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“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” - 1 John 4:1
It’s sad to say, but not everyone who claims to be Christian is really a follower of Christ. Many are simply pursuing their own agendas, be it money, fame, or political influence. These false disciples come in many shapes and forms, but perhaps none is more dangerous as the Spiritual Narcissist. A Spiritual Narcissist is someone who uses the Gospel to build themselves up while they tear others down. If left unchecked, their actions can inflict devastating harm on both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Below are five warning signs that you may be dealing with a Spiritual Narcissist,
1.) They Constantly Reference their own Achievements
The Spiritual Narcissist loves to self-promote. For them, every conversation is an opportunity to share just how superior they are to the average believer. They typically go about this by listing off their own achievements. You’ll hear them talk incessantly about their upcoming book, their latest blog post, sermon series, missions work, or that time they led someone to Christ. Scripture tells us not seek our own glory and to let our work stand on its own (Proverbs 27:2), but the Spiritual Narcissist will flaunt anything they believe might bring them praise.
The best way for Christians to counter this display is to follow the example of Micah 6:8, live justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with the LORD your God.
2.) They Invade Conversations
The Spiritual Narcissist craves control, and their highest authority is always their own self-reference. As a result, it’s not uncommon for them to invade the personal or private conversations of others. They’ll often do this under the guise of “helping” or “correcting” fellow Christians, but they have no real interest in two-way dialogue. You’ll notice they also have a way of injecting their own opinions into situations, and are the first voice their complaints about recent events in the Church. The Bible warns that such people create division among believers and serve only their own appetites (Romans 16:17-18, Psalms 36:1-4).
There’s no good way to speak with Spiritual Narcissists (Proverbs 26:4-5), the best response Christians can make is stand their ground and refuse to be bullied.
3.) They Twist Scripture
Susan B. Anthony once said, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires”. In the same way, a Spiritual Narcissist uses scripture as a tool for their purpose instead of God’s. They approach the Bible with a closed mind, memorizing only a handful of useful verses that will justify their behavior. Anything else, particularly scripture that conflicts with their actions, gets ignored. Like the men of Jude 1:4, they should not to be trusted.
The best defense Christians have against this kind of faulty theology is to simply read the Bible. The more familiar we become with God’s work, the more familiar we become with God.
4.) They Profess Love, but Never Show It
Perhaps the easiest way to identify a Spiritual Narcissist is to see if their works match their words. Many will claim they have nothing but love and compassion in their hearts for those they rebuke, but their actions prove otherwise. Matthew 7 teaches us that we can judge a prophet by the fruit of his labors, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” So, what kind of harvest do they bring to God’s table? Division? Disdain? Cruelty?
Love is more than words, love is actions. That’s what separates the true Christian from the Spiritual Narcissist.
5.) They Talk, but They Don’t Listen
Listening can be a powerful tool for Christians. Listening builds trust, creates empathy, and fosters understanding among individuals. James 1:19 even urges believers to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. The Spiritual Narcissist, by contrast, is quick to speak, quick to take offense, and incapable of listening. They enjoy being the loudest one in the room, and the idea of deferring to someone else galls them.
A true Christian listens to others, even when they might not agree with them. Listening requires that we be selfless, which is the one thing a Spiritual Narcissist can never be.