It’s Narcissist Friday!
I think part of why I write about narcissism in the church is because it seems so wrong to me. A narcissistic relationship is painful. It is intrusive, treacherous, cruel, and manipulative. And nothing of that should connect with life in the church.
Yes, I know that people bring their flesh when they come to church. I know that the openness and yielding of the Christian life can be used against us. It’s just that it shouldn’t happen. This world is struggle enough. We shouldn’t have to suffer narcissistic abuse in the context of the church. We have good reason to expect church relationships, from the pastor to the members, to be filled with love and support. Gossip, condemnation, exclusion, and favoritism have no place in the church.
And yet so many people tell of narcissist parents who use the church and the Bible to manipulate. And yet, so many tell of narcissist spouses who quote Scripture to support their abuse. And yet, so many have struggled with narcissistic friends from church. And yet, so many have been used or hurt by narcissistic church leaders and pastors. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.
In my book, Narcissism in the Church, I explain that the church offers a powerful opportunity to narcissists and other abusers. It’s like a new born lamb for the predators. The lamb bleats for its mother, announcing its weakness and availability. People come to the church in times of weakness and vulnerability looking for help, or they have been trained from childhood to be submissive and self-deprecating. In either case, they are the predator’s dream.
So, predators/narcissists are attracted to docile and yielding people. They find churches to be full of them.
They also find that churches offer a considerable amount of attention and praise for those who lead. Not only are people willing to put the leader on the pedestal, they are taught and believe that God blesses them for doing so. Imagine the narcissist who finds that the pulpit gives the opportunity to have a group of people listen carefully to his words and treat them as words from God! Few places in our society offer such an opportunity.
However, as I write about church in this post, I also have to write about other organizations. There are other groups that offer power and prestige in leadership. There are other groups that are easy to get into and hard to get out of. There are other groups where people will use your information against you, manipulate you into serving or giving, and expect you to bow in obedience.
If you are part of an organization where you are being manipulated into too many hours of service or expected to jump whenever the leader speaks, I would tell you to get out. Find a way to leave that organization. There are other groups where that does not happen. There are many ways to serve or give or even receive support that do not open you to narcissistic abuse.
So, what do I say about the church? Well, same thing. There are churches that do not abuse. There are Christian relationships that will give support without cruelty. In fact, there are many people like you and me who hate the idea of that exploitation coming from a group that is supposed to be focused on the love of God in Jesus. Find those people. Find that church.
And if you can’t? Then worship Jesus and serve Him on your own. Read His word of love to you and others. Give and share with those who love. Maybe you won’t always be on your own. Keep watching for others who know the Lord’s grace and seek to live in His love.
You might have to be on your own, but you will never be alone. He is real, and He loves you. Learn to walk with Him.
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