Shannon Thomas, LCSW-S
I was recently contacted and asked to share my thoughts on how a Christian is supposed to deal with narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths. To some it may seem like an odd request but actually it isn’t at all. One area of my counseling practice is specializing in recovery from toxic relationships and believe me when I say that trying to have a normal relationship with a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath is anything BUT normal. The Hollywood version of how a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath behaves often confuses people and it is after much psychological abuse that someone comes to realize that they were in fact in a very toxic relationship. I think it’s important to know what these relationships look like and there is a great book called “Psychopath Free” by Peace. Here is a link to my book review – “Psychopath Free”.
The topic of how a Christian is supposed to deal with being in a relationship with a very emotionally unhealthy and unsafe person is important because it highlights many significant pitfalls. The reason this becomes an issue is due to the fact that biblical teaching is often taken out of context and used to justify and enable bad behaviors in people. For decades, women who were being physically, emotionally, sexually and psychologically abused by men in their lives were told by pastors that it was their duty to make it work at home and to cook better meals or do other tasks in order to please abusive men. This thinking has permeated church culture. Although nowadays no church in the country would allow a pastor to preach from the pulpit that domestic violence is acceptable, I assure you that individual pastors are still counseling female parishioners that they as women need to bring peace to the home. How do I know this is still happening? I often end up seeing these ladies for counseling. They walked into a pastor’s office with the problem of domestic abuse and came out with the same problem and another one added: it’s their responsibility to fix the abuse by being a better girlfriend, wife or daughter.
This history of placing the blame on the woman when abuse is present has contributed to some Christian women feeling as if they can not set healthy boundaries with men who end up being narcissistic, sociopathic or psychopathic. Now, I should pause here and say that I know men meet, date and sometimes marry narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths and the damage done is just as intensely painful for these men. The question asked of me was about Christians in particular and I do strongly believe that women have been taught to overlook and put up with abuse in ways that Christian men collectively have not. I could be wrong but it’s just my experience of being a Christian for over twenty years and having been actively involved in churches and previously on ministry staff. MORE