Not Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

Narcissism is certainly one of those concepts that make so much sense when you first hear about them that you want to apply them everywhere.  Suddenly everyone has a narcissist in their lives.  It’s a little like the popular disease everyone is learning about on the internet.  In just a short time, cases of that disease are found everywhere.  It’s almost an epidemic.

There are two reasons for this phenomenon.  First, there really are more cases of the disease out there than what was previously understood and the revelation of the symptoms has helped people know what is happening to them.  That may well be the case with narcissism.  There are more cases than we have realized and now we have a name for the problem.

But sometimes the desire for categorizing our problems overrides our caution to assign a label.  In other words, we want so badly to understand what’s wrong that we jump on anything that looks close to what we are suffering.  “It must be influenza, because I feel so sick.”  Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.  This is one reason the professionals are so stingy with their diagnoses.  You might just have a cold or a stomachache.

In the same way, not everyone who exhibits narcissistic behavior is a narcissist.  Sometimes people are just mean.  Things might be happening in the person’s life or in your relationship which lead to cruel behavior or secrecy or attempts to control—all of which could be seen as narcissistic.

Occasionally I get an email or a comment on the blog and I find myself doubting that the person is really describing narcissism.  There’s no way for me to know, of course, without asking a bunch of questions.  Yet, I want to make sure to say that not everything that is mean is narcissistic and not only narcissists exhibit narcissistic behavior.

If you are arguing with someone who seems particularly dense and unwilling to yield, that person might not be a narcissist and it won’t help to call him/her one.  I have consistently advised people in narcissistic relationships to avoid using the word because it so often backfires.  Another good reason is that you may be wrong.

However, there is nothing wrong with learning how to deal with narcissistic behavior and educating yourself so that you know what you are dealing with.  There’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself against abuse.  There’s nothing wrong with finding support from others who have been through difficult relationships.  And sometimes it really is narcissism.


Not all who manipulate, not all who abuse, not all who are cruel, not all who hide, not all who hate, not all who are angry, not all who cause pain, not all who boast, not all who lie, not all who threaten, not all who cheat, not all who are absent or abandon or scapegoat or project or gaslight . . . are narcissists.

If several of these are present in your abuser, then it will be very helpful for you to begin to understand narcissism.  But you don’t have to diagnose or label.  Your primary goal should be your safety and health, and the same for those in your care.  Get the help you need, whether your offender is a narcissist or not.

If, someday, someone tells you that your person is not a narcissist, that’s okay.  You can handle that.  They could be wrong or they could be right.  The label doesn’t matter.  The behavior matters.  Your safety and health matter.


Filed under Narcissism

7 responses to “Not Narcissist?

  1. Leslie

    I agree but I believe a strong indicator is also a long standing pattern of behavior,
    Never taking ownership for serious and unsafe behaviors as well as delusional
    Thinking patterns. I do have psych and social reports that indicate my x has
    Most of the characteristics of a npd.
    It is sad!

  2. E

    Thank you for acknowledging that someone can be mean without being pathological. Sometimes a narcissistic person may enjoy being labeled simply because they think it absolves them of taking responsibility for their behavior. “See, I had a disorder all along and no one understands me. I can’t help it, I can’t control it. Deal with it.”

    I think it was good to mention that we are also allowed to stay away from hurtful or unsafe people even if they don’t fit certain criteria for a disease. Sometimes people are just really mean, have no fruits of the spirit, and sabotage relationships. Just because someone isn’t a narcissist doesn’t mean we should accept hurtful and cruel behavior from them. Well said Pastor Dave.

    For the record, my counselor believes my mother has BPD and not NPD. I still choose to maintain my distance from her, even though she hasn’t been formally diagnosed.

  3. Carol

    I have read several places that narcissism exhibits on a scale from mild to severe or that its really natural human self centeredness we all have only to an extreme. But like you said in another post — maybe its just evil. We also may be seeing more of it because were in the last days, the Bible predicted many of the traits in 2Tim 3:1-5

    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. And from such people turn away!

    Don’t you just love the God’s word, it even tells us what to do about them!


  4. UnForsaken

    Excellent caution, Pastor Dave. Our culture seems to want to “box” everyone with a definition…. it becomes second nature. And our actions should usually be the same, no matter what we think they are.
    Note to self: safety and health, for me and those in need . Thanks!

  5. Carolyn

    Thank you, Pastor Dave for this thoughtful post. I remember being so confused by all the behaviors, and after we were divorced…trying to figure out what kind of person acts like this? I remember searching on the internet and typing into the search bar: manipulative, liar, deceitful, and time after time the word Narccissist came up. I had never even known what it really meant, except for the fabled story. You are right. It doesn’t really matter what we call or label it. We need to focus on the behaviors that cause all of the pain and destruction. We have to tell ourselves that it is NOT ok to lie, to cheat, to use others, to blame others, to put others down and belittle them. Think about all the things that we have accepted from our N during the relationship for the sake of keeping the peace or tring to preserve the relationship.

    Thank you too for reminding us that we need to keep ourselves out of harms way from those people who care only about themselves. I am so thankful that God opened a door for me to walk through when the time was right. Praise God for His protection and love!

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