Discerning that you're being bullied in a house of worship won't be easy. That's because the type of narcissists you encounter at church are likely to be the covert type. To the rest of the world, they appear as angels. But only you, the target, knows of a darker side. These folks typically do their dirty deeds in secret, the opposite of how Our Lord worked. Everything He did was out in the open.
If the person who chooses to torment you is a woman, she will likely do so through relational aggression. This is a device that female bullies employ to socially isolate someone they don't like. Her aim is to make you so unsettled and uncomfortable that you decide to leave the parish. Most people have a hard time imagining how anyone who spends so much time in church, and appears so benevolent, can plot to undermine another parishioner. But church is not a deterrent to those with strong narcissistic traits. On the contrary, these types of drawn to spiritual settings because it affords them to opportunity to emotionally and psychologically abuse anyone they wish. Everyone, including the pastor, usually lets down their guard when they enter a house of worship. This pretty much gives adult bullies free reign.
So, how can you tell when you're being bullied in a spiritual setting? The first clue is a growing sense of feeling uneasy in a place that used to feel like home. You may start to feel excluded. For instance, you've volunteered at the church fair for the past several years. Suddenly, your services are no longer needed.
Or, you may walk up to a group of people standing around talking in the church hall. You receive a very frosty reception, but you don't know why. (Narcissistic abusers are notorious gossips and rumor mongers. So, by the time you realize something is wrong, the person who's decided to run you out has tried to destroy your reputation through falsehoods and innuendo.)
Just one or two incidents, such as I've described, doesn't mean that someone in the parish is out to get you. But an ongoing pattern probably means there's trouble brewing. Church bullying, especially in the beginning, will likely be very subtle.
If you'd like to read more about how female narcissists operate, please visit my other blog on female bullies.
Flickr photo by Dougtone