(This blog will be offline for a couple of weeks while I travel. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. Feel free to comment or ask questions. I will be able to respond when I return.)
More on the connection between legalism and narcissism…
I suppose the two feed each other. The narcissist must control the way others see him. He must excel in his own eyes. He must have ways of measuring himself against others and coming out on top. Legalism offers a great opportunity for the narcissist—under the guise of being spiritual.
On the other hand, the legalist must focus on himself. The whole idea is the measurement and accomplishment of spiritual progress. As he focuses on himself (in a task which can never be complete) he cannot empathize with the struggles of others. Instead, he sees others as a means to build his own image. If he can control his family, he will look good. If he can manipulate things in his church, he will feel better for his association with it. Legalism is all about serving the flesh.
Narcissism is a technical diagnostic word in psychology and should be used carefully by the rest of us, no matter how popular it is becoming. That’s why I prefer to talk about “image addiction” as narcissism relates to believers and church relationships. Those who suffer from image addiction have an obsession with the image they project to others. They will lie, manipulate, and even attack to protect and build up their image.