While Jesus’ popularity was growing, John the Baptist’s friends felt a little slighted for the prophet. John the Baptist however, said about Jesus, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30 NLT) John knew that God had appointed him to be the messenger to announce the coming of the “bridegroom,” who was Christ Himself, and he was content to play the role he had been given.
After conducting a funeral for an elderly lady, I was eating at the table with her grown children. Each one was talking about projects they had going on in their homes. I was surprised how easily their lives seemed to be moving on. I thought to myself, “If they can move on so easily after losing their mother, how quickly will people forget me after I die?” The thought was making me a little depressed. While they were talking among themselves, I quickly checked my Facebook under the table. And I saw that a friend had written, “Living my life so that people will remember me after I die is too small a cause to live for.” With the timing, I took that as a message straight from heaven. Had I been focusing more on God’s love like John the Baptist did, instead of myself, I probably would not have had that moment of insecurity and depression.
Health professionals agree that a lack of feeling loved is what leads to insecurities and even narcissistic attitudes. Because John the Baptist was focused on God rather than self, he was overwhelmed by God’s love, and I believe that is the exact opposite of the focus of a narcissist who is insecure because of self-focus.
Below are signs, from the Mayo Clinic, that you or someone you know may be narcissistic. [1. Most rest of this post was first published in May 2013. It is re-published now with some revisions because it fits in so well with this week’s focus on John the Baptist and on the reference to Christ’s self-renunciation in Philippians 2:5-8.] The Mayo clinic says this is a rare mental disease. Some may wonder what their definition of “rare” is, since narcissistic behavior seems to be becoming an epidemic. After each sign, I have provided a Bible passage which offers a cure or example for each sign of narcissism.
I don’t believe people intend to be narcissistic, and may not be aware of their narcissism. If this looks like you, please prayerfully consider the Bible verses and perhaps contact a Christian counselor for help.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, how you handle it needs to be determined by the nature of the relationship. In some cases, you may be able to deal with the relationship by leaning fully on Christ and getting your love and strength from Him. In other cases it may be so damaging that it becomes necessary to seek spiritual and maybe even professional counseling to find your best way out. Don’t be surprised if the narcissist makes him or herself look like the victim.
As well as providing the signs listed below to diagnose narcissism, the Mayo clinic also suggests a cause for the disease. They theorize that people who were not properly nurtured and cared for in the early stages of their life are more likely to become narcissists. If only these people realized how much God loves and cares for them!
Lucifer was loved and cared for in heaven, yet he played mind games with himself, until he brainwashed himself into thinking that nobody cared about him but himself. His only self-concocted shred of evidence was that God the Son outranked him. He felt ill-used because he did not have the position of Christ and thought, “What about me?!”
Meanwhile, Jesus, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” Philippians 2:6 NLT Instead of crying out “What about me!” Jesus has always cried out, “What about others!” Here are the signs of narcissism provided by the Mayo Clinic, along with the examples or cures found in the Bible.
- Believing that you’re better than others
Biblical Response: Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:1-8 NLT
- Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
Biblical Response: So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 NLT
- Exaggerating your achievements or talents
Biblical Response: Then the people of Ephraim asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us this way? Why didn’t you send for us when you first went out to fight the Midianites?” And they argued heatedly with Gideon.
But Gideon replied, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t even the leftover grapes of Ephraim’s harvest better than the entire crop of my little clan of Abiezer? God gave you victory over Oreb and Zeeb, the commanders of the Midianite army. What have I accomplished compared to that?”
When the men of Ephraim heard Gideon’s answer, their anger subsided. Judges 8:1-3 NLT
- Expecting regular praise and admiration.
Biblical Example: Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”
Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. Acts 12:21-23 NLT
- Believing that you deserve special treatment
Biblical Response: When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!
“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11 NLT
- Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
Biblical Response: Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:15-16 NLT
- Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
Biblical Response: Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. Proverbs 11:14 NLT
- Taking advantage of others
Biblical Counsel: Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. James 5:1-4 NLT
- Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
Biblical Example: Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 NLT
- Being jealous of others
Biblical Response by Paul: Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”
Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:28-29 NLT
(When Paul had Jesus, He did not want anything King Agrippa had. He wanted Agrippa to have what He had!)
- Believing that others are jealous of you
Biblical Example: And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who [is] this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.
And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.”
And David said, “What have I now done? [Is there] not a cause?” 1 Samuel 17:26-29
- Having trouble keeping healthy relationships
Biblical Counsel: A man [that hath] friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend [that] sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
- Aspiring to the position of someone above you
“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning!
You have been thrown down to the earth,
you who destroyed the nations of the world.
For you said to yourself,
‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars.
I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north.
I will climb to the highest heavens
and be like the Most High.’
Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead,
down to its lowest depths. Isaiah 14:12-15 NLT
- Feeling easily hurt and rejected
Christ’s Example: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6
- Having a fragile self-esteem
Biblical Example: And the women answered [one another] as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands .And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed [but] thousands: and [what] can he have more but the kingdom?
And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. 1 Samuel 18:7-9
- Wanting to appear tough-minded or unemotional
Biblical Promise: And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: Ezekiel 11:19
If you see yourself here, or someone you have to deal with on a regular basis, you may need to seek professional counseling. (Here is some helpful advice on dealing with a narcissistic boss.)
We may be tempted to be narcissistic in some very ordinary circumstances. For instance, a while back, a friend of mine was flying from Tampa to Chicago every week on a work assignment. At the end of a certain week he was tired and ready for a quiet and relaxing plane ride home. It wasn’t going to happen. That day a large group got on the plane who were having a big noisy celebration of some kind. Instead of getting angry or upset, my friend who was already tired, just sighed and smiled, as he told himself, “Apparently today is not about me.”
In many cases, the cure may just be that simple. Remember that “It’s not all about me.”
For the disciples it was a little more complex than that. They had rivalries and arguments over which one would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom. It wasn’t until they saw Jesus on the cross willing to die the second death and go into total oblivion that they then lost their narcissistic tendencies and became selfless and meek like John the Baptist who said,
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30 NLT
The disciples overcame self and narcissism when they did what John the Baptist suggested years earlier.
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NLT