The Subtle Way Narcissism Destroys True Ministry
If I had to guess the enemy's psychologic makeup, I would hypothesize narcissism is a big part of who he is. After all, he thought he could be bigger than God, and he is the epitome of everything bad that exists in all of creation.
But let me ask you a question: Have you ever seen narcissism plague a ministry or a church, even a family? Narcissism isn't always blatant. Though some narcissists are easy to spot, there are other types of narcissists that do just as much, if not more damage, because their destructive tendencies are hidden beneath the surface of their facade.
I have witnessed such narcissists, have worked with them, have even seen them in my own family. Though they seem to be sincere, the saddest thing to me about the narcissism is it's true defining factor: A lack of empathy, or a complete inability to put yourself in someone else's shoes. This kind of person should never be allowed to serve in ministry, in my opinion!
Beneath the hard shell of narcissism lacquered with a charismatic personality or incredible spiritual gift lurk other sins, such as lust, the inability to be truly accountable and an unloving spirit. I know these all too well. It wasn't until I was fully an adult that I realized WHY I hated myself as a teenager, why I started cutting, why I was depressed and suicidal and why I felt so unworthy of love. A narcissist, in some twisted way, has the ability to pile their own sins upon you and you'll believe YOU'RE the problem, while they have lesser problems or sins of their own. Though they might admit they have some sins, the bulk of the disparity in any relationship with a narcissist falls on the other person's shoulders. Wives of narcissists are often depressed, anxious and plagued with feelings of inadequacy. They also experience a plethora of health issues stemming from the emotional ones, due to the lack of their partner's ability to truly "die to self" and give himself up for his wife, as Christ did the church, putting her emotional and spiritual needs before his own. (Ephesians 5:25)
I have watched casualty after casualty in this invisible war as the fruit of this destructive personality disorder causes havoc, unmet needs and incredible pain. As I said, the worst part about narcissism is the narcissist likely does not understand and will never understand their affects of his or her actions, or lack of actions on others, even after they are told. They do not understand a boundary in it's purest sense, instead choosing to fulfill his or her needs in ways they see fit, calling it "the will of God." The "will of God," in this sense, may only be the narcissist's desires, explained away by a "prophecy" or "hearing from God," without real accountability from other strong believers. The narcissistic Christian leader will surround himself or herself with "yes men," people who look up to them because of their gifts and talents but do not have any gumption to confront the Christian narcissist when they are heading toward a cliff. Remember, the gifts and call are given without repentance. (Romans 11:29)
Dr. Henry Wright has counseled couples dealing with narcissism, even pastors. Through a friend who attended his week long training For My Life, I learned in all his years of ministry, he has only seen one person become free from the bondage of narcissism. Another friend unknowingly married a narcissist and was told through their Christian counselor that this type of personality was so unlikely to change, the only course of action they could recommend was divorce. How sad! It is truly a device of the enemy to create a shell so thick a person cannot even see that a problem exists in order to become free.
How is a narcissistic personality developed?
Without going into too much detail, a narcissistic personality is developed due to intense and repeated trauma in childhood. The late Dr. Paul Hegstrom, author of the book Broken Children, Grown Up Pain says that 96% of marriage problems are rooted in negative experiences that happened before the age of 9 years old. His also cites something called "arrested development" which is a psychological term meaning that when a child is a abused in one of five ways, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, rejection or neglect, that child can only emotionally mature up to two years after the traumatic event occurred. People who abuse their wives, criminals and those who act "childish" are very likely toddlers emotionally. It is only through the processing of these events or the knowledge of the child that it was "not their fault" that a person can become free of this stunted emotional growth. They have to overcome all the lies the event might have planted, such as "I'm unworthy of love," "I'm bad," "I'm damaged goods," or "Nobody is going to be able to love me." Through the power of Jesus' love and grace, the truth can heal us and set us free! However, although it is possible, this is unfortunately very unlikely for the narcissist, due to all the layers of abuse they might have experienced.
Those in relationship with a narcissist will often go through great lengths to fix the issues stemming from narcissism but will be unable to, since the narcissist will not be able to see them. Eventually, the other party will see that the narcissist is not able to have authentic relationship with anyone, though this is not God's will for any human. De ot the hurtful tendencies of narcissists, those close to them are forced to "put them at arm's length," so as not to be hurt by them over and over again.