The Narcissistic Personality in a Position of Power

In church last Sunday, my pastor spoke about people who are fundamentally narcissistic, which is just another way of saying people are principally self-centered, i.e., sinful. As he was going down a list of traits for the narcissistic personality, my wife and I immediately related it to our most prominent political figure. Here’s the list of the manifestations of narcissistic personality disorder. See if you can catch the drift to whom this might apply.

According to a medical encyclopedia, narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves. A person with this disorder may:

  • React to criticism with rage
  • Take advantage of other people to achieve his goals
  • Have excessive feelings of self-importance
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, and/or intelligence
  • Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Need constant attention or admiration
  • Disregard the feelings of other and have little ability to feel empathy
  • Have obsessive self-interest
  • Pursue mainly selfish goals

While this list could probably apply to half of our society, it’s particularly dangerous when it is seen so clearly in the office of the president. I’ve watched and listened to Barack Obama very carefully over the past five years, and I’ve witnessed all these traits come to the forefront. He gets testy when anyone challenges him—he has a slow burn that shows contempt for anyone who disagrees with him—received special treatment to get into Columbia and Harvard, had the gall to accept the Nobel Peace Prize when he had done nothing to earn it, is infamously known as someone who doesn’t connect on a personal level with political opposition, or even those who are on his side in the Congress, and is dead set on doing what he thinks ought to be done [Obamacare, HHS mandates, etc.] with no regard for those who will be hurt in the process. He sets himself up as above the law, ignoring the Constitution, and seeking to rule by administrative fiat.

As for his sense of self-importance, his devoted followers have been ascribing godlike attributes to him from the start, and he has never really discouraged those attempts. Newsweek infamously had this “cover” for its online publication recently:

Can anyone really miss the allusion? Or should I say the illusion? Sadly, and blasphemously, there are those who view him as their version of Jesus. He is the messiah, the one who will lead us into our earthly utopia. Or perhaps he’s like Moses, leading us out of slavery into the Promised Land. The reality is somewhat different:

We’re a society that has been weaned on self-esteem teaching. The fruit of that emphasis has been to create monstrous egos, individuals with an inflated sense of their self-worth. None is more prominent than our current president.

Our response should be, first, to clearly point out this dangerous tendency, not only in him but in the society at large. The second response, though, is equally important: we must show by our lives the opposite of this. We must take heed of the Scriptural admonition in the book of James:

Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” . . . Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. . . . Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

Having read widely in history, I am always struck by the temporariness of power. Those who dominate an age soon pass away, and they become footnotes known only by the experts, and largely forgotten by the masses. No matter how high a man may rise, eventually his influence will decline. Ultimately we all stand before God to give an account. It is good to remember the words of Jesus:

So the last shall be first, and the first last.

That’s a sobering statement. It was given to us in love as a warning. We need to take it seriously.