The days of Jeremiah were perilous days where there was a competition on who was speaking the word of God. Jeremiah claimed to be speaking God’s Word. They were not welcome words. They were words of judgment, approaching disaster, and calls for repentance. The court prophets had a completely different message. They proclaimed a message of hope and prosperity. Both claimed to be speaking for God.
Yesterday, we shared a fictional story (though sadly all too often reality). It was noted that a narcissist will often take the role of a prophet. It is part of his/her stage of devaluing that which he/she once overwhelmed with love and affection. It’s all for the purpose of control. But this can be incredibly confusing at certain stages. Narcissists can sound like prophets—they can even speak truth. They can be charming, perceptive, and their bold stance for truth can be appealing to Christians. At times a true prophet may sound like a narcissist and the narcissist can sound prophetic.
Here’s how you can tell the difference.
Prophets weep, narcissists are fake empaths
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. The message which he was delivering was heart wrenching. He didn’t want to do it. It was a fire in his bones that he was weary of having. He wept at the catastrophe. Jeremiah had empathy. “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns…because of the destruction of the daughter of my people…”
A narcissist can weep. A narcissist can even fake emotions and empathetic responses. But they struggle with actual empathy. If you bring your tragedy to a narcissist he will either engage in comparative suffering (even trying to one up you) or may try to listen but end up telling you how you feel.
Narcissist’s have become very skilled at faking empathy. They can seem as if they are great listeners and incredibly caring. They may even be the first person to check on you when you have gone through a tragedy. But set up a boundary and see what happens? Do they respect your story? Are they letting you tell your story on your terms? Is your story being swallowed up by their own? That’s a good way to detect a narcissist instead of a prophet.
Prophets are often vulnerable, narcissists are fauxnerable
Think of Ezekiel. He embodied his message. The prophets make themselves very vulnerable. They lay it all on the line. They are often an open book.
That’s not the case with a narcissist. Here I turn to Chuck DeGroat, who has coined this excellent term fauxnerability (a fake vulnerability). Here are some characteristics of fauxnerability:
- Contradictions. (Not consistent in their character)
- Disclosures focus on the past
- Staged fauxnerability (tears on stage little empathy face to face)
- Victim mentality
- Lack of curiosity
Again a narcissist has often mastered how to appear vulnerable. But look for some of these tells. The narcissist has to be in control and so true vulnerability isn’t an option. Ask about a present sin or struggle that the narcissist has not yet gotten mastery over. Are they asking questions or making statements? That is often the biggest tell.
Prophets speak truth and leave the results to God, narcissists speak half-truths and force results
A prophet will very passionately and persuasively share God’s message. They are definitely invested in whether or not their hearers respond. Jonah’s disinterested posture towards Nineveh is an anomaly. The prophets cared about response—but they did not force a response. They were not controlling. They were not bullies. They were proclaimed truth and left the results to God.