Posts Tagged: Christian

Narcissists Who Act Like Christians Part II

Last week, I introduced the topic of Living with a Christian Narcissist. You might wonder, “is it even possible to be a Christian Narcissist?” If a core component of the Christian faith is humility, then how could a Narcissist truly be a Christian? That’s a good question that I have wondered about too. Rather than explain theological issues, my goal has always been to address the heartache that is caused by the sickness called Narcissism in the Christian home.


Two Caveats: 1) I’m glad that I’m not the boss of anyone’s salvation, so I don’t have to weigh in on whether someone is a Christian or not.  2) I’m using male examples of narcissists for simplicity’s sake, but narcissism that hides behind Christianity affects both males and females.

With that said, the point of today’s post is to help readers identify how it feels to live with a person who has the outward appearance of Christianity but lives differently behind closed doors. The family who holds this kind of incongruence often experiences a great deal of stress and anxiety. They might not be able to really put their finger on it, but intuitively, they know something is not right.

If you were to ask the people closest to the Christian Narcissist, you would hear them say things like,

  • “Everyone thinks he’s such a good man, but living with him is really hard,”
  • “People wouldn’t believe me if I told them the things he says to me.”
  • “I feel like I’m being bullied, but no one ever sees that side of him.”
  • “I’m constantly tip towing around his mood, worrying if something is going to upset him.”
  • “I feel like he controls everything I do and say, and one wrong step will send him over the edge.”
  • “He knows the bible better than I do, so I don’t really want to question or challenge him.”
  • “For being a Christian, I don’t know why he thinks it’s ok to act the way he does. Maybe he is under a lot of stress, or he just doesn’t see how his actions hurt me.”


The Problem

For the Wife: The wife sees what no one else sees. She holds her partners’ cognitive and behavioral dissonance inside herself. The conflict between what she believes him to be (a good Christian man) and what she experiences at home (a controlling and psychological manipulator.) She feels trapped in the middle of saving her marriage for her children’s sake and losing herself- a no win situation.

For the Children: The children intuitively know that dad’s actions and words at home are incongruent with his life in front of other people. They push against his control, they cower under his rage, and they grind against the command to “obey your parents.” They wonder about that other verse that says, “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children,” and if their dad knows what that means. Some shy away from conflict with him, and others argue fiercely.

For the Church Pastor: The Pastor of the Christian Narcissist sees what the narcissist wants him to see. The Christian Narcissist serves on the board, gives time and money, and even teaches a class at church. So when the wife brings her husband to the Pastor for marriage help, the narcissist has a ready made strategy to make himself look special, and his wife look like the real problem. The pastor may error on the side “giving grace” to the husband, and giving homework to the wife. Unless the Pastor is experienced with Narcissistic behavior, he may not see through the Narcissist’s charm, embellishments, excuses and manipulation. The wife goes home feeling more hopeless than ever.

For the Inexperienced Counselor: Not every counselor can see through the guise of the skilled and beguiling Narcissist. As a young and hopeful therapist, a couple of narcissistic personalities played me like a fiddle. Seeking training, discovering my own blind spots, and consulting with experts empowered me with invaluable wisdom that has informed my practice. If you are currently seeing a marriage counseling who doesn’t understand the complex dynamic in narcissistic relationships, consider talking it over with him/her or finding someone new.

For the Friend: The friend of the Christian Narcissist has been chosen because, by nature, he’s passive or loyal or both. The friend turns a blind eye to the Christian Narcissist’s character flaws and makes excuses for them because of all the other good things he does. If the Friend asked hard questions or held him accountable for harmful behavior, the Christian Narcissist would have the opportunity to see and possibly even correct his wrong. But, the friend most likely sees his role as “to just stay out of it, be neutral, show him grace,” and the Narcissistic Christian is easily let off the hook.

For the Christian Narcissist: The Narcissistic Man who calls himself a Christian has yet to let Christ fully intersect and transform his life. He has built many mechanisms of control, manipulation and deflection to keep himself from experiencing his deep sense of shame and fear of abandonment. If he were to humbly repent in full surrender to Christ’s transformational love, true change could occur, his shame could be healed and he would no longer need to hide behind his anger, intimidation, and control.

This kind of transformation is unlikely to happen quickly by way of a conversion or baptism experience. However, transformational change can happen through years of therapeutic intervention, Christian accountability and support, and psychotropic medicine to treat anxious rage and compulsions. All too often, the Christian Narcissist instead, mistakenly sees his ego as too sacred a cow to lay down, and pulls away just before God starts to work in his heart.


For the woman living with the Christian Narcissist: you’re not crazy, lazy or dumb. You may feel like you’ve lost your way or lost your voice. You’re not a bad Christian wife. Open up to one or two trusted people about how you’re feeling at home. Ask them to start praying for you to have strength and wisdom for your next steps.

How to Build Self Esteem Part II: Dream Big

Have you ever had a dream or desire that you kept locked up in a little treasure chest somewhere inside your head? Like maybe you let yourself day dream a little once or twice about what it would feel like to be in that place, accomplishing that thing. Maybe it’s your wedding day, or maybe it’s holding a baby in your arms, or maybe it’s owning your own business, or making your own music CD. Sometimes reality exceeds the fantasy, and sometimes reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. But we just wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have the dream. The way you see yourself affects everything in your life, including your relationships. I know that if I can help you improve your self esteem, your self respect and your self confidence, I am also helping you have the power to transform your relationships for the good. The stronger you are as a person, the stronger your relationships will be too. That’s just God’s honest truth. 

We are in part II of a three part series. These concepts have the power to transform your life and your relationships, bringing you into the fullness of God’s plan and purpose for your life, IF you let them. They will take time, energy, risk and investment. But gee whiz, you are worth every ounce of sweat equity you put out there.

The last post was on How to build your self esteem- by getting out of your own way. I covered the ways you sabotage your own success, thereby reinforcing your low sense of self-worth. That’s bad joo joo. But when you learn how you are getting in your own way, you have power to get out of your own way and to succeed. When you start collecting small successes, you grow in strength and competency, and your self esteem is improved. Sounds simple, right? It is. But it does take some time and effort. But you have what it takes, so keep going!

WORD TO THE WISE: When you start working on yourself esteem, goal setting and making changes, don’t expect the world to throw you a party. In fact, expect resistance. And guess where some of this resistance will come from. You got it, from the people you love the most!  They are used to you a certain way. When you upset the apple cart with your growth and changes, it forces them to change too. Some will welcome this change and adapt easily. But this is not the majority of people. Most people find change anxiety provoking and resist it. However, do not let your family’s resistance to the new and improved you get the better of you. The fact is, when you embrace God’s love for your life and you allow it to transform you, that same love desires to have its way with your entire family- starting with your spouse, your kids, and then your closest friends. If you know the change inside of you is God’s transformative power, then let it run its course in all your relationships! A change at any level of the system, changes the whole system. When you start acting like the person God has made you to be, confident in your loved and cherished position with God, it will change your entire family system. You have so much more power for good, than you are even aware.

This is what Peter says in the bible. Remember Peter? The guy who walked on water, and then fell in? the guy who cut the ear of a soldier who was arresting Jesus? The guy who denied Christ three times the eve of His crucifixion. Peter was in Jesus’ inner circle and knew Him well. This is what he says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  1 Pe 5:8-11 Don’t quit just because it gets hard. Expect it to get harder before it gets easier.

Christians sometimes squelch their dreams because they worry about being too self centered or too prideful. If they see themselves in a powerful or admirable position, they wrongly consider this to be ungodly or carnal or too “of the flesh.” If you have been one of these Christians, let me put your mind at ease. Here is the secret to your success. Humble yourself and be completely dependent on God.

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:13-15

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

You humble yourself by praying, “I don’t know if this dream or this desire is from you, but I lay it at your feet. I know that faith pleases you, so I am going to take a big risk and say that this dream is from you, that you put it in my heart, and because I love this dream, I am going to surrender it just like Abraham surrendered Isaac. I don’t have to make my dream happen, You do, and in due time as I humble myself before you, I know you will lift me up.”

Simple right? As you submit your dreams to God, watch how He provides exactly what you need when you need it. Like the ram in the bushes. God didn’t provide the ram in the bushes until Abraham surrendered Isaac- his dream child- his promised child. Once Abraham surrendered his ownership and responsibility for Isaac, God provided exactly what was needed.

Your dream may shift a little, depending on the circumstances of your life. What you thought you wanted, you may determine later that you want something different. The essence of what you want is probably the same- and I believe that the essence of your dream is God given- so dream it in the form that you have it now, and trust God to change it to His will as you go. God’s got it in His hands. He cares more about the dream He’s put in your heart than you do. He’ll be faithful to see it through.

What we know about self-esteem, is that it has a lot to do with who we are, what we think, and what decisions we make in life. Here are some examples:

A person with healthy Self Esteem:

  •    Take educated risks in professional and personal areas of life
  •    Have bounce-back-ability. They are resilient after set backs
  •    Seek understanding of other’s points of view because they are not threatened by diversity
  •    Are Not easily offended or take criticisms personally
  •    Are able to separate behavior from identity
  •    Are able to bless those who curse them- that take justice to the next level and instead of repaying evil with evil, they seek to give blessing.
  •    Are able to assert their needs, opinions and desires.
  •    Are able to verbalize their opinions with respect and love.
  •    Able to empathize and care for others in need


A person with low Self-Esteem:

  • Will be dependent on other’s approval before formulating thoughts and ideas
  •  Will be avoid making decisions independently
  • Have a pessimistic view of self and his influence in the world
  • Will feel powerless over his life and circumstances
  • May become overwhelmed with shame and guilt over mistakes or failures.
  • When they experience a failure, they internalize it to mean they are a failure.
  • Unable to verbalize or assert their needs, desires or limitations.
  • Will tend to be overly guarded and distrusting or overly trusting, needy and naive
  • Engages in negative self-talk and negative predictions

The reason why we want to talk about the behaviors and feelings of people who do and do not have healthy self esteem, is because we want to emulate those who got it. Those of you who say, “I need to improve my self esteem,” then I’m here to help you know what that looks like, so you can recognize what areas you want to work on.

                One significant difference between those who have healthy self esteem and those who do not, is their ability to DREAM BIG. For the person with a healthy self esteem, they really believe that anything is possible. Maybe because nothing in their family past has informed them otherwise. Or maybe because they have overcome so many obstacles in their life, they can’t help but believe miracles are possible. Whatever the reasons for healthy self esteem, an exercise to help you improve yours is to practice dreaming big, writing it down and saying it out loud. Now this next part, you are going to want to work through slowly. Don’t worry, to those of you who are listening to this live, I will have the podcast available to you on my web site. You can stop and pause until you are ready to move on. Take your time, write these things down.

A common problem to improving self esteem is that we don’t allow ourselves to imagine something different, something better. So let’s do a couple of exercises that jog that imagination.

1.  Now, thinking about your interests, what comes naturally to you that gives you an “unfair advantage”? 

2. When do you feel so immersed in something that you forget that the rest of the world exists? 

3. What do you do that brings you pleasure, piques your curiosity and gives you more energy than when you started?

4. If you could do anything without fear of failure, what would it be?

5. What was the happiest period of your life?

6. What was a turning point in your life?

7. Was there an event in which you demonstrated great courage and perseverance?

8. Are there any values that you would like to establish?

9. What are some weaknesses, things you do poorly that you will need help with?

10. Project yourself into the future. You pick the time frame, two years, five years or ten years. Don’t filter this exercise with shoulds and oughts. This exercise is meant to inform you. Just let it flow and see what comes. Now close your eyes and use your imagination to see what your ideal day would look like if you had your dream. Imagine that anything is possible, fantasize what you are wearing, what you are doing, where you are and who you are with. What kind of people are around you. Now, this is an important part. As you imagine yourself, now ascertain how you are feeling in that scene. How do you feel about what you are doing. What is the expression on your face? What is the impact you have? One more thing, now, imagine God in the dream. Where is He, how does he feel about this ideal day of yours? Where is He? Looking down from above, beside your working, in the crowd judging your performance or smiling with delight? Now imagine a conversation between the two of you. You talking to God and Him talking back. Don’t filter this conversation with shoulds and oughts. Just let it flow. When you’re done, write down what you saw and the conversation you had with God.

There are many good things in our lives.  However, “good” can be the enemy of “best”.  When thinking about your passions and your values, you may find that the many “good” things in your life may be crowding out the “best” things in your life.  For example, if one of your passion is “writing” but you never seem to have the time to do it because of your involvement in other “good” things, then it is time to discard the “good” for the “best”.  It is out of your passions that real potential flows.

1.            What is something that you would like to discard, so that you can allow more time, energy and investment for something better?

2. What will be difficult about discarding that thing?  What will you lose?  What will you potentially gain?

Progress requires sacrifice.  To win the race, we must lay aside everything that weighs us down.  To make it to the top, we must slough off the heavy weights that keep us from climbing.  These weights are mere distractions from the ultimate goal.  They are rabbit trails and red herrings.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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