It’s Narcissist Friday!  

A secret is a thing of power.

Hidden away behind the wall, camouflaged against discovery, a secret is kept. Layers of deception and misdirection, hazards and pitfalls in the path, all to dissuade the curious and thwart the investigator. The one who finds the secret finds something of the life of the one who hid it.

Recently the protective lid has been lifted from some well-known Christian ministries and the stench of the long-hidden secret has been exposed. The aged strata of performance and legalist ideals has finally given way to pressures from those whose lives have been touched by the secrets. The battle to keep them covered is being lost.

And now, as the truth is revealed, the secrets have become things of weakness. Their existence shouts of lies and compromises and begs for more questions. What else is hidden, we wonder.

Narcissism thrives in a culture of secrets. Many of the stories I have heard have involved secrets. Secret bank accounts, secret spending, secret relationships. Added to those are the vague histories of past jobs and marriages. I remember one man who somehow failed to tell his wife that she was really his third, not his second, and that there was a child from the first. Some have had secret families and secret apartments. Lies and avoidance cover up truth so that the secret remains hidden.

I think it is fair to mention secrets as a generally common characteristic of narcissists and legalists. Neither want the reality of their lives exposed. Both fear exposure above almost anything. Both promote an image of themselves as reality, so that others will not look for the truth. Both believe that others will judge them negatively if the whole truth was revealed. So secrets are important.

It is not a coincidence that the narcissist and the legalist both seem to want to know the secrets of others. When the young lady meets the narcissist boy, she notices that he listens to everything and asks all about her life. She is impressed and touched at his sensitivity and attention. Later she finds that he remembers details and uses them to accuse her or manipulate her. He gathered her secrets because secrets are things of power.

The legalist preacher often knows details about the lives of the people in his church that others do not know. Through counseling or confession, he has harvested secrets and remembers those secrets when he wants to control the people. I have known pastors who use that information in the pulpit (without names, of course) just to play with their power.

I suspect that the more a person has to hide, the more interested he/she is in the secrets of others. They are distractions from what the narcissist has hidden and they are weapons that can be produced in threatening times. They make the narcissist feel better about himself. Because he knows what he has hidden, he takes comfort in knowing that others have hidden things as well.

I also suspect that the more a person has to hide, the more that person will act out with lesser secrets. Many narcissists hide chunks of time or money. Opportunities to be anonymous or without accountability make them feel stronger. Small or unnecessary deceptions may be tests to see if the real secret is still safe or if the power to conceal is still there. If these lesser secrets are discovered, the narcissist acts as though they are unimportant.

Perhaps it should be noted that the primary secret the narcissist hides might not be all that big. Most hide feelings experienced in times of weakness or fear. Like the girl who lives in fear that someone would find and read her diary even though she has written nothing in it that anyone would care about, so the narcissist may not be hiding anything you or I would think to be of value. Just because a husband leaves work an hour early, but returns home at the usual time, that does not offer proof of a secret lover or evil hobby. At the same time, the deception is understandably disconcerting to his wife.

If you already believe yourself to be in relationship with a narcissist, you may find this characteristic of secrets to be part of that relationship. You may even choose to ignore it or adapt to it, as long as it does not endanger you or your family. While narcissists need the attention of people, they usually find the presence of people to be draining and threatening. The narcissist might need time without the expectations of others in order to continue to function in relationships. Secrets provide space and separation.

However, if you are wondering about the person in your relationship and you see this tendency toward secrets, along with other narcissistic characteristics, those secrets may help you decide what your battle really is about. If you have suddenly realized that the new boyfriend knows everything about you and your family, while you know little about him or his, you should certainly reconsider the relationship. The way a person handles secrets may reveal far more than he or she wants you to know.


Filed under Legalism, Narcissism

19 responses to “Secrets

  1. Fellow Survivor

    The rages, unreasonable demands, and other childish behavior I could handle. The lies, deception, obfuscation, and deceit I could not. In the end it was the lies that destroyed my marriage.

    • Carolyn

      Fellow Survivor…I agree with you completely. I can tolerate a lot…but the manipulation, deceit, and lies – that would never stop – destroyed our marriage. 6 months after our divorce I found out that he lied to me while we were dating when he told me that he had never cheated (he had in fact cheated on both of his ex-wives). He wrote the ending to marriage before it even started. My life is now calm, happy and totally devoid of liars….I am so thankful to Christ for removing me from that terribly destructive and hurtful relationship.

      • Fellow Survivor

        Carolyn, my x also cheated on me when we were dating. I knew something was not right those many years ago, but I wanted to be trusting and not jealous. If they just were more honest “yea, right” we never would have married them in the first place.

  2. Penny

    “I suspect that the more a person has to hide, the more interested he/she is in the secrets of others”. This is brilliant, Pastor Dave, something to be added to the “Red Flags of Narcissism” file. Beware the person who wants too much information [TMI], too soon, and seems to “care” too much. No wonder N’s choose those who are trusting…..

  3. Betrayed Friend

    I have a “close” friend who I now believe to be a narcissist; she knows much more about me than I do about her. I didn’t realize that fact until it was too late. She uses my “secrets” now to manipulate me and make me feel bad about myself. My husband and other family members have asked why I continue a relationship with her. In some ways, I feel bad for her. I know she is hurting deep inside and that is my “weakness.” I have decided to take my “weakness” elsewhere and have started volunteering and helping children in my community who need someone. Their smiles light up my heart.
    God Bless You All!

    • Maggie

      I like what you have written here Betrayed Friend. It is a wonderful use of a beautiful gift…the gift you refer to as a weakness. Certainly I understand the context from which you write and I can relate to it all too well. I have come to understand it is actually a strength rather than a weakness, …maybe you too??? Thank you for sharing.

  4. Well, I was one of those from whom the truth was concealed. I was told he had been divorced for 4 years when he asked me out, when in fact, it had only been 1 month or less. I was told I was wife #2 only to find out post separation that I was #3. The others were driven to emotional breakdowns. There were sooooo many lies…the big one “The one thing I hate is when people lie”….. I naively thought that meant that he loved the truth….wrong

    • Army–I found out after we were married that I was dating him before his divorce from wife #1 was final. I would NEVER have gone out with a guy who was still married, NEVER. I wonder sometimes if that is why our marriage was so bad–because God knew all along that he was actually committing adultery with me.
      BTW, we are separated, and I have spoken with both my counselor and my pastor about making that separation legal, with the likelihood that we will be divorced after the mandatory year waiting period unless God stops me from proceeding. I have realized that I simply cannot ever have peace and a sense of safety and security with him, unless God does a supernatural work in each of us. My pastor spoke with my counselor (with my permission), and has agreed to support a legal separation with the goal of divorce. He is also willing to take my petition to our session, and if he backs my decision, it is very likely that the session will also approve it, though there is a process to follow which might be grueling and tiring. However, my pastor has said that he wants to see me protected in the process so that no one condemns me for leaving the marriage but that everyone understands it was too much to ask me to continue to endure.
      I have found a really good counselor and I am thankful for him and his input, and for my pastor’s kindness and patience with me to arrive at this decision carefully. Today I have felt a kind of peace I haven’t known in a very, very long time.

      • I know this pain all too well. I am not a big believer in divorce. I had not planned on a divorce. When I escaped the abuse with my two children in tow, I had told my husband that I would support anything he needed to do to get help for the anger and anxiety. I told him I could not live like that, and that I would be staying with my mom for a while. I had scheduled counseling appointments for us in the past – he went to only one and just turned the whole thing into how unreasonable I was. The second time, he didn’t come – he was too busy “at the cow sale”.
        This time, I was going tough love and having him initiate his own healing for the sake of our family… He met me at the courthouse two weeks later with a complaint for divorce! The past 15 months has been composed of me defending the truth against lies that he tells over and over to various attorneys that he hires. I have gotten pretty good at defending the truth and trusting God.
        Adding deep religious conviction to the mix, and the guilt gets stirred up…I know that feeling too…I took a peek at your blog on google+…I absolutely love the title and your picture! Are you planning on blogging on wordpress too, or are you getting attached to google+?
        God loves YOU so much…you are His child….He does not want you to live in abuse…husbands are to cherish their wives and build them up, not tear them down and keep them as slaves…He knows your heart and what you have endured in hopes of saving a marriage and keeping a promise.

      • UnForsaken

        Repol, had to tell you how much I like you blog….and how Glad I am your pastor and counselor seem to understand. I pray this will continue and you will be able to keep your resolve. Your blog is a brave and generous move on your part. Thank you for sharing!! We all need truth!

  5. Maggie

    I was lied to from the beginning. In truth the lies about himself were perhaps the man he wanted to become, the man he knew God wanted him to become, PERHAPS. He was repulsed by men who were unfaithful and he shared war stories from time to time about men who actively pursued woman on business trips and how difficult it was for him to accept them as men of integrity thereafter, altering friendships, business relationships, etc… He was a good and faithful servant, so it appeared, leading our family. He was gone all the time with honest scheduled business travel. He provided, he coached, and then there were periods of emotional distancing, no physical touch, anger…all of which he took responsibility for and tried again the next day. And those times got more and more frequent when he could not keep his double life a secret any longer. 24 years in to marriage, I discover he is not who he says he is. He is an active sex addict for over 44 yrs, began at 10 and has never been without the addiction/double life for as long as I knew him and 4 children later. Crossed the flesh, carried on phone relationships, had an acting out partner in every “port”.

    Some may read this or hear my story and wonder about me. To that , I write, there is nothing wrong with me and never was. Now I have deep trauma to overcome but that is in God’s Hands and I am healing with tremendous support and God’s Grace…I am humbled and stronger and more surrendering than ever before..there are some silver linings. None of this deception, lying, addiction, N is mine or the children’s. Jesus came for the sinner so even he can have freedom if he chooses it…so far not choosing and that is his loss.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    • HDG

      Maggie, a lot of your story is very familiar to me. My N ex boyfriend raged on and on about unfaithful spouses and golddiggers. His favorite statements hurled at me anger when I CAUGHT him lying to me were: do not question my integrity! if you are a Christian you’ll forgive me! the past is the past(it wasn’t- IT WAS THE PRESENT). Early on when I was blinded by his con-artist(isn’t that a form of sin?) charm he asked if I had any regrets. I’ve tried to be a good person but who doesn’t regret something they’ve said or done? ONLY NARCISSIST!! He would use the slightest thing belittle/shame me while hiding his own ‘dirty’ secrets. When I heard from “outsiders” about his past it was all explained as “satan working through jealous liars to destroy our relationship.” It wasn’t until the abuse (he also went online to see what my property is worth…hmm) happened to me that I saw through the lies,secrets and omissions.I “called him out on it” and broke up with him. Did he admit-ask for forgiveness -regret? NO!! He simply and immediately moved on to the next victim…..You’re right it is his CHOICE.

      • HDG

        Please excuse any ‘typos’/ even after all these months the pain still brings tears to my eyes-makes it hard to type. My heart has been broken and my trust stolen. Still recovering……..

      • Maggie

        I am sorry for your pain and you have my full empathy.I understand all to well what you are experiencing. I will keep you in my prayers, please pray for me . Thank you for referencing my comments…I know it was relatable to your story and likely others but in this aftermath it is a very affirming to know there are others out there who get it. This blog, Pastor Dave , all of you, just get it.
        A trusted friend quoted Churchill to me not so long ago. It may be a different quote than I recall but seared permanently on my brain are these words, “when you are walking through hell, keep walking.”

  6. HDG

    Thank you so much for your prayers and support. It is a great comfort to have this blog and to know that there are others out there who understand. You will be in my prayers. Hugs….

  7. Wow, this sure explains a lot

  8. UnForsaken

    HDG, “excuse typos”? Well, I guess I Like them, because they help us express what we are really saying…..and especially because I make so many! 🙂 It is affirming be here for a lot of reasons, including the fact it doesn’t have to be a “perfect”, controlled environment by our Ns!

    Maggie, thanks for the quote.

    Have been praying for you Both!

  9. Rebecca W

    Your posts are always helpful, thank you.

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