Only one, but he has to wait for the whole world to revolve around him.
During a recent conversation about narcissism, I posed this question: can a narcissist ever be redeemed? I wasn’t sure. Of the handful of true narcissists I’ve personally known, none of them ever changed. But how do you know if someone is a narcissist? Here’s a handy guide:
“Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behavior may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.
“People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s ‘rudeness’ or ‘stupidity’ or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician.” – PsychCentral.com
I’m sure you, as well as I, have known those among the body of believers who displayed narcissistic behavior. But this behavior is the exact opposite of Christ’s attitude, who was humble and God-focused. His world never revolved around Himself; His primary mission was to fulfill the will of the Father.
Back to the question, can God redeem even a narcissist? Since nothing is too difficult for God, the answer would have to be yes. But what would it take? Let’s take a look at some examples from the Bible.
- Pharoah, King of Egypt. He displayed a lack of empathy toward the plight of the Israelites. The Bible says he hardened his heart. “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice…? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.” — Exodus 5:2. In Pharaoh’s world, everything was all about Pharoah.
- The King Herods. Herod Antipas was known for his grandiosity—a luxurious palace, lavish parties. Herod the Great was noted for his need to be #1 and his lack of empathy. He felt threatened by the birth of another King, God’s son, and ordered all baby boys to be killed. If that isn’t lack of empathy, I don’t know what is.
Neither of these men ever repented of their self-exaltation. The biggest problem with narcissism, spiritually speaking, is that one cannot give glory to God when one has exalted oneself. And God doesn’t take this lightly. Pharaoh lost his first-born son (Exodus 12:30). Herod died a gory death; you can read it for yourself in Acts 12:21-23.
However, one well-known narcissist from the Bible did repent, and did finally give glory to God. But only after God struck him with insanity. That narcissist was Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king with a super-sized need to be adored. You remember him. He’s the guy who built a gold statue of himself and demanded everyone bow down and worship it. Three Jewish young men refused, and the king had them thrown into a flaming furnace (Daniel 3). But God got hold of him (Daniel 4). After he spent seven psychotic years in the wilds, like an animal, God restored his sanity, and Nebuchadnezzar finally exalted and gave glory to God. It’s a beautiful ending to a story that started as a tragedy:
“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven.” –Daniel 4:34,35
This is why Daniel is one of my favorite books in the Bible. It’s a story of hope and redemption. It proves God can humble the most egocentric of hearts, even though sometimes He has to use the most drastic of means.
So when we are praying for the narcissists in our lives, may our prayer be that they will repent and humble themselves before God, before it’s too late.