In Religious Narcia, if you fail to meet the narcissist’s needs, he will manipulate you—even use the name of Jesus to get you to do what he wants. His need for feed propels the narcissist to control and manipulate you. Spiritual Manipulation comes in many forms and is often built on a false picture of a controlling God. The narcissist likes to think of God using power over much like he does, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Some of the tools in the religious narcissist’s toolbox are criticism, shaming, legalism, judgment, fear, violence and shunning.
Criticism is one of the first manipulations most of us experienced as children if we grew up with a narc parent. It’s subtle and often framed with the comment “Why are you so sensitive?” The habit of jumping through hoops to please others started early for many of us and it is hard to break. Especially if it is couched with shame.
Christianity is a perfect environment to shame people because hurting people with low self-worth come to church looking for hope. Such people are especially vulnerable to manipulation. Guilt is the natural result of doing something wrong, but shame is an attack on our value as a human being. Don’t let the narcissist shame you–he should be ashamed that he would use the name of God to manipulate others, but most narcissists have numbed their conscience and can’t imagine feeling shame for the things they have done.
When people believe they have merit with God based on external behavior, they often imagine they are better than others and this sets them up to judge others. Many religious narcissists read the Bible like code book and try to decipher what they can and cannot get away with. When we choose to read the Bible as a case book, we see how God met many different people in different ways throughout the Bible and extended His grace to them in both testaments. We can’t let others be our conscience.
Religious narcissists often think of themselves as the so-called “watchman on the wall” and they try to enforce their desired behavior in others.
Religious narcissists like to judge the music, food, traditions and beliefs of others. If you pay close attention, you might notice they are incapable of having a relationship with you because they can’t see your heart, they are focused on your outward behavior and so busy judging they have no capacity for love. God’s ways are not human ways. God looks at our hearts–not our external behavior. Don’t let the religious narc hurt you, find people you have beliefs in common with and go hang out with them.
One of the most common pastimes in Religious Narcia is fear-mongering. Fear has been used to scare people in many ways from coming to church and baptism, to giving up all your money for fear of the future. Be especially aware of independent ministries who try to scare you into giving them money. Fear can be used to manipulate people into coming to changing the way they eat, dress, and worship. Make sure your changes are for God and not people.
Many religious narcissists get high off of warning other people about the disasters to come. There is some sort of power they feel when they can see the terror on other people’s faces and they can project their own fear onto others. A healthy relationship with God is not based on fear of dying or burning in hell—it is based on the kindness and love of Jesus.
Many martyrs have died through the centuries because someone decided to enforce their religious practices on others. In Religious Narcia, gossip is the same as committing social murder. Narcissists like to talk about the people they can’t control.
As a last resort when they feel they cannot milk you for anything else, the religious narcissist will shun you.
Each of these methods are mind games the religious narcissist will play to bully people into providing narcissistic feed. If you can recognize this abuse for what it is, the narc will have no power over you and you can refuse to participate. Of course the narcissist might not be satisfied with you just walking away–chances are he has a motto that says, “I don’t get mad, I get even.”
This leads us to Religious Narcia 4- Self-Righteous Indignation