Christian or not, once you find out you are dealing with a narcissist, you want to do some very unbiblical things. The emotion and anger at realizing you have been treated so badly is hard to deal with in a kind and gracious way. But for the few who do choose to treat the narcissist with kindness and compassion, the next problem is that the narcissist will use it to further manipulate them and fool others into thinking he is something else. So, how do we biblically deal with a narcissist in an effective way?
To know how to biblically deal with a narcissist, you must first understand why they behave the way they do. Then, you must remove your emotional reactions from the equation. You must set and keep healthy boundaries to keep them from further abusing you. You must know what you can and can’t do to relate in healthy ways if at all to them. And finally, you must decide what the future of the relationship will look like and act accordingly.
While this was an incredibly easy answer to write, it is significantly harder to live out in the real world. Let’s take a closer look at each part of the answer.
Table of Contents
To Biblically Deal With a Narcissist, You Must Understand Why They Behave the Way They Do
What Constitutes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
According to the National Library of Medicine, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, a narcissist must exhibit 5 out of 9 characteristic traits of narcissism in order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They are found in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, and are as follows:
- An extremely elevated sense of their own importance, to the point they will fabricate accomplishments, awards, and other similar achievements in order for people to see them as better than they are in reality.
- A preoccupation with superiority, success, power, intelligence, beauty, or ideal love.
- The belief that they are so superior to those around them that nobody can truly understand them. They also think they can only associate with those who are as unique or superior as them or attain a high enough social status to warrant being able to associate with the narcissist.
- An insatiable need for excessive admiration. They must be worshiped for everything they do.
- A sense of entitlement. Concessions must be made for them because they are better than everyone around them. They expect all the special privileges and benefits that anyone or any organization offers, with no expectations on their part to earn them. They also expect total and instant compliance. Nobody can question them or their motives or reasoning.
- Is exploitive of everyone around them. Sometimes that looks like sacrificial, compassionate acts of service. Because it will get them to the goal they are pursuing. More often, it is about crushing those under them so they can reign supreme.
- A lack of empathy. They are unable to see or acknowledge the feelings, needs, and humanity of others. On the flip side, they expect everyone to clearly see their own feelings and needs all the time.
- An extreme amount of envy for those around them who have what they want. And the feeling that everyone is envious of them for what the narcissists fools them into believing he has.
- A display of arrogant, obnoxious, haughty behaviors and attitudes. They use these to cut down anyone who dares to cross them.
To clarify, there are many narcissistic people walking around that do NOT have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It manifests on a spectrum. Only the most narcissistic get the formal diagnosis. According to the DSM-5-TR, 0.5to 6% of people are actually diagnosed with NPD, translating to up to 7.7% of men and 4.8% of women.
Also interesting to note is that the Personality and Personality Disorder Work Group recently proposed to remove the diagnosis of NPD completely from the DSM in future editions.  Fortunately, the National Institute of Health (NIH)  has officially come out in support of retaining the diagnosis as it stands.
How Did Your Narcissist Become Narcissistic?
This is the heartbreaking part of the story. While we do not have any confirmed cause of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, tons of research has been done. And experts do have a pretty good idea of what causes narcissism. There seems to be some genetic component to becoming a narcissist. But there seems to be even more correlation to environmental issues. The first five to seven years are critical to the emotional development of a child–and because of this the biggest factor seems to be environment at an early age. Being raised by one or both narcissistic parents can cause children to become narcissistic because the child does not get necessary emotional support and is not raised to be emotionally mature.
If they are severely abused or neglected during those early formative years, they will develop methods to lock themselves down to prevent the hurt and shame they feel. As they see these methods giving them some success at warding off the shame they are made to feel, they continue to perfect this new mask they wear.
By the time they are in their later teen years, they have mastered the narcissistic personality. But the majority of people they associate with won’t see it coming because they have also mastered staying just far enough away from people for them to not see what is really going on.
To Biblically Deal With a Narcissist, You Must Remove Your Emotions From the Equation
Biblically speaking, we are to be calm, kind, and empathetic to all that we relate to, whether it is the stranger on the street, or our spouse.
Once my ex husband was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and counseling didn’t get anywhere because he refused to acknowledge, let alone work on any of the issues, my pastor’s wife shared several scriptures with me about how to proceed. One of the first passages she showed me was Psalm 10. Here is is for you to read:
1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by[b] him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
She explained that my ex’s behavior toward me was the same as an enemy to his victim. And while Psalm 10 speaks about what the enemy will do to destroy those that they know they can overpower, God is so much bigger and sees what is going on. That enemy will either have to repent of the evil he has done or he will face God one day and pay for it.
That means that we don’t have to worry about seeking our own justice! What a relief that really is! We still must learn how to protect ourselves and respond appropriately. That means that we don’t let the narcissist get us spun up. In fact, responding as boringly as we can will most often cause the narcissist to get bored and look for easier targets. This is called grey rock, which can be very effective at taking the narcissist’s attention off you. But if you overuse it, it can have the opposite effect of making them get in your face until you do react the way they want you to. Be very careful with whichever way you choose!
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” This means that when you answer the narcissist with anger or even frustration because of his abuse, the situation will only escalate. He will not change his ways. If anything, he will get more angry and abusive with you.
On the other hand, responding to your abuser with a soft answer does not mean that you silently take whatever he throws at you, or that you have to approve of his abusive treatment of you. It means that you graciously and kindly tell your abuser that he (or she–use the pronouns as they fit in your case) cannot treat you that way. Do not be overly emotional in an either sad or angry way. Just factual.
Proverbs 16:32 says, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
I can’t tell you how strengthened I felt when I was able to step aside with my emotions and learn to respond in emotionally healthy ways. I was not longer feeling knocked off kilter so quickly and easily. I stopped getting triggered (for the most part). And I learned that there is great strength in staying level-headed. Even though my ex husband would never give me the satisfaction of that fact.
I will admit that when he realized he could no longer control me in this way, he got much angrier and tried to gain control over other areas of our family’s life. If my church and counselors, and lawyer had not stepped in and had him removed from our home, we would have been virtual prisoners in that home.
When you decide you are ready to stand up for yourself, make sure you have support in place for a possible fallout of the narcissist that can put you in emotional danger for sure and possibly physical danger.
1 John 5:16 says, “If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.”
The sin that leads to death that God says we shouldn’t even pray for that person is not giving in to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When a narcissist refuses to acknowledge and repent of their sin, they are telling the Holy Spirit to take a hike. And God will not let them get away with that in light of eternity.
We should change our prayers for that person to be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit. Click here for guidance on how to pray for your narcissistic husband.
There are many more verses that talk about this. I could literally write a book about all of those verses! For the sake of this article, this will have to suffice for now.
Here are some articles closely related to this point that you may want to read as well:
To Biblically Deal With a Narcissist, You Must Set AND Keep Healthy Boundaries
God does not expect victims of abuse to just take it. When they go to church leadership for help, often church leaders will tell them they must stay and “suffer for Jesus.” That is not even close to what Jesus said or thought. Suffering for Jesus means suffering for being a Christian in an anti-Christian world.
Philippians 1:27-28 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.”
This means that if your narcissist tries to treat you in ways that are against the Word of God, you not only can stand up to him, you NEED to stand up to him! Of course, keep yourself safe! If you fear what he is going to do next, then don’t try to stand your ground or fight. Get yourself to safety. But you do not have to submit to ungodly behavior!
When I was going through this, I was so afraid I would not be seen as a submissive wife. Now I am mad that I let myself be controlled in such a way, by my then husband as well as my church denomination. While most of the church leaders in my church were understanding (eventually) about not having to submit to abusive husbands (or wives), there are plenty of church leaders that think women do not have the ability to speak up against being treated wrongfully. I will have to save that discussion for another day, another article.
But the point I want to make is that we do not have to submit to abusive leadership in our homes. There is a book that I read early in my healing that is one of the best books I have read to this day. I recommend it to everyone in my divorce care support groups. And I recommend it often here on my site. It is The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick.
If you could only get one book during your healing, it would have to be this one!!! She starts the book with a test to help you decide whether you are in a difficult or destructive marriage. Then, she goes on to help you take action steps based on your results. You are in control of your own healing! And as a critical part of healing, she uses the acronym CORE to help you know how respond in emotionally mature ways. Here is what all of the CORE principles stand for:
C – I will be committed to truth, both internally in my own heart and mind and externally. I refuse to pretend.
O – I will be open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, teaching me, maturing me, and guiding me into his way of living my life.
R – I will be responsible for my own responses to destructive behavior and commit to being respectful without dishonoring myself.
E – I will be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me.
In a response to a follower, she goes on to say, “When you know and believe that you are a loved, valuable, worthwhile human being and live from that core place, toxic people lose their power to manipulate you. They can’t control and intimidate you as they once did when you felt worthless, dependent and needy.”
Once I learned these 4 really important steps and started practicing them, my whole world changed. Tell me how it worked for you too!!!!
For those who are dealiing with a narcissist that is not your spouse (co-worker, neighbor, other family member, friend), Leslie Vernick has a perfect book for you too! It is The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. Both books work off the same principles regardless of the relationship, but if you want one that is specific to your situation, check it our here:
To Biblically Deal With a Narcissist, You Must Know What you can and Can’t do When Relating to Them
There are things that are absolutely appropriate to do when protecting yourself against the abuse of a narcissist around you. You are still a child of God and must behave that way toward your narcissist, even when they say or do unspeakable things to you. It helped me a lot of realize that God has way better justice than I do. It is easy for me to know that He will handle it the right way and I don’t need to.
Following are some do’s and don’ts to help you get along easier. (If you have some good ideas that worked for you as well as you journeyed toward healing, feel free to share them below!)
What You Can’t do When Relating to Your Narcissist
Let’s face it. Humanly speaking, we can think of all kinds of things we would like to do to our narcissist to get them back for the years of anguish we suffered from them while giving them the benefit of the doubt. But in the scheme of things, they won’t work out so well in reality. And why would we really want to stoop to their level? I have heard it said many times that the best revenge is living a healthy and wholesome life after everything with the narcissist is said and done. Here are some of the things we really don’t want to do:
- Gossip and spread rumors, true or false, about your narcissist.
- Talk to everyone you run into about what has happened to you. This will not help you to heal. And honestly, people just don’t want to hear it! It can make people feel very uncomfortable, especially if they don’t know you that well. And, whatever you do, DON’T talk to your cashier or random stranger on the street about it!
- Don’t seek out revenge on your narcissist. You know how you felt about the way they treated you. And you know that they will go off the rails if they feel slighted or treated badly. It isn’t worth it. And you really won’t feel as good as you think you will. Walking away to a healthy life will make you feel so much better. Let them wallow in their narcissism. You are now free!
- Don’t warn or tell people in their new world once they leave the world you are in. They will see you as a vengeful former friend with an axe to grind. They will never be grateful for the info. This one was really hard for me. I know he tricked his current wife into marrying him by playing the victim. His favorite story is he loved his family dearly and has no idea why we have walked away from him. He married her a mere six days after our divorce was final. Do you think she would believe me if I told her he was kicked out of his home by authorities for abuse? I fully doubt it. Someday she will find out though, but not from me. And he will pay for his treacherous behavior toward her.
What You Can do When Relating to Your Narcissist
Believe it or not, there are things you can do for your narcissist that will make you feel good in the end. I will admit I am a work in progress on some of them. But that’s okay as long as I’m healing in the right direction!
- Pray for him. This may have been one of the hardest things for me after I knew we were getting divorced. I didn’t care if he healed anymore because our life was destroyed and over. Finally, over time and after forcing myself to pray, it has gotten better. And while I am praying for him, I also pray for my own heart.
- Don’t even try to justify your behavior. You will only get caught up in circular reasoning, blame shifting, lies, and word salad. It isn’t worth it. I learned to not care if he thought I was wrong. I knew where I stood and I didn’t need his approval to stand there.
- Always be mindful of your safety as well as anyone around you. Unfortunately you will always have to be alert if you are in relationship with them. Don’t expect them to stop just because you aren’t playing the game anymore.
- Keep your contact to a minimum. Say only the bare bones of what you need to. The less you interact, the less material they have to abuse you with.
- You don’t have to go out of your way to be overly kind to your narcissist. In fact, the more kind and nice you are, the more they feel justified in the way they treat you. But you also don’t have to be too terse with him either. The less you communicate, the better.
To Biblically Deal With a Narcissist, You Must Decide What the Future of Your Relationship With Them Looks Like and act Accordingly
For a lucky few, when they realize they are dealing with a narcissist in their life, they can just walk away. That can happen in friendships and in marriages without kids. But in most other relationships, it is not so easy to make a clean break from a narcissist. If they are your neighbor, you can’t instantly move to a new house. If they are a coworker, or even worse, a boss, you can’t always just switch jobs. And if you have kids together, you will likely not ever be able to break away. Unless your kids all cut ties as well.
So, in that regard, you will have to decide what the future of your relationship looks like. As I already mentioned above, keeping communication to a minimum is the best. If you are dealing with an ex spouse, limit conversation to plans with kids on days they have visitation. If it is with a neighbor, be kind and smile when at neighborhood events, but don’t let their public charm allow you to let your guard down. You will pay for that casual conversation long after all of the flying monkeys and people they are trying to impress are gone.
If you are dealing with a coworker, try to keep collaborations and projects with them to a minimum. If it is a boss, do what you need to to keep your job and realize that rocking the boat will not help you. You will be the target of his future attacks, or you could lose your job because you made yourself a threat to the narcissist.
The key here is to not get entangled with the narcissist, no matter what walk of life it is in. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of scriptures that talk about how to deal with narcissists. The Bible calls them fools, people with insolent pride, haughty, arrogant, proud, and scoffer, to name a few. Let’s look at a few here:
Proverbs 21:24 says, “The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—
behaves with insolent fury.”
1 Corinthians 7:15 says, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” This means that if your narcissist chooses to leave you and move on to his next life, let him. God will give you peace.
James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'”
Ephesians 4:31 says,”Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Proverbs 31:9 says, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
There are so many more really good passages, but this article has been long enough. I may have to do a separate article for each section of this article to be able to give each point the attention it deserves. Until then, I hope this helps you out!
God has plenty to say regarding how we should treat those who are abusive to us, whether it is our husband, parents, children, neighbors, work associates, or any other person. We are not to return evil for evil, but we are also not expected to lay down and take it.
How have you worked through this? Has your church been supportive? Did you have to change churches? What have you lost/gained through this process?
I pray that regardless of where you are in the process and what you have gained or lost, you have at least become closer to God and His will for you. I pray that your healing is in full swing. Please feel free to comment below or contact me here if you don’t feel comfortable posting in a public forum. If you do feel comfortable posting publicly, please do so, as your words can be a helpful, soothing encouragement to those who now walk in the shoes you have walked in.
Blessings and hugs,
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2022, May 1. StatPearls [Internet], Narcissistic Personality Disorder. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556001/
- Amazon. 2013.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision Dsm-5-tr. https://www.amazon.com/Diagnostic-Statistical-Disorders-Revision-Dsm-5-tr/dp/0890425760
- PubMed. 2008, July.
Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2669224/
- PubMed. 2016, September-October.
Personality Disorders in DSM-5: A Commentary on the Perceived Process and Outcome of the Proposal of the Personality and Personality Disorders Work Group. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27603745/
- PubMed. 2011, April 25.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder in DSM-V–in Support of Retaining a Significant Diagnosis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21466253/
If you found this article valuable, I think you will also love the following articles:
- How Narcissists Use Religion to Control and Manipulate You - December 26, 2023
- Do Flying Monkeys Ever See the Truth? - December 16, 2023
- Flying Monkeys Spying: Understanding and Dealing With It - September 21, 2023