Narcissist gravitate to positions of power, and christian church leadership is no exception. While we like to think of pastors, preacher, priests, and elders as doing the work of god, some are putting themselves before God. Here is how you identify and escape narcissistic church leadership.
Narcissistic church leaders making their ministry about themselves, rather than doing the work of God. They act with pride, making their good deeds known, put others down so they look better, and feel any setbacks are personal attacks against them. Counter them by taking your faith in to your own hands and taking back the church with compassion.
Because of the vulnerable nature of people practicing their religion, having a narcissist embedded in these organizations can cause extreme damage to Christians in need of help and support. Let me walk you through what to do with a narcissistic Christian leader.
Sure Signs of a Narcissistic Church Leaders
Narcissistic behavior is incompatible with the teachings of the Christian faith. Narcissism itself is an intense form of pride mixed with deeply repressed feeling of inferiority.
Here are some behaviors of a narcissistic christian leader —
- Makes the church or organization “about them”
- Open, to the point of being boastful, about their faith and religious calling
- Tries to portray themselves as the “perfect Christian”
- Takes personal credit for the acts of the church and congregation
- Builds a cult of personality around themselves
- Cannot hear or accept critique or criticism of their behavior
- Personally invested in the success of the church beyond a healthy level
- Uses the Bible and Christian teachings to make their point rather than to inform their opinion
- Pointedly criticizes non-Christians or other members of the church as not being good enough or not following Christ’s teachings
The difficulty with narcissistic church leaders is they are good at making it seem like they are good people. Commonly, narcissist will have many admirers and supporters in the community. They are taken in by the narcissist’s falsity and show of goodness and find any evidence of to the contrary very difficult to accept.
The narcissistic church leader may even try to make you feel like you are crazy or that you are the bad one. This process is known as gaslighting.
Narcissists may also send third parties that you don’t expect to persuade you that you are in the wrong. These people may be church elders, friends that you trust, or even family. They are usually taken in by the narcissist and don’t know the harm that they are doing. This technique is known as “triangulation,” and is commonly employed by narcissist of all types.
How to Overcome Narcissistic Church Leadership
The first thing I recommend is that you take a step back from participation in the church or organization run by a narcissist leader.
Seek Out An External Base of Support
Narcissist Christians tend to use Christianity and religion as a means of control through false or distorted teachings. And, they like to keep you on the back foot emotionally through spiritually based attacks, cutting you off from your community and family, and convincing you that you are in the wrong.
The best thing you can do is found a religious or spiritual foundation outside the narcissist’s area of control.
One easy way to do this is to start working with a Christian counselor. I have a directory of available services here.
Instead, or in addition, you may wish to seek a non-religious coach or counselor with specific experience dealing with narcissists. At the very least, you should read up on narcissists, and consider going through a book or course that helps you learn to deal with them. Recommended resources to help you —
Identify Wounds and Areas of Weakness
Sometimes, we are just unlucky when we become involved with a narcissistic christian leader. Other times, we have some weakness or underdeveloped portion of our psyche that leads us to them.
Unfortunately, many people in Christian households have experienced some form of psychological abuse. Because everyone feels like their own childhood was “normal,” since as a child we didn’t know anything else, it can be difficult see where our problems come from.
Here is a collection of resources for victims of christian narcissists, that may help you identify and overcome previous experiences you’ve had with narcissists.
- Overcoming Damage Due to Narcissistic Christian Counseling
- For Victims of Narcissistic Christian Parenting | Learning to Love Again
- Dealing with a Narcissistic Christian Mother | Beating Toxic Religion
- Help! My Mother-in-Law is a Christian Narcissist | Save the Relationship
Approach Other People in the Community
Up to this point, I do not recommend confronting or make accusations about a narcissistic christian leader. Attacking a narcissist, even slightly, is a recipe for harsh reprisal.
However, I believe it is a Christian duty to keep the integrity of christian institutions. Once you have made progress healing your own wounds and developing an external framework of support, then you should consider what to do about the narcissist directly.
The first thing you should do is gently share your experiences of narcissistic abuse or things you’ve noticed about the narcissist leader with others in your congregation. Avoid accusation. Just try to open dialog and see if you can’t guide people to their own realizations, the same way you had yours.
Realize, that this may not work.
In many circumstances, the congregation is too taken in by the narcissist leader to make any meaningful change. It is possible that by attempting to expose the narcissist you will be shunned or excommunicated from the group.
Always have a plan to leave the church or group run by the narcissist if that necessity arises. Start exploring new churches, groups of friends, christian activities, or other alternatives that fill the time that you currently spend with the narcissist’s organization.
It may be that you loose friends over this.
You have to ask yourself, "What would you sacrifice to live in truth rather than narcissistic falsehood?.
Make a Change
If you are able to get enough people in your church to see how the narcissist is hurting the organization, then you may be able to make a constructive change.
You may have to ask the narcissist church leader to step down or to leave the group altogether. Narcissist very rarely reform or change their ways. So, while you shouldn’t condemn them for what they’ve done — you should always maintain Christian compassion — you also can’t expect them to be more than what they are.
Narcissistic leaders are never good for their organization.
While, you may not be the one who is responsible for asking the narcissist to go, this article shares some tips with how to deal with firing a narcissist —
This is written from a business perspective, but the same rules apply to churches and non-profit organizations.
The take home is that a narcissist on their way out is likely to lash out and attempt to defame or damage the reputation of the church or organization. Narcissists go to crazy lengths to make themselves right, and others wrong. Especially in a situation where they face rejection.
Always let a narcissist go with care, with a solid plan in place to handle their backlash, and precautions ready to counter their accusations.