Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Narcissistic Pastors

This is a scarf I was knitting while attending
BGBC and with the ladies of my knitting group.

I think one of the fascinating things about spiritually abusive environments is that abusers are so masterful, sometimes they don't even need to use words to induce guilt in their people.  

Our family had attended a church for six years prior to BGBC and at that church, I started knitting with a friend which formed into a knitting group.  We met together once a week at various locations to knit/crochet, had coffee/tea a nice time of fellowship.   We kept up with each other's families, shared prayer requests, discussed what we were learning from the Bible, sermons, etc.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing time.  I still attended this knitting group after we left that church and was now attending BGBC.  At that point, the knitting group had extended to ladies outside the church and so it really wasn't a closed group - just a sweet group of ladies who wanted to knit and encourage each other.

What's interesting is that when I was attending BGBC, I felt guilty each time I went.   Why did I feel guilty?   What is wrong with knitting with friends?  What is wrong with uplifting conversation and prayer?  My pastor had never said that ladies shouldn't attend knitting groups.   I was keenly aware that there were no ladies Bible studies at this church and also remembered that the only gatherings of ladies that I recalled were for baby showers or bridal showers.  I had heard he didn't like ladies Bible studies because ladies like to gossip.  So, I guess I naturally assumed that this meeting of knitting ladies would not meet his approval.  However, I felt a strong allegiance to this group because I started the group a couple years earlier.   These ladies were still my good friends and so I continued to meet despite that weird feeling of guilt.  But it really bothered me that I couldn't shake that guilty feeling when I knew there was nothing wrong with what I was doing.

Later, I did find out that my former pastor did know about me meeting with my knitting friends (insert creepy music here:  how did he find out?  did he seek this out?  did someone "tattle"?  why was this important to him?).  He was also displeased that I was attending this group and mentioned it to my friend who was on staff, although it was never once mentioned it to me.  

I think narcissists are masterful manipulators.  Even though my pastor did not say a word to me about my knitting group,  I most definitely felt his scorn.  Below is comment from Pastor Ken from a while back where he discusses the narcissist and how they have difficulty with people participating in activities outside the church and explains really well why I felt the guilt.  You see, me meeting with my girlfriends, using knitting needles in our hands, manipulating sheep fiber truly was a threat to the wolf.   

KenJuly 17, 2012 12:10 PM
Another piece of the puzzle might have to do with the core disorder of many abusive leaders:  narcissism.
A narcissistic leader manages and orders those in his sphere of influence around the primary purpose of meeting the narcissist's needs and desires. 
Any expenditure of energy or affection by a member that flows outside the world of the narcissist (such as time spent with outside family, friends, birthday parties, family gatherings that sometimes occur on Sundays (!), the loving acceptance of those "outsiders" who hold different religious, political, or ethical beliefs, etc.) or the narcissist's church, towards others, and not towards the narcissist, is viewed as a loss and threat by the narcissist.
Therefore, the normal, healthy social investments of affection, time, money, socialization, etc., towards "outsiders" are strongly discouraged, if not disallowed.  Of course, not all abusive leaders are narcissists and False Teachers, but I think a great many of them are.  Also, not all abusive leaders are False Teachers -- some are at the least just bad pastors who shouldn't have gone into ministry, and at the worst, very insecure bullies who have followed a path of least resistance into a religious profession, where they can act out their bullying nature on unsuspecting, uninformed church folk.  There's my two-cents!



  1. Gotta watch us knitty ladies! We carry sharp, pointy objects and know how to use them!

    Pretty scarf! I haven't knit a scarf in a long time. I need to dig through my stash and see what I can put together (I'll add that to my list.).

    1. That's right - TSA sometimes considers knitting needles as weapons!

      I would not recommend this scarf pattern. It took for-ever and ever and I wish I would have read the notes of many others on Rav that mentioned the same thing.

    2. Interesting side point--which serves to reinforce the idea that we should 'listen' to the voice of others who have had an experience that we can learn from--when it comes to warnings or benefits thereof. :) Case in point.

  2. More and more people are grasping what the term 'narcissism' could mean in light of a corporate leadership model. It is increasingly strongly opposed in secular circles since people innately know that it is a flawed leadership model, period.

    It is important to expose the harm that can be done in a Christian setting where there is no clue that this is the leadership bent of the esteemed pastor.

    Personally examining godly/biblical church leadership with those who have a narcissistic bent is necessary or the fallout can be disasterous for many.

  3. "A narcissistic leader manages and orders those in his sphere of influence around the primary purpose of meeting the narcissist's needs and desires."

    Note the futility of this since such managing destroys people. It's akin to trying to make someone love me. If I fail my needs and desires aren't met. If I succeed, via management (manipulation) I still fail because love requires a person making a choice. My needs and desires will never be met.

  4. Oh, the threat that one woman brings to a church but heaven forbid a group of women getting together with no men to "control" what they do.

    Sarcasm alert for the above.

    1. Tom, your comment reminds me of the pastor's wife's comment that you can see/hear on the KPTV interview in my sidebar (4th link down). "The only thing worse than a vicious woman is a group of vicious women."

      Now add "with knitting needles" to the end of that sentence :)

  5. I was once told by a prayer minister that I have a keen sense of fakes, phonies and frauds...it sounds like you have the same. If you were sensing it even before you knew he was talking to others about it...wow! Talk about the Holy Spirit giving you a nudge. Ya know, the problem that I have is when I get these guts from the Holy Spirit and I then doubt them. Then, I do this retrospection and realize I should've listened...ugghh.
    Oh, and I LOVE to knit! I am only a beginner and haven't done much, but it is so peaceful.
    BTW, I have written about knitting a couple of times:

  6. Hmmm.....My former 'pastor' used to bluntly state from the pulpit that we had no business going to functions at other churches unless we were attending every function our church held first. Of course with services Sunday, Wednesday and Friday plus men's/women's meeting and special events, he knew there would be no time for outside stuff.

    I remember once arriving for a service in the early days, before I was on in the office - on the 'leadership team'. There was a note taped to the front door that services were cancelled for the night. I had only been going there for less than a year and already, this lack of a service made me a little uneasy. But my mom was up visiting and said "Fine, let's go to [this other church] then." I didn't want to, but I had not yet learned how to tell my mother no....and the only way I know how to describe how I felt was that I felt like I was 'cheating' on my pastor. Sick.

    @ craigvick...
    The thing about narcissists is that they don;t see the futility. They are completely self-deluded. When someone ceases being a 'supply' to the narcissist's ego, they will quickly be discarded and replaced. Don't get me wrong. It is a futile exercise if the goal is to gain genuine love and affection. Narcissists don't really have a concept of the genuine article, though. They operate from the assumption that everyone should admire and affirm them. If you don't, you are the enemy to be discredited and/or destroyed. I know. I grew up with one for a mother. When you are caught in it, it is baffling, frightening, binding and crazy-making. When you finally recognize it for what it is, it is such a bitter-sweet relief.

  7. Jeannette,

    I wonder if at a certain level they do see or at least sense the futility. That's why they discard or destroy both those who worship them and those who don't. Admittedly, I'm nowhere near being an expert, and I do tend to be a little too optimistic.I'm sad to hear of your being raised in such craziness.

  8. Actually this explains a lot. While at BGBC, I was a part of a musical group with weekly practices and quarterly concerts. Since this was classical music, I frequently invited church members to attend concerts and even gave free tickets to anyone who wanted them. Several of the "inner circle" families came, multiple times. But I can't recall a single time the pastor or his family came. I did feel like he disapproved of my being part of the group. I had been participating in it for 7 years before we went to BGBC and it was a large part of my life. I don't see how it could have been seen as sinful, other than taking focus away from he-who-must-not-be-named.

    1. I wish I would have gone to see you play. I knew that you played and had concerts, but didn't know you well. Too bad! You just reminded me that I also felt the guilt trip when my son had his choir concert at the local high school (I was the choir accompanist, too, so we both had to miss the Wednesday night service).

      These outside activities were actually helpful in letting me see the unhealthy-ness of devoting so much time to church. At the public school, I was around Christians and non-Christians, seeing people in the real world, connecting with them, making relationships with students who were going through rough situations. To me, it wasn't so much about playing the piano, but connecting with the students. Interestingly, I never told any of the students I was a Christian, but when we went on a choir tour to San Francisco, as I was making rounds doing a head check before turning in at night, one of the students who somehow knew I was a Christian was going through a difficult situation and asked me to pray for her. I think back on times like this and realize - this is what sharing the love of Christ is about - not being isolated and sequestered at church, only venturing out in the world when you you get the okay from the pastor to pass tracts or evangelize the "proper" way.

  9. I am currently under a narcissistic pastor and he has demoted me and a brother of the church because we are not giving him his narcissitic supplies he is a bully and he likes to make you feel like you are beneath him, I was in this ministry before he came and I remind myself they did Christ my Lord worse and I have to arm myself likewise.Be encourage fellow brothers and sister because God sees all.

    1. Sheila - I'm sorry to hear about your situation. That is really sad. Do you plan on staying in this church?


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