5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

Last week I was listening to a podcast that featured Erwin McManus, the pastor of the Mosaic Church in Los Angeles where he brought up the idea of “Christian narcissists”. I guess I’d never really considered that idea before, but some of the things he said on that podcast got me to thinking about the possibility that we have raised up a whole generation of people who are completely self-absorbed and self-focused, and that even the church is not immune to that.

There is a sense in which narcissism is completely contrary to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. A narcissist who will not admit failure or need will certainly find it difficult, or even impossible, to admit sinfulness and unworthiness and see the need for repentance – prerequisites for becoming a genuine Christian. But that does not preclude the possibility that our churches could be home to narcissists who have learned to “play the game” and “speak the lingo” and call themselves Christians. And because of our sin nature, none of us are immune to the tendency to become self-focused. So, with my personal confession that I have done all these things from time to time in my own life, here are…

5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

1.    You refuse to consider you could be wrong
 

When I first became a pastor, I often thought that I really had things all figured out and that I couldn’t possibly be wrong in my conclusions. But now, years later, when I go back and look at some of those sermons, I can’t believe how wrong I was on certain points.

Christian narcissists refuse to consider that they could possibly be wrong. So in order to reinforce the conclusions they have reached, they will only consider sources that agree with those conclusions. They will only read commentators that agree with their theological opinions. They will only watch, listen to or read sources that agree with their political positions. As a result, they fail to even consider that the ideas of others could have merit. These are the kind of people that are described in Proverbs:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,

        but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:2

 

Another Proverb points out the danger of thinking that only my ideas can possibly be right:

 

There is a way that seems right to a man,

        but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 14:12

 

That must be a pretty important idea since it’s repeated again word-for-word in Proverbs 16.

2.   You constantly boast about your own achievements

 

Christian narcissists love to boast about their accomplishments. They will often be able to tell you exactly how many people they have “led to Christ”, for instance. They will often couch their boasting in “spiritual terms” by adding that God enabled them to make these great accomplishments. But the Bible tells us to let our work stand on its own and not seek our own glory:

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;

        a stranger, and not your own lips.

Proverbs 27:2

 

The prophet Jeremiah makes it clear that we are not to boast in our own possessions and accomplishments. The only thing that we should be boasting in is that we know and understand God, and even then it is to be done in a way that calls attention to God and not to us:

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

 
3.   You twist Scripture to serve your own purposes
 

Susan B. Anthony once said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” One of the characteristics of a spiritual narcissist is that he or she will use Scripture to serve his or her purpose rather than God’s. In his letter to Timothy, Paul outlined what God desires for His Word to do in our lives:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

But Spiritual narcissists often approach the Bible with a closed mind. They ignore or explain away passages that don’t line up with their pre-conceived ideas. So instead of molding their lives to God’s Word, they mold God’s Word to fit their lives.

 
4.   You insist that others adopt your preferences.
 

The “worship wars” in the church over the past several decades are largely a result of self-centered people insisting that others adopt their preferences in worship music or lighting or sound level. And that has carried over into other areas of lives where narcissists insist that others adopt their personal convictions in areas where the Bible doesn’t give clear direction. But in Philippians 2, where Paul describes the mind of Christ, he makes it clear we are not to think like that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

 
5.   You desire to be served rather than to serve
 

Christian narcissists are focused on how they think others should be serving them. If you doubt that, think of how many people you know who have left their church saying “the church just isn’t meeting my needs.” I’m certainly not saying that it’s not sometimes appropriate to leave a church – just saying that leaving because a church isn’t serving you the way you think it should be might not be the right reason. Fortunately for us, Jesus sure didn’t think like that:

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:43-45

In the kingdom of God, greatness is determined by serving others, not by being served.

 

So what do I do if I’m a “Christian narcissist” or if I’m exhibiting some of these characteristics in my life? Obviously, there are a number of things that you can do, but let me leave you with just three:

1. Confess and repent. Admit to God that this behavior is sinful and ask for His forgiveness. Take concrete steps to turn away from self and back to God.
 
2. Read all of God’s Word. Read through the entire Bible using a systematic plan. Don’t ignore the sections that might not agree with your pre-conceived ideas or which reveal sin in your life.
 
3. Consider alternative viewpoints. Make an intentional effort to read, listen to, and watch those who you know hold positions that are counter to your own. Be willing to consider their ideas rather than just dismissing them outright. Be willing to have a civil conversation with those who hold opposing viewpoints rather than just calling them names. Who knows, you might find out that you don’t know everything after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 


5 Responses to “5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist””

  1. Dawn Mills says:

    Enjoyed the read:)

    Thank you!

  2. Denny Howard says:

    Great points!!

  3. Lizabet Nix says:

    Good points that ring true. What you did not go into is the devastation narcissists leave in their paths. Their unwillingness to be accountable for harm done, makes it unwise for others to continue in vulnerable relationship. We forgive as God forgives and use discernment regarding whether the narcissist recognizes the harm done. .

    • Susan says:

      Yes! And compound this when it is your parent. How do you honor them while setting necessary boundaries? Especially as they age and need your help. Would love to here pointers on dealing with the Christian narcissist.

  4. Rachel S says:

    What a great message! Hits me personally because I believe my long term boyfriend falls under these things, and I’m struggling with what to do.

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