don't feed the narcissists.

don't feed the narcissists

for the most part, i try to stay out of social media madness because it is usually just that–maddening.  i watch things come into my feed and because i have a diverse set of friends the opposing viewpoints right next to each other are sometimes kind of comical. i also made a decision a long time ago to not add fuel to certain stories because i don’t want to contribute to the madness.

but yesterday morning after another tumble of posts about one person in particular i just felt like yelling at my computer–“people, stop feeding the narcissists!” 

i know we all have narcissism in us, but i am talking about the full-blown ones who also tend to be charismatic, strong, and quite-often-the-leaders-of-big-churches-or-organizations.  seriously, when it comes to the whole celebrity-business-model pastor thing, the unhealthy & often abusive systems built around them, and all of the blog churn on their behalf, we need to remember that we are contributors to the whole mess by engaging in it and giving it our time & energy.

it’s exactly what narcissists want.

it’s like they’ve got everyone eating out of their hand.

because that’s what narcissists do. 

any attention is better than no attention. using charisma and humility and well-worded apology letters. strategic communications. manipulating heart-strings and intentionally pissing people off. you name it, it’s happening underneath the surface of all of these kinds of moments, whether it’s conscious or not.

and we are making it worse by giving it even one iota of our attention.

the best possible way to shut down a narcissist it to completely and totally ignore them.

to stop feeding them. 

they are unsatiable.

and often, we are unsatiable, too. we like the drama, the back-and-forth, the “what’s next?”, the “maybe now he’ll actually get change…,” the different perspectives on it that fuel our positions.  both sides–the supporters and the detractors–are getting taken on a ride.

we never do narcissists a favor by bestowing this much attention on them.

there’s no doubt i have been sucked in to giving them my time, clicking on videos and reading blogs or websites and getting enraged at the stories.  they are fascinating.  but that’s exactly the idea–to lure me in so i’ll pay attention to them.

it’s not easy sometimes when the stories are just so juicy, but i’m trying to play my part in refusing to feed this kind of christian narcissism.

the most powerful and holy gift we can give is to vote with our inattention: to hit the delete key. to refuse to pass the posts on. to ignore them. to unplug. to not give them even a glance. to lift them up to God if you feel like you need to privately but do absolutely everything possible to take the public spotlight off of them.

it’s bad for their souls & it’s bad for ours, too.   

most of all, the best thing we can do is turn our attention toward the-far-more-important-things-in-this-world-that-need-caring-about.

yeah, let’s stop feeding the narcissists.

their best hope is to get starved out.

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • A sign that I have come some distance with healing is that when I read what you said about feeding narcissists I laughed! lol. You are funny sometimes Kathy with your screaming and yelling!

    Of course you are right that we all have a little of that in us. So in common with the rest of humanity, we have that, it’s just the amount that varies. We all are pretentious and do stupid things at times. And if you are reading this and thinking neither of these two things apply to you then you are being stupid and pretentious lol.

    It seems to me that we have choices in how we engage at such times, not feeding peoples narcissism (either others or our own) yes. What I have learned is that either I keep a check on my ego or someone else will do that for me, and that there is a power in being willing to take a joke and accept being humbled at times, and in satirising others when appropriate. Wasn’t that what Jesus did?

    There is something common to humanity and the written word throughout history that is nicely summed up in this quote:

    “I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one
    can convince one’s opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do
    that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them,
    and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it
    known to the others that they have not convinced us.” – Georg Christoph

  • Hm. I’m inclined to agree, but I think the issue becomes more complicated when the leaders you speak of are not just being narcissistic, but when they’re being outright abusive. I do a lot of advocacy work specifically for those who grew up in abusive, sheltered homeschooling situations, and we have a lot of those narcissistic leaders in the homeschooling movement. But I can’t choose to just ignore what’s going on with those leaders, because to do so means I wouldn’t speak up for those who are being abused, who don’t yet have a voice because their voice is being silenced. There is plenty of evidence out on the internet that the unnamed-narcissist-leader alluded to in this post has also been blatantly spiritually abusive to many. So when it’s not just a matter of narcissism, but of abuse, is ignoring the right answer? Or does ignoring lead to the kind of silent bubble around the individual in which abuse thrives?

    • hi shaney, i wish i would have at least addressed this in the post because it’s so important so thanks for saying something. i am one of the firmest believers in calling out abuse and not ignoring it. it is so important that bullies do not silence people and we need to call out unhealthy abusive leadership until the cows come home. but now all of the attention is on this supposed humility and it just all fuels a vicious cycle. i respect everyone who has called out this particular leader for the harmful systems that have been perpetuated around him and social media has helped bring light to it, but i am very skeptical and believe that all of this recent attention just fuels the fire and keeps someone addicted to being the center at the center. all that said, it’s a fine line and i will indeed always stand on speaking out against abuse instead of staying silent.

      • Ahhhh I see – it’s all becoming clear now what is behind what is going on with the post you have made. It’s in reference to a particular “unnamed-narcissist-leader”. Well – if it is the same person I am thinking of and the “apology” then I’m surprised by your reaction Kathy with feeling like yelling. I don’t see things that way.

        You have mentioned that it is sad to you that there is segregation and division and that there are people and particular issues that you have strong disagreement with but that you respect others and their views. Can I ask without you talking offense, is this communicating respect?

        I happen to be in agreement with you with regard to the issue over egalitarianism and women in leadership. Shhhhhh don’t tell everyone. I might get into trouble with some people for mentioning that :). *wink*

        Seriously though, there is no way of telling for sure if this apology is genuine or not or the skeptics or non-skeptics have the most accurate picture. Time will tell and the fruit that is produced will show. In the meantime what I see differently is credit where credit is due, and choose to show grace toward this announcement. How else may the divisions and segregation that you talk of begin to heal Kathy?

        What did Jesus do when Peter came to him after denying him? He welcomed him and then asked him 3 times “do you love me?”. Can I suggest keeping boundaries, and being in touch with perfect love and real power? It seems to me that real power in this instance is power that forgives heals, drives out fear and loves. I remember seeing a video of Martin Luther King talking about this not being a weakness but powerful.

        It takes a lot of energy to be angry and stay angry and if someone has the ability to easily drive you mad then it’s them that has the power over you. I’d like to see the fruit of you being free from any of that. That’s real empowerment.

  • I’m afraid I may be a narcissist. Or maybe I’m just very, very lonely…

    • oh dear linda, we all have narcissism in us, there’s no doubt i am one! but i’m not talking about the average run of the mill kind, i’m talking about celebrity-pastor-power-narcissism that is so rampant in so many systems and that we are somehow strangely drawn toward. love and hope from here to there…wish you could be here!

      • Thank you for responding, Kathy. I wish I could be there, too, but I’m “stuck” where I’m “stuck” it seems! LOL I’m guessing the narcissists whereof you speak probably rarely feel weak and have a lust for power. But it’s hard to know the inner-workings and motives of anyone, so I simply have become very “careful” about letting anyone in. Maybe not the best response, but it’s the best I’ve come up with…

  • I fail to understand why anyone is attracted to such people. Your advice to completely ignore them makes sense.

    This reminds me of the religious bullies who patrol the internet looking for posts on their favorite topic(s). When they find what they’re looking for, which would be anyone who disagrees with them, they attack, bully and intimidate. It’s so tempting to interact with them, which is exactly what they want. Then they have an opportunity to present the seventy points of their platform and the three hundred Bible verses which they suppose prove their position, along with a few outrageous statements, all of which are intended to draw more people into the fray, and attention to them.

    Completely ignoring therm makes sense, especially when the blog owner does not delete their comments and block them from commenting in the future. I’d call this “Don’t Feed the Trolls”.

  • Good points, Kathy! (If I’ve read/commented here before it’s been a LONG time.) I note you wisely, to be consistent, don’t mention the name of who I think must have triggered your rant (I mean a positive one). Unfortunately, he, and others like him, will likely continue to get enough attention right around them that even if the whole “outside world” did manage to ignore them, I think they’d keep right on truckin’. But we might help limit the damage.

      • You’re apparently coming to my vicinity, to the Transform Conf. in San Diego, which I’ll be at. So hoping to run into you there, hear your story, etc.! I’m working up an in-depth program to help guide youth and young adults in their transition to “established” adulthood, in terms of the broad sense of “vocation”, both work and life. Will have things in writing with me there.

    • Your an idiot moonbat man hater ,women spiritual leadership what the fk is that lol

  • Oh… BTW, I find such situations as you describe to almost always involve MEN in leadership, and rarely women. Should be another powerful reason to encourage, not just tolerate more women in spiritual leadership!!


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