If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What is a narcissist?”, or, you want to know the biblical worldview on how to deal with them and heal, you’re in the right place.
Relationships are one of the fundamentals of life. They are a classroom that teaches us alot about ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses, and how we should prepare for upcoming milestones in life.
Coming from a biblical worldview, we are taught to love others as we want to be loved, and we are taught to be forgiving, and accepting. Often times, these biblical teachings can be confused with tolerating abusive or unhealthy relationships especially when we aren’t taught how to identify emotionally abusive relationships, or answer questions like “What is a narcissist?”.
The Narcissist and the Bible
The Bible describes this as “walking in the flesh”, and you’ll see that the more I describe narcissistic behavior, the more it will align with walking in the flesh. Galatians 5:19-22 says:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, when we aren’t awake, alert, and watchful, we can easily become victims or perpetrators. When we’re not spending devotion time and being quiet, we can pile on breaches of our boundaries, not allow God to intervene where we need Him, and become depleted.
Or, on the other end of the spectrum…
We can face obstacles in life on autopilot, choose not to deal with our feelings, and go on in life projecting everything we don’t want to deal with onto others manipulatively: a characteristic of narcissism. It can fluctuate with seasons as we grow closer or fall away from alignment with God’s word.
We all have a level of narcissism. There’s a part of every person that says, “What’s in it for me?”, but it should be balanced out with genuine empathy, the ability to respond to the way you affect others, and a desire to serve and preserve others.
With narcissists, there is no balance. They’re monopolized by selfishness and ulterior motives. They’ve completely fallen away from the ability to offer love and grace, and instead, they count every wrong, and wait for opportunities to pay them back.
I am learning and growing to identify positive and negative relationship cycles. I’ve spent years of life interacting with people on both sides of the spectrum: positive and negative, and I haven’t always been good at quickly identifying what I’m dealing with.
I learned to love and help everyone, but I can’t remember many conversations about emotionally abusive behavior, how to identify it, how to set boundaries, character identification, or when to let people go. I’ve always had a very optimistic view of people and their capabilities. As a result, I’ve had quite a few unhealthy run-ins with narcissists, and to be honest, I may have even displayed narcissistic behaviors at times simply out of ignorance about how to deal with certain situations or circumstances.
Most of the times, I found myself interacting with narcissists because I’ve struggled with setting and enforcing healthy relationship boundaries. I’ve always wanted to believe people based on what they say rather than allowing them the chance to prove their words with actions, and at times, I can blur the lines between what the Messiah can only do, and what I should do, which is sometimes called, “the Messiah mentality” or “the Savior mentality”.
In times when I’ve run into narcissists, I’ve been a great supply, very empathetic, immediately wanting to end their sob stories, at times mistaking their disconnection with emotion as a joke or completely disbelieving that someone could genuinely be like that, and often times, I’ve given them the attention they requested although, I had no idea I was engaging with an unhealthy behavior type.
If you’ve engaged with a narcissist (as I have) and you let the relationship go far enough, you may find yourself feeling trapped and looking for a way out of the relationship, or they may have confused you so much about who you are that you may be trying to find yourself again. You have to identify boundaries that could prevent a narcissistic person from ever penetrating into your close social circles, but the first step is identifying narcissistic behavior patterns, so let’s start there…
Overt and Covert Narcissism
There are two different types of narcissist: one appears completely different than the other, but they both can deliver behaviors that can sting quite a bit.
Overt Narsissism – The Attention-Seeker
The overt narcissist is easier to spot. He is the one that wants to be noticed, very self-absorbed, superficial, attention-seeking, and shockingly non-compassionate. He can be the class clown or the “blunt” person who says things that you think no one should or would say.
You may mistake their frankness with honesty, but internally, they have no disdain for how their behaviour affects others. Evem when he’s aware that his decisions could directly contribute to your misfortune or heightened emotion, their priority is not contingent on how they make you feel.
Women who share experiences about marriage to a narcissist might state experiences like:
He jokingly said, “Should I buy diapers the baby needs or should I have a good time with my friends. I’ll choose the latter.”
Or, other statements that clearly distort normal family values or priorities. As I did, you may also initially think the person couldn’t be serious because “who thinks like that?”, but the narcissist thinks like that and it’s deep-rooted and genuine. He can be mistaken as a caring person, but he typically plays the compassionate role for the sake of maintaining his reputation and protecting how others look at him.
He can easily slide into leadership positions because his character traits can be confused with confidence and leadership qualities, however, he doesn’t think about others’ feelings or what’s best for the team, therefore, his leadership is usually not lauded and lacks a advocates and a loyal following.
Covert Narcissism – The Wolf in Sheeps Clothes
Alternatively, is the covert narcissist who is much more challenging to spot. He presents himself as the victim who life has continually happened to and attracts people with a strong sense of empathy. He’s aggressive, but in first impressions can come off as quiet, reserved, and a genuinely “good person”. They are very convincing because they intentionally mask themselves as social chameleons. They can be very charismatic at first glance, but once the mask comes off: days, weeks, months, or years down the line, you’ll find the person had an ulterior motive.
Covert narcissist are unapologetic, they won’t own their wrongdoing, and they can watch your emotion with no compassion. They are known for being passive aggressive, vengeful, and invoking feelings of abandonment–potentially several times as a way to cause pain.
Interestingly, they are self-absorbed like the covert narcissist, however, they mask it with vulnerability. They are prone to have victimized sob-stories where everyone else is to blame for their misfortune, but beneath it, they feel “entitled” to greatness. They expect your empathy, but when you express your feelings, they are disconnected and won’t validate you or apologize.
When the covert narcissist gets into a leadership position, his focus is on appearing to be the “good guy” and getting everyone to meet a goal that has a personal benefit to him. He also may pull on heart strings to get everyone to believe he’s the underdog.
- “I would pay you, but (tragic situation) happened, so can you wait?”
- “I would be a better leader, but I didn’t have an example”
- and, everything seems to have a “but” rather than taking personal responsibility and changing the trajectory of negative life cycles
They’re obsessively concerned (almost to the point of paranoia) that others think their “good people”, so they’re wardrobe and preferences are tailored to leaving a certain impression with other people. However over time, you find, their continual appearance of concern was because they were in pursuit of a selfish goal.
The overt narcissist can be hurtful, but many experts describe the covert narcissist as more hurtful because they are known for wearing a veneer and “surprising you with the traits” over time and often abandoning you in a very vulnerable time.
How To Overcome a Relationship With a Narcissist
Overcoming a narcissistic relationship can be painful and can take years to re-establish individuality, become healthy, and break habits that allowed the invasion to take place. It’s always healthy to establish a way to overcome.
Steps to Healing From a Narcissistic Relationship
In some cases, overcoming may mean cutting off the relationship, but in other circumstances where the narcissist is a parent or spouse, you may not want to “cut them off completely” (for value-based or other reasons), but you still want to heal. These are some ways you can get on the path to healing…
1. Create a standard for how you should be treated
Bible reading and devotion can help you to establish God’s standard for you. Some examples are:
You should meditate on scriptures like that to decide “If God thinks this way of me, I shouldn’t let any person treat me less”.
2. Create consequences
Someone will try to compromise the standard–it’s the nature of spiritual warfare. When your boundaries are crossed, what will you do? Let’s say…
You’re a single lady. You go on a date, and the gentlemen places his hand on your leg. What do you do? Has he earned that privilege?
Let’s go for another scenario…
You’re an entrepreneur and you have an employee that keeps coming in 5 minutes later every day. What do you do?
One more example, okay? Let’s go…
Let’s say you’re a parent, and your child keeps being disrespectful: yelling, rolling their eyes, and feeling entitled to things they want. How far do you let it go? Where do you draw the line and what do you do about it?
Boundaries and accountability are important. The ability to enforce standards is a quality of a good leader.
3. Spend time alone so you can think about life
When things in life get into “rat race mode” where you’re constantly moving from task to task, and you never make the time to transcend the day-to-day, so you can tranform the future, you can go deeper and deeper into an unhealthy version of yourself. You have to take time where you can think about how things are going, how your relationships are doing, and the purpose they’re serving in your life.
You have to think about whether relationships are serving to take you closer to your God-given destiny, or if they’re depleting you, and re-align them on a path that’s healthy. Remember, some people don’t reach their full potential accidentally. They simply are never intentional enough about their life plans, so they end their lives never accomplishing everything they know they could have.
Don’t take any moment for granted.
4. Learn to identify emotionally abusive behavior and tactics
When you don’t know how to identify emotionally abusive tactics, you can fall right into them without noticing. Someone can project their wrongdoing onto you, and you’ll go on and on explaining, defending, and revolting. Instead, learn to identify the behavior and tactics, so when you see it, you can say, “That was clear manipulation”, or “that was gaslighting”, so you don’t find yourself trying to convince yourself that you’re not to blame.
When you can identify the behavior patterns, you can clearly and quickly say, “they’re not owning their own feelings, that’s for them to deal with”, and you don’t take on anyone else’s burdens or heaviness.
5. Initiate relationships with caution
A business that really wants to grow will only hire people who are go-getters. They’ll be very careful and probably will have a long hiring process: several interviews, background check, drug testing, a probationary period, and performance based pay incentives. If you want to grow in life and you honor the purpose that’s caused you to be placed here, don’t you think you should be careful about the people you entertain?
Did you realize it’s possible to keep a circle of people that are positive, uplift you, and want to see you succeed? IT may not be the easiest thing to create, but with healthy boundaries, you can keep positive people close and negative people far.
Watch that others meet the standard we’ve set for relationships with their actions (not simply words), and look for a give-and-take balance.
Pray for the Narcissist
Often times, people become narcissists because they were raised in an unhealthy home, and they may not have even known it. For the most part, narcissism is a learned behavior. It’s an unhealthy teaching on how to deal with feelings and emotions.
It’s like the child who throws temper tantrums. If no one corrects the child, they can grow up to be wildly out of control.
For narcissist, they learn to people please to get what they want, then abandon, or their not taught to work in teams. Narcissism could also be a response to a new environment and a falling away from intimate relationship with Christ.
The Bible does not condone narcissistic traits, therefore, we want to pray for people who manifest this behavior pattern. They are clearly not in communion and not applying scripture to their lives.
Pray that God would draw them to Him, that He would comfort you in your dealings, and that He would empower you to build and enforce strong and healthy boundaries.
A Playlist answering, “What is a Narcissist?”
This playlist was extremely helpful for me to get clear about what narcissistic behavior patterns are and how to deal with them. You can scroll thru the videos to see which is suitable for your situation.
Final Words on “What is a Narcissist?”
The goal of this article was to answer the question, “What is a Narcissist?”. There’s so much more to say about this topic, but I want you to feel empowered to deal with people who may go thru seasons of narcissistic behavior or who may have a life monopolized by narcissism. If you have questions or concerns about this, don’t hesistate to leave them in the comments section. I’d love to help you out!
Now, it’s Your Turn…
Have you dealt with narcissistic people before? What boundaries did you learn to put in place? Have you manifested narcissistic behavior patterns before, and how do you regulate the way you handle your feelings to avoid that? LEave your comments, questions, and feedback below.