A Reminder

Not everyone who is cruel is a narcissist.  Not everyone with whom we disagree is a narcissist.  While it is helpful for us to have a category by which we can try to understand the crazy-makers of our lives, narcissism is a rather specific designation.  So it is important to be reminded occasionally of the actual definition of narcissism.

About once a year I like to repost a definition that I think is helpful.  New readers may see narcissism more clearly in the person(s) they deal with, or they may decide this has been a wrong track.  Either way, I think it is good for us to have something that helps to keep us on track.  

So, here you go…


What is a narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

Unfortunately the meanings of words adapt to common usage.  A narcissist used to be someone who fit a certain psychological pattern determined by a set of established guidelines.  The American Psychiatric Association publishes a manual referred to as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  The DSM-4 (edition 4) used nine criteria to determine whether a person suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1.      Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2.      Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3.      Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4.      Requires excessive admiration

5.      Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

6.      Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7.      Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8.      Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

9.      Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

– From Wikipedia

However, psychiatrists are notoriously stingy with assigning labels to people.  What if someone has only four of these indications?  What he or she has seven, but not quite as strongly as stated?  What if three are overt but several more are covert?  And what if the patient is particularly adept at covering or compensating for these indications?

Nina Brown has written several books in which she describes people who don’t necessarily fit the technical definition of a narcissist, but who still exhibit the general pattern and hurt themselves and others.  She calls it “Destructive Narcissistic Pattern.”  I recommend her books.

Using Brown’s information and the above APA guidelines, I have put together a list of narcissistic tendencies that we can use to begin to understand these people.  Now, I don’t think it is wise or helpful to call someone a narcissist for several reasons.  First, they may enjoy it too much.  Second, if they disagree you will start an argument and you will lose (because you always lose).  Third, they will begin to consume books on narcissism either to understand themselves or to prove you wrong or both.  Fourth, others will disagree with you based on their perception of the great person to whom you are referring.  No, just keep it to yourself.  Understanding will help you, not so much them.

He or she might be narcissistic if:

  1.  He cannot bear to lose an argument.  She will change the discussion, the subject, the rules.  He will become angry, threatening, demeaning, etc.  She simply cannot be wrong unless it is someone else’s fault.
  2. She has no sense of your personal boundaries.  What’s hers is hers and what’s yours is hers.  He sits at your desk, uses your things, and may even touch you in unwelcome ways.
  3. After working with him on a project, you feel used.  She takes credit for what you do.  The more you work with him, the more you realize that he doesn’t do as much as you thought.
  4. He talks about himself all the time, yet you don’t really feel like you know him.  She never asks how you are or about things that are important to you.  It’s all about him.
  5. He is full of big stories that make him look good, but his accomplishments in other places don’t match what you see at work.  She has all kinds of great plans and her schedule is full, but you don’t often see her doing anything significant.
  6. He is often angry, especially with others who don’t do what he thinks they should.  She claims to be the victim of abuses of others, but you haven’t seen them being mean to her.
  7. His words and his behavior are quite different.  He ridicules and derides others, then does the same thing himself.  She knows unkind information about everyone, but can’t seem to remember important or simple things about them.
  8. He believes he is better than others, that no one measures up to his standards, particularly bosses and other leaders.  Yet, he never expresses this to them.  She thinks others envy her and judge her unfairly, yet she does the same thing.
  9. She expects you to notice her hair or clothing, but never comments positively on yours unless she wants you to do something for her.  He shows off his watch, his car, his wife, or something, and has no interest in yours.  His kids are the greatest at everything and he has no idea whether or not you have kids.
  10. He has no qualms about calling you at inconvenient times to ask you to do difficult or inappropriate things for him.  He shows up to help you just as the job is finishing, then acts like he was helping all along.  She is very good at volunteering for a job and then getting you or someone else to do it for her, perhaps begging off at the last minute with some lame excuse.

These are all narcissistic characteristics and this list can change.  Several people probably came to your mind as you read them.  As with other tests, the more of these things that are observed in a person, the more likelihood that person could be classified as a narcissist.  Basically, the narcissist is concerned about himself and not about you.  In fact, she may not even fully understand that you are a real person with a life and concerns of your own.

Again, remember that this classification is for you.  Once you understand what is happening, what kind of person you are dealing with, you will be better able to handle the frustration you find rising up in you.  Anything you learn about the narcissist is for you.


Filed under Narcissism

27 responses to “A Reminder

  1. Janet

    These 10 characteristics are absolutely so spot on its down right scary. You just described my former “best friend”, I say “friend” because I realize she never was. I confess I have been extremely angry with the Lord for the last several months, because He simply WILL NOT do anything about her behavior. He is letting her go, scott free, while He is rewuiring much of me, as He has for the last 6 years. He is calling us higher, not to be held at their level, but to RISE UP, come up hither, don’t be at their level. God is indeed using these creatures to change US.

  2. Maya

    Thank you very much, Pastor Dave, for this reminder. I agree the term is overused these days mainly because our society is extremely selfish and wicked. Our nation has pushed God aside, removed Him from government, schools and everything else, except the church. However, increasingly some denominations are bending to political correctness and embracing what the Word calls abominations. The focus of our nation is clearly on the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Therefore, I believe we are tending to label people as narcissistic when they are actually just a product of the prevailing culture and have never known Jesus.
    I also agree it’s a big mistake to call a narcissist a narcissist to his face. For those who are actually stuck in a relationship with a narcissist, it will never be productive. It is difficult to know exactly how evil narcissism is unless one has been in a long-term battle with such a person. I have said it before…the very best thing to do is stay away from them.

    • I agree generally with what you say, but also think that God has in large part been removed from the church, and I’m not referring to dead ritual or social clubs with a Christian label, am referring to the steady inflow of those who exhibit a very high percentage of these narcissistic tendencies into leadership positions of the church. It’s getting to where one can’t swing a stick through most churches today without hitting two or three people who refer to themselves as “pastors” or “elders” who are conscienceless narcissists.

  3. dombeckblog

    Thank you. Where blogs and videos on narcissistic abuse can be very helpful to victims, I see an unhealthy trend occurring. Calling out the narcissist has become a tiresome witch hunt. It’s time consuming and frustrating sorting through the tripe and nonsense of hidden agendas from those who just got jilted by a lover, or tearfully tattle on a parent, rat out a co-worker or bitterly complain about a spoiled sibling from the genuine sources of information that can explain, by example, what happened and how to recover from serious abuse. I just want to heal. I don’t want to dish and gossip.

    I’ve become so incensed by the fashionable overuse and underestimated meaning of the word narcissist, or “MN” I choose rather to say Plutonian (from the underworld), and I claim no narc. There are too many. Plutonian is cheeky. And I seek humor and irony in the most dire of circumstance. Some things remain unexplainable, like, “Where did they come from and where are they going?” And that’s OK. In fact, I don’t care.

    Finding the right vocabulary is the only way to share valuable information. You provide that. Definition, definition. You’ve demonstrated an honest and even keel. I depend on and look forward to your blog as a reliable source of honest information for continued healing. Again, thank you.

    Rock on survivors!

  4. Penny

    “Now, I don’t think it is wise or helpful to call someone a narcissist for several reasons…. they will begin to consume books on narcissism either to understand themselves or to prove you wrong or both….No, just keep it to yourself. Understanding will help you, not so much them.”
    This is spot on, and I learned the hard way not to tell the N’s pastor, either. The pastor “counseled” the N, and like so many un-skilled, naive, in-over-their-head “pastor-counsellors”, HE told her & then blamed it on me.
    Ps. Dave, isn’t the counsellor supposed to guide the client to self-awareness, rather than spoon-feed a diagnosis, & watch it backfire?
    This particular pastor broke confidentiality so many times & in so many ways that had he actually been a licensed therapist he would’ve been guilty of malpractice. Nearly everything I shared with him in confidence, he then told the N, thus creating a nuclear war, rather than holding the wolf accountable or negotiating peace. He made my life infinitely worse.
    This same pastor then lectured me on forgiveness and appeasement strategies.
    Pastor Dave, you are the rare pastor who is both wise in the Word & skilled in counseling.
    Thank you.

    • Penny – The real problem here is the pastor, who is possibly not the ignorant dupe you think but a wolf himself who seldom wastes an opportunity to set people off against each other. I’d tread very lightly with him in the future.

      • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee

        I agree with you, “Tired of NPD pastors.” My late father was a pastor and he also had many NPD characteristics. He sounded so holy in the pulpit telling everyone else how to live. But behind closed doors, it was a nightmare.

        My Bible thumping preacher wannabe mother was even worse.

  5. Cecilia K

    It’s been 2 1/2 years since my NBF and I broke up, and also since I learned about narcissism (through GFMH), and thus began the healing process. I remember the feeling of this burden dropping from my shoulders as the lightbulb turned on and grew brighter and brighter, and all the confusion and craziness from the previous two years finally began to make sense—and I finally found assurance that I was not the problem, or at least, the primary problem.

    Not All of the characteristics fit him, but enough did that I thought it reasonable to say he at least behaves narcissistically in general, even if he might not be clinically diagnosable as a narcissist. It just felt so good to finally have a name for what I had been dealing with and so perplexed by—why this man would say he loved me but didn’t act like it.

    I thank the Lord for leading me to this online community; I thank Pastor Dave for answering the Lord’s call to this ministry; and I thank all the other folks who have shared their testimonies here, as well as their wisdom. In addition to naming the problem, realizing I am not alone has also helped tremendously in my healing.

    • Cecilia K

      I also credit Pastor Dave and the GMFH community for helping me not get back together with my ex. It has been hard at times, but I just keep reminding myself of all the cautions that the Ns never (or at least, very rarely) change, and they will be all sweet, charming and apologetic to win you back, but once they establish trust and sense that you feel safe again, things will just go back to the way they were.

      Well, I haven’t received any apologies since our final break-up, but I do believe he has made subtle attempts to get us back together, although he won’t admit that’s what he’s doing (he hasn’t actually said he wants to reconcile), and although I have been weak at times and come close to pursuing that, I have ultimately resisted the temptation, thanks to the Lord, Pastor Dave, and all of you.

  6. Cecilia K

    I liked the movie, “Spanglish”, from the first time I saw it, but I think I had trouble “buying” Tea Leoni’s character (although she is never actually called a “narcissist” in the film, it’s pretty apparent that’s what she is). Just couldn’t imagine anyone actually behaving like that. A few nights ago, I watched it for the first time, I think, since I learned about narcissism. Now I get it, and I can relate so much better. It’s unbelievable and believable at the same time.

  7. Rebecca

    Dave, what is the difference between a narcassist and what the Bible says is a fool? I’ve recently read a book entitled “Foolproofing your life” and it seems that a N and a fool are the same thing, however, the word fool doesn’t seem to do justice. Thoughts?

  8. Penny

    I would also like to add that if the Narc “fails” in all of the above, he/she will inevitably resort to the “pity party”.
    The “poor, pitiful, woe-is-me, pity party”:
    The weepy-puddle-on-the-floor pity party.
    The crocodile-tears-drama-Queen-Oscar-worthy pity party.
    The pity party that Marrha Stout warns us is the simplest way to discern the sociopath, i.e.: the narcissist.
    My narc recently resorted to this last-ditch, hail-Mary ploy the other day, exclaiming how she “cries herself to sleep every nite” & “I love you” & “boo hoo, please call me” & “I love you so much”. Sniffles, snort, boo hoo. Gag.
    Never mind that she didn’t cry herself to sleep last summer when my son had a catastrophic accident & nearly died & had 15 surgeries in 5 weeks.
    Never mind that she didn’t cry herself to sleep when his leg was amputated.
    Never mind that she didn’t cry herself to sleep when he was on life support and not expected to live.
    Never mind that she never once came to see her own grandson when he was suffering.
    Never mind that she didn’t cry herself to sleep when my other son nearly died at birth, and wasn’t expected to live and spent 130 days in the NICU.
    Never mind that she didn’t cry herself to sleep when I nearly died during childbirth.
    Never mind that she never donated blood or brought a meal or even sent a card.
    No….the narcissist has no empathy for others, not even their own flesh & blood.
    What little empathy they have is spent on themselves, never on you or on others.
    Their tears are for themselves.
    Their empathy is for themselves.
    Everything they are and everything they do is always, only & forever about themselves.
    So spare me the crocodile tears & the drama & the fake suffering designed to be the center of the universe and to take the focus off the true suffering of others.
    Narcissists are cruel, evil, toxic, self absorbed & hollow. There is no “there” there. They have dark hearts & empty souls.
    This is why I went “No Contact”.
    There is nothing left to say or do when it comes to narcissism.
    I left the circus, never to return…to flying monkeys, trained seals or chained, abused elephants.
    Can I get an amen?

    • Janet

      You certainly get an AMEN from me!! I still struggle with God about it. Why does He not call them to account??!! He certainly did ME!! He crushed my spirit over my sins and errors in the narc relationship. But her? Just as you say it here, the pity partys, the poor little me, the gathering of more people to “minister” to her poor little broken self. Not one thought to the people she has used, accused, abused, lied about, gossiped about, deceived and manipulated, and is still doing, all the while raising her hands in worship every week. I just cannot understand why there is no ACCOUNTABILITY for these people as there is for the rest of us??!!

      • Penny

        I am with you on that.
        I have more questions than answers about the very things you raise.
        I long ago gave up on pious platitudes & “Sunday School” answers & Christian cliches.
        The only thing I know is that He sees….He knows. He IS a God of Justice.
        To borrow a line from the Civil War novel, “Cold Mountain” :
        “there will be a reckoning. In this life or the next, there WILL be a reckoning”.


      • Mark

        I can give you a bit of how it worked for me. I have some narcissistic tendencies, and I grew up in a church that was a breeding ground for narcissistic leaders. I was on the leadership track for a brief time, and I loved the affirmation and care give me. That changed when I moved to an abusive church that saw me as a threat. God subjected me to about 15 years of abuse at the hands of spiritual leaders, and I believe God was showing me what it would have looked like for my victims if I had remained on the leadership track. I realized it was the same naive, black and white judgmentalism I used to have that I was a victim of, and I was experiencing the next generation of narcissist young people getting groomed to be abusive leaders.

        I continue to realize that, while I have knowledge and wisdom, the key characteristic for spiritual leaders is LOVE, and having never really experienced that, I have a lot of hard work ahead if that’s what God wants for me.

      • Janet

        Wow Mark, thank you for your openess and honesty! That is very insightful and helpful!

      • Because God corrects/disciplines those whom He loves, those whom He’s working on towards a greater purpose. The person who is totally given over to evil–and it’s hard to envision one completely lacking empathy and caring only about themselves being anything other than one with a “seared conscience” as described in the Bible–He often just lets go on their way. One thing that gives me hope is a number of abusive, high profile ministry leaders have recently been exposed and lost their positions. Things just don’t always happen on our preferred timeframes.

    • Maya

      Amen, sister!

    • UnForsaken


      The pity party method is definitely one of the things I’d add to this list. And neglect. And putting “spin” on everything/creating their own reality. Really a lot of these have to do with not taking responsibility of any kind. My N has succeeded at duping everyone I’ve ever known, and myself for almost thirty years, based on the fact he looks so responsible. I needed to see that we – his family – were giving him the credit by our taking responsible actions and then praising him to keep the peace. He is also highly functional in the sense that he does work hard….but not without complaining or making it sound worse than it is. Everything spins out of “control” and he throws scenes even if We do make the best of things! It’s always us, never him. Aha. That’s a Narc.

      I’m so terribly sorry for your sons accident, Penny! I wondered if you were really busy and kept praying for you. Thank you for sharing. I will be praying for his continued recovery. ❤

      As a child when I landed in hospital, my N could have dined for weeks off the story of how he got me there. But he wasn't emotionally there for me. He did the same with a life-threatening experience he ( and we ) went through, almost drooling at all the gory details. Yes, he got over it pretty well by Using praise to God for our deliverance, and never feeling a pang for the injured or the person who died and their family. He claimed the experience as HIS, not theirs, and 'rejoiced in it'. When we are just talking about/communicating about something going south for us ( not him ),he tends to cheerfully say "that's life" as if we should get real. Yep, he's seen it all and is a man of the world all right, but if so, why is it when it really happens to him he falls apart at the smallest thing?! Aha. That's a …. 😉

      • Penny

        Thank you, Unforsaken & Tired: I just saw this, and truly appreciate your prayers.
        Life has been…..unpredictable…at best….this past year. My son has survived something that would have killed most, and all he ever got from his narc GM was a ridiculous, “humorous” card that minimized his suffering and made her the center of the universe.
        I now have not 1, but 2, adult children with special needs, and my narc has literally “dined for weeks” off the convenient “pipeline” she exploited for her own needs, but never for theirs. She is quite simply SO toxic that there was no other resolution than the entire family to go NC, for everyone’s health and sanity.
        Yes, her conscience is seared, and I agree that many Pastors have seared consciences as well; it seems some actually enjoy twisting the process of “reconciliation” into a shaming, blaming, guilt-tripping farce. Even when I shared things in confidence, and laid the ground rules upfront, the pastor clearly violated confidentiality and thus I became the scapegoat. Again. The unforgiving, bitter, grudge-holding scapegoat.
        I. Am. Done.

  9. Thanks for the reminder. I read through the first set of criteria and think “Well, most of these. Am I being too critical?” Then I read the second set and think “I recognize all those. No, I’m not exaggerating or making things worse than they are. It really is that bad.” Sad how it’s a relief. They really are crazy-makers.

    • Janet

      It seems that Narcissists in the body of Messiah just seem to always be believed, their deceptions work with leadership and with those who have never been close to them. They seem to get away with murder while those who know them well have to suffer in silence and watch with gall. It seems that God doesn’t discipline them, like He does us for any ill will or wrong behavior. The Bible says that God disciplines those He loves and chastens every son He receives. Could it be that Narcissists are not His own but tares?

      • Penny

        Yes, & very insightful of you!
        My N will soon be 92, and (in efforts to shame me) frequently wails, “how much longer do you think you will have me?”.
        The real question is “how long will it take you to repent?”
        But she won’t repent b/c she isn’t His.
        She has created an idol of her false, perfect self, and she has sacrificed everything to worship at that altar.

  10. Anyone

    I have always known that something wrong within me – with the way I act and treat others in my life. Reading this blog certainly let me know I’m a narcissist, but I’m not happy about it. I can’t help the way I feel good playing with others people – or like you say “life-sucking”. But I’m sure a part of me always feel guilty about it. I have tried to stop myself from that personality of mine but after awhile I shall back to black and the feeling of manipulating people pleases me so much. I did take on many “preys” but the moment they’re no longer suitable for my needs, I will dump them without second thought – I once dumped more than one girl because they cut their hair short, and I don’t feel like they’re pretty enough for me anymore, especially when I only considered them as my trophies, a decorations for my conquers. I admit I am despicable, but I don’t know how to change, I can’t help being what I am. Even now some good part left in me starting to scare because I know I will never be able to love anyone, and I won’t get any younger as well, there’s possibility that I might end up alone and I don’t want that. Sometimes as you said, a narcissist actually need help 😦

  11. Dear Pastor and Friends, i can’t help but to believe that narcs are the persecution vehicles of us western saints. But i know this: when the Pharisees ran their (covert) foul traps at Jesus, He didn’t hang around, but instead went His way, about His Father’s business. Went the ultimate (eternal) NO-CONTACT! Leaving those terribly deluded smart-aleks to their …ugh fate. Unfortunately too many churches, while preaching that we are to be like our Lord, basically don’t exposit enough concerning Jesus encountering narcs (Pharisees – who dissed/ditched their wives, for no better reason than reaching 40 – with a few extra pounds on board). Love this blog.

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