What Does the Bible Say About Narcissism?
Okay, we’re going to start this post with a sledgehammer scripture…THE most difficult passage for a Christian adult survivor of parental narcissistic abuse to figure out how to give an answer to…the scripture that WILL get thrown at you like a grenade. Ready? You most likely already know it…and cringe.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12, NIV Version
Ka-blooey; you’re dead.
If you’re a Christian, you’ve already scrambled around your concordance trying to figure a way around that passage and most likely will even try to go back to the Hebrew to search out all the different meanings of the word “honor.” Even if you’re NOT a Christian, somehow the CONCEPT gets thrown at you anyway by society at large.
Here’s the kind of stuff you’ll hear (or feel): ”We OWE our parents, ya know. They gave us LIFE and we are to honor them, to listen to their pearls of wisdom, to be grateful, to take care of them in their old age, etc., etc.
Doesn’t matter how they treated us; raising kids is hard and…(say it with me now)…THEY DID THE BEST THEY COULD WITH WHAT THEY HAD!!!!”
“You are an evil, ungrateful child if you don’t give them the respect and honor they deserve for all their hard work in raising you. Besides, no matter what they did to you, the Bible says to honor them….”
Haven’t we all heard this stuff? Goodness, it basically means that we’re going to go to hell for not wanting to hurt anymore, for choosing to stay away from our abusive parents…and that, dear ones, is a VERY hard pill to contemplate…let alone swallow!
Yeah, yeah, yeah…these lies are straight from the pit of HELL. That is NOT what God meant when He said “honor your mother and father”…not when they’re abusive monsters who CHOOSE to blow past EVERY other scripture in the Bible about how THEY are supposed to raise, love, nurture and protect their children…AND also how THEY are supposed to act as human beings!
And how much worse for the adult Christian who came to the Lord AFTER leaving home, the one who has parents that are NOT saved and don’t even pay lip service to scriptures. Somehow, most Christians will tell you that YOU are still responsible for loving them…even for changing them.
(Never mind that WE can’t change anyone…we cannot even change ourselves by ‘our own power’ so how much more foolish is it for us to try to change anyone else?) Only through the working of the Holy Spirit can people truly change and that is hard enough as it is. How much harder for those who do NOT have the Holy Spirit?
There are other scriptures that get lobbed at spouses trying to deal with being married to a narcissist (or trying to get OUT of a sick, toxic marriage) and they are equally harmful such as “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also should wives submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:24)
Since statistics show that 75% of narcissists are men, the “wives submitting” one probably gets thrown out more often than all the others combined. Narcissistic husbands often look sooooo good on the outside, and since their abusive behavior is so often sooooo subtle — and usually behind closed doors — that wives feel trapped in a marriage to a monster…with the church most often standing on his side.
But for men who have narcissistic wives, they have a whole ‘nother set of scriptures thrown at them such as “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” (Matthew 19:8) Gee, guess this means that if you are a husband who wants to divorce his abusive, narcissistic wife, you must have a hard heart.
There are lots of scriptures that talk about God hating divorce and yes, husbands are called to care for (and manage) their families well. So Christian men with abusive wives will often stay silent, doing all he can to keep the family together and feeling shame that they are having problems.
And oh yes, let’s not forget that narcissistic wives will make sure he feels like ALL the problems are ALL his fault and the church will often back her up. For example, he might get asked something fun such as: ”Well, are you loving her as Christ loved the church?” or “Perhaps if you would just pray for her more…”
The church is often an unwitting partner in abuse and all these well meaning people are wrong. God does not honor abuse and all the platitudes and scriptures (taken out of context) do NOT help those being abused! Yes, we are to follow God’s word but we HAVE to look at the totality of the word and HIS intent. To say God loves us…and then tell someone that the Bible says they have to stay be abused is insane.
I’ve heard remarks over the years that are not only ridiculous but incredibly hurtful as well such as: ”Well, you made your bed and now you have to lie in it.” Oh really?
So that young, beautiful daughter of yours is walking down the aisle toward your son in law…and in 3 months she shows up with a black eye, a bloodied lip and two cracked ribs. Do you tell her to go back because she chose to marry him, CHOSE her bed? For her sake, I hope you wouldn’t.
Beside IT’S ONLY HER BED IF HE BEAT HER BEFORE THE MARRIAGE!!!
Otherwise, she didn’t know and so the bed the HUSBAND chose to make is NOT the bed she thought she was getting; it’s not “her bed”and she should NOT stay in it. (And if you ARE the kind of parent who tells her to return, YOU need help.)
I have another scripture that I’ll bring into play regarding God allowing a spouse to divorce the narcissist (and it makes a huge assumption that will most likely annoy some who read it.) The assumption is this: I believe narcissism is demonic and evil and so that means that the narcissistic spouse IS NOT A BELIEVER.
You cannot follow God and be subject to the Holy Spirit and REMAIN A NARCISSIST. It is behavior that flies in the face of EVERY scripture about how a Christian is to behave. If someone is regularly behaving like a narcissist, they are unsaved.
And in that case, we have a scripture that tells us it is okay to divorce: ”But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15)
God does NOT like narcissistic behavior, friends, not from our parents or our spouses. We are NOT wrong for leaving evil!
I am not saying God completely absolves us of honoring our parents because that flies in the face of scripture. And most children of narcissists have been groomed so well that they are usually VERY obedient to their parents. It’s only when we try, as adults, to back away from the sick, toxic, hurtful, CONSTANT and overwhelming games that the attacks begin in earnest, both from our families AND from well-meaning churchgoers who have no clue what it’s like to deal with evil, reprobate people who abuse others. There is a list further down this page that tells us HOW to honor them even while staying out of their war zone of abuse.
I read this on Anna Valerious’ blog “Narcissists Suck” (a blog I consider a “must read” for all who have suffered at the hands of a narcissist! (The link to the page on her blog that the following excerpt comes from can be found in my links section at right…I HIGHLY encourage any Christians struggling with narcissistic parents to read the entire post!)
“First, I can categorically state that there is no Biblical example of God honoring evil. We have no Biblical example or statement of God requiring His people to honor evil. We have scores of Biblical exhortations for God’s people to rebuke and shun evil. If you are willing to acknowledge as truth these two realities then you will have to conclude that whatever God was telling us to do in the fifth commandment, He was NOT requiring us to honor evil.”
I read this on Soaring Dove’s blog “Freedom from Toxic People” and my eyes (and understanding) opened wide on the sentence that I’ve put in bold and italics:
“All of my life I have been tied/bound to a toxic/narcissistic/evil person who was formally known as mom. I have done what all the “experts” have recommended (even earned a degree in psychology) hoping that in some way the Momster and I could have a minimally functional relationship. I have tried everything humanly possible to break through her hardend cold heart, so that she would gain insight to how she hurts her children and destroys relationships, but nothing worked.
“Reprobates are beings who enjoying causing harm to others. Their attacks are Victim Specific, so they have both awareness and absolute control. They lack remorse because being evil feels good to them, thus they have no desire to change/repent.” (Source: Dealing With Toxic People)
Titus 1:15-16 King James Version (KJV)
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
When I read that, I felt some kind of weight lift off me. It’s true, my mother’s behavior IS reprobate and has always been saved only for her children, behind closed doors and in secret. She doesn’t treat other people the way she treats us…they would NEVER tolerate it so the narcissist is careful about showing their true colors in public. THAT, folks, is self awareness. That points to an inner knowledge and an understanding of the wrong nature of their behavior! THAT is reprobate behavior and GOD CONDEMNS IT!
The command to honor our parents has a promise “that you may live long in the land.” Family structure is the basis for society at large. At the time, honoring parents meant listening to their teachings, which were based on the commandments of God and the entire society of early Israelites were all on the same page and operating under the same set of rules.
All around them were other societies that God considered evil (Sodom & Gomorrah come immediately to mind.) Societies who routinely sacrificed their own children in fire pits and the like. God did NOT want His people mixing with those people and it was the priests, elders and parents’ job to make sure the people / their children were raised in the admonition and ways of the Lord to keep God’s laws and live pure and holy lives.
That has not changed, God still wants this for our time BUT society has changed a great deal. It’s not like God isn’t aware of abusive parents and the damage they cause so could He REALLY have meant that we should honor our parents…no matter what? Doesn’t make sense, does it? Should a daughter who is molested by her father as a child…and he wants to continue the relationship into her adulthood…be expected to honor him? Of course not!
But for some reason, Christians find it perfectly fine to condemn children of narcissists by telling them that somehow WE are responsible for helping our parents not be such abusive, evil people. WE are to forgive THEM. We are to continue serving them. We are to continue to “take it” and “turn the other cheek.” It’s insane advice to tell someone to stay under the evil control of reprobate people who do not have one shred of love in them…not for us and certainly not for God!
If you’ve been around a narcissist, whether parent or spouse, the scripture below is THE scripture that speaks of their behavior in a nutshell. I’ve always looked at it from an “end times” viewpoint but a man named Peter (who commented on this blog) pointed out a different angle which is: ”have nothing to do with them.” He said he thought it pretty amazing that the apostle Paul said ‘stay away’ completely because that is so rare in scripture. So here is the scripture:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 - ”But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM.”
THEN, when viewing this passage in light of narcissists (rather than in the way I always have about end times) I read through the next verses and my eyes were opened:
2 Timothy 3:6-9 – “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, [they are the kind] who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth…these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, ARE REJECTED. But they will not get very far because their folly will be clear to everyone.”
Wow, I’d never seen this before. Obviously, the first verses describe narcissists in detail. But I’ve never seen the scriptures that allow me to have nothing to do with them! Then to read further that their “form of godliness” is utterly rejected floored me even more.
We are not only ALLOWED to walk away, God TELLS us to have NOTHING to do with them! This, for me, is a very comforting set of verses. I’m allowed to not stay stuck in a relationship with a vile, evil person. Thank you, Lord! I think this verse speaks to spiritual abuse in the body of Christ as well, a subject that will be covered more in depth on a different page on this site (when I get the page up, I’ll link to it from here.)
I’m going to go one step further and talk about the devil (I heard that “ewwww” from those who are uncomfortable with the subjct) BUT the Bible clearly states that we wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with powers, with wickedness in high places. We are fighting the devil inside our parents (or spouses) when we battle narcissistic abuse. NO ONE who is given themselves fully to God can act abusive…it’s not possible to claim to BE a Christian and yet ACT like a devil. The Holy Spirit would never honor that…and without the leading & guidance of the Holy Spirit, you cannot walk as a Christian on this earth.
The devil himself was the first narcissist and his work is shown in the behavior of narcissistic people every day…and the incredible damage they cause to their victims. Take heed from the 2 Timothy scripture that says “have nothing to do with them.” God has given you an example of narcissism and clearly states “STAY AWAY.”
This is your defense for the bombs and grenades that get lobbed at you from Christians.
The following is also from Soaring Dove’s blog “Freedom from Toxic People”
(Janet’s note: I’m going to add spouses/friends/spiritual abusers/etc. to the list below.)
How do we honor abusive, evil, reprobate, toxic parents?
- We honor them by not returning the abuse that they gave to us.
- We honor them by not wanting to destroy their lives, but to improve it/change it/transform it through Christ.
- We honor them by praying for their salvation and for their break though.
- We honor them by stop trying to save them, or change them, that it is Christ’s job.
- We honor them by letting go and letting God work a miracle.
- We honor them by realizing that our enabling behavior & failure to give the ultimate consequence of no contact is getting in God’s way.
- We honor them by not enabling them to continue their abuse with us or with others.
- We honor them by insisting that they get the professional help that they need, before they have anymore contact with us & our family members.
- We honor them by remaining in a No Contact status and not being tempted to break it “for the kids sake” during birthdays, holidays, or any other special occasion for this would send a mixed message & defeat the purpose of No Contact.
- We honor them by giving them clear boundaries and consequences if they are not remorseful and repent/turn from/change/end their abusive behavior, OR we will have nothing to do with them.
- We honor them by reversing the curse, in that we will not allow their abusive legacy to continue to our children.
- We honor them by returning honor to the family’s reputation & creating an awesome legacy for future generations.