Chuck DeGroat is Professor of Counseling and Christian Spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland MI, and Co-Founder and a Senior Fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco. He is a licensed therapist, author, retreat leader, and spiritual director. He's spent the last 20+ years in a dynamic combination of pastoral ministry, seminary teaching, and clinical counseling. His books are practical and pastoral, meeting readers at the intersection of our spiritual journeys and the very real struggles we experience.
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When Narcissism Comes to Church by Chuck DeGroat
Chapter 1 - How to Know If You're a Narcissist
Have you ever accused someone of being a narcissist? You’ve probably done so because someone was acting like the entire world revolved around them. Our typical picture of a narcissist is the larger than life, grandiose figure who seeks fame, power, and attention at all costs. We see these characteristics most often in politicians and charlatans. In fact, we’ve come to expect it from them. But did you know churches are one of the largest breeding grounds for narcissism? It seems impossible at first glance since the Church is supposed to be all about humility and letting others go first. But pastors and laypeople alike can easily be pulled into narcissistic tendencies under the guise of serving God and leading people. We put ministry leaders on some pretty high pedestals. But it’s not just limited to the top leaders. Narcissism can creep into our own hearts if we aren’t prepared for what causes it. As Chuck explains in this first chapter, while narcissism appears to the outside world like there’s an excess of self-love, the reality is that the narcissist has put on a false identity because they are unable to love themselves.
Chapter 2 - When Narcissism Comes to Church
Whether you're in church leadership or not, you will at some point come face to face with a narcissist in the Church. So the question then becomes, "How can you know when you're working with a narcissist, and what can you do about it?" With all the stories of spiritual leaders taking advantage of people and even abusing them, it's important to understand what to do when you discover you're being led by a narcissist. They may be talking about doing great things for the kingdom of God, and they may have a very attractive personality. It's also important to remember that not all who struggle with narcissistic tendencies will be full-blown narcissists. So in this chapter, Chuck unpacks the ways you can tell when you're working with a narcissist and how to know what you can do to help or if you just get out of the way.
Chapter 3 - Narcissists Fake Vulnerability to Hide Insecurity
When you think of a narcissist, you probably picture a person who is self-obsessed and always looking at themselves. But the irony is that narcissist aren’t actually looking at themselves, at least not at their true selves. Narcissist are afraid to be vulnerable and to do the deep work that is required of disciples. Accepting the call to follow Christ means that we will have to do deep soul searching as God shows us sinful parts of ourselves we didn’t know we had. And this work is painful at times. But it’s necessary in order to throw off the chains of sin and to accept the easy yoke of Jesus. But as Chuck explains in this chapter, a narcissist is unwilling to look at themselves to do this sort of work. There are deep wounds they are trying to hide. So instead of being honest with themselves or with others about the struggles they face, they cover them up with a false vulnerability that only fuels their narcissism.
Chapter 4 - Which Enneagram Types Make the Best Narcissists?
Narcissistic tendencies aren't unique to charismatic personalities or those who might be a certain type on the Enneagram. In this chapter, Chuck unpacks the way each of us are susceptible to narcissism in our own way. And the Enneagram serves as a guide to understanding how our own sinful tendencies lead us to try to cover our insecurities or shortcomings. While it's important for us to understand how to work with narcissists around us, it's also important for us to do this work of self-evaluation.
Chapter 5 - Why Narcissists Need to Understand Their Identity
Step one in creating a lifestyle of discipleship is knowing your identity as a beloved child of God. We say this over and over again, but it's the most basic problem any of us face when trying to follow Jesus. He's called us to die to ourselves. Our nature is to preserve ourselves becuase we believe we have the sole responsibility for making sure the world around us exists. This is why so many of us also struggle with narcissistic tendencies. We believe we have to rule our own existences, but we inherently feel unable to do so. Becuase of this we feel shame and insecurity. Narcissism then becomes a way to heal these wounds. In this chapter, Josh and Chris talk about the value of knowing our identity as a way to combat narcissistic tendencies and how our identity is really about our entire lifestyle.