People should be very careful not to be fooled by "spiritual narcissists," or people who have self-serving reasons for getting into spirituality.
"It's sad to say, but not everyone who claims to be Christian is really a follower of Christ. Many are simply pursuing their own agendas—be it money, fame, or political influence," Crosswalk editor Ryan Duncan wrote. "These false disciples come in many shapes and forms, but perhaps none is more dangerous as the spiritual narcissist."
Duncan described spiritual narcissists as those who use the Gospel to "build themselves up while they tear others down." If people allow them to go on with their practices, their actions might harm Christians and non-Christians alike, he said.
Duncan shared five tell-tale signs shown by spiritual narcissists.
The first sign is that the spiritual narcissists constantly reference their own achievements. "For them, every conversation is an opportunity to share just how superior they are to the average believer," he said.
Sincere children of God will never seek their own glory but instead work on glorifying God, said Duncan. The best way Christians could do so, he said, is exemplify what the Bible verse Micah 6:8 says: "Live justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord your God."
The second sign shown by spiritual narcissists is they often invade conversations. "The spiritual narcissists crave control, and their highest authority is always their own self-reference. They'll often do this under the guise of 'helping' or 'correcting' fellow Christians, but they have no real interest in two-way dialogue," he said.
Unfortunately, Duncan said there's no good way to speak to spiritual narcissists. The best response that Christians can make is to stand their ground and refuse to be bullied, he said.
The third sign is that they twist Scripture. Spiritual narcissists will always use God's Word to serve their own purpose instead of God's, and they approach the Bible with a closed mind.
The fourth sign is spiritual narcissists often profess love but never show it. "Perhaps the easiest way to identify spiritual narcissists is to see if their works match their words," Duncan said. "Many will claim they have nothing but love and compassion in their hearts for those they rebuke, but their actions prove otherwise."
Lastly, spiritual narcissists want nothing better than to talk, but they never listen. Listening builds trust, creates empathy, and fosters understanding among individuals, said Duncan, but spiritual narcissists do away with this tool.
"A true Christian listens to others, even when they might not agree with them. Listening requires that we be selfless, which is the one thing a spiritual narcissist can never be," he said.