Covert Operations

Covert Operations July 29, 2015

WhenChurchHurtsby Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts

My friend quixie over at quixoticfaith posted an excellent video about covert narcissists.

I have been told that I shouldn’t call my former pastor a narcissist because he isn’t an overt tyrant as many definitions indicate.  The video you can watch from quixie’s blog post is an excellent description of a “covert” narcissist and aptly describes much of what I observed in my experience with spiritual abuse.  Thank you, Quixie, for your post and video!

Perhaps the most important section of the video is at the end when he discusses the effect on the victim.  I have written posts about how my self-confidence, my faith, my physical health, all suffered due to the spiritual abuse I experienced.  Narcissists “slowly corrode your self-confidence” in a way that you cannot pinpoint.  They gaslight, causing the victim to believe they are the crazy one.  It is PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE.

The video is lengthy, so just to highlight the major points (these numbers do not match the listing of the video – they are just my main take-aways):

1) Just looking for information about what is happening to you indicates that you are being victimized.

2) Covert narcissist are self-proclaimed “shy” – my former pastor often told the congregation he is extremely shy – to the point that every Sunday morning before and between preaching at the three services, he would experience diarrhea.

3) Never wants to be judged – hypersensitive to criticism no matter how professional, constructive or gentle.

4) Will never apologize.  If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that rather than apologize to me, they tossed us out of the church.

5) Projects themself as a good person – charitable acts, church participation (can’t get much higher than pastor), benevolent – and morally superior.  My former pastor would talk about being a tee-totaller, throwing out the swim suit edition of Sports Illustrated so his boys wouldn’t see it, his own level of tithing, various interactions with others that indicated what a wonderful person he is.

6) Even though they project themselves as #5, they know they are a fake.

7) Guilt-tripping – “Look at me!  I’m being attacked!” In other words, they will claim that they are the victim when they are actually victimizing someone else.  Always the biggest victim in the room even though they are the one hurting others (and, in my case, much of this was done through proxies).

8) Extremely self-centered – doesn’t have time for anyone or anything else.  “I am a work-a-holic,” my former pastor would remind us.  He was so busy he rarely slept more than 5 hours a night.  Too busy to respond to questions.  Too busy to schedule a meeting. 

9) Paints a picture of a perfect childhood.  “Our parents were stellar,” he would say.  And he often told stories of how wonderful his parents were and are.

10) Lies their *sses off.  And lying leads to the abuse.  See my post on “How to Keep From Spiritually Abusing People.”

11) They are able to trick therapists (and others) into believing the victim is the narcissist.  In my case, I believe he was able to convince leadership and those I considered friends into believing I am the perpetrator.

12) Can be very intellectual.  Our former pastor would often tell us he is “highly educated” and “highly intellegent.”

The video has a great deal more information about covert narcissists.  If you have been researching what is happening or has happened to you, give it a listen.  And let me know if you can relate.


Ellen is a member of the SASBN and she blogs at When Church Hurts

More about Ellen:

Several years ago I was the victim of a most heinous form of abuse unlike anything I had ever thought possible. Not having been raised in a Christian home, my first experience with Christians and pastors had been one of joy, grace, fellowship, love, and delight. When faced with the horrors of having the very essence of who I was as a woman of faith stripped from me in what I can only describe as spiritual rape, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. This was church, after all, and I believed that everything works together for good for those who love God. Somehow, it didn’t make sense that everything was not working together for good. When I was finally able to resign myself to the fact that God was not going to “work this out,” I made my escape and sought a safe haven. 
Little did I realize that I was going from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Oh, how I tried to beat back the flames! Oh, how I prayed and pleaded for mercy, for grace, for a chance. “But hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will toward” Ellen. 
He who began a good work . . . had forsaken me . . . and the silence was more than deafening . . . it was defeating. So intertwined were we, that as God went missing, so did Ellen. But I am nothing, if not tenacious.

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  • Mel

    Highly educated and highly intelligent people rarely feel the need to proclaim themselves as such; the accomplishments / skill set stands on it’s own.

  • Ruthitchka

    Nos. 3, 7 and 12 certainly describe Father X at my Church, Saint Z’s. He is very proud of his doctorate, and also thinks that he and our church are being persecuted already, and that it will become a great deal worse because of the legalization of gay marriage. As for No. 3 in particular, I think Fr. X would take a little constructive criticism from the Church Council, maybe, but as for hearing from regular parishioners, I don’t think constructive criticism would be taken well. Lately I think of him in a humorous way as “Father My-Way-or-the-Highway”.