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. . .