Not all narcissists are religious. Some would never even think to use the church to get their narcissistic supply. But for the ones, that do, what drives them? And why do those narcissists love going to church so much?
Narcissists love going to church because people expect religious people to be more caring, kind, empathetic, and giving. It is a literal playground for the narcissist to get nearly unlimited supply. On the flip side, religious people are generally gracious so when there are red flags, they will overlook them because they hold “love one another as Christ loved the church” in high esteem.
Now that we have talked about narcissists loving the church because it is easy to get supply there, let’s look at ten ways they are able to do that so easily in the church. But first, let me clarify what I mean by narcissistic supply. Narcissists have an insatiable need for accolades, credit, unconditional love, and attention. But they won’t return any of it, because they don’t see a relationship as reciprocal. They only see the other person as the source of their supply. And that is all the relationship will ever be–the narcissist taking and the other person giving.
And with that, now let’s talk about how narcissists are so easily able to get supply from the church, making it a perfect place for them to be.
Table of Contents
Narcissists Know That Using the Right Words Will Gain Them Acceptance in the Church
The one thing narcissists do really well is study their targets. When they begin dating, they will ask you all the questions. This isn’t to get to know you, but to find out what makes you tick and how to get the most out of you that they can.
When they realize they can make the church a source of supply, they start learning how to emulate being a Christian. They learn the terms, the body language, the attitude, all of it. They are putting on an act. It is the role of a lifetime. And once you see that that is what they are doing, you will actually see them thinking about the role, transforming their face and body, and then beginning the act.
In my case, I could literally see my ex-narc as he put on a different face several times daily. It was horrifying to watch at first and then became humorous as I watched the transformations.
Narcissists Can “Act” Like They Love Others in the Church and not be Questioned
Narcissists love going to church where they can choose a few “close friends” to hone in on. They will court those people, just like they love-bombed their significant other. (Love bombing is Love bombing is the practice of showing a person excessive affection and attention as a way of manipulating them in a relationship according to Dictionary.com.)
There are a lot of people in the church that don’t feel especially loved. They go to church thinking that it is a haven to find rest, acceptance, and love. And the narcissist can pick them out immediately. Once he knows who to focus on, he will say and do all of the things that make these people feel like they finally have the love they have been looking for their whole life. How sad that in the case of the narcissist, it is not even remotely true.
He also won’t get overly close to them. He will treat them like kings/queens while they are at church or at a dinner they have been invited to. The narcissist can treat them so well without his true intentions being seen because it is for a limited time. And they will be totally unsuspecting, just like the rest of us. It is hard for humane people to see someone loving on someone only for the sake of what they can get in return. Most of us would never suspect a thing.
When the narcissist’s actions start being seen for what they really are and people are figuring things out, he will start leaning into these people to get support and validation that they are actually amazingly good and loving Christians and they can’t imagine why anyone else in the church would think they were less. And those people will be very quick to validate them as only the most loving Christian to them in all of their experiences with the narcissist.
Narcissists Know That Flattery in the Church Will Get Them Everywhere
The narcissist already knew what words to say to get certain church members totally attached to them. But sometimes, when those people hear negative things about the narcissist, the narcissist may need to get them back in their good graces. And this is where flattery comes in.
The narcissist’s flattery can come in many forms. It can be the usual words of flattery spoken to another, it can be overreacting to something the person said to the narcissist. Once, on my ex-narc’s birthday, one of his “people” sang Happy Birthday to him at church that morning. I was not in the room it happened in. But as soon as she finished singing to him, she ran straight over to me from two room away to tell me that she had made my husband cry. I looked at her and waited for her to elaborate. She said that her rendition of the Happy Birthday song had brought tears to his eyes and she was so blessed by his reaction. Oh, please.
This particular friend of my ex actually was constantly crushing on him. But she was older and definitely not anything he would ever consider even if they were both available. But he knew what to say and do to get her to say or do anything for him. He had a few people that would do that for him and it came in very handy when things exploded and went public in our separation/divorce.
Some Churches Have Doctrines That Encourage Narcissists to Control and Manipulate Others
Fundamental and evangelical churches have a strong “man is the head of the home” doctrine. This allows men to lord their authority over their wives and children in a way that can become abusive very quickly.
This is very confusing for women who are abused by their husbands in the name of Christianity. They want to obey their husbands in a biblical way. But what they don’t realize is that their husbands are taking advantage of their willing heart. God did not mean for husbands to control their wife and kids. They were meant to serve them sacrificially in love. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life.” And to go another step further, Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Generally speaking, the vast majority of husbands don’t have to give up their lives for their wives. But that is the degree God expects them to be willing to go to.
Scriptures Get Misquoted, Wives Get Abused
Unfortunately, men have twisted it around to be that they are authoritarian and not sacrificial. They use such verses as Ephesians 5:23-24, which says, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” This would all be well and fine if husbands then followed through to verse 25, as referenced above. If they are loving their wives fully and sacrificially, then wives would not be worried about being abused or lorded over.
When wives do go to church leadership for relief of the abuse, the leadership stands behind the husband, just like your run-of-the-mill good ole boys club. And women either put up with the abuse for life, or end up leaving their husbands and church in shame.
Narcissists Will Use the Bible and God to Exercise Authority Over Others
Narcissists love going to church because they can use countless Scriptures to abuse their wives while looking like the best Christian in the room. And they get crazy amounts of praise, which elevates the supply they know they can get from the church.
Narcissists love to use Scriptures like the following:
Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”
1 Corinthians 7:4 “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”
Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive the sins of other people, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
These are just a few examples. My ex delivered a letter to the leadership of my church outlining my “offenses” and explaining how I had not honored him. And he used many of these verses and many more. Thankfully, my church refused to entertain his charges, and indeed, sought church discipline for him for abusing his family.
Narcissists Love to Play the Victim in the Church
Just about every narcissist likes to play the victim when the focus turns to their own wrongdoing. And it works incredibly well. In my case, when the church leadership finally realized what was going on in our home behind closed doors, they sought to help our family heal. Instead of healing, my ex chose to buck against the discipline of the church and then sent out yet another letter (in the form of an email) to every member of the congregation.
Instead of admitting to the abuse and mistreatment of his family that the church leadership had literally witnessed, he chose to write a letter that said he loved his family and church dearly but couldn’t understand why we would treat him so badly. He then went on to say that the church leaders and counselors that were involved wouldn’t tell him what was wrong and that he hadn’t done anything wrong but was being punished for some unknown reason.
All this, after many counselors and church leaders had spent exhaustive hours telling him exactly what was wrong. And he would generally respond that nobody was going to tell him what to do with his family. His narcissism would never let him admit that publicly, though.
Narcissists Can Easily Play People Against Each Other in the Church Without Them Realizing It For a Long Time
Narcissists love going to church because they can couch words of deceit as though they were words of extreme love and care. Unsuspecting people will never see what is really going on. They will have sympathy on the narcissist for trying so hard to reach people and pray for them. And then they will join in the narcissist’s prayers for the healing of the “sinner.”
Here is an example. Narcissist Ned says to Innocent Ingrid, “I am really concerned about Clueless Cassandra. She seems to be so nice and kind, but I don’t understand why she would have thrown Honest Owen under the bus like that. Owen never has anything but the kindest of intentions when he helps out the homeless. We need to pray for Clueless Cassandra to relate better to people.
In the above example, Clueless Cassandra never said anything that threw anyone under the bus. But the narcissist put the idea in Ingrid’s head. Ingrid, sincerely wanting to be helpful, supports Ned and says she will pray for everyone involved. And then she likely does. In the meantime, Ned goes back to Owen and says he heard that Owen did or said some terrible things while ministering to the homeless. Owen is devastated but doesn’t know how to work through something he doesn’t even know the source of. And Ned continues working people over.
Years of this cause suspicion and bad blood between church members who have no idea they have been triangulated by the narcissist the whole time. And chaos ensues in spite of the fact that nobody was trying to do harm to anyone else. They were trying to be godly and helpful.
The Church is Always Looking for Someone to Fill Positions of Leadership
Narcissists love going to church because the church is always looking for leaders to help with the functioning of countless ministries. They can pick up those positions of leadership and be seen as “saving the day.”
One of the problems with this is that many narcissists have a hard time making good decisions. And it is usually their way or the highway. So they will beat a ministry into the ground before anything can be done about it or they just leave because they are over their heads and don’t want to face the shame of the mess they made.
And often, the church isn’t in any hurry to replace the narcissist even if they know he is doing a bad job because there isn’t anyone else waiting in the wings to take over the leadership positions. It is a very difficult position for the church to find itself in.
Things Won’t be Quite Right Behind Closed Doors With a Narcissist
I touched on this a little bit in the point about playing people against each other until the church is in absolute chaos. The narcissist loves going to church when he is able to operate behind closed doors, knowing that nobody is going to spread gossip around and out him for his gaslighting throughout the church body.
Most people will see that things don’t seem quite right, but they would never suspect a wolf in sheep’s clothing. So they keep quiet, thinking that there must be something wrong with their own thinking. And they think that because everyone “loves each other and wants to serve the church and promote its peace and purity,” surely everything will work itself out in the long run. Everyone just needs to keep serving the Lord with a cheerful heart.
It is truly unfortunate if these people ever do realize what is really going on behind closed doors. It can destroy the trust and life of a church for years to come.
The Narcissist Finds People in the Church Easy to Manipulate
This is the last reason I have found that makes narcissists love going to church.
In order to have a steady stream of narcissistic supply, narcissists must have people that are empathetic, loving, caring, and cooperative. In other words, easy for the narcissist to manipulate. And church members almost universally fit the bill perfectly. This is so incredibly sad for the church universal. And it is why almost every church has at least a couple of narcissists in it.
Maybe having a program that warns the church body of the insidious nature of a wolf in sheep’s clothing would be the thing that could help the majority of churches fight this attack of Satan. And churches could do what they need to in order to remain strong and effective in ministry to their congregations and communities.
There were two books I found and shared with my pastors to help them understand what was going on when we were in the thick of things. One was called When Narcissism Comes to Church and the other one was Narcissism in the Church. Both were amazing for helping me put words to what I knew was happening. My mind was too foggy from years of narcissistic abuse. And being able to show these books to my pastors so they could share with the church leadership was instrumental in helping them to work through the issues with the church.
I highly recommend these books. You will finally feel like you are seeing things for what they really are. Healing can begin!
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