Malignant Narcissistic Abuse – Understanding the Enemy’s Devices

narcguiltOne of the few redemptive things to come out of personal struggle and tragedy is the ability to help others going through similar situations. In the last six years, since I began posting articles on dealing with toxic interpersonal situations, family or otherwise, (there have been over half a million hits on those posts), I have heard from many, primarily Christians, who are bewildered, confused, and in great emotional pain about their own situations. There is hope that comes with understanding. That’s what this post is about.

You don’t need counseling credentials to write about what you have experienced and what you have gleaned in attempting to understand it. In the last few years, similar writing has been a life-saving thing for me. Through Facebook, I have been in touch with various counseling organizations and groups formed to encourage and help others who are losing their minds trying to deal with people who present themselves to others with such greatness and virtue,  but who are systematically destroying those closest to them. For those who are Christians, the toxic combination of “Christianity” , mixed with a behind-the-scenes reality that is at complete odds with the claims, it is especially damaging, because faith itself comes under attack. Why does God allow this lie to continue? Why does God allow families to be destroyed by those claiming to know Jesus? Why are so many fooled by this fraud and refuse to believe those who are being targeted? It can be soul destroying if you let it.

These memes are part of a collection I have that express with laser-like clarity what narcissistic abuse looks like, both in family systems, and elsewhere.  Damage is done not only by the perpetrator, but by his enablers who surround him and prevent accountability or isolation of the abuser from ever taking place. A malignant narcissist is not just a “difficult person.” They do not just cause “tiffs and disagreements.” They are human relationship destruction machines, empty shells without consciences.  They are skilled at manipulation and lie as easily as they breathe, making their targets appear crazy or unbalanced. They are image specialists, knowing how to preserve a squeaky clean appearance, as their enablers (known as flying monkeys – see Wizard of Oz) do their bidding without ever questioning the situation. These are useful tools, unwitting or otherwise, who help in the destruction of innocent people.

As a side note, I would like to add that no amount of public good done can justify the destruction of those closest to you. Many malignant narcissists in ministry (the self-deprecating kind described by Jack Watts) build their public works on the backs of those in their families. If you create a family, that is already your first calling, to nurture, instruct and love them. As parents, we are not accountable for the well-being of strangers’ children or strangers first. Ignoring this fact results in untold personal destruction from those who are often voiceless and helpless, the ones left by the side of the road in the rush to help strangers.

Christians are told to be aware of the enemy’s (Satan’s) devices – to understand his playbook in the destruction of lives and souls.  Well, here is just a glimpse. (Hit the pause button in the middle if you want more time to read.) There are numerous resources online for more information.  I highly recommend this short, seven-minute video, that will further explain. (Also posted below.)

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20 thoughts on “Malignant Narcissistic Abuse – Understanding the Enemy’s Devices

  1. Jana says:

    Thank you Ingrid! 🙂 I have a friend that is seeking divorce from a diagnosed malignant narcissist . I have encountered one for sure in my life or 2 . ( maybe not malignantI didn’t know what the problem was until I began studying the subject . When your caring & empathetic you become a target . The ones I have met say they are Christians . It’s like a wrecking ball going through your life & the damage can be overwhelming & leave you confused, bewildered , & that is the tip of the iceberg . Total wrecking ball .

  2. Ingrid says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jana. Wrecking ball is an apt description. If they cannot control, they will attempt to take what means the most to you, other relationships, respect you have rightly earned, finances, whatever you need, they attempt to take it. Two other points are worth sharing:

    1.) I can’t underscore enough that these are not just “difficult” people. It is a form of pride that ultimately completely blinds them. They have hearts of stone, and I believe God gives men and women over to this at some point when they want their own way, even while claiming to love Jesus. If you have no conscience, no natural affection, no kindness and no fruit to what your faith claims, you are blind, I don’t care how much “Jesus” you claim to have. Because the others judge by outward acts and appearances, those engaging in this are able to have a Teflon coating, where the cries of those they injure just roll off. Nobody wants to believe it. The image becomes more important than the reality. They want their hologram of spiritual rectitude. Who doesn’t want to see real Christianity these days?

    Second point is that those simpletons, and I mean that not in a malicious way, but those who cannot think more than a layer deep, often do incredible damage to those who have been injured. Many are unable to think more than a layer deep, and the ability to understand deception is not commonly had. If someone looks good, sounds good and does “mighty works” in God’s name, the small voice of the injured is shut down, dismissed, arrogantly described as “bitterness”, and all the other insults leveled at the hurting. Depth of understanding is one positive thing to come out of deep pain. I would rather be a wounded person who “gets” how evil narcissists can be than a simpleton who enables those who hurt others. That’s all.

  3. Wallace says:

    Hello Ingrid & friends. I don’t want to take up too much space here but I do have some insights that I would like to share. While I appreciate how difficult it is to be a pastor and/or elder today, we are witnessing an epidemic of narcissism in American churches that is being overlooked by many if not most for the sake of “unity” (false unity in reality). I would like to go on record as stating that the ends do not justify the means used to get there in ministry. God’s word does not support building a “ministry” on the backs of people you have crushed along the way.

    I have personally witnessed situations where others have been targeted to be discredited because they failed to continue to blindly overlook misdeeds in church leadership and I have been on the receiving end of similar efforts for questioning whether replacing sound teaching with pragmatic techniques is a Biblical practice.

    When the goal is to protect the “preacher” more than preserve the integrity of what he supposedly represents (the whole counsel of God’s word is the presumption here), then Houston, we have a problem. Unfortunately, what we see today in American Evangelicalism is not only elders but fellow pastors of large American churches overlooking and providing cover for men who stand in the pulpit and announce that they see pornographic visions of the people who come in for counseling. hear audibly from God about items of extra-Biblical revelation, and other abuses of scripture to mention only a small percentage. Those who have the courage to question said “pastors” are orally pummeled, threatened with lawsuits or even bodily harm, and asked to leave so as to allow for “unity” to continue…

    There is no unity when God’s word is being violated. Friends, when the Bible (especially the letters from God through Paul to Timothy & Titus) are considered, no man who neglects much less harms his family and/or church members is qualified to be in ministry and most certainly should not be protected and enabled to continue in such practices by other pastors & elders. The goal of ministry is not to build careers for egotistical celebrity wannabees.

    If you have been harmed by a pastor or church, you are not alone. You also are not to blame. Please reach out to Ingrid or the resources she promotes. Help is available from people who truly care.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Thanks, Wallace, for the excellent comment. Good words. Yes, it is an epidemic, because man is on the throne now, instead of God, who causes us to be humble and soft-hearted. It’s important to point out also that narcissism does not always present as chest-thumping “I’m da greatest” style. That may fly in seeker/emergent churches with leaders swaggering out in skinny jeans and tight t-shirts. The self-deprecating type is even more insidious. “I’m just a humble man of God, I am a cracked clay pot…” and yet they are as controlling and malicious as any of the Driscoll-style swaggerers. It’s all pride, start to finish, it just manifests in different people/settings. The good part is, where there is understanding, we can find hope for a future where we are not controlled by another person, but rather, we operate in the commands of Christ to love those closest to us and stay as small as God calls us to be. The desire for numbers and greatness and influence is huge. We’re called to be faithful, and that starts with loving those around us first. That’s where ministry begins.

  5. Denise says:

    Thank you for your posts on this subject. My husband and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong in two relationships, one was a friend and the other a family member. We were 7 years into the friendship before we realized what was going on. We were relieved to learn that this thing had a name, “narcissism”, and the description fits to a tee. On the surface, these two people appear to be good Christians and pretty harmless. As time goes by, a pattern unfolds, and it’s easy to see that chaos is their bread and butter. Whether it’s “in-your-face” control or more subtle manipulation, in which a person takes supreme advantage, and uses your faith and generosity against you, the end result is the same. It’s a one-way street that leaves you second-guessing yourself, feeling guilty and confused. It’s exhausting to try to sort out this spiritual tangle, and I realized that we can’t sort it out ourselves. This is spiritual warfare. The Christian is called to serve and sacrifice, which makes the generous people ripe for the picking. We are wiser from the experience. Thanks again, Ingrid, for bringing this subject to light.

  6. Ingrid says:

    Yes, exactly, Denise. The hallmark of narcissists is conflict and emotional chaos. They thrive on what kills most of us emotionally. Masters of relational disaster. If they are not the center of attention, no holiday, no party, no event is too special to ruin, and somehow, they manage to project blame onto their targets. If you are soft-hearted, compassionate and empathetic, it makes you all the more vulnerable. There is a book out called, The Empathy Trap by Drs. Jane and Tim McGregor that shows how empathetic people are sitting ducks as targets. The very gifts God granted are turned into places of vulnerability that can destroy us if we are not discerning and understanding of how narcissists work. We are called to be loving and giving as Christians. We are not called to commit suicide on the installment plan by allowing evil individuals to bleed us to death over time.

  7. Mark Van Der Molen says:

    A key thing to remember is that “no contact” or “no response” is usually the only viable way to survive the narcissist game. Do not fool yourself into thinking you can persuade or argue the facts with one of them. They operate in an un-reality of their own creation, so if you challenge that unreality with truth, you are seen as a threat to their very identity. Hence, the vicious circle will start all over again, and you will only walk out of the encounter further dazed and bloody.

    Of course, the narc will view the “no contact” as yet another reason to attack you (typically behind your back). They will accuse you of being un-Christian. But Scripture does not command you to continue to subject yourself to the abuse of one who will not receive Biblical correction. Titus 3:10-11 says “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.”

    Once you realize that the attacks will come no matter what you do, you understand that you have the power to remove yourself from dark whirlwind that is their mind.

  8. Ingrid says:

    Mark, thanks for bringing up that essential point. The “no contact” thing is critical. Everything you say or do will be lied about, so emails, calls, letters and attempted visits will be lied about as well. (_____ came and attacked me. Screamed and yelled…lie, lie, lie…). This is the “casting pearls” Scripture talks about. You desire reconciliation, you desire peace and forgiveness, so you try again and again, thinking it’s the correct thing. It’s the equivalent of driving into a cement wall over and over, and not getting why you are bruised and nearly dead. You mark the divisive person, as Scripture tell us to do, and move on. It keeps you, as much as possible, out of the chaos and conflict where Satan lives. We are called to live, as much as we can, in peace.

  9. Carolyn says:

    “If someone [the offender] looks good, sounds good and does “mighty works” in God’s name, the small voice of the injured is shut down, dismissed, arrogantly described as “bitterness”, and all the other insults leveled at the hurting.” YES.

    “The self-deprecating type is even more insidious. “I’m just a humble man of God, I am a cracked clay pot…” and yet they are as controlling and malicious as any of the Driscoll-style swaggerers. It’s all pride, start to finish, it just manifests in different people/settings.” YES.

    “We are called to be loving and giving as Christians. We are not called to commit suicide on the installment plan by allowing evil individuals to bleed us to death over time.” YES.

    Everything Wallace said, YES, especially “God’s word does not support building a “ministry” on the backs of people you have crushed along the way. I have personally witnessed situations where others have been targeted to be discredited because they failed to continue to blindly overlook misdeeds in church leadership…”.

    Thank you for this post.

  10. Debbie Hubers says:

    Thanks so much for your post Ingrid. I am so grateful that the Lord continues to use you to guide, support and encourage myself and others..

  11. Carol says:

    Amen to all of these statements of truth and reality, sad and pathetic as it is. I identify with your statement, Ingrid, “I would rather be a wounded person who ‘gets’ how evil narcissists can be than a simpleton who enables those who hurt others.” Jesus is near to the brokenhearted and His wrath is against those who are like the Pharisees. Lord, be the Balm of Gilead over all our wounds, and bring us all to wholeness for Your Glory, Amen and Amen.

  12. Brianna George says:

    Wow. Thank you for this. Your encouragement is an incredible gift. I am so glad I found your blog. It is such a wealth in dealing with the Narcissistic person. I like how you define they are MORE than just a “difficult” person. 💜

    Brianna
    Unveiledandrevealed.com

  13. healinginhim says:

    Wish I could sign my “true identity”, however I fluctuate from feeling brave to fearful should some of the abuser(s) in my life were to discover what I desire to share. If they were to read my comments which might identify them; it would only make matters worse.
    All I can do is hold onto God’s promises and pray for a way of escape from the game that others insist I play.
    This article and the comments bring much healing to a weakened vessel and I thank the Lord for having discovered Ingrid, her family and friends.

  14. Carolyn says:

    Wanted to add this:

    “Damage is done not only by the perpetrator, but by his enablers who surround him and prevent accountability … of the abuser from ever taking place.” YES. Especially damaging when enablers are those in “authority”.

    Thanks to Carol for pointing this one out: “Depth of understanding is one positive thing to come out of deep pain. I would rather be a wounded person who “gets” how evil narcissists can be than a simpleton who enables those who hurt others.” YES and AMEN.

  15. Carol says:

    You’re welcome, Carolyn. We need to pray healing for all involved, both victims and abusers. The abusers hurt themselves spiritually each time they hurt their victims whether they realize it or not. It is the devil’s work to steal, kill, and destroy our minds, souls, and often our bodies when they develop sickness from this, and the abusers are pawns in his hand. We must work through our anger and forgive while keeping our distance and guarding our hearts and not allow bitterness to grow in us. Understand our real enemy behind all of this. The lack of wisdom and understanding will cause more people to damage and be damaged. Let us be a part of stopping the chain from continuing. One of my past abusive pastors learned his behavior from his mentor. Lord, help us all, and give us Your healing Grace and Peace, Amen.

  16. Carolyn says:

    Thank you again, Carol:

    “We must work through our anger and forgive while keeping our distance and guarding our hearts and not allow bitterness to grow in us.”

  17. Jana Brock says:

    This article is spot on. Having been raised in a religious cult (the kind that even the government takes down…and did) has given me a perspective on organized belief systems and the wholly dangerous unquestioning methods being used on people today. This article rang many bells for me. Well done!

  18. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful, affirming post. Your own writing, bolstered by the meme collection and video (both of which I read/watched twice!) had my mouth hanging open–they describe my life with my parents and, unfortunately, my son, who learned to control me with FOG tactics as a baby! Of course, having been raised in a high conflict home, always trying unsuccessfully to be the peacemaker, I enabled his controlling tactics. He eventually caused me emotional and financial ruin.

    One thing I must take issue with is the statement that taking on narcissistic traits, if one grows up in such a home, is voluntary. It is not. If the only coping mechanisms you have ever known are drama, tantrums, accusations, the silent treatment, etc, it takes time to figure out that these are dysfunctional and abusive. And since Adult Children of Narcissists (ACoNs) often are drawn into adult relationships with narcissists, the story tends to perpetuate itself down the generations. After all, when we meet someone who “feels like we have known them all our lives,” well, we probably have, because they “feel like home,” our family of origin.

    The first thing we must learn is insight: it isn’t our fault, we are not defective, we do not deserve to be treated like a mouse being tortured by a cat.

    Some people are fortunate to realize that something is very wrong–usually after multiple failed relationships, suicide attempts, or other catastrophic life events–and seek help, sometimes from the right person, like a good therapist, and sometimes from….someone who “feels like home,” claiming that they want to help, but really being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as we unfortunately see with some religious leaders. I have even had a narc therapist! She had a hand in destroying my marriage. I sat there mesmerized while she smiled and preened, not realizing what it was about her that was so familiar (she was like my mother, who used to court my boyfriends), until it was too late. She stood up, announced that it was her opinion that we should divorce, and left us sitting on her couch looking at the floor.

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