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Can Narcissists Have a Spiritual Awakening?

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   December 1, 2023

Narcissists need to be seen as amazing.  They need to appear better than anyone else.  It’s how they get their supply.  Spiritual narcissists are no different.  But they are more insidious because they use God to elevate their status among others.  For whatever reason, they actually think they can even fool God into believing their deceit.  They just need to put on an air of sincerity.

So, then, can a narcissist have a spiritual awakening?  Can they actually come to a saving knowledge of God in the midst of their deceit?  Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no.  There are no documented cases where spiritual narcissists experienced an awakening that brought true change.  You will find tons of cases where narcissists are using fake spiritual awakenings to further their cause.

Let’s go deeper to see what this really looks like.

How Do Narcissists Use God?

Of course, narcissists use God to elevate their own status in society, but especially among other Christians in the church.  They do this in several ways.

First, they will convince others that they have a special understanding of what God really wants.  He knows what God wants us to believe.  And he knows exactly what God expects us to do as Christians.  It usually includes elevating the narcissist to higher positions in the church.  The church is happy to give them leadership positions because they are always looking for those that are eager to serve.  They have no idea the damage that will come down the line.

Once the narcissist is in positions of leadership, he can make decisions that he claims are straight from God and his superior understanding of God’s will.  Unfortunately, most of those decisions are bad ones.

The narcissist will use Scripture to prove his point, often interpreting it to meet his needs rather than God’s true intent.  The problem with this lies in the fact that the narcissist will use many Scriptures in the right context.  Then fellow Christians (especially newer Christians with a limited knowledge of Scripture) have a hard time discerning betweent the truth and lies.

And finally, another harmful tactic narcissists will use is one that many people will never realize or see.  He will cause absolute chaos behind closed doors.  He will say one thing to one member.  Then he will go to the next room and say the opposite to another member.  Nobody will ever find out the source of division and rumors.  And he will all claim he is trying to help in the name of working for God.

How Can You Tell if a Spiritual Awakening is True?

In the argument regarding whether a narcissist can have a spiritual awakening, the church finds itself in a quandary.  As a general rule, claims of spiritual awakening should be taken seriously by all who make them.  It is a good thing to experience!  But as Christians, the Bible tells us that we need to be discerning to be sure that the truth is not being trod upon.

Ephesians 5:6-10 is one such Scripture.  It says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.”

Honestly, we don’t really need Scriptures to make this point.  It is common sense that if someone uses empty words, they will not result in productive or positive results.

We are also told in Scripture that our actions will either verify our truth or give away our deceit.  And that is probably the best way we can know whether the narcissist has had a true spiritual awakening.  If their actions back up their words they may very well be speaking in truth.  Unfortunately, this is something that is generally not seen.

The Bigger Problem With Whether a Narcissist Can Have a Spiritual Awakening

It would probably be pretty easy to answer the question, “Can a narcissist have a spiritual awakening?”  ovr time.  But that is one of the problems.  How much time does it take?  That would depend on how good the narcissist is at deceiving the people he associates with at church.  It can go on for some time, even if he isn’t skilled at keeping all of this lies straight.

That is because many Christians want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  They want to believe the good news of the narcissist’s spiritual awakening.  And if they don’t even know he is a narcissist, they may have no reason not to believe his words. The truth won’t start to become obvious until both of those things stop existing in a vacuum.

Once people start seeing that the narcissist’s words and actions don’t line up, it is important for the discernment to come out.  And once there is no compartmentalization between the words and actions, it will be easy to see what is really going on.  But this process can take years.  In my case it took more than 20 in the same church.  And in their defense, it took nearly 28 years for me to figure out the level of narcissism in my home behind closed doors.  Narcissists are incredibly adept at projecting their minds and chaos onto those they live with.

Can Narcissists have a spiritual awakening?

How to Awaken a Narcissist?

So, can a narcissist have a real spiritual awakening?  As of right now, I am going to say no for a full blown narcissist.  There are people with narcissistic tendencies.  Actually we all have just a little bit of selfishness in us.  But that is not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about a full-on narcissist.  There are a few reasons they cannot have a true awakening.

They Cannot See Anything Wrong With Themselves

If you cannot get a narcissist to admit to obvious wrongdoing–lying, meanness, stealing, etc., how will they possibly be willing to admit that they need a spiritual awakening?  My ex used to always say he did not ever need to read a self help book.  He said he knew all he needed to know.  He thought he had arrived.  Of course, he didn’t need any new knowledge or learning.

So a spiritual awakening would be unnecessary.  He didn’t need it because he was already everything God wanted him to be.  And because he put on such a good show at church, everyone confirmed to him on a regular basis that he was an amazing Christian elder in our church.

They Make Themselves Equal to or Even Greater Than God

Another thing my ex used to do to our family in our home was tell us that he knew what God wanted us to do.  And he always had a verse to quote to back it up.  He never looked at circumstances.  Only that he knew exactly what God wanted and we had better obey.

When narcissists do this, they are actually putting themselves above God.  They are taking His words and twisting them to their own benefit.  In actuality, they are manipulating God.  They also manipulate God by putting on an act that is so convincing that maybe it will make them believe it themselves as well as God.  If they can get God to believe their craziness, then that means they are smarter and craftier than God.

Narcissists Fake a Spiritual Awakening to Look Even More Godly

So what about the narcissists that do claim to have a spiritual awakening?  In that case, what I have seen is a narcissist that already professes to be a great Christian.  But he may say God has given him special knowledge about a certain thing.  He could say this for a couple of reasons. Maybe because he publicly got a verse or concept wrong.

He could have answered a question wrong in a class and been called out on it.  That is unbearable for a narcissist.  But to cover for the shame, he will return the next week and talk about how God incredibly showed him this new concept that he never had understanding of before.  His spiritual growth has to be seen as amazing so he can continue to be seen as better than most of those around him.

A second reason could be that he doesn’t feel he is garnering enough credit and admiration at church.  So if he comes up with a momentous occasion, it will throw the limelight back on him.  As long as he is always seen as improving vastly beyond everyone else, he can maintain his narcissistic supply in the church.

What are We Actually Seeing When A Narcissist Claims to Have Had a Spiritual Awakening?

So, when a narcissist claims to have had a spiritual awakening, but it isn’t possible, what are we actually seeing?

We are seeing a fake awakening.  Every time a narcissist elevates himself above others to get ahead on the “spiritual ladder,” he perceives that as a step closer to the top for himself.  So even though his awakenings were fake and just meant to make him be seen in a better light, it got him closer to where he wanted to be.  It literally just feeds their ego and gives them the impetus to keep on grabbing for more.  And as long as there are some people (not even a majority) that will continue to praise and elevate him, he will continue to appear to rise above everyone else.

Can a narcissist have a spiritual awakening? 3

In the case of my ex-husband, he had actually elevated himself above the other elders, pastor, and regional leadership before he finally left.  He called them all unbiblical; in fact, he called the whole denomination unbiblical.  And that allowed the new church he went to to continue to elevate him along with themselves as better than all the churches.  His narcissism climbed to new levels as soon as he went to that new church.

As a result, he got them to give him grounds for divorcing me and remarrying based on his lies and their misogynistic and improper interpretation of Scripture.  What you are seeing is evil masquerading itself as light.


The information regarding if narcissists can have a spiritual awakening can be very discouraging news.  But there is a whole different element to this that makes the situation more palatable.  While there is nothing we can humanly do to heal a narcissist, there are some amazing things we can do to heal from the damage done by the narcissist.  I spent a few years in counseling with someone who knew narcissism inside and out.  And she understood how it played out in the culture of the church.

She gave me many books to read.  You can find a good list of them here, but if you would like to take a look at the book that helped me to figure out the whole narcissism in the church issue, check out Narcissism in the Church by David Orrison.



I am sure that it will blow your mind as much as it did me.  Really, I wish I had known about all of this years ago.  I could have used the wisdom not just for my own marriage, but for other difficult relationships in the church over the years.

If you liked this article, I think you will also love the following ones:

How Will God Judge a Narcissist?

When the Church Says to Move Back in With Your Narcissist

What Can We Say to a Friend Who’s Divorcing

23 Reasons Why Narcissists are Drawn to the Church

When the Church Doesn’t Recognize Narcissistic Abuse

Will the Church Support Divorcing a Narcissist?

What Does the Bible Say About Narcissism?

Can a Spiritual Narcissist Heal?

Can a Narcissist Be a Christian?

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

What Does the Spiritual Narcissist Do When You Try to Leave?

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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