Does the Bible say anything about narcissism?

The Bible speaks a good deal on the topic of human behavior. God is very clear in how He desires us to act in our relationships with Him and with others. This is the very core of the greatest commandment taught by Jesus in Matthew 22:36–40. When Jesus was asked, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37–40).

The English word narcissism is derived from the Greek word narkissos which has its origins in Greek mythology; it is the name of a Greek god, Narcissus. The characteristics associated with narcissism are an inflated sense of self, extreme selfishness, and a craving for admiration. It is often associated closely with one's physical appearance or public persona. Additionally, narcissism is related to vanity, which is excessive pride, and egoism, which is the belief that the center of morality is self-interest.

English translations of the Bible may not mention the word "narcissism" often, but the Bible speaks regularly of the idea and behavior associated with it—selfishness and pride—and their opposites—humility and thanksgiving.

God brings us clarity by helping us to understand how we should behave, and it is in no way like that of narcissist. We are told to "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3), that God finds selfishness to be foolish (Luke 12:13–21), that we should seek the good of others (Proverbs 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:24; Romans 15:2) and not our own gain (Psalm 119:36; Mark 8:34), and that we should not think of ourselves better than we actually are (Romans 12:3, 16; Mathew 23:10–12; Philippians 2:5–8).

There is a certain kind of pride inherent within narcissism, one that breeds contempt for God. This is the pride that God hates (Proverbs 8:13) and that the Psalmist speaks against: "In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 10:4). Proverbs 16:5 cautions, "Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished."

Why does God warn us? Because He is a good father who knows what is good for us and He wants to protect us from ourselves. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud" (Proverbs 16:18–19).

Humility is, in many ways, the opposite of narcissism. God tells us what humility looks like and how to avoid being filled with narcissistic self-interest. We are told to, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:12–13), that we are "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God" (Micah 6:8), and that we are to walk "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

Perhaps the greatest way to avoid the self-interest that leaves no room for God and for others is to express our gratitude to God. Numerous times in the Bible we are encouraged to do exactly this. We are told to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18), to "Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 106:1), and that we should "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" (Psalm 100:4). God is a giving God. He has given us food (Genesis 1:29–30); He provides for us our abilities, our wisdom, and craftsmanship (Exodus 31:3); He gives us gifts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6–8); and God gives us life itself (Job 10:12; 33:4). More than all of that, He provides a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). We have much for which to thank God!

By fostering a regular routine of saying "thank you" to God, we will no longer see ourselves as the source of all that is good in our lives and we will no longer believe that we are the center of our own morality. By the grace of God we will overcome the lie of narcissism that tells us that we are the center of our own universe. Narcissism creates a dry and weary land where we only praise ourselves and where we will not survive. We would all be well served by embracing the words of David in Psalm 63:1–4, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands."

Related Truth:

Pride—What does the Bible say?

What does the Bible say about self-esteem?

Does the Bible talk about self-love / loving self?

What is a biblical view of thankfulness / gratitude?

Why is loving others often so hard to do?

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