A Spiritual Perspective

Neil Girrard
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Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Isa. 5:20 π Mt. 13:11 π Mt. 22:11-13 π Jn. 3:3 π Jn. 3:5 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 7:38 π Jn. 13:34-35 π Jn. 16:13 π Rom. 8:14 π 2 Cor. 3:6 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Gal. 5:24 π 2 Ths. 2:10-12 π 2 Tim. 3:2-6 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 3:6 π Heb. 4:12 π Heb. 12:14 π 1 Pet. 1:23 π 1 Jn. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 4:8 π Rev. 21:8

For the spiritual person seeking to live in Christ alone, the term “self love” is much to be preferred over the label “narcissism.” The primary reason is this is the term the Bible uses! God prefers it! Technically speaking, one could view the humanly observed and derived label “narcissism” as the fruit, flower, leaves and stem of the plant while the sin of “self love” is the root, the internal structure and nutrient flow throughout the entire plant. Men have simply studied the sin of self love from their human, temporal perspective, called it narcissism and written down the pattern(s) they’ve seen in people who practice the particular, usual streams of this disorder. Some of what they say (from their surface and mid range perspective) is indeed very accurate but it is not written from God’s perspective who sees the fruit, the stem and the root from all possible (and even from “impossible”) angles. The term “self love” does not suffer from these human limitations. So with this caveat in view, let us simply use the terms “self love” and “narcissism” as virtually synonymous though this is technically inaccurate at certain points.

Narcissism is not a static condition and needs to be understood as a spectrum. No two narcissists are exactly in the same place and there are at least two scales on which to evaluate them. One is the extremity of their activities. Some narcissists are merely self-focused and are relatively harmless whereas others are completely consumed with sick perversions that truly devastate their victims. The second scale is the severity of their practice of deception and inner delusions. Some are mildly delusional whereas as others are completely separated from all reality. And there are all points in between.

The Narcissistic False Self

One survivor of narcissism (“recovered” may not be exactly the correct term) is Sam Vaknin (a “recovered” narcissist, researcher and author.) From his own experience and his extensive research (as one of the first definers of the terms being used), he espouses the idea of a “false self” built by the child to protect him or herself in abusive situations. What is this false self? What would it do to or for a person (from a spiritual perspective)?

The false self is essentially a defense mechanism that takes on a “life” of its own. It is built of things that the child is not: it is essentially a “super man” persona that no real person can ever live up to in real, normal life. Its greatest spiritual weakness, however, is that it is a fiction, a lie. “No lie is of the truth.” ( 1 Jn. 2:21; top ) This false self is built up in response to either abuse or exaltation wherein the child is extremely reduced, often in extreme or severe situations, from being an individual to a mere possession. The false self can thus be any series or fragments of contradictions and inconsistencies and, until these contradictions and inconsistencies become apparent, noticeably damaging (to oneself and/or to others) or self-defeating, this extremely unhealthy coping strategy can go on virtually unnoticed or at least unconfronted for years, even decades. (For a more thorough treatment of the original idea of the false self, see Sam Vaknin’s book, “Malignant Self-Love.” Also note that there are much more detailed and thorough discussions of narcissism available from many other perspectives.)

This “disorder” “coincidentally” impacts every major aspect of genuine spirituality in Christ. This “disease,” according to all major secular sources who deal with it, is considered incurable and the victims are advised to simply and, as completely as is possible, abandon the narcissist who abuses them. Statistics are woefully incomplete but a significant number of professed “Christians” (but who show little or none of the real fruit of God’s Spirit – Gal. 5:22-23 ) are also narcissists, there possibly being more “Christian” narcissists than there are “secular” ones. Narcissism (as defined by the mental health field, especially as a “disease” that primarily afflicts pseudo-“Christians”) may indeed be one clear instance of God giving people over to strong delusion because those people did not love the truth and receive His salvation but instead opted to retain their own false “savior” they made for themselves from out of their own traumatized childhood psyches. (see 2 Ths. 2:10-12; top ) At the least, narcissism has demonic connections that can only be dealt with through spiritual warfare such as is described in books like Jesse Penn-Lewis’ “War On the Saints.” (see especially Chapter 6, “The Counterfeit of the Man Himself” )

It must also be clearly understood that Sam Vaknin’s philosophy is as secular, anti-God, as it gets. Vaknin offers no real hope for a full recovery – but Jesus does. Vaknin’s pictures and ideas hold much truth but the only real and possible cure for someone who is in bondage to this kind of malignant self love (the Biblical term for narcissism) is Jesus. The false self (as far as the idea coincides with Biblical truth and spiritual reality), because it is built in the flesh with deception, must die. It must be crucified in Christ along with every other aspect of the flesh. ( Gal. 5:24; top ) The true self must declare its complete independence from both the false self and the demonic and fully embrace the complete authority of Christ over the life of the true self.

Then will begin the war between the Spirit of God (who comes to dwell within the human spirit) and the flesh (who has long partaken of demonic energies and deceptions.) Only the Spirit of God, who is the Word of God, is “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” ( Heb. 4:12 ), and it is God’s Spirit that the true self must submit to in all matters pertaining to life and godliness. In this war, all lies must be rejected and all truths must be embraced in cooperation with only the Spirit of truth. All behaviors learned and practiced in the false self must be rejected and one must learn to walk before God only in spirit and in truth. ( Jn. 4:24; top )

This will not be an easy transition and many will not be able to do this because they really don’t love truth – this is why this “disorder” and “disease” has come upon them. But God is both infinitely faithful and merciful and offers even to those who have come under this strong delusion a way out. No one needs to be dismissed from the wedding feast of the Lamb ( Mt. 22:11-13 ) – only those who refuse to embrace Christ and God and instead cling to their flesh and preferred deceptions will be forever removed to the lake of fire wherein all liars will remain for eternity. ( Rev. 21:8; top ) One does not have to forever remain a fractured and broken “Humpty Dumpty” – the King can rebuild even a fractured soul. But the road to that rebuild will certainly be a most difficult path and few there will be who will endure it so as to find real hope, peace, rest and ultimately eternal life.

It has been rightly said that it is impossible for someone to be both a narcissist and a true follower of Christ at the same time. One will either love one’s self or one will love Christ – one simply cannot love both.

Paul wrote,

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts…” ( 2 Tim. 3:2-6; top )

It should be sobering to anyone who is or is associated with a narcissist how many of these characteristics directly apply to the narcissistic personality. And it should be sobering to note that these narcissists as described by Paul are those take advantage of weak-willed, sinful women. And the narcissist knows, somewhere inside his existence, that he (or at least the demonic within him) that he has wormed his way into the woman’s life and heart and he knows he gained control over a weak-willed woman who was loaded down with sins and swayed by various evil desires, that is, she was only partly formed and immature in the faith with various historical flesh issues (like the vast majority of women in Christen-dumb these days!). Thus they are jealous and protective of their property (their wife) because they know how easy it is for some other guy to come along and be a better worm than they are! This is why many narcissists fear to let their little woman talk to any other man about anything, especially spiritual matters!

The spiritually healthy husband and man, on the other hand, does not fear letting his wife talk to other men. The spiritually healthy wife is and has been and proven herself to be faithful to her husband, often long before the engagement! But even deeper than that, both the spiritually healthy wife and husband are pledged to and in love with Christ and God. Though the religious narcissist may fear that his weak-willed, sin-burdened little woman might be drawn away from his own peculiar doctrines and teachings, the spiritually healthy husband in Christ doesn’t need to fear that his wife will be lured away from truth because she hungers for truth and righteousness above all else. The spiritually healthy husband wants, even longs for and demands that she be drawn away from any form of deception or error and instead be drawn to Christ! Both the spiritual healthy wife and husband have the underlying intent to follow only God no matter where He leads them (individually and corporately) and no matter what the cost, even if that means one has to forsake the other because they have forsaken Christ. Narcissists do not show that they have that underlying intention or desire in any observable quantity.

When narcissists are confronted, it will be almost impossible for them to believe that those confronting them are not worming their way in, as they did, to take control of their little woman. When someone comes to speak light and truth and brings genuine godly love, these are all foreign concepts to the narcissist because they are filled with self-love. Some narcissists are indeed very influential, smooth talking persons whose only aim is to gain something for themselves through personal validation and this is how they worm their way into the heart and life of women who are themselves damaged and vulnerable. ( 2 Tim. 3:6; top ) even as the demonic within them deceive the false self into thinking that he is really rescuing his victim!

God still says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” ( Isa. 5:20; top )

The preceding has been presented as “food” for thought and prayer for anyone who finds themselves in similar situations.

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