:3-11:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Do you have a specific context in which you would like to know how to handle a narcissistic personality? It makes a big difference if it’s a work relationship versus a friend versus a romantic relationship.

Definition of Narcissism

Narcissistic personality disorder is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Exaggerates own importance
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance
  • Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
  • Requires constant attention and admiration from others
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
  • Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder

It’s easy to slap the “narcissist” label on someone who spends a bit too much time talking about his career or who never seems to doubt herself, but pathologically narcissistic personalities are relatively rare—an estimated 1 percent of the population. Narcissism, too, is more complicated than it may seem: It’s different from a surplus of self-esteem, encompassing a hunger for appreciation, a sense of specialness, and a lack of empathy, along with other attributes that can prove damaging in relationships. Interestingly, in addition to thinking they are better and more deserving than others, research suggests, highly narcissistic people often admit that they are more self-centered, too.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/narcissism

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I’m sorry as it sounds like you have a challenging relationship in your life. . This isn’t specific to narcissism, but Dan Allender wrote a book called “Bold Love” several years ago now. In it, he deals with very difficult interactions with troubling and/or abusive personalities. I found it to be very challenging but very biblical. He has a whole chapter each what it means to love a “normal sinner”, a “fool”, and an “evil” person as discussed/defined in scripture. He pulls alot from Proverbs and never lets the reader be settled in bitterness/unforgiveness. He pushes one to envision what walking in love with difficult people looks like and to long for their redemption, but not be a door mat either. I’d be interested if anyone else has read this older book and their thoughts on it. Here is the Amazon link.

https://www.amazon.com/Bold-Love-Dan-B-Allender/dp/0891097031

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I hesitated to share this at first since he is not openly a Christian. But a new video came across my phone today and so I have reconsidered. This Dr Les Carter doesn’t say outright he is a Christian, but if you listen to his short, very practical videos, I think it is safe to assume he has a biblical world view. And at the very least, he believes in “God” and that there is right and wrong. All his videos have to do with dealing with a narcissist. I picked this one, because it is pretty good evidence thruout he is aligned with a biblical world view with all the Christian buzzwords he drops. I’ll let you and others discern it out too. You can scroll down his videos list and see what is pertinent for where you may be at now. Bless you as you seek the Lord’s leading and wisdom in a challenging situation. And BTW, I have a challenging relationship too, and these videos have been helpful, concrete tools for me.

Was not the first Narcissist not Narcissus but Lucifer? Did not Eve and Adam join him when they disobeyed the only commandment? In dealing with this issue within myself, my belief is that only God can fix me, day by day, sin by sin, as I remain willing to change my mind (repent) on what I thought was right and come into line to what the Holy Spirit shows me. We have choices, decisions, day by day, moment by moment as to whether we will walk with the Lord or simply go our own way.

As far as dealing with, say, an individual who is unwilling to change, who thinks their way is right, their beliefs are correct, and who feels no need to repent–that is a person I have been dealing with for years now and I have yet to find breakthrough. So that is
a very good question, Rebekah. I look forward to the answers, too.

Sean, with respect to your comment:

“Do you have a specific context in which you would like to know how to handle a narcissistic personality? It makes a big difference if it’s a work relationship versus a friend versus a romantic relationship.”

I would be very interested in knowing how to handle a narcissistic personality at work. I have worked with an individual who has many of these characteristics for almost 16 years now and have struggled a great deal. I usually feel manipulated and have felt trapped in fear at times. I am on a journey of learning how to love this individual and to forgive them but I still struggle with the practical outworkings of how to not allow this individual to use and control me. I would very much be interested in your wisdom here. Thanks.

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@tpauls8 On this topic, I would be curious to know your approach as well :slight_smile: My personal approach in the past has been to set boundaries for what reasonable treatment should look like at work. If those boundaries are consistently being violated by a superior and approaching them tactfully has not helped, then I generally seek to make a lateral move within the company. If that is not possible and the behavior persists, then I pursue another position. I’ve only had to do this once - thankfully I’ve been blessed with great employers for the most part, but the one time I did have to take this approach I am glad that I did. It was a toxic environment and my life is much better off having left. Prayerfully, patient seeking another position paid off. It was worth it!

You might find some of the ideas in this book useful, though they do not necessarily address this question directly:

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Hi @tpauls8,

That sounds like a very difficult situation. To have worked with a narcissist for nearly sixteen years - I imagine this has become part of your “normal” - and your company’s normal - even as your conscience continues to remind you that their behavior is not ok.

One legitimate option is to consider working at another company that doesn’t tolerate narcissists as part of its culture. This may be difficult or impossible, and may be something you’ve tried to do. However, it is worth revisiting this from time to time and see if there is another opportunity.

Another thing you may want to consider is to take some time to journal about some of the ways that they have mistreated you. See if you can find any patterns. Then, prayerfully consider some new ways to handle that situation the next time it comes up.

For instance, if they threaten to say something bad about you to others if you don’t do some of their work, perhaps you are prepared with a clear statement. “I understand what you are saying. I’ll discuss this request with my supervisor to see if he (or she) would like me to allocate some time to your project.” Further, perhaps you have also already talked to your supervisor and confirmed this approach with them, so you know they have your back. On the other hand, if this person is your supervisor, you may need to talk with Human Resources. (I understand that might not be an option either).

All that to say, so much of what this looks like will depend on the resources for change available in your company. In the meantime, I think your own preparation to deflect or avoid this person’s poor behavior can give you the space to be ready for the next challenge they throw your way.

While forgiveness is important, wisdom also means that we find ways to prevent an abusive person from being successful at their abuse. This is good for them too - the more frustrating they find it to do evil, the better!

I’m praying for you now Tara - this is a difficult situation.

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Thanks Sean! I appreciate the feedback! Thanks also for the reminder of this wonderful book! Maybe I should read it again!

As to how I have been handling this challenge… It has been a long haul because when I started working with this individual (my colleague - not manager - but for many years imbued with the title Professional Practice Leader which provided her with greater bullying opportunities) I was not in an emotionally healthy place and she triggered me so much that I ended up taking medical leave due to severe anxiety and panic. Fortunately I was connected with an amazing Christian counselor who walked with me through a healing process. I still find that this individual triggers me but I have felt challenged by God to learn how to love her and to forgive her. He has remained true to His promise of not leaving me and has even provided me with gifts which have helped a great deal such as other Christian co-workers and more recently new management which is not amenable to manipulation. I feel truly blessed!

However, I am definitely not perfect and have made many regrettable choices along the way primarily out of allowing her to make me feel backed into a corner. The only way through is by allowing God to walk beside me, one step at a time.

One thing which helps is by keeping interactions with this person to a minimum (difficult because we share the same caseload). I find that quick texts, phone calls and even e-mails work better than face to face interactions. Keeping interactions professional also helps.

Historically I have simply allowed her to control things because that way I would not experience her wrath (the silent treatment often followed by a nasty surprise in the form of having a visit from the manager or having more “rules” imposed on me). However, I have realized that this has only served to dumb me down. I have slowly been trying to make steps towards developing better boundaries and am hoping to implement other strategies like asking questions in response to her questions instead of feeling like I have to answer her questions. I have been encouraged to confront this individual, but have learned this to be a less than effective means of moving forward as she attacks when she feels defensive.

I am trusting God for continued healing and am leaning into His grace when overcome by challenges with this individual. I know that she has very deep-seated insecurities which make her unhappy. God’s grace is big enough for both of us🤗.

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Thanks Carson for your prayers. They are definitely appreciated.:blush: I do feel as though I am in a better place than I have been for the past many years though. Since the management has changed, my colleague has not been able to manipulate me through them which has given me a huge amount of freedom, praise God. It has served to improve my confidence to know that they have my back (even though they are not aware of my challenges with her)!

Thanks for the challenge that “wisdom also means that we find ways to prevent an abusive person from being successful at their abuse.” This is so true!! This is an ongoing challenge for me, but I do believe it to be important

I really like working where I am now (I am a Speech-Language Pathologist in my local hospital) and I love working with many of the other health care workers as well as the opportunities I have of ministering to my patients. Perhaps some day I may consider leaving, but for now it seems this is still where I need to be.

Thanks for the tips, suggestions and wisdom!

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@tpauls8 Your point about keeping interactions professional is very sound advice. I have also found that to be a helpful approach whenever working with someone who pushes boundaries in an unhealthy way. Keeping things professional can definitely cut down on the use of abrasive language / bad attitude.

I think it is more bearable / manageable if it is a coworker rather than a boss because they cannot manipulate you as easily and you have a path for conflict resolution if necessary.

Praying that the light of Jesus would shine through you in the hospital so that your patients and coworkers could come to know His love :slight_smile:

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Thanks so much Sean! Me too🤗!

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Hi Rebekah. I know I am reading this post much later than the date you posted. I think the replies you have received are very good. I hope you have seen some changes with whatever you were specifically dealing with when you posted this. My only comment to add to other comments would be that Lucifer was the original narcissist and because he is the prince of the power of the air as referred to in Ephesians 2:2. Is it no wonder that so much of society is self absorbed and disobedient to God’s laws? Narcissism comes down to selfishness, pride, rebellion, and disobedience to God’s nature of love and selflessness. These were the characteristics of Lucifer that lead to his fall from heaven. (NIV) Eph.2:2 -in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Blessings to you,
Marie

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