It’s Narcissist Friday!
I have been asked what I think of narcissism in connection with demons and evil spirits and I remember the Bob Newhart counseling routine where he says, “Oh, no no, we don’t go there.”
Over the years some Christian groups have simply ignored the demonic influences while others have focused on them. Sometimes people are particularly loyal to their perspective or the perspective of their church. Basically that means that whatever I say can get me into trouble. No wonder Shakespeare said that “the better part of valor is discretion.”
On the other hand, this idea that narcissism could be demonic deserves some consideration. After all, many have experienced the highest grade of evil from narcissists. They are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and almost completely without regard for others. At least that’s what some have experienced. And narcissists seem to be unable to control their cruelty. Something drives them. Something haunts them. Perhaps an evil spirit moves in them.
So here’s what I think. I believe in the demonic realm as taught by the Scriptures. Demons are real and active. They are, however, a part of reality that lies in mystery and discussions about them often cause more heat than light. I have rarely found it to be helpful to think about them. I also think it is usually unnecessary.
It seems clear that there are times in our lives when evil is particularly active. We are told that Satan “prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” In times of intense negative emotion, evil often slips out of the shadows to offer its opinions and aid. We understand this enough to realize that intense grief or fear or anxiety can be reasonable excuses for bad behavior and decisions. Evil, which is always available, can be a choice when our clear thinking is challenged.
Now, when decisions are made about life and the way things work, evil can become a fixture in our hearts. Sometimes this can happen when we are very young. I happen to think it is evil for us to think of ourselves as worthless or stupid, for example. Those thoughts come out of painful times, often repeated, and are evidence of incorrect decisions influenced by evil. The narcissist chose a way of response to life and relationship that explained his pain and allowed him a strange sort of strength in the battle. The fact that the choice was evil may not have occurred to him; but, if it had, he may not have cared. To him it was and it is necessary. This is how he must handle life.
So is that demonic? Certainly. Is that evidence of the presence of a demon in the narcissist’s life? Probably not. I think it is quite possible, even easy, to partake of the realm of the demonic without being possessed. Demon possession appears to me to be almost always associated with occult worship of some kind, formal or informal. But evil is often personified in Scripture and has a personal influence in our lives. Evil is real and active.
I believe that narcissism is evil. It is a lie. The narcissist believes that he must protect himself from everyone and he has allowed himself to become cruel and uncaring in his relationships. He uses and abuses and discards the very people who would give him the love he so desperately needs. He looks for affirmation with the passion of an addict, but cannot accept the affirmation of those who care for him. He fails to see the value and validity of others and cares nothing for them. He is consumed with himself and his own concerns. All of this is evil.
It may be that a demon-possessed person would exhibit narcissistic characteristics and that those characteristics would go away if the demon were cast out. That is certainly possible. Yet, I would consider this to be the odd case. It may seem blunt and discouraging, but it seems to me that almost all narcissists are such by choice. It may have been a foolish and evil choice made long ago in a time of despair or fear, but it was still a choice and it continues to be a choice. When faced with options for help, most narcissists will choose their addiction. They are hooked on the image they have created. They must protect and support it. It hides them.
Would I pray for a narcissist to be released from the influence of a demonic spirit? Sure. Why not? I would pray believing that Jesus is stronger than any demon and that He loves the person for whom I am praying. I would not hesitate to utter such a prayer. Yet, I would not expect a deliverance. That is not a lack of faith, but an understanding that most evil is chosen, rather than imposed.
Those who read this blog know that I have always maintained that the narcissist is accountable for his actions. He may have been a victim of many things, but he has made a choice. His mother did not drive him to his cruelty, nor did the devil make him do it.