Jim believes God ordained him
as the male leader to control his family.
He’s married to a woman who had children before they were together and it’s been a struggle for him to allow them to be themselves. He feels it’s his religious duty to police them. His efforts include locking the kitchen after bedtime in case the teenagers want a snack and putting a block on the computer, so they don’t break the Sabbath.
One time I visited his house when his younger children had been put to bed without any supper because they wouldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer before the meal. His wife disagreed and was upset that her children were in bed crying from hunger, but she felt powerless to say anything because she believed her husband was the God-ordained head of the family and she must obey him.
I can think of no worse marriage than to be married to a narcissist who believes God wants him to control the entire family, but that’s what happens when a narcissist feels ordained by God to practice male headship.
The belief that a man is superior to a woman can be the first step to justify narcissistic behavior. If God made Adam more important than Eve and he is the celebrated leader, while she is expected to be his foot woman and water carrier, she is robbed of her God-given individuality and freedom.
When our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are considered both different and inferior in the eyes of the God we worship, this belief tends to permeate society, and everyone suffers.” ― Jimmy Carter, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
So let’s look through the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and see how they might fit with the mindset of male headship. A person who manifests a pattern of five of these characteristics in their life is likely to be diagnosed with NPD.
- Has a Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance
The male headship belief that man is superior or has privileges over women justifies and empowers the narcissistic mind. A religion that insists on male headship attributes the inequality to God. Jimmy Carter and the Elders (Elders of many nations) have declared that most of the abuse toward women in the world is related to patriarchy.
- Preoccupied with Fantasies of Unlimited Success, Power, Brilliance, Beauty, or Ideal Love
Since male headship teaches that men are somehow superior to women, a woman’s dreams are not as important as the man’s. If a man has a bent toward any of the narcissistic dreams on this list, he might imagine God will help him to realize these plans.
Narcissistic abuse does not take away from the fact that God can lead people, but the rationalization of the narcissistic mind tends to overlook how their goals might affect the lives of others. God doesn’t lead us into selfish behavior. Narcissistic male headship allows a husband to sacrifice his family’s best interests to meet his own needs.
- Believes that He is “Special” and Unique
I once knew someone who kept thinking he was getting visions and dreams from God that his wife and children would die if they didn’t follow his religious advice. Male headship narcissists often feel called by God to straighten out their grown children’s lives because they believe they are the only one who can interpret the Bible correctly.
- Requires Excessive Admiration
Male headship entails the entire family worship the father and tiptoe around his temper or bad habits without addressing them because the man must be the revered head of the home.
- Has a Very Strong Sense of Entitlement
What is more entitling than being in control of the whole family with everyone jumping at your bidding? Because proponents of male headship proclaim it’s God’s command, the narcissistic mind feeds further into this fantasy. Women and children are hidden and abused while the father lives like a king.
- Is Exploitative of Others
Headship permits men to use their wife or children in whatever way they want. They might use their children for labor or take their children’s money because the father owns everything and everyone in his family. The husband is the head, so he manages all things. He has no one to answer to but God, and if he’s not listening to God, there is no end to the harm he can do.
- Lacks Empathy
According to the authors of the Empathy Trap Book, a lack of empathy is spurred on by apathetic bystanders. In a male headship family, the need to comply with the powers that be discourages family members from speaking up. If the man abuses members of the family, no one will say a word because he is closer to God and he knows what is best. While narcissistic abuse might not be true for all men who believe and practice male headship, if the husband is high on the narcissistic scale, his lack of empathy can quickly escalate into domestic violence. A man who lacks empathy controls his family and has no accountability to anyone, but himself is a dangerous person.
- Is Often Envious of Others
Envy might or might not be true of a man practicing male headship, but it could still be another source of anger and violence which is only exacerbated by the practice of male headship.
- Regularly Shows Arrogant, Haughty Behaviors or Attitude
In male headship, pride is often confused as honor. The narcissistic head of the family feels threatened by an insubordinate wife or a child who disagrees with him. When a man believes he is the priest of the family, he has the potential to inflict punishment and spiritual abuse on those who don’t comply with him. He might see them as rebellious and disrespectful if they choose to worship or pray differently than he taught them and he will ultimately punish or shun them.
Male headship and narcissism are a dangerous mix. The combination can harm innocent people physically, emotionally and spiritually. Narcissistic headship steals the freedom of the wife and children to realize their potential. They might struggle with who God designed them to be versus what “the head” wants them to be. Abusive male headship builds a barrier between children and God because they imagine God is just like their father.
Not all narcissists believe in male headship, and not all proponents of male headship are narcissists, but wherever the two shall meet there is a danger because male headship is truly a narcissist’s dream come true.