Narcissists Who “Care”

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


A recent comment exposed the almost unbelievable fact that many narcissists work in caring professions. That means they are doctors, nurses, pastors, counselors, social workers, police, teachers, attorneys, etc. These are the people we turn to when we need help. These are the professions we have been taught to trust. When we discover that someone who is supposed to “care” for us instead wants to use us for his/her own purposes, we feel both confused and betrayed.

Of course, there is an element of control in most helping professions. People in need come for help. In doing so, they are already submissive. They want to turn their lives and troubles over to someone else. They look to the pastor to get them right with God. They look to the doctor for a way to health. They look to a counselor to find the way to sanity or peace. Submissive or weakened people easily become supply for the narcissist. Those who love to control others, who need to control others, would find helping professions to be fertile fields.

Under the category of control, we also have to remember that most helping professions are hierarchical. That means there are authorities and there are workers. Narcissists will move quickly into positions of leadership so they can use others to do aspects of the job they don’t like.

Although we might not hear of them often, there are opportunities for carers to be recognized as heroes. The doctor who provides the cure or the life-saving surgery becomes a hero to the sufferer and his/her family. Police officers can become heroes. Nurses, counselors, and pastors provide timely encouragement and support in situations of great need. Narcissists love to be heroes. Some will work hard for that recognition. Others, of course, will claim it even if it isn’t true.

There’s something else, something we rarely talk about. Some would suggest that it is almost necessary for care-givers to depersonalize those with whom they work. The one who cares must go home without the problems of their clients or patients. The doctor and the nurse cannot take the pain and suffering home. They must learn to separate the person from the problem. Setting a child’s broken arm means the doctor has to cause significant pain to the child. Empathy must be pushed aside for a while, and the problem must be addressed. Counselors, pastors, and others must sometimes say things that hurt, in order to deal truthfully with a problem. Caring about the person can get in the way of solving the problem.

And narcissists do this naturally. This is why narcissists are often so good at their jobs in caring professions. They are able to think without regard to the suffering of the person. They can prioritize services and time and money in ways that make others struggle. Emergency care workers may be required to do triage among several patients, to determine which should or should not receive treatment, without worrying about the identities and situations of the dying. Doctors and counselors must often decide when to stop trying to help. This aspect of caring jobs would be easy for narcissists.

For the most part, people in need won’t care whether their “caring” person is a narcissist. They just want help. The caring professions offer a sort of symbiotic relationship. The narcissist only wants to be seen as superior and successful, while the sufferer only wants successful relief. Today many people don’t expect the doctor’s “bedside manner” to be kind. They just want him to perform well.

But the narcissists are still narcissists at home or with co-workers. The miracle-working “Dr. House” is still a jerk to the people around him. The great preacher abuses his staff and ignores his family. The honored policeman is on his third marriage. The wise counselor’s kids are addicts and delinquents. The “caring” is a performance, a job expectation, a way to recognition and appreciation. It does not come from the heart.


Filed under Narcissism

23 responses to “Narcissists Who “Care”

  1. Sandra C Martineau

    I would like to point out this also flows over to co-workers from the workers. Many, many years ago, I became sick while working in dialysis. I ended up Disabled. You would think the people I worked with who liked me, as far as I knew, would have been more supportive. They were not. Instead, I got snotty answers when I asked how they were…ess. mocking. Instead, I got crap. I got gossiped about. This went on for months as I got sicker and less able to perform my job. Until the day I had to take a medical leave. Then, suddenly, the worst offenders wanted to ‘do whatever they could.’ I never went back and I never returned their calls.

    • Jenni Moon

      It is always wise to distance yourself from those who abuse you wherever possible. Just be careful that you have truly moved on. This can only be done by forgiving. Otherwise you will find they move on to the next victim and you are still hurting raw. You remember, and enable the hurt to live on. I do hope you find you are able to process the trauma and finally let it go. For your own sake.

  2. Narcissists indeed are drawn to those professions where they can be in a position with expert knowledge, prestige, and leadership. Doctors, lawyers, psychologist, psychiatrists, pastors, professors, business leaders, PhDs of all sorts, etc. It makes them feel superior and entitled, and gives them excuses for acting without empathy or conscience. I help facilitate a support group in the affluent Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. All the women are lovely Christian women who tried for decades to make their marriages to these narcissistic/sociopathic civic “leaders” work. One poor woman in the support group shared that her husband of 43 years was the head of a department at a well-known hospital and threatened to tell all her friends and family she was crazy and to make sure that she was a penniless bag lady if she ever left him…so she stays. Another woman is married to a pastor and when she left, her entire church and family turned against her, so she returned…to the same abuse, of course. One woman was married to a psychologist, who is as narcissistic as they come. Another to a man who owned his own computer consulting business, and another women to a man who owned his own CPA firm. I was married to a successful businessman who never even attended church until I insisted that we go, and now he sits every Sunday in the first row at the church who refused to impose any church discipline at all when I went to them for help. However….eventually nearly all of these narcissists have had a huge fall from grace in their professional lives because of their narcissism. Most were fired from their high-paying jobs, passed over for promotions, or split from their business partners. In the end, others just don’t want to work with such horrible people. And we don’t want to be married to them either.

  3. Becky

    Pastor Dave is right on target: excellence on the job, heroism, depersonalization, lack of empathy. I’m going through a difficult divorce with my NH who is a high ranking law enforcement officer. He is very ambitious and successful in his career. He has excellent management skills and many commendations to attest to his faithful service. When we were first dating he described to me some of the more horrific situations he was called to as a younger officer. Most of his comrades were deeply troubled by them, but when I asked him if they bothered him he matter-of-factly said,”No”. I marveled that he could compartmentalize these things so easily and feel nothing, and I admit it bothered me a little. Now I realize it was a red flag warning. During our marriage I learned that he always has to be in control, both at home and at work. If you disagree with him, you are his enemy. His feeling are easily “hurt” but he doesn’t feel empathy for others. Any concern he has expressed for anyone else, even his wife and children, I’m convinced is simply a learned response – or a self-serving move to make him look like a good guy. For me, the take-away is this: when you meet a caring, heroic person, be cautious. Things might not always be what they seem.

    • Jenni Moon

      Well described. I take away : things are not always what they seem. We are called in the bible to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. Yes God does hate divorce, but he hates abusive marriages too. Marriage is supposed to be a picture of God’s love for the church. Abuse which is never ever sincerely repented of and ongoing, does not need to be tolerated.

    • Rachel

      So well put Becky.

  4. contendingearnestly

    My ex husband is a narcissist and is very successful at his job in the sales field, which, in large, is simply selling himself. He prides himself in his ability to manipulate and use the psychological principles and techniques of the con, such as mirroring. Basically he is a skilled narcissist con man, and he takes great pride in it. He absolutely does use everyone around him to his advantage and to do all the things he doesn’t like to do. Whenever there is a mistake or problem it is someone else’s fault, and he proclaims it loudly. He is threatened by anyone else’s success, of any kind, and purposefully sets out to undermine them, including his very own son. If you don’t go along with his agenda you are on his enemy list and he is out to destroy. His favorite sayings are, “It’s a dog eat dog world, everyone is out to ***** you so you might as well ***** them first!” and, “Deny, deny, deny, if they can’t prove it, they can’t prove it!”. If you work in the vicinity of a narcissist you are going to be used in some way to promote their success, that’s just the way it is.

  5. Pamela Kay Shalom

    WOW, what an eye opening post for me; as well as these additional comments. I have NEVER even considered this aspect of Narcissists. I have been too busy dealing with the number one person who shares my living space, who is retired now. THANK YOU, Pastor Dave, and all of you who have written further on this, for opening my eyes to this situation. This is very important to be aware of. I would have never thought of a Narcissist putting themselves in a caring profession. I am Grateful for this preventative insight and awareness !! Blessings…

  6. CM

    This is my experience. My husband is a pastor and a narcissist. I see him caring for others, going out of his way to meet needs, spending hours on the phone shoring people up, even once raking someone’s lawn when ours was covered with leaves. I know he is getting narcissistic supply from these things. While all this is going on he is neglecting his family. There are times when his indifference enrages me. When something significant happens and I feel abandoned, I do not know what to do with my intense inner anger. I have to go to God and ask for help. I struggle with this so much. I have been to counseling in the past and my counselor opened up my eyes to the true state of my relationship. I am in my sixties so this has been going on a long time. It would be so great to talk to another person and tell them my frustrations. I don’t do this because I don’t want to be a stumbling block to others in their relationship to God.

    • rj

      I have the same struggle, CM! My husband will make many sacrifices to care for the needs of others, while he grossly neglects the needs of his own family. It’s so extreme that I can’t even get my mind around it. Being ignored, neglected and treated with indifference has resulted in a great deal of hurt and intense anger. And sadly, I’m now watching our young adult children try to cope with the same feelings of rejection and abandonment. But to the outside world, he’s just the greatest guy ever.

      • CM

        My biggest temptation in all of this is to run away from God, be mad at Him and let a root of bitterness take hold of my life. Reading and rereading I Peter has helped me so much. The life of Susannah Wesley has also inspired me. From what I have read, her pastor husband was self absorbed to the point of leaving her with her many children for over a year because she disagreed with him on a theology issue! She was a woman of prayer and her two sons, John and Charles Wesley, went on to lead a great spiritual revival that rocked England and resulted in thousands upon thousands coming to Christ. Thanks for commenting. I see you did not leave your name. We are so conscious of protecting our husband’s reputations. It helps to know that in this confusing situation I am not alone.

      • Jenni Moon

        This has happened in my daughter’s life. Our new minister who took over from my daughter’s husband has told me not to speak to anyone in the church of it because it could cause a split. That has left me feeling impossibly alone and forsaken. I hear you when you say you are being ignored, neglected and treated with indifference. The sin gets worse because it is covered over, not repented of and forsaken. The hurt and anger are toxic and debilitating. The sin gets rolled over from generation to generation. And when you are rejected by the church where do you turn? My daughter is struggling with her faith. I pray God will save her from turning her back on Him and looking for peace and comfort in broken cisterns as she is currently doing. May He keep her heart soft in the hope of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, means also sharing in His glory in eternity. Our sufferings now cannot hope to compare to the glory that will be revealed in us on the last day when He returns to make all things right.

      • Jenni Moon

        Such a familiar story. Demands from your husband and demands from the church = no time for you and the children = children vulnerable to rejecting the faith in their rejection by the body of Christ who should have been supporting them.

    • Jenni Moon

      I am 67. You can talk to me anytime. I married a narcisisst, twice. I never wanted a divorce so stayed far longer than I should have. I have only very recently discovered that this sin has a name. Narcissm. This means my daughters were exposed to evil toxic behaviour in their formative years. Two married narcissists and one became a narcissist. Sin left unchecked multiplies.

      But if you read what you wrote, it says: “I have to go to God and ask for help”. This is a good thing. God is never the author of evil, but sometimes he allows Satan to sift us precisely to make us lean more heavily on Him so that His strength may be made perfect in our weakness. Also remember, if we share in his sufferings we will also share in his glory.

      Big hug and lots of tears with you in your tough situation

  7. Very good post; speaking truth and the many commenters thus far confirm what many of us are facing. Only by God’s grace will many of us ever be free from the stronghold — so many enable these abusers to thrive.

    Wish I could share more but I fear that any of my many abusers would recognize me if they should find this post.
    I may not know all of you but God does and I pray that “His Will” of protection and strength be given to us.

  8. Jenni Moon

    The bible warns us not to be naive. It says the wheat grows alongside the tares. It warns not all who say Lord, Lord will enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

    I was married to a narcissist but did not know of the term then, just that we had marriage problems no one could solve until a Christian minister told me I should divorce as my ex was just leaving churches when he did not “agree with” counselling given. I did. It took 5 years just to feel like a whole person again. But I had not had the the insight into my failed marriage or that he was a narcissist. So I made another marriage mistake. Finally, I married my first boyfriend who was also by God’s grace divorced at the same time. We have now been married 24 years. But tremendous damage has already been done to my daughters.

    My youngest daughter married a minister (her attempt at making sure she was marrying a godly man) who behaved as a narcissist. My middle daughter the same with her husband choice. My oldest daughter is the worst affected as she, herself behaves as a narcissist. Her oldest daughter’s life is a mess, her second daughter was uneducated and this is when I found out what my oldest daughter had kept hidden from me. My grandchild had not even been educated (I had been lied to that she was being homeschooled).

    I guess my point in this comment is, people need to know how bad this is and how it is passed on through the generations. I told the story to our minister and all he said was: Thank you for trusting me with such personal information. But he also was not really pleased that I was speaking to him of these sins. He did not get how awful it was. How much damage it caused. That it turned my oldest grandchild away from Jesus and Christianity because she associates it with sinful behaviour. My minister sees sin as sin and that people need rescuing, but does not GET that narcissim has such deep roots and part of discipling is to first understand what you are dealing with. You can’t just put a bandaid over it. Worse than that he took over from the narcissist minister and subconsciously most probably identifies more with the problem than the cure. He has said he does not like labels like narcissm. As they stigmatise people. Talk about missing the point. Narcissm does describe a sinful behaviour not the person. I have been asked not to share my story with anyone in our church as it will cause another church split. We have had several. In fact I found out halfway into it, that our church plant itself had been a split and the parent church were quite glad to see the minister move on as they could not work with him. I was also told too late that he had not been happy with my daughters choice of marriage partner but not told me. I think he had no idea how serious narcissm is or he surely would have had enough compassion to warn me.

    • Georgette

      Jenni Moon: The ex-N I dated is a leader of a healing ministry. Married his fourth wife! He has carried conflict issues, communication issues, money issues to all four marriages, along with porn and sex addiction I found out later! How do I know? We went through marriage counseling and he did not want to work on those issues so he preyed on a woman in the healing ministry and won her over by paying for her divorce, buying her a newer car and getting her out of a run down trailer. She thinks he is the greatest because he is a leader, can quote scripture and prays. I told her he did not have God in his heart which makes him a fool. She married him anyway because he had control over her. Once married he convinced her to quit her menial job, which was better than no job. So now his money is his money in his mind! She can’t leave him because she has no job!

      I brought his issues to the leaders along with seeing a demon go into him. One of them told me: I appreciate if you did not mention this conversation to anyone. If it gets out it would hurt xxxxxx (the ministry) and we do not want that. Did I keep my mouth shut? NOPE! I had someone from the church contact me because he wanted to let me know that the ex-N had lost his temper twice at the church and folks were seeing him for who he really is so I let him know what the leaders thought also. He still is a leader and now helping the men with their sexual abuse. He has book knowledge (so he thinks) regarding trauma. We will see how that goes. Actually I really don’t care. I don’t attend that church or any other church for that matter! I attend Moriah Foundation which is a healing ministry. My soul, mind, and heart gets fed with no anxiety or fear. I firmly believe that churches are not safe though many claim that their church is safe and we are all broken and can come to church with our brokenness…. I don’t believe that for one second, from my personal experience.

      Churches see people as sinners and that they can be saved but they don’t see or don’t want to see that some people as shear evil sitting in their pews. As my friend who casts out demons in people, places and things stated: churches are afraid and they don’t know how to handle such demonic people so they shove it under the rug in hopes that it will go away.

      • Jenni Moon

        Georgette, You have really had a hard time. My heart goes out to you. What saddens me most is that you now see all churches as unsafe places. But scripture does teach that we should not give up meeting with other Christians. While you were wise to leave the church your ex attends, and wise to see that these people do prowl the churches looking for new victims. Satan is not interested in attacking those who are already headed for destruction, only those who are headed for heaven. Jesus warns, in this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world. I firmly believe God sees all and we can trust in His character that justice will be done in His time. Meanwhile, we follow Him in all His ways, which does not mean being naive or be fooled by evil people pretending to be good sheep. In a sense, that Satan attacks Godly churches, they are not safe. Jesus says I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves, but He also promises to be with us. He promises that if we share in His sufferings we will share in His glory also. He asks us to take up our cross and follow Him. His path was and is a path of suffering, but only for the blink of an eye in comparison with eternity. Consider the wisdom of the cross: what man intended for evil, God intended for good. God’s greatest purposes were accomplished on the cross, the harvest of many souls for glory, heaven bound, the place of glory and no more tears. Consider Joseph’s story, pain first then salvation for his whole family. Let us keep our eyes fixed above, on the heavenly reality. The great irony is that an unbelieving world best tells the difference between true faith and false faith is watching how Gods true sons and daughters endure suffering. No one will endure or give their lives like the persecuted Christians for a lie. It is through suffering that the truth is seen and proclaimed. It is called sharing in Christ sufferings and bringing many souls to glory. No one enjoys the suffering, but endures for the reward ahead.

        Take a rest now. Regroup. Then wisely get back on the path like Christian in Pilgrims Progress. He was very careful in his travels avoiding the pitfalls. I was naive in the beginning of my Christian walk. Far too trusting. I grew up very sheltered. I was quite proud of what a good Christian I was. God allowed Satan to sift me like wheat. It wasn’t pleasant. But similar to Job it strengthened my faith. It made me stronger and wiser. It also humbled me. What Satan intended for evil,
        God intended for good. God always wins.

  9. guardyourheart

    my mother is someone who is manipulative and controlling, abusive mothers use and abuse their children to make themselves look good , then when thee kids grow up they are more likely to meet a manipulative controlling abusive women and tolerate that kind of treatment…

  10. You are spot on with this. The caring professions appeal because they are like shooting fish in a barrel for narcissistic supply, and then it is more confusing because our culture has a very different stereotypical narrative when it comes to narcissism. I think many tend to dismiss the notion that those who aren’t cut-throat businessmen can be narcissists. But you can find sociopaths and narcissists everywhere who hide behind caring, not just in their professional but in their personal lives. In fact, caretaking is a very powerful form of control. The message is always, “I know what’s best for you, you never will.” “I am superior in knowledge to you and therefore you must look up to me and do as I say.” “You are incapable of making a decision as good as mine.” I’m sure you all could come up with more insidious, dark messages that can underscore a narcissist’s “caretaking”. It’s easier for them to say, “but I’m just a caring social worker” or “but I’m a priest” as a dismissal of your concerns. Keep in mind that health involves listening to others, responding to their input, admitting when you’ve been hurtful, and making repairs. Anything else is just ego and pride and narcissism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s