Sampson the Narcissist

I made some notes for a future bible study or message on the character of Old Testament Samson. The overall point of which is to show that the people through whom God has worked and continues to work were/are far from perfect—perhaps we could even call them deeply flawed. And one of the most flawed (besides me) was Sampson. I thought you might be interested in seeing my notes and feel free to use them in developing your own study.

An overview of the life of Samson as a Judge in Israel (Judges 13-16)… note the way he treated his parents, women, enemies, and God. 

Principles gleaned:

  • We all have our weak spots and we must be aware of them. No one could defeat Samson, but Samson defeated himself. He was his own worst enemy. 
  • Temptations will come and will often come at us (“day after day”). We must be diligent to flee and not to play around, like Sampson did with Delilah.
  • I believe that Samson was a narcissist. (*See symptoms below) He was like a super planet that drew everyone into his orbit.
  • He played around the edges of his conscience until he got burned.

“Can a man carry fire to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (Prov. 6:27, 28)

  • Samson had no interior life. There is a record of him praying only twice: 1) “You have granted this salvation by the hand of your servant (killing 1000 Philistines with a jawbone) and now you are going to let me die of thirst?” (ch. 15)  2) After he was captured and on display between two pillars in the Temple of Dagon: “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I might be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (16:28)
  • It was when Samson was broken and humble that he did his greatest work for God (“killed more Philistines in his death than in his life” 2 Sam. 16:30).
  • What a sad legacy.

*Symptoms of this Narcissim, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association) include:[1]

  • Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments
  • Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others
  • Envies others and believes others envy him/her
  • Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence
  • Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others
  • Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior
  • Has expectations of special treatment by others because of who he is

In addition to these symptoms, the person may display arrogance, show superiority, and seek power. The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder can be similar to the traits of individuals with strong self-esteem and confidence; differentiation occurs when the underlying psychological structures of these traits are considered pathological. Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others, when in reality they have a fragile self-esteem, cannot handle criticism, and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth.[9]

Questions to ask:

  • Do I see some of these tendencies in myself, especially when it comes to issues of self-worth and shame?
  • Can I still be usable to God?
  • How could I find help in a passage like Isaiah 6:1-5?
  • How can I live with and pray for a narcissist?
  • Perhaps I’m not a narcissist; even so, do I believe that God can use my flawed personality in order to serve him?
  • What do I need to do in order to seek help for issues that regularly beset me? 


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