Are you a person of faith?  Even if you’re not religious, you’re probably spiritual to some degree.  Whether religious or spiritual, wherever you observe your faith should, of all places, be an unquestionably safe haven, a place that can be frequented to both escape from what ails one’s spirit as well as find revitalization for one’s piety.  However, it’s also the perfect place for a narcissist to lie in wait, looking for their next victim.  So why do narcissists love the church so much?

The reality is that a house of worship makes an ideal hunting ground for the narcissist to locate and zero in on their next empath (victim).  A church is quite literally overflowing with people who come to find direction and guidance, as well as peace.  Unfortunately, it’s also a prime hunting ground for someone who is well-versed in both deception and manipulation to take advantage of those seeking that guidance.  Multitudes of people attend some form of religious service each and every week for a myriad of reasons – some hoping to find answers to questions which vex them, others seeking solace for an unquiet mind that longs for peace, and still others who simply wish to feed their faith, to receive and share in the joy of fellowship with their fellow congregants and parishioners.  However, there are a very dark few who go solely for one nefarious purpose – the solicitation and acquisition of accolades and worship of themselves, and a (possibly new?) narcissistic supply.

These are the individuals who intentionally seek out empaths for the express purpose of exploiting their vulnerability, especially if they are at a crossroads in their lives.  Whether it’s someone going through a divorce, someone freshly out of an abusive marriage or relationship, or even someone who is, perhaps, experiencing a crisis of faith, the narcissist perceives any individual they deem aimless or “lost” to be inferior, even weak, since this person is at a particularly vulnerable psychological and emotional state in their lives.  But make no mistake, anyone can be subject to a surreptitious attack from a narcissist, even someone who is “whole and healed” and not in the throes of any emotional, spiritual, or psychological upheaval.  The simple fact of the matter is, those who are hurting are merely easier targets because they are seeking some form of solace to quell an inner storm, and the narcissist preys upon this turmoil, using the empath’s unrest and perceived aimlessness as a stepping stone to further the narcissist’s agenda:  the feeding of an insatiable psychological hunger to be served and worshipped.  These are the true narcissists.

True narcissists, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, are not to be confused with the communal narcissist.  The communal narcissist is someone who enjoys boasting about how they give so much back to the church, community, charities, and others.  For all intents and purposes, these narcissists are braggarts and blowhards who are relatively harmless.  They will dominate the conversation by recounting how they’ve been a source of comfort and or strength to someone who is sick and or in desperate need of help.  This type of narcissist attends service(s) if, for no other reason, than to share stories and examples of their kindness and generosity via socializing for the express purpose of bolstering their ego in an effort to invigorate their self-esteem with praise and adulation from secondary sources of narcissistic supply (SSNS) – a.k.a. fellow congregants and parishioners who honestly serve no other purpose than to build and regulate the narcissist’s sense of self-worth.   You’ll see these people meeting in the vestibule and other very public areas in and around the sanctuary, receiving attention (generally, but not always) from members of the opposite sex who seemingly jump at the opportunity to lavish praise and worship on the narcissist.  Whichever of these two most common narcissist types you encounter, they are some of the most spiritually dangerous as they seek to receive your praise in lieu of actually giving praise.  So let’s look at them both as two separate entities.

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: This is your stereotypical narcissist, your true drain-then-discard narcissist.  S/He is ever on the prowl for any and all who can facilitate the bolstering and uplifting of their fragile and delicate ego.  They generally present themselves as being confident, assertive and successful, bragging about achievements and accomplishments.  But the truth is, they possess the most insecure, fragile, and delicate egos and psyches you will ever encounter.  They are, for all intents and purposes, a child trapped in an adult’s body.  These are the narcissists with whom you are most likely to become involved in a relationship wherein you, as an empath, can fully expect to be drained of any beauty and purity that exists within you.  In the end, if you are unfortunate enough to become involved with one of these narcissists, there are two truths you will discover:  who they truly are and just how strong you truly are, but generally at the cost of becoming emotionally bankrupt.

The Communal Narcissist:  Though the church is a common arena in which to encounter their kind, don’t think you won’t meet them at your next PTA meeting, fundraiser, or charity event.  They are everywhere!  And they are on a mission to make sure you and everyone else within earshot is aware of their “laudable” goals and altruistic achievements.  And while they make no bones about passive-aggressively apprising you of how petty and unimportant your life and pursuits are, they will make certain to leave no doubt in your mind that theirs is a life full of purpose and direction.  You’ll find them becoming particularly territorial when it comes to someone else who might, perhaps, feel led to join their cause, especially if this particular type of narcissist perceives that they will lose their position of elevated status in the conversation and or personal crusade for which they’re fighting.  For example, an innocent person listening to the communal narcissist go into detail about their latest selfless endeavor, might feel inspired by the narcissist’s plight, and genuinely desire to join in and fight alongside the narcissist, and then BAM!  It’s a full-on battle for control between the communal narcissist vying for his/her audience and the genuinely interested person/s who simply wished to become part of the cause.

Do either of these personalities sound familiar?  Probably so.  In fact, I’m willing to wager that as you read the descriptions above, a myriad of people you have met either at a public event or even in your place of worship, flashed in your mind and before your eyes.  Hopefully, you were able to see through their balderdash whilst conversing.  However, if not, don’t fret.  Narcissists are master manipulators.  Worst case, (hopefully), you simply fed their ego a few spoonfuls of accolades and you were then off to continue on your business, unfettered.  Whatever happens, never fall victim to thinking that someone who proudly boasts of deeds and doings is the altruistically magnanimous individual they wish you to worship and embrace.  Remember:  good deeds should be done with intention, not for attention.

If, however, you were unfortunate enough to fall victim to a true narcissist, instead of just feeding the ego of a braggart, it’s never too late to save yourself.  Even if you have been with them for 5, 10, 20 or more years.  It is never too late to save yourself!  I have a very good friend of more than 30 years who has been married to a narcissist for almost 20 years.  She shared with me, recently, that she long ago decided it was easier to stay with him and perpetuate the façade of a happy marriage than it would be to attempt leaving.  It was excruciating to sit and listen to the pain she was sharing with me, describing an average day in her life, knowing I could do nothing to save or help her because she was no longer willing to help herself.  Her husband had taken her once indomitable spirit and raped it not just once, but repeatedly, over the course of two decades.  She simply had no more energy to take up her mantle and fight.  To see this beaten and beaten-down spirit in someone who is a true tri-athlete, literally an Ironman…I wish words could convey the disheartened sadness and powerlessness I felt in hearing her describe the emptiness that is her life, her existence, knowing I could do nothing to help other than listen.

And that is the life you will have if you stay with your narcissist.  Is that the life you wish to have?  It wasn’t for me.  That’s why I left.  And, my beautiful, that is why you should leave.  Even if you’ve been with your narcissist for years, it doesn’t have to continue to be your life.  If you have children, don’t just leave for you, leave for them!  Unless you change the relationship dynamic, what your children see between you and your narcissist is what they will grow up believing is a healthy relationship; that love equals abuse.  And that is not acceptable for you or for them.  In the end, you are the only one who can truly save you.  Deliver yourself from evil.