Tag Archives: brokenness

Nebuchadnezzar

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Sandy Hotchkiss—in  Why is it Always about You?—identifies what she calls the “Seven Deadly Sins” of narcissism.  They are familiar to almost anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist: shamelessness, magical thinking, arrogance, envy, entitlement, exploitation, and bad boundaries.

We see almost all of these in a character from the book of Daniel.  The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, may well have been the most powerful and most ruthless king in history.  Now, I know that some scholars say this was not the real Nebuchadnezzar , but a man who followed him named, Nabonidus.  I don’t really care one way or the other.  Let’s look at the guy the Bible talks about.

Narcissists are often very successful people.  Nebuchadnezzar was successful.  He had conquered most of the surrounding kingdoms and everyone was afraid of him.  He was brutal and merciless and the nations paid their tribute without a fight.  So he became very wealthy and powerful.

But then he had a disturbing dream.  In his day, dreams were considered to be prophetic, so he wanted an interpretation of the dream.  However, narcissists don’t actually trust the people who work for them.  They will use people and get as much as they can from them, but they never really put themselves into their hands.  So, Nebuchadnezzar believed that he was surrounded by sycophants and incompetents who generally lied to him, and he wouldn’t tell his “wise men” his dream.  He wanted them to interpret the dream, but wouldn’t tell them what it was.  He believed they would just make something up.

He threatened the wise men.  Either they told him what he wanted to know or they would die and their families would die with them.  They had no way of knowing what his dream was (because they really were phonies) so he decided to have them all killed.  After all, he could always get other wise men, right?  Just like any narcissistic boss, he saw no real value in his employees.  Fortunately, Daniel had the answer.  He knew the dream and the interpretation, and Nebuchadnezzar was appeased.

The dream involved a great statue, an image, presumably of Nebuchadnezzar.  Even though the statue in the dream had problems, the idea was placed in his mind.  Soon, Nebuchadnezzar had a great gold image of himself made for everyone to worship.  All the people were supposed to bow to his image whenever they heard the trumpet sounds.  Not all of them did and it made him furious.  Well, you can read the rest of that story for yourselves.

But then there was the day when Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the balcony of his palace and looking out over the great city.  I have to quote this:

The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” Daniel 4:30 (NKJV)

Sound narcissistic to you?  He was the only one who built the great city.  No mention of his slaves, his soldiers, his officials, his wise men, or anyone else.  He did it all himself.  What a guy!

And, as he was stretching his arm to pat himself on the back, something hit him.  A voice of judgment came from God and said that it was time Nebuchadnezzar learned that there was a power greater than his, an authority higher than him.  Nebuchadnezzar went insane.  For some unknown time, perhaps a long time, Nebuchadnezzar left the city and lived like an animal.  He ate grass and even started to look like an animal.  God humbled him.

When the time was fulfilled, God restored his mind and brought him back to his kingdom.  Now, I don’t know if Nebuchadnezzar became a believer, but he certainly learned that he was not the highest power around.  There’s still a little of the old boasting left in him, but he acknowledges that there is at least One who is more deserving of praise than he.

At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me.
37  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down. Daniel 4:36-37 (NKJV)

“Those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”  Narcissism is ultimately a problem of pride.  God is able to bring down the proud person.  What that person does as a result of this brokenness may not be what God wants,  but God can bring him/her down.

Maybe a direction for prayer in a narcissistic relationship. . .

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Can a Narcissist be Saved?

 Yes, I think it is possible for a narcissist to be saved.  Here’s why: First, I have come to see narcissism as a continuum.  Some are more narcissistic than others; some exhibit more of one characteristic and less of another; some may actually become more narcissistic in certain situations.  So the person you and I might point toward as an example of narcissism may simply be at some point on the continuum, a point that particularly affects us.  I am not suggesting that a “diagnosis” of narcissism is arbitrary, but it does seem to be true that different people see a narcissist differently. 

I wouldn’t presume to be able to decide at what point a person no longer has the ability to see his or her need for a Savior.  It would be difficult to find a more extreme example of narcissism than Ted Bundy, the serial murderer.  Yet, Dr. James Dobson believed that Bundy responded to the gospel and opened his heart to the Lord.  It is hard for me to believe, but I know that the love of Christ is available to all, no matter what the sins have been, and that love is sufficient for all.  Could Ted Bundy have understood that his own life was about to end and that he could no longer hide from the truth?  Could he have finally admitted that he needed forgiveness and life?  No matter how unlikely it seems, I suppose it is possible.

Many believers relate how the Lord took them to a place of brokenness, a place where they finally understood that life didn’t work their way.  That brokenness can range from a simply overwhelming sense of need to the actual loss of almost everything a person believed was important.  The flesh, which is the system that we create to control life and make it safe for ourselves, stands against the Spirit of God.  When the futility of the flesh becomes so obvious, the heart becomes open finally to the Spirit.  Even if the flesh pattern is what we have called narcissism, this process is possible. 

You are certainly right to ask the question, however.  The very definition of narcissism includes the unwillingness to allow that brokenness.  Lack of control, weakness, acceptance of failure—these are the things the narcissist avoids at almost any cost.  It seems like it would be most difficult for a person like this to repent, but maybe those are the places where the love of God is strongest.

The second reason I think a narcissist could be saved is because of the definition of repentance.  Watch for it here tomorrow!

Thoughts?

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