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Narcissism - A Big Word With Big Implications (Article 19-7)

I don’t know if this has been your experience or not, but the phrase “Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)” or “Narcissism (nɑrsəˌsɪzəm)” seems to have become a widely used and referenced term in conversations these days. In fact, it’s notably used in ongoing media reporting, especially when the focus is on highly visible political figures. It’s frequent use as a personality characterization and implied personality disorder motivated me to learn more about what it means to be “narcissistic” and, most importantly, the existence of any scriptural references to the term.

Defining Narcissism and Its Symptoms. According to WebMD© (, the word "narcissism" comes from a Greek myth about Narcissus, a man who “sees his own reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it.” A shortlist of NPD symptoms includes thinking and talking about oneself most of the time; one's craving for attention and admiration; exaggerating one’s talents and achievements; believing oneself to be unique and/or superior compared to others; setting unrealistic goals and being highly competitive; having wide and fast-moving mood swings; a tendency or desire to undermine other people’s feelings (lacking empathy); and fantasizing about one’s unlimited success, money, and power. The signs of NPD include having the need to continually talk about oneself; control those around them; give light to one's success and self-perceived degrees of power and influence; a conveying of one's sense of superiority; a need to receive constant praise; having a sense of entitlement; a need to manipulate others for personal gain; and a strong need to be at center of conversation or one's attention. Other signs include being envious of others' success, uncaring about the plight of others, and a facade of being incredibly charming. The truth of the matter is that while some may see a narcissist as being a very confident person, in actuality, a narcissist suffers from very low self-esteem and a profound sense of insecurity that's disguised with an outward portrayal of superiority.

Scripture Connection. As I expand my understanding of narcissism, one particular scripture comes to mind. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes "1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power." In reviewing this scripture, I find, as I suspect you may, a strong connection between narcissism and the prophetic orientation of Paul’s above message. However, narcissism’s connectivity with scripture is not my main concern. What is my interest is what I believe is the underlying cause of narcissism.

A Real Concern Regarding Narcissism. Please do not misunderstand my intent here, and conclude that I think anyone who, for example, engages in taking "selfies" or portrays self-love is a narcissist. This is not my intent at all. In fact, our call is to have self-love. The difference is knowing where the source of one's "self-love" comes - God or oneself. My intent is to point out that the root cause of narcissistic behavior is likely to stem from a person’s deep sense of insecurity, thus indicating that a person with narcissistic traits may be “spiritually bankrupt” - a person who is trying to fend off a sense of “inner emptiness.” This “inner emptiness” I refer, is the result of one thing – a lack of connection with one’s spiritual source of love: That being God. Not recognizing and opening up to God’s love (and what He so badly wants us to experience) creates an inner emptiness one may have and with it, the loss of hope of ever being loved and experiencing it unconditionally. It is from having no “hope” of being or having love that one is driven to love oneself (in ways that are destructive in nature), for we crave and need love. In short, the truth of who we are and have become is directly tied to our spiritual connection with God, and His love. It is only through this spiritual connection with God, by way of Jesus Christ, can we know the truth of His love for us and how much we are valued (see also Guided by Grace article 19-6, “What is Your Self-Worth”

Opening Up To God. When we open up to learn about and receive God’s love, the truth of who we really are is revealed and with it, the filling of our inner emptiness. It was no coincidence that the very first point Christ proclaimed to the multitudes on the Sermon of the Mount was “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In this verse, Christ is not addressing the economically poor, but rather those who recognize their spiritual poverty, and with it, their need for God. It is recognizing our need for God that we are enticed to know God and with it, our learning and understanding of His love for us. Without knowledge of His love, we are destined to exist with an inner emptiness, which in turn leads to a host of personality, behavioral and emotional issues.

We All Are Likely to Suffer From Narcissism. We are likely to be, at varying levels, narcissists and, with it, suffer from its effects. To diffuse possible allegations of being a hypocrite, I admit that my research on the topic revealed my own narcissistic traits. However, with my desire, as a believer, to abide in Christ, I remain hopeful, thus confident that I can overcome the prideful-based tendencies of narcissism and with it, find the peace and rest I seek.

In a time of “selfies,” should we as believers and disciples of Christ, take note to those who may not know or are deceived in understanding God’s boundless and unconditional love for all of us and His call for us to put others ahead of ourselves? Absolutely! For if we do, the word narcissism and all other emotional and behavioral disorders which stem from a state of “inner emptiness” will fade into extinction, never to be experienced again.

God Bless!

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