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Answer He looks for attention and does grandiose things. It should be said up front that the very calling of being a pastor, wanting to tell others how to live, setting moral codes you think should be followed, thinking that you speak for God and know what he wants from humanity . . . that takes a narcissistic personality. However, not all pastors rise to a damaging level of Narcissism.

The narcissistic religious leader

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that this institution exists for the sake of faith or spiritual development. If the leader is a narcissist, then this church exists solely for the purpose of enhancing the image of the man in charge. Congregants exist to provide a steady stream of narcissistic supply. People are moved into, or out of, various positions as they prove their ability to bring honor and glory, NOT to the Almighty, but to the narcissistic leader himself. Of course there is a spectrum; but in the extreme case, the narcissistic religious leader is an idolator. He worships his own image, and he expects you to do so as well.

Narcissists seem almost telepathic at times in their ability evaluate anyone's value to their mission. From the moment that you first enter his domain, you are being sized up. The true mission is to promote the honor and glory of Pastor X. Your first encounter with the narcissistic leader is likely to be pleasant and he will compliment any obvious qualities that he can use for his own purposes.

But this is important: He will also be able to identify your vulnerabilities just as quickly as your strengths, and he will use these in the classic narcissist's cycle of first over-valuing, and then de-valuing you, your spouse, your children, and basically your entire existence. You will be manipulated so that you provide him with all the resources at your disposal that may enhance him, while you yourself get very little in return, and certainly not the spiritual growth you were looking for. If you object or disagree with him in any way, you be marked as a threat. And then it can get ugly.

When the de-valuation begins, you think that there has been a miscommunication; you ask to meet with him to clear the air. All such efforts are likely to fail, because the narcissistic leader has no stake in making things clear (except of course the one great truth that he is in charge, and that he is entitled). He flourishes in an atmosphere of confusion and insecurity in which no one really knows where they stand, and everyone is being subtly undermined to keep them in line. The result over time will be emotional and spiritual turmoil.

You keep trying various ways to improve the situation--such as giving more money than you can really afford in response to the financial campaigns that the narcissistic leader typically will launch. And that may temporarily improve your status, but only until the next round of de-valuation begins--and believe me, it will. Frankly, the situation will only improve when you realize what is going on, cut your losses, and leave.

You may join such a congregation believing that you are launching into the spiritual adventure of a lifetime. But quickly your exhilaration will turn into confusion, disappointment and maybe even depression (for which you will be blamed and invalidated of course). The man's true religion is himself, no matter what collar or headgear he wears.

If you've seen the film, The Matrix, then think of it this way: all you are to him is a coppertop. Wake up and smell the coffee. Get out of there while your soul, mind, marriage, health and perhaps finances are still relatively intact. Remember that if you should leave the narcissistic leader's congregation and you previously held a position (associate minister, choir director, etc.) in the church he pastors he would not hesitate to discredit you with your new pastor if he had the opportunity. In short, the narcissistic pastor can be very revengeful, he may go as far as to invade your privacy by sharing personal information about you with other church members even if it is false.

Also an answer: Nothing prevents you from leaving. Matthew 10:8 Jesus said" You received free, give free." Do not wait around for him to empty your wallet by trying to buy his next private jet or luxury item you could never begin to own.

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Q: What happens if your pastor is narcissistic?
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