Monday, December 17, 2007

Voice of God or the devil?

When a narcissist discovers the vast potential for control of others through spirituality, whole congregations are in danger. Not all spiritual narcissists belong to a formal congregation; I believe that many are satisfied with controlling the "congregation" of family. Either way, a spiritual narcissist holds a very powerful handle on others once they learn the jargon, a few good Bible texts, and perfect their angel face.

Much that is labeled "spiritual" falls into the category of subjective and undefinable. At least in the minds of many people "spiritual" seems subjective and undefinable because many times rationalizations are labeled "spiritual"...and rationalizations can be legion. Because of this ambiguity, narcissists thrive. Narcissists flourish in the areas of ambiguity that exist in the minds of normal and decent people. Narcissists also thrive in social settings where the majority of people are in full possession of a conscience. People with a conscience can easily be convinced they are the ones in the wrong, that they are the ones misperceiving reality. So the narcissist who stumbles upon the rich potential of a gathering of spiritually minded people is like a kid in a candy store. Or a fox in a hen house. Or a wolf in sheep's clothing.

In my unfortunate dealings with spiritual narcissists (a category my mother also falls into since the late '90s) I have noted a common thread. The spiritual N recognizes the powerful handle they have on many by simply claiming to be plugged into the "voice of God". They either claim to have a superior understanding of God's voice as it pertains to the Scriptures, or they will go so far as to claim to be able to hear His voice either through prayer, or simply moment by moment as if they are tuned into the frequency that God transmits His will through that only the most spiritual and pure have access to on the tuner. Or all of the above. Because the Bible has many examples of individuals who heard God's voice and have articulated it for the congregation, Christians are loathe to summarily discount someone who claims such an ability. We get sucked in by our desire to believe that God's voice is so clear and discernible even if only by a select few. Who are we to say whether or not Holy Joe over there is plugged into God's Holy Frequency Channel? Rather than look like an unbeliever, most will go along with Holy Joe's claims simply because it seems impossible to disprove him.

The first and most overt case of a spiritual narcissist in my experience was my aunt who had convinced her family she could hear the voice of God, or "Abba" as she called Him. She was my mother's youngest sister, my Aunt S. I was rather shocked at her latest revision of herself when I saw her for the first time in half a dozen years. This aunt had long made great professions of spirituality and had gone through several spiritual fads, but now it was apparent she'd taken it to the next level. She went around piously stating constantly, "Abba told me this" or "Abba says no". It was an instantaneous feed where, in the very process of a conversation, my aunt claimed to have God's answer to your question or request. I watched quietly as she completely controlled the behaviors of her immediate family with this "Abba this" and "Abba that". It took me less than a day to become fully disgusted with her manipulative behavior as well as marveling at her husband's complete and total capitulation to her spiritual "superiority". She had the absolute and final last word on any subject because she had convinced her "congregation" that she had become so spiritual that she could constantly hear God's voice. By any subject I mean everything. Apparently, God is a complete control freak and really wants to tell us whether or not to eat toast for breakfast or what time to get the tires on the car rotated. Micro-management of our every single movement is apparently the spiritual narcissist's concept of God. No surprise there, since the narcissist aspires to be God Himself, and it is the narcissist's desire to completely control everything about everyone. A case of projection onto the Almighty Himself.

My mother was there for this bit of theatrics by her sister and apparently she took notes. Even though she acted a little shocked by her sister's behavior when I privately pointed out to my mother that it was just a manipulation tactic, I think the evidence now proves that my mother must have envied the power her sister had found to keep family members in complete control.

It was within the next year my mother made great profession of a conversion. Shortly thereafter she started spending large amounts of time in "Bible study" and prayer. I put Bible study in quotes because her idea of Bible study is just as perverted as anything else about her. I found out later that my mother had begun to control my cousin and her sons with messages from God in the months following her "conversion". My mother wasn't yet as overt as her sister. She didn't claim to have a continuous feed from Heaven Central. Her evolving gig consisted of her claims that in her long prayer sessions "God told me that you need to...." insert whatever it was she wanted this person to do or to stop doing. Her revelations always came after one of her looooooong prayers that she was careful to point out the length of to anyone who would listen.

It was my mother's claim to hear God's voice that ended my relationship with her. Before she engaged in an unprovoked verbal attack upon my then 20 year old daughter, my mother had been praying in my living room during the fateful Thanksgiving visit of 2002. She told my father and my daughter that morning that during her prayers in the wee hours of that day she had heard a voice telling her "GO" as she prayed about her granddaughter. She repeated this story about the voice that said "GO" many times to various people in the fall-out from this event as she tried to exonerate herself. She was simply following God's clear instruction and therefore she was not responsible for what happened. God was. We were resisting God's will by not acknowledging she was only doing what God told her to. Because I persistently refused to believe her claim to be hearing God's voice...and because I insisted on the many objective reasons why I knew it couldn't have been God's voice talking to her...she eventually recanted and said it must not have been God's voice after all. This recantation was only given to me and my daughter and not to those who weren't there to witness the event. When she felt cornered she was willing to tell me what she knew I wanted to hear...the voice in her head wasn't God. It was obvious I wasn't going to believe that the little man behind the curtain was the Great Oz...so she caved.

I also have had an experience with a spiritual narcissist who is not related to me. She too claimed to have special ability and abundant spirituality that enabled her to know God's will. She usurped power from her church positions and attempted to control every aspect of this small church's operation and outreach. This saga was particularly painful and drawn out as most people refused to see this woman for what she was. The church didn't survive the experience.

People who are honest with themselves realize that they are not particularly pure or pious. Because of this they tend to believe the professions of those who appear to be pious and pure. The decent but average churchgoer will subvert their own good sense to the spiritual narcissist because they can be easily convinced that someone else is more spiritual than themselves. No one knows better than you do that you aren't on your knees for an hour a day and studying your Bible for two hours a day. Christians are taught to believe that prayer and Bible study are the sure-fire way to get on the holiness fast-track. So when Holy Joanie comes along and drops hints about her vast hours of prayer, meditation and study, you feel like a spiritual midget and are primed to fall for the pronouncements from those you perceive to be more spiritual than you.

A bit of advice here...the truly pious make no professions of being such. It is the hypocrite and Pharisee that makes a great show of their religious acts and piety. Consider it a red flag when someone you know is careful to drop hints about their hours of prayer and Bible study, their charitable donations or volunteer work, their degrees in theology or their years of "being in the truth" when it is gratuitous to do so. See Matthew chapter six for extra help when confronted with someone who makes sure everyone see their good works. The person who has the trumpets blown just before they drop their money into the church coffers is a hypocrite. Period. When you catch someone being careful to do their good works out of sight and without recognition then you've probably found a truly good and sincerely religious person.

Sometimes the hypocrite doesn't drop the hints but finds others to do that for her. She has a few loyal friends who are careful to sing her praises or go into attack mode when their "leader" is confronted by someone who isn't buying the act. Spiritual narcissists gain a lot of power by just having a few good people who will defend her reputation to the death. The victims of the spiritual narcissist find themselves quickly ostracized, criticized and their reputations mutilated by these "true believers" in the narcissist's spiritual gifts.

Is it possible for a narcissist to be plugged into the voice of a holy and just God? Are you in spiritual danger if you discount someone's claims to be hearing God's voice even though you can see that the fruit of their lives is rotten? How can you know for sure it is okay to dismiss these transmissions without fear that you may be dismissing God Himself?

Since I'm tired of typing...I'll attempt to address those questions in the next post.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

My father is a prophet. He wasn't always a prophet. He became a prophet when he discovered the charismatic movement 30 years ago. A prophet without an ounce of natural affection, let alone the love of Christ, is something you don't ever want to run into.

Anna Valerious said...

"A prophet without an ounce of natural affection, let alone the love of Christ, is something you don't ever want to run into."

I'm sure I don't want to run into such a "prophet". T'would more resemble Beelzebub, I'm sure.

Karen said...

Oh yea, the "spiritual N" is just terrible! My Dad growing up used certain Bible verses so he could get what he wanted. I remember him telling us many times, as little kids, "He who does not work does not eat." So because we didn't have a paying job (umm, we were 6 years old!) we were not allowed to eat... We pretty much were deathly afraid to open the fridge or a cupboard when he was around. ~ It's a miracle my brother and I are Christains... My Dad only uses religion to get his own way... I could go on and on how he wrongly views women "based" on the one verse about women submitting to their husbands... Wow. If only he'd read the verse right after it, that if Husbands do not love and honor their wives their prayers will not be heard or answered! ~K~

Anonymous said...

Anna,
Here is a link to an interesting PDF about "Jezebel". It's an interesting read about the female "N":
http://www.sweety.com/Jezebel.pdf

BoB ;)

NoTherapy said...

Hi Anna,

I am the Anonimous who wrote about her N mother's therapist who called. I will from now on call myself No Therapy.

These N's are really ALL THE SAME My mother thinks that she has a very very special angel watching her back. This of course is archangel Gabriel, I mean hey why choose some angel when you can have this super angel at your side right?

The interesting thing is, that she never talked about angelic protection for other people (haha like me!). No, only she does exist in this incredible bubble together with mighty Gabriel and rest....well they can be hung to dry.

CZBZ said...

Thank you for this post, Anna. The power of religion is to strengthen people, not render us more gullible!

I've always felt that the more Grounded we are in Reality, the more spiritual we become as a direct result. In the day and age of Narcissism & Spirituality, it's difficult for people to know the what a truly 'enlightened' experience might be.

One of the most spiritual moments of my life was waking up for the fifth time, and lovingly changing my crying baby's diapers.

I'm looking forward to reading your follow-up message. There's a lot of confusion in our world about the meaning of spirituality and the abuse of religion.

Hugs,
CZBZ

Naive No Longer said...

Anna, you wrote:

Is it possible for a narcissist to be plugged into the voice of a holy and just God? Are you in spiritual danger if you discount someone's claims to be hearing God's voice even though you can see that the fruit of their lives is rotten? How can you know for sure it is okay to dismiss these transmissions without fear that you may be dismissing God Himself?

It would be great if you addressed these issues. My mind has been boggled many-times- over regarding my mother and her Christianity. I have come to the conclusion that she interprets and uses God through her narcissism just like everything else in her life. She claims that something is of God and presents it in such a neat and attractive little package with a bow on top. And it sounds sooo good and sooo plausible. And she speaks with such authority. And it has just enough truth in it to make you wonder, should you be paying attention to this? And she's your mother and "claims" to have your best interest at heart. And she's only concerned for your well-being. And she REALLY thinks she's heard and is hearing from God and that you should pay attention. And there is just enough coincidence in the circumstance to make them seem "supernatural" and thus makes you wonder. And... And ... And...

Brotherrrr!!! I have quit trying to figure it out. If God is really speaking through my mother, and it is something I really should be paying attention to - then God is very capable of speaking to me about it as well. Thus, I am not dismissing God, I am dismissing having my manipulative mother be the mediator between God and me.

What baffles me is, are they really plugged into a holy and just God, but take what they hear and pervert it with their narcissism? Or are they plugged into a "perverted" God of their own making who isn't really OUR holy and just God after all? Somehow, though, there seems to be "just enough" of a bit of truth to it to cause you to pause and wonder before you dismiss it. Sometimes it is out and out blatant and easy to dismiss but my mother is so good that she makes you pause and wonder. That is why I stay away from her. I choose not to spend the energy on all this any more with her.

The latest - She tells my sister today:

"I just got out of a prayer meeting and a woman who doesn't even know I'm estranged from my daughter came up to me afterward and said that she felt impressed to tell me the story of how she has been estranged from her daughter for 10 years and how God has brought them back together again when it seemed impossible because our God is a God of restoration and a God of miracles".

Well, you know, my mother ate this up as a direct sign from God that her and I are going to be reconciled and this is confirmation to her of such. And that although this has been agony, she is going to maintain her hope in God that He will provide a miracle.

Once again . . . brotherrrrr!!!

BUT, how DO you explain circumstances like that???? This woman had NO idea. And this just gives my mother MORE ammunition that I am in the wrong and she is the bigger person who is going to keep believing in God for a miracle.

The thing is, even if it were God's will that mother and daughter are reconciled . . . that this would be the "ideal". There are some very REAL things that would have to occur in order for that to happen. Where my mother has is all mixed up is she thinks that there is just some "waving of a magic wand" and POOF!!! RECONCILIATION IS TO BE HAD!

What she fails to recognize is that the real miracle would need to occur in her own personality. She refuses to look at any part she has played in this rift thus negating the fact in her mind that she has to take ownership and make any real RESTITUTION and some permanent and deep changes. And then these changes would need to be displayed consistently over time before any sort of trust could be had again.

BUT NO, a miracle is much easier for her to swallow.

Touched by a Narcissist said...

I have unfortunately discovered a friend is a narcissist who also used a God as a tool for manipulation. This posting is so accurately describing the situation it is frightening and enlightening at the same time.

A N will definitely cling to one or two avid supporters and use them to his or her full advantage.

Touched by and Narcissist

Anonymous said...

Umm... naive no longer...

How do you know that your mother is telling the truth? [regarding that woman estranged from her daughter who supposedly spoke to your mother after the prayer meeting].

Your sister wasn't there. She has only your mother's report of events. And mommy wouldn't ever tell lies...

Narcissists can fabricate stuff like that out of hard vacuum, never mind thin air. And they do.

It's also possible that your mother did some major trolling for this kind of feedback in her own 'testimony', and the woman just took the hint.

Not a sermon... just a thought.

kroseloree said...

This is an excellent subject....and Oboyo boyo boy! I could write scads of crap about my upbringing....! I had some of it figured out before I learned about Ns....but this is so much more clear now. Thank you for what each of you have written.

My Nmom was 'converted' to Christianity when I was about six...(along with my Dad.) We lived in the South and it seems that the denomination was as involved in conservative (RightWing) politics as well. All I remember was being 'overhauled'...not only on doctrine and theology but politics as well. It took me years to sort and seperate the two subjects apart and to view them each with a critical mind. Nmom was incredibly quick to spot 'incorrect' theology and/or doctrine. I never remember hearing much about having a 'personal God'...it was ALL intellect....teaching, inculcation, correction, discipline.....She raised me to feel ashamed and to feel guilty..using all 'correct' verses and doctrine to shape me up and keep me in line. What she didn't realize is that SHE introduced me to God....gave me access to His Word....and over the years, I began to 'see' that God wasn't anything like what she was using Him for. I began to listen to HIM! (I no longer ran to her as my spiritual 'mentor'...) And it all began to click. She was WRONG....and I could see that I would rather throw myself at God's mercy ANY DAY than put myself in front of her for direction and judgement. Never did she say: "Why don't you pray about that, kroseloree."? Why? Because God might speak to me....He might be kind to me....He might free me...He might release me...He might EXPOSE her!

I know this all sounded kind of strange....and we aren't here to share religious beliefs....and that wasn't my point. My main point was how she USED spiritual things in such a perverted and counterfeit way to manipulate me, the family, 'friends', etc. for her own purposes. She damn near drove me to insanity....all the while 'clucking' about 'what a hard time I have'....and 'be not weary in well-doing'....That arrogant, self-righteous, heartless, soul-less wench....Jezebel, is right...(BTW...That was a veeerrryyy interesting website on Jezzie...! Read it, if you haven't...)

Yeah....and Dad? Oh, man...yeah...that's another story...

Anonymous said...

My issue with my narcissist mother is this: she's a Christian, I'm a Christian. I truly believe she BELIEVES the hideous things she says when she's raging. So when I ponder on this...I have this murky sense that God's on her side. Why is that?

I know God loves me. I know God loves her. But when things are at their worst between her and me, I want to shun God. I want to blame Him--the almighty, omnipotent God--for making her the way she is, for putting me through this hell, for not intervening in this ongoing nightmare that has, so far, spanned half a century. In my conscious mind I'm aware this is ridiculous; who am I to call GOD into account?

At the same time, I feel bereft. God is on my mother's side. God IS my mother. I want Him to love and accept me and stop blaming me.

What a confused, twisted path we Christians of Narcissistic Christian mothers walk!

Jordie said...

Watched 'Ever After' tonight and couldn't go past the classic narcissist's response to God's judgement of their actions...

"Nothing is final until you are dead and even then I am sure God negotiates"

Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent (from the movie 'Ever After')

This may be somewhat controversial, but I don't believe that you can be a narcissist AND a christian.

A narcissist is by definition, completely self-obsessed, has no empathy, no conscience and no consideration for others. A narcissist moreover is completely unable to recognise their own sin and therefore they are incapable of confessing that sin in a contrite attitude to God, nor of repenting of it, nor of humbly making amends for it.

A christian on the other hand is kind, gentle, humble, generous, loving and above all, capable of knowing conviction of sin and both confessing it to God and their fellow man, repenting and making restitution. A christian makes mistakes often, and often has to swallow their pride in accepting their responsibility for their actions, but will ALWAYS stop when somebody alerts them to their misdeeds.

A narcissist, as has been said on this site before, will NOT stop when asked, they will do the harmful action even more. THAT is not the mark of Christ, it is the mark of a sadistic, cruel and mentally unbalanced individual. Therefore a confirmed narcissist is, logically, unable to call themselves Christian. Religious, yes...churchgoers, yes....able to give mental assent to 'what is right' as set out in scripture, yes....but born from above and walking in the love and spirit of God...NO, NO and again NO.

Seems to me you can't have good and bad water come from the same well.

Naive No Longer said...

Anonymous,

Thank you!!!!

Isn't it interesting. I have had to face down some harsh realities in the last 6 months about my mother which has caused the necessity to cut off from her. Because I finally faced the truth and reality of what and who she really is, I chose the name "naive no longer". Funny thing is, your comment to me pointed out that this is an ongoing process (coming out of the insanity and brainwashing). And that these things die hard . . . because it didn't even occur to me that she might have fabricated or at the very least embellished the story.

Thank you!!!

(maybe I should call myself "nearly niave no longer"!!)

Anonymous said...

Jordie said...

Funny as what you stated is the DEFINITION of evil in the Christian Bible (and everywhere else come to think of it. LOL).
Check out anything in Proverbs. It talks about the "N" without ever using the "N" word. Also many of the things that Paul has had to say in the New T.

Anna,
I've shared your website with my Christian/Pastor/Counselor/Lifecoach. He seems to think that you ROCK !!! It's awesome that you have the Christian spin on this and not just the secular.

BoB ;)

Anonymous said...

Jordie wrote
"... I don't believe that you can be a narcissist AND a christian."

I disagree. I do think a narcissist can be a Christian, though a very poor example of one.

If the sin of narcissism is large enough to be unforgivable in God's eyes, which other ones are also? It's a slippery slope.

A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus is the son of God and died to atone for humanity's sins (individually and collectively). Does that come with the responsibility to do what God wants (be kind, generous... everything you wrote)? Of course! But everyone fails to do as God wants to some degree. That's the whole reason we needed Jesus to die on the cross.

I do think that a narcissist is more likely to pretend to be a Christian than an average person. And I suppose if an N thinks she is perfect, and so Jesus didn't die for her (there was no need), she wouldn't be a Christian. But God would be the only one able to tease out the nuances of that one.

Naive No Longer said...

I agree with Anonymous' comment to Jordie. It is not for us to judge as to whether or not they are a Chrisitian. We can, however, judge them by their fruit.

It seems that my mother only allows God a small wading pool within which to work with respect to her life. She more seems to use God as a means to her own ends to make life work "better" for her.

Jordie said...

I didn't say the sin of narcissism was unforgiveable, I just said that narcissists don't ask for forgiveness. If a narcissist truly repented he would be forgiven. If a narcissist truly asked God to save them or forgive them then he would. Thing is...they don't.

This isn't about God, its about the person who claims to be a christian but clearly isn't because of the repeated and continued fruit of their lives is lies, destruction and hatred.

I don't say any of this lightly. Please believe me, I am a veteran of 20 years in a religious cult with a psychopathic narcissist at its head. I have been through the last three years trying to work out how this man and his cronies (many of whom were narcissists) could destroy marriages, individuals, and families without conscience, and simply refuse to believe they were doing anything wrong. THey have been doing it for decades and many have tried to tell them they were wrong, but as many who tried to tell them, they were destroyed.

I certainly don't suggest that these people can't be forgiven or that they won't change, but its been decades and thousands of people's lives have been affected for the worst. These men are NOT christians. I can't and won't believe that a representative of Christ on this earth behaves like that. The only conclusion I can come to, and I came to it slowly and through a great deal of agony, is that if you act like the devil every day of your life, you can't claim to be a christian.

I also have a N mom who claims to be a christian.

I lived for the day when they would all be really saved and changed. Being a christian doesn't mean you don't make mistakes or that your attitude doesn't stink or that you don't give other people grief, the thing is you can work with somebody who truly loves God. They will try and change, and will feel remorse if they have caused pain. Sure, being a christian is based on faith in Jesus, but doesn't faith have works? It doesn't mean you don't screw up, but it does mean you GENERALLY act with love, with generosity and so on.

I don't want to condemn anybody. I have no right to do that. I am not talking about eternal damnation, I am talking about present action and attitudes. I used to live for the day when all the narcissists I knew would change, but they don't, haven't, won't.

They can't admit they are wrong, they are not capable of doing so. Unless God intervenes, these people will continue to their graves as destructive, ungodly people. I can't condemn anyone to hell, but I can tell the difference between a wolf and a sheep.

Anna Valerious said...

Well said, Jordie. I agree with your perspective. Right on.

Anonymous said...

This isn't about God, its about the person who claims to be a christian but clearly isn't because of the repeated and continued fruit of their lives is lies, destruction and hatred.

(this is "anonymous" of the If the sin of narcissism is large enough quote)

I hear you Jordie, and I think I understand... The definition of Christian is very important and personal to you, and you've agonized and thought long and hard over the what it means. If God's (or someone else's) is different, so be it. (If I've put words in your mouth, correct me.)

I'm sorry for the hell on earth that you've been through.

I get the feeling that with this particular issue, we're splitting hairs. We have a different perspective. (We have to: I've never had Christianity used against me as you have. "My" N's are atheists. So they think I'm an gullible moron, so what?) God knows the truth. I'm comforted by that. N's? I doubt that gives them comfort.

all the best.