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The seven (7) elements needed to change narcissistic behaviors.

What is the definition of narcissism?

Narcissism is defined as “excessive preoccupation with or admiration of oneself ." It is conceit. The word narcissism is used to define personality, disorder, disease, character, behavior, and actions. Many psychologists believe that narcissism is so extreme that it interferes with normal healthy functions. The DSM-V (Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Health-5) even has a diagnosis called narcissistic personality disorder or NPD, which more people are using to label individuals who exhibit the following:

  • A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (making themselves appear impressive); need for admiration

  • Fantasies about power, success, beauty, or an idealized vision of love

  • Sense of entitlement

  • The belief of being special, unique or of high-status

  • Lack of empathy for others

  • Tendency to exploit others

  • Arrogant behavior

Looking at this list, undoubtedly, someone comes to mind. Is there hope for that person? Could that person be you?

Is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) a disease?

Individuals are typically diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation, including filling out questionnaires and the criteria listed in the DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Like other personality disorders, no physical examination or brain scans are necessary for such diagnoses. While it is relatively easy to receive a psychological diagnosis, it is challenging to erase it. Therefore, caution and serious thoughts are necessary before ascribing most psychological diagnoses.

A disease is a pathological process that healthcare providers can see, touch, and measure (Boyd, 2000). Unlike most psychological disorders, diseases are measurable and have a specific cause. It is imperative not to get the two confused. Since there are no biological tests that measure psychological disorders, in most cases, society determines what is normal and what is abnormal, as well as where the line of deviance exists, based on social norms. What if you were to let the Bible tell you what is normal and abnormal? Would the same conclusions be made?

Can someone with a narcissistic personality change behaviors?

The short answer is yes! It has long been believed that people cannot change their personalities, but a review of recent research in personality science points to the possibility that personality traits can be changed through persistent intervention and major life events (Bleidorn et al., 2019).

Individuals with narcissistic ways are noted as having a high need for control, a low level of empathy, the tendency to exploit and manipulate, a strong sense of entitlement, the need to be superior, and can be charming, yet fake. An examination of these behaviors from a Christian worldview renders them a direct result of sin and attributes of Lucifer. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." Isaiah 14:12-15.

Individuals with narcissistic behaviors are very selfish and self-centered. God's desire, however, is to remove these evils from your hearts, but only if you let Him. God will never force you to do anything. You must allow Him to transform your heart. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” Ezekiel 36:26.

What are some examples of what the Bible says about narcissistic behaviors?

If you have a high need for control: You must have self-control. You are not given the authority to have control of others’ will and thoughts. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” Proverbs 25:28.

If you have low level of empathy: You must learn how to tune in to other individuals’ needs, feelings and perceptions. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:32. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” 1 Peter 3:8.

If you are manipulative: Stop playing games with your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and those of others. “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out” Proverbs 10:9. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” Proverbs 12:22. “Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit” Psalm 52:2. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” Galatians 6:7-8.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2.

If you have a strong sense of entitlement: Lose the sense of entitlement and learn that everything should not be focused on you. Consider the needs of others instead of focusing on yourself. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 7:12.

If you feel the need to be superior and everything: You must learn to put others first and accept that God is the only Supreme Being. The Bible says, “So the last will be first, and the first last” Matthew 20:16. “Who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” 1Timothy 6:16-19.

If you are charming, but fake: You must show friendliness in sincerity. Only showing friendliness when you will get something in return is disingenuous and not Christ-like. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out” Numbers 32:23.

What are the seven elements a narcissist needs to incorporate in their daily life to begin change?

1. Recognize you are not living a Christian life.

Ask God to come into your life. Recognize that you need Christ to live in you. You are a sinner in need of pardon and grace. Your narcissistic attitude may have hurt many people. Seek their forgiveness and God’s forgiveness.

2. Accept the fact you don’t know everything.

Start with a sense of humility and say, “It isn’t all about me.” Just because you think something to be true doesn’t mean there aren’t other possibilities out there that could be taken into account. The narcissist says, "Well, I know everything.” A Christian says, “I want to get input from other people as God is teaching me humility.”

3. Ask those whom you trust for their opinion.

Find people who know you and you trust will give you straight forward answers and ask them: “what are some things about me that you’ve noticed that I need to pay special attention to and pray about?” If they tell you some things that are not very flattering, let it be known that you want to hear examples and listen to their input with no particular defense. Make yourself open to the instructions or observations that might be useful to you.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” Proverbs 27:6.

4. Be very specific about what changes are needed in your life.

We live in a sinful and broken world. We have all made mistakes or have landed in positions where we’ve done things that we wish we could take back. If you want to be someone making changes, identify what you have done wrong and what changes you must make. Self-reflection is essential. What is it that you see inside? Do you have a bad temper or a critical or judgmental spirit? When you are asking for forgiveness and praying, be very specific about what needs to be different in your life.

5. Make yourself accountable to trustworthy people.

Identify a trusted friend, pastor, counselor, support group, relatives, or anyone that loves you and cares about you. Make yourself accountable, and let them know what you are wanting to accomplish. Having a sense of community around you can be very helpful. Tell them you need their prayers as you are learning to surrender your ways to Christ.

6. Make amends for the wrongs you have committed.

As you commit to change, identify the people you have hurt because of things you have said and done. Be willing to go to those people and apologize to them, and let them know that you are working on changing those things. Put actions to your words.

7. Become a student of healthy living.

Make sure you are a person who wants to learn. Become a good student, and study the scriptures to show yourself approved by God. Humble yourself daily at the foot of the Cross of Christ.

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Boyd KM. Disease, illness, sickness, health, healing and wholeness: exploring some elusive concepts. Med Humanit. 2000 Jun;26(1):9-17. doi:10.1136/mh.26.1.9

Bleidorn, W., Hill, P. L., Back, M. D., Denissen, J. J. A., Hennecke, M., Hopwood, C. J., Jokela, M., Kandler, C., Lucas, R. E., Luhmann, M., Orth, U., Wagner, J., Wrzus, C., Zimmermann, J., & Roberts, B. (2019). The policy relevance of personality traits. American Psychologist, 74(9), 1056–1067.

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