At the outer limit of these forms of pride is the narcissist. It is one thing to be arrogant, but a narcissist takes it to a much higher level. A know-it-all wants people to listen to him; a narcissist is crushed if he isn’t heard. A vain person desires the approval of others; a narcissist is obsessed with receiving it. So narcissism isn’t a different form of pride; it is pride at an extreme level. And, unlike the various kinds of pride we will be addressing, it isn’t that common: studies suggest that only about 6% of the population can be considered narcissistic.

Narcissists are grandiose in their thinking. Their excessive self-love translates into fantasies of greatness—delusions of grandeur. They insist that they be seen not simply as beautiful, but the most beautiful; not just smart, but brilliant; not only successful, but at the top of their field. They are obsessed with the exaggerated image they have of themselves and use other people as a means of maintaining that impression.

Most narcissists see themselves as possessing special gifts and often seek to associate with leaders in their particular field of endeavor. Mixing with such people bolsters the image they have of their talents. Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of this was the debauched Roman emperor, Nero, who was convinced that he was a tremendously gifted actor and singer. People were forced to endure his performances out of fear of inciting his wrath.

It would be correct to say that an arrogant narcissist “can dish it out, but they can’t take it.” While their disdain for others can come out in harsh criticism or belittling comments, they are hypersensitive to the slightest criticism about themselves. They might respond with anger or they might simply ignore the comments and move on; either way, their extreme sense of grandiosity will not allow them to consider anything negative about themselves.

Many narcissists do have charismatic personalities and easily draw admirers to themselves. But eventually those who befriend them or become devotees are disappointed. Once they are around this prideful person for any length of time, they realize that their friendship is only superficial. The narcissist demands to be glorified, and once he feels he isn’t receiving the attention and adoration he desires, he will simply drop the other person and move onto someone else.

Steve Gallagher, I: The Root of Sin Exposed (Dry Ridge, KY: Pure Life Ministries, 2017), 107–108.

This week’s songs: