S6E4: Chuck DeGroat on Narcissism and the Church

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We hear a lot about narcissism, but how does it show up in our organizations? What are the consequences of a narcissistic pastor or faith leader? The Denver Institute team talks with author and counselor Chuck DeGroat about his latest book, When Narcissism Comes to Church.


On narcissistic pastors:

"The narcissistic pastor sees others as an extension of his own ego and is unable to respond with curiosity, empathy or compassion in part because he has none for himself. The narcissistic pastor is unable to trust anyone, they feign connection in order to woo followers, yet they are always on the watch for disloyalty. When they find it, they punish it severely."

On narcissistic systems:

"There are particular kinds of systems that are forward-thinking and entrepreneurial and aggressive in their leadership approaches and their trajectories of growth. And you often see the signs of this with comparison and competition. We're better, we're more special, we've got the best product."

On the hallmarks of narcissistic leaders:

"They need to be to the center of decision making. They're impatient with others. They delegate but without giving people authority to make decisions. So they kind of micromanage. They're entitled. Whenever they hire staff that are more talented or smarter than they are, they feel threatened. They need to be the best and the brightest in the room. They tend to be inconsistent and impulsive. They praise and withdraw. They intimidate others. And they kind of manifest a kind of fake vulnerability like they're empathizing, but they're not really empathizing. That is not limited to Christian ministry. That's not limited to pastors. So that intimidating, bullying inconsistent, always needs to be praised kind of leader can show up in the marketplace or in the church interchangeably."

On the growth of narcissism:

"I've lived long enough to see it morphing from generation to generation to generation. And I'm under no illusion that even the greatest generation was radically selfless. I think that as long as there's sin and brokenness in the world, we're always asking, 'what's in it for me?' [Narcissism is] something that's been around since, Genesis 3. That'll be around long after my book or a global pandemic. That's the water we swim in, even though it looks different from generation to generation."


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