Narcissistic Legalists?

(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. 



Filed under Legalism, Narcissism

4 responses to “Narcissistic Legalists?

    • awalshe

      Why so one-sided in your commentary on Narcissism and legalism?
      Shouldn’t we as Christians be seeking ways or healing programmes to HELP people out of these terrible and complex syndromes? You say that you have no sympathy for them because many people have come from difficult backgrounds whereas many Narcissists have come from wealthy or cosseted backgrounds. However you do go on to say that Narcissists have been abandoned or neglected…. Abandonment and neglect in childhood, whether rich or poor, is one of the most deep and terrible kinds of wound that anyone can ever experience, which is why it has such a far-reaching and detrimental effect on a person’s character. Yes, these narcissists ARE victims and are still suffering until they can find the grace from God to be transformed. And yes, I do agree that this requires that the Narcissist becomes accountable and responsible for their own behaviours. Also, I agree that unhealed Narcissists can cause a lot of hurt and pain to others around them and that they are very difficult to deal with, but is there not hope for the suffering( and usually self-alienating) Narcissist to find freedom from this terrible condition through Christ?

      • There’s always hope, and it can be done from a distance. It is easy to feel bad for narcissists, particularly if you have never been in a relationship with one. This is a little like scolding someone who is having a hard time forgiving an abuser. Those on the outside are always stronger and find it easier to be sympathetic to the abuser.

        I am not sure what you are referring to in most of this comment. I almost didn’t approve it because you seem to be addressing something not in this post. I certainly have not said that we are not to have sympathy for the narcissist. I have said, in several ways, that our sympathy for them is a tool they will manipulate and will open us to more abuse. Those who are being abused should not be expected to sympathize with the abusers.

        There are counselors who work with narcissists. It takes special skill and strength to work with them, because they are manipulative and deceitful. I have had narcissists comment here, posing as victims. Uneducated sympathy can be abused.

        I have always taught that narcissistic behavior is a choice. It may have become the default mode for a person because of how long and how often it has been chosen, but it is still a choice and can be unchosen and unlearned. The Lord’s call to all people is to choose Him and His love, to trust just enough for Him to begin to break through the hardened walls of the heart. Narcissists can find deliverance and peace in Him, just like anyone else.

        Please read the many other posts here and the amazing comments. You will learn the struggles people have had and the pain they have suffered. Many have left narcissistic relationships and still wish they could do something to help the narcissists of their lives. Many are still in their situations because they believe the Lord wants them to stay and try to help. Yes, some are angry, but I hope you can understand that. In general, I have found the people who come here to be far more gracious and forgiving than I expected.

        And I hope that you never have to live in a relationship with a narcissist who uses you to further his or her pursuit of the image. It is a blessing to not understand the pain some have gone through for so many years. And, if you do ever go through that, I hope you can find a group like this, where people believe your story and understand the needs of your heart. I hope you find support from people who see you as valuable and worth defending.

  1. awalshe

    Thanks for your reply.

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