Set a Guard

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Medieval castles and fortresses were developed along similar lines throughout Britain and Europe. In Britain, the names given to parts of the complex are still recognizable to us. We know about the moat around the castle, which was originally the trench around the motte, or mound, on which the castle itself was built. You might know someone named Bailey, or talk about someone’s bailiwick, both of which referred to the flat area where the common people lived and the market could be found, usually surrounded by a wall of some kind, a palisade. And you know the word, keep, which meant the inner tower of the castle or fortress, the place where the valuables were kept and the rulers’ families would either live or use for refuge in times of danger. (By the way, in French the keep was called the donjon. Since prisoners were often kept in the tower, either at the top or in a basement area, the English began calling the place where the prisoners were held the dungeon.)

Okay, now you know more than you wanted. But I have always been blessed by the idea of a keep being a place well-guarded, the last place of refuge, defended to the uttermost. In fact, the noun became a verb, meaning to guard or protect. When we keep something, we hold it close. The castle or fortress keep was the place where the most important and precious things (and people) were protected.

The King James version of the Bible came shortly after the medieval years and uses language based on well-known concepts of that time. So, when we are told in Proverbs 4:23,


Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.


…we know what it means. We are to guard our hearts, protect them from the influences around us, particularly in the time of attack. Nothing is more precious to us than our hearts. If the enemy breaks into the keep, and overcomes our hearts, we are lost.

I don’t have the time here to give a long definition of what the heart is, but you know. Your heart is where you know yourself. In your heart lies your identity, your courage, your hopes and dreams. Your heart is the core, the most precious part, of you.

Narcissistic relationships, particularly if they are close, always attack the heart. The narcissist goes for the heart almost immediately. This is why the narcissist wants to pull your daughter away from you and other support. This is why he wants to have a sexual relationship so soon. This is why he demands exclusive loyalty. Whereas others will be content to win your heart over time, the narcissist wants to own it as soon as possible.

This is why the narcissist quickly learns your fears and regrets and dreams. Those are things you hold in your heart. (By the way, you don’t need to keep regrets and fears in your heart, but that’s another post.) Using those things allows the narcissist to control you. Reminding you of your pain, threatening you with your fears, tempting you with your dreams—these are ways the narcissist manipulates you.

This is why the narcissist quickly learns your triggers. What words will discourage you and take away your hope? The narcissist knows and uses them. He/she knows how to make you angry or sad or defeated or confused.

So, guard your heart! Don’t let the narcissist in. You will be able to handle the cruel and cutting words as long as they stay outside your heart, but once you take them in and believe them, let them change your dreams or define you, you lose. Once you begin to think of yourself the way the narcissist thinks of you, he/she wins. So, guard your heart.

You don’t have to believe what you hear. You don’t have to accept the criticisms and discouraging words. You can hear them and not own them. Just because it is your boss or your parent or your lover—that doesn’t mean you have to agree. You may be saddened that they think of you that way, but you don’t have to think of yourself that way. You may have to deal with the boss’s assessment of you, but you don’t have to agree. There may be no way for you to protest or change their opinion, but you still don’t have to let their words into your heart.

Keep your dreams and your identity tucked away and don’t let people play with them. The only opinions that matter are the Lord’s and yours, and even yours is second to His. He loves you and accepts you. He knows you are valuable and good. He knows you belong to Him.

But, but, but… What if it’s too late? What if the damage is already done? What if the narcissist got in and ransacked your heart?

Listen: It is not too late! It’s time to rebuild. Tell yourself the truth about you and reject the lies. Rebuild the keep, sweep out the mess, set it all up again. Who are you in Christ? What gifts did the Lord give you? What dreams still exist? Gather these things and put them into the safe place.

Then, set a guard at the door. What guard? Well, the Scripture tells us what guard is supposed to be set at the door of our hearts.


Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7


Trust in the Lord who loves you. He will keep you safe as you look to Him. The attacks of the narcissist and the evil one will not destroy you. Let His peace stand guard at your heart. If your heart is secure, you will be okay.


Filed under Narcissism

20 responses to “Set a Guard

  1. B Boyle

    Thank you so much for this post. After so many years of trying to make sense of it all, then starting the long road of recovery, I am finally at a place where I think I’m ready for hope and rebuilding. Proverbs 4:23 is a verse I quote often to my children, and it is a blessed reminder to me that it is not too late for me to embrace it either praise God.
    Blessings to you

  2. The One

    This is good. Reeeaaal good!! I also love, love the CEB version of Proverb 4:23. Simply powerful!!!

  3. Onmyway

    I really needed this post today. I am currently struggling with whether or not I should reconcile with my “narcissist” husband. I put narcissist in quotes because he claims he is different after a year of separation…and others around him seem to believe him. I almost believe him but my gut is screaming no. All I know is that I want to keep my heart locked to him forever…but I am considering reconcling for the family.

    • Cynthia

      Oh dear! I reconciled with my N almost immediately following our divorce and remarried him almost 3 years later. I did it for honorable reasons but knew in my gut that I was making a mistake. And I can’t overemphasize what a disaster it was. Please listen to the little voice inside of you that speaks the truth. I believe so often that it is the gentle whisper of our Heavenly Father. My ex N proclaimed to change, as well. He certainly did. He. Was. Much. Worse! Years later, with no contact, I have come to know a peace that would have only been a dream had we stayed together. I’m now married to an amazing man and my entire family is whole and happy. If your husband is a narcissist, odds are he will offer you a second dose of the same behaviors that got you where you are now. My prayers are with you.❤️

      • Cecilia K

        I am thankful you ladies shared your testimonies. I never married my ex-nbf, but even four years since we broke up for the last time, I still have longings to see him again and having considered possibly trying to reconcile, because I Haven’t met anyone else since then whom I’ve wanted to date. My head tells me that it would be just as bad as before, if not worse, but my heart sometimes wants to be with him again—and this guy hasn’t even acknowledged that he Needs to change, much less made any overtures of Having changed! Truthfully, he hasn’t actually expressed a desire to reconcile, but for a year or two after our break-up, he would contact me every few months…I think it was to test the waters to see if I might be open to reconciling, but if I suggested that that’s what he was trying to do, he would deny it.

        Anyway, it helps to read about your experiences and how you regret your reconciliations. I’ll try to remember that when I feel tempted to contact him. Thank you both!

    • Savedbygrace

      Onmyway I really feel for you…the pull to reconcile is sooo powerful. I share my experience here for your consideration as you think things through. About a decade ago I left my nh for sheer survival reasons -as it turned out only for a couple of months -everyone including him said how much he had changed and understood now and knew how to be in the relationship , and like you I wanted to preserve the family intact so I reconciled.
      Such a big mistake, like Cynthia said for her, my nh’s behaviour only escalated, I was in such pain and confusion, it then took another 8 years for me to break free- again for survival , only this time I had more understanding- I looked at it through the lens of domestic violence and narcissistic abuse and so many lights of understanding went on within me. I found that while ever I allowed my nh “in” to talk he was able to use ‘smoke and mirrors’ or charm to sway me ( influence my heart if you will). Have you tried a lengthy period of no contact? When I did that the fog lifted, my mind cleared, my heart settled. My counsellor said to me ‘stay safe and watch’ ie don’t listen to words watch your n’s behaviour- to this day there is the biggest disconnect between what my now ex nh says and what he does. My n also layered everything in spiritual language like he had God on his side and tried to lay the guilt trip on me- if this is happening to you it is another area in which you need to guard your heart. I kept a journal so that I could look more objectively on what was actually happening. My counsellor also told me I was not the only victim here and that my children were suffering too, It is only now that I have left that I realise how much damage has been caused to them ( all the while I thought i was mitigating it and they were not affected by him) and how much they suffered and I only wish I would have left earlier for their sakes. We are now whole and happy- our definition of ‘family’ and what it means has grown and developed , sadly there dad left to his own devices has ruined his relationship with each of them but they are more real happy and healthy then ever. I love our family that God has rescued.
      I believe God gives us that inner voice for our protection- stay close to Jesus and listen to him, take care x

    • Listen to your instincts. It is your choice to reconcile or not.
      One of the things I found my ex-N did was play on the “do it for the family” theme, using my trait of putting others first to his advantage. We split multiple times. The last time I chose to go non contact. That was 6 years ago.
      One of the hardest things I learned was to put ME first. Since I did that, (or starting learning & applying the lesson) he’s gone (yes it was nasty), life is going so much better. Has it been easy? No. I now am aware of how constant and high my anxiety was. I suspect I also dealing with a form of post traumatic stress. It would have been easier to stay/return, but that didn’t work before, so I had to find my brave. I am so pleased I did. Find your brave for you

    • Cynthia

      I read your post, again, and wanted to add one more thing for you to consider. Since narcissists are well known for mimicking emotions and are completely agenda-driven, ponder that his season of “change” is likely an Oscar-worthy performance. My dear father is responsible for an epiphany that I had- far too late. He suggested that MYbiggest problem was that I believed him (ex n) and he was right. Once I processed this I began to see the glaring truth about his deception and went NO CONTACT. That’s when everything started to change and the journey has been amazing! I’ll be praying for you.

      • Onmyway

        Cynthia- What you read all rings true in my gut. What I am struggling with is that he has changed some behaviors….but in the back of my mind I am always wondering if it is just so he can get me back and under control. Now he is getting very insistent that I give him another chance – promising he will never treat me that way again..that he knows better now…asking me to please take that leap of faith..I feel so terrible – I feel like I have to give him another chance

  4. Becoming a Better Me!

    I Thank God for YOU, Dave!!!!

    As I live here with my N husband and work thru my issues, I just so love your gentle reminders that my walk with Jesus is mine. I don’t have any control over his walk (influence, maybe?), I only have control of mine.

    The Heart is key to the experience of life. If I close it off in fear, it is not living. Learning to let go of the feels associated with living with my Pharisee is what I am working on. I believe that Jesus loved the Pharisee just like everyone else, he forgave them. They are simply too blind to understand the gift, so they condemn rather than love.

    All behavior is motivated by love or the need for love, which is fear! Remember that as you deal with the Pharisee/narcissists in your life. To God be the Glory!!!


  5. Wow wow wow!!! In all the years that I have been reading this blog, plus I have gone back to the beginning and read many of the older posts here — this post is the best of the best. WOW!! Thank you, Pastor Dave.

  6. AnneG

    Thank you so much for your comforting words. I really needed them today.

  7. Lea Anna Curtis

    Onmyway….please consider this:
    1) Has he apologized for the way he has treated yoi?
    2) If so, did he apologize in lump sum?
    3) If he did that, then question him what he feels he has done wrong that he is apologizing for….if he tells you..and seems very remorseful….then there may be a chance he has changed….but he gets mad and won’t name things he is sorry for and tell you thst he is so sorry and will try not to ever be that way again…then he probably hasn’t changed.
    4) For real change, I believe a person must respond to a conviction from God, then repent to God, then apologize to whom they have hurt, then they must prove them themselves, then you might be able to reconcile.
    Otherwise, beware. You could get into a worse deal than before.

    • Onmyway

      So here’s the thing. Yes he has apologized -as yes I think he is somewhat remorseful. He hasn’t apologized in specifics but he has been working with a counselor who had a list from me of abusive behaviors that they have been working on the past year… so if it is all spoonfed to him does it still count?

      I worry that he has manipulated his counselor.

  8. Savedbygrace

    Hi onmyway
    You may be helped by listening to Patrick Doyle’s (Veritas counselling) youtubes on what true repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation look like. I found them invaluable when I was struggling with the very same thing. You mention your h is in counselling- are you able to get that kind of support as well? I would only go to a counsellor who is experienced in domestic violence, I think my DV counsellor saved my life… unfortunately narcissistic individuals are practised liars and manipulators – my nh definitely manipulated the process when we went to counselling, as others have said trust your gut. I struggled with calling my hs behaviour what it was, we so want to believe differently, we do not want to let go of the dreams and hopes so intimately tied with this person. My heart goes out to you , I know it is such a painful place you are in at the moment..stay centred and look at his behaviour (consistent over a long time) rather than listen to his words.

    • Onmyway

      Saved by Grace and Lea Anna thank you. Luckily I have 2 good friends who believe he is still “a wolf in sheeps clothing” so I don’t feel crazy when my instincts start kicking in. I think he is manipulating but doesn’t know he is manipulating…I feel like that makes him “more innocent?” I don’t know this whole process is so hard and confusing…So thankful for the support I can find here….and the comfort of knowing who I am in Christ..! I have Dave to thank for a lot of that!

  9. Thank you from the bottom of MY heart. Your words of incredible wisdom and grace come at the perfect time. Thank again and again.

  10. Lea Anna Curtis

    Onmyway…yes, I believe he very well can be manipulating the counselor. And I agree with Savedbygrace, Patrick Doyle, has great youtube videos on Reconciliation….another good one of his…is why marriages are failing…and his one on deniel. He is great on helping you sort things out in your mind. Prayers for wisdom

  11. sue

    Dear Pastor Dave and Friends, oh, if more congregations heard sermons about maintaining Biblical boundaries, uhm, maybe a few less (abused) people would not walk away from the Lord. i listen to many sermons, and it’s few and far between that a sermon focuses on how to deal with toxic people – and, if necessary, to simply do what the Lord Jesus did when verbally accosted by pharisees (i.e., politely walk away).

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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