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Entry One Hundred Twenty-One: Nebuchadnezzar & Narcissism


By johnlo - Posted on 05 September 2008

 

ENTRY ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE   -  SEPTEMBER 6, 2008

 

121) NEBUCHADNEZZAR & NARCISSISM Daniel 4

 

This entry covers one day of reading and tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, covering the topic of NARCISSISM/ARROGANCE. The antics of Nebuchadnezzar would be funny if they weren’t true. Unfortunately, reading it reminds me of many kings in the bible, who thought they were all powerful and above the law, and it reminds me of some people in the 21st Century. It is easy for leaders to become this way, if they believe their own PR. How many CEOs, politicians and famous personalties have the traits of a Narcissist? Food for thought…

 

Let’s look at examples of Neb’s narcissism:
  • The official was afraid to let Daniel and his friends follow a vegetarian diet because if they began to look weak, the king “would have his head”. (1:10)
  • He ordered the wise men to not just “interpret” his dream, but to miraculously tell him the dream! (2:5)
  • Consequences of not being able to miraculously tell the dream was, "I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”
  • He arbitrarily made a huge statue and ordered everyone in the whole kingdom to bow down to it. (3:1-6)
  • Consequences for not bowing down to said statue:  Who ever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace."
  • He had a fit of rage when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said NO to him, and he turned the furnace up seven times hotter, to the detriment of his own troops. (some of his men died trying to throw the good guys into the fire. See 3:19-23)
  • When he realized that Jehovah was the true God, he made a bizarre decree – “Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way." (3:29)

 

  • In addition to the above example, the tale contained in chapter 4 is also full of references to narcissism – the dream he had, the fact that he was warned to repent, his nonchalant attitude toward the dream interpretation (cause he spent a year not repenting!), and the way he arrogantly strutted around in his self-importance (kinda makes you think of Herod who was eaten by worms for not giving glory to God!)!  Since the king obviously was a believer in prophetic dreams, God spoke to him in a dream once more, this time with a warning about his own arrogance. And like other Narcissists who do eventually make a break-through, it took a crisis to wake him up. In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, it was God bringing on him a bought of insanity for a limited time to bring about massive self-awareness and a loud wake-up call.

 

Now that we have read about Nebuchadnezzar, let’s look at the concept of narcissism in general. First, what makes a Narcissist?

 

I have just read Why Is It Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. Sandy Hotchkiss, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, wrote this brilliant book, which I recommend for all of us who work in the helping professions. Her book has been well received in all circles; of it, the well-known Dr Drew (Drew Pinksy, MD) wrote, “A practical and accessible book about one of the most prevalent personality disorders of our time,” and Jerold J. Kreisman, MD, a specialist who works with personality disorders, wrote, “People who experience narcissism in themselves or in others now have a guide to help them steer through the storm.”

 

According to Ms. Hotchkiss, the seven deadly sins of narcissism are
  • Shamelessness (intolerant of being able to feel shame)
  • Magical Thinking (a legend in their own minds, star of their own movie)
  • Arrogance (totally think they are better)
  • Envy (can’t stand for anyone to “better” them)
  • Entitlement (centre of the universe, living above the law)
  • Exploitation (use of others without batting an eyelid, little or no empathy for others)
  • Bad Boundaries (hatred of hearing the word “NO”)

 

If this sounds at all familiar or interesting to you, I highly recommend the book! It is truly gripping reading – the author describes in detail how the narcissist develops, and how people should “deal” with them, including how to make sure as a parent you do not raise a narcissist!

 Let’s think of Narcissists in the bible (not those with some Narcissistic tendencies, which would include almost all leaders everywhere) but true Narcissists.

 

  • Wasn’t the first one Cain? He was in self-pity, and thought he was justified in his actions, even to the point of taking another life? 
  • What about Joseph’s brothers? At least a few of them let their anger become so strong that they were willing to kill him! Pharaoh had to be one (he couldn’t stand not getting his way!) 
  • and perhaps Korah, who hated it that someone else was seen as closer to God than he.
  • Saul became one and tried to kill his own son. 
  • Absalom was a classic narcissist, especially when you think about how handsome/vain he was with his designer curls, and who could forget how he slept with his father’s concubines in the open?). 
  • I hate to say it, but Solomon probably was a Narcissist. You just can’t have that many wives and be that sinful and smart without being a Narcissist. He was obviously a repentant Narcissist, who did much good as well, and who also changed in the end (I hope). 
  • His son, Rehoboam, sure seems like one, and if he wasn’t, then his advisors were – “tell them your little finger will be thicker than your father’s waist!” 
  • Jeroboam was definitely a Narcissist – who could forget that B-movie line, “Seize him!”
  • Asa had been a good king, but his Narcissistic side showed when he got a bad attitude at God toward the end of his life and refused to go to God for healing of his foot disease. Tsk Tsk. Pride makes us do stupid things!
  • Ahab and Jezebel stand out in a big way – remember the time that Ahab was moaning in self-pity cause someone had said NO to him, and Jezebel immediately had the guy killed and confiscated his property for her husband? 
  • Another female Narcissist was Athaliah, grandmother of Joash. She was the evil queen who killed her children and grandchildren  – scary! 
  • Uzziah, also known as Azariah, was so full of his own self-importance that he decided to go against the law and the priesthood and offer incense to God at the altar himself. He learned the hard way that you can’t be proud with God – Uzziah was struck down with leprosy and had to live in a separate house for the rest of his life. Boy, some of these lessons are painful! 
  • Not forgetting Manasseh, who was the worst king in Judah’s history!

 

 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a handbook (several inches thick) for mental health professionals. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it lists different categories of mental disorders and the criteria for diagnosing them. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the disorders listed. People who meet a certain amount of the criteria might be considered as having the disorder. We can probably safely say that King Nebuchadnezzar would have met that criteria, along with most, if not all, of histories villains (Best Actor nods at the Oscars for the past two years went to men who portrayed Narcissists – Forest Whitaker was the oh-so-real Idi Amin in the movie, “The Last King of Scotland” and Daniel Day Lewis, starring in “There Will Be Blood”, played the fictional character of Daniel Plainview, made famous in the novel by Upton Sinclair.)

 

  • However, you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with anything?” The answer is, first of all, that we are warned against pride all through the New Testament. Secondly, we must keep our hearts soft so that we are always open to input. Nebuchadnezzar’s saving grace was that he was willing to change his mind. When we stop listening to others, we risk falling prey to the disorder ourselves.

 

  • If you are wondering how to deal with others in your life who exhibit some of these characteristics, try reading verses on dealing with the proud in Proverbs and studying out passages in the New Testament on how to deal with sin in general from a One Another Christianity perspective. I would also recommend reading the outstanding book by Mike Fontenot and Tom Jones, entitled, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, and, if you can find a copy, an old book called The God Players. Here are some helpful hints from the following web address

 

  •  http://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Articles/narcissistic.html

    Coping Tips
    Here are some tips on how to cope with the person in your life who possesses the narcissistic style. Sometimes the best way to deal with extreme narcissistic behaviour is to end the relationship. But since this solution isn’t always possible, I can only offer you some survival techniques…
    It is important to set boundaries. Decide which demands you can meet or how much approval you’re willing to give to this person, and then stick to your decision. Also, terminate a self-centred conversation if you can, or at least set a time limit on how long you’ll listen.
    Support yourself
    . If your resistance to them draws their anger or blame, refuse to be emotionally blackmailed. Remember that your time and feelings are not important in this person’s eyes. This can help remove your guilt.
    Use bargaining chips
    . If you have something they want, such as a special expertise or solutions to problems—share it sparingly to keep their worst behaviour under control. Be aware that when you no longer satisfy them, their old ways will resurface.
    Avoid anger
    . Any confrontation should be conducted quietly and with control. But even a tactful approach may be greeted with anger or sometimes-frightening rage. Very likely, you’ll hear that the difficult situation is your problem and there’s something wrong with you. Arguing will only make you feel like you will want to blow your brains out. Be careful not to expect accommodation from the other person, but do give yourself points for standing up for your rights.
    Finally, know when to leave
    . Dealing with this personality disorder can undermine your own sense of self. Ask yourself some questions…Do I continually feel depressed, irritable, devalued and worthless? Does my anger and resentment carry over into other relationships? Have I stopped supporting myself in general, not treating myself well or allowing others to coerce me? Bottom line: If you find yourself answering yes too frequently, you must examine the pay-off or importance of your relationship with this person.

 

Now, the good news is that Nebuchadnezzar was willing to let God mould him.  Nebuchadnezzar was made to live in madness like an animal, and it seemed to have the desired effect! Wouldn’t it be bizarre if we get to fellowship with him in Heaven? Wow! The amazing thing to me in all of this is the grace of God! God was still kind to him and wanted him saved!

 

Hopefully you have found this entry illuminating, not too frightening, and even a bit fun. Tomorrow we start with the book of Job. See ya then…

 

karenlouis@seachurches.org

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