When Narcissistic Rage Becomes Dangerous: How to Protect Yourself without Dishonoring God

covert narcissism i'm in the relationship narcissistic abuse narcissistic relationships May 06, 2024

"When he gets angry it's like he turns into a different person. But as long as things are calm it's great."
"I've been having nightmares that my spouse is violent with me and the kids. I feel like a horrible person for having these fears because they've never raised their hand at me."

"He says a lot of things he doesn't mean when he's angry. He'd never hurt me."

"I don't want to break my vows but I'm really scared of the next time things blow up. Really scared."

Do these people sound familiar? Are you, like so many others wondering how to deal with narcissistic rage? How can you tell when rage crosses the line to become dangerous? How do you protect yourself without dishonoring God?  

If you find yourself on this page, you have likely encountered someone who exhibits narcissistic tendencies. If so, you have almost certainly experienced their wrath or vindictiveness here at some point in the relationship. You may have felt hurt, threatened, intimidated, or even downright terrified. When does narcissistic rage shift from being a difficult episode to becoming dangerous? In this blog, you will find three ways to diagnose whether or not narcissistic rage is putting you in danger.

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you read the prequel to this blog where I explain the patterns and triggers of narcissistic behavior with insights and examples from the Bible. You can read it here. 

“If you were in danger, wouldn’t you know?” Sound familiar? If you haven’t heard it said to you, you’ve probably thought it yourself. Danger is not always possible to detect. Take, for example, covert narcissists. They are masters of disguise and can keep their dangerous capabilities or intentions hidden. They are just like other (overt) narcissists: chronically arrogant, entitled, exploitative, manipulative, lacking in empathy, grandiose thinking—they have the whole kit and caboodle—but they hide their narcissism. A covert narcissist might be smiling, talking affectionately, signing off their messages with hearts and smiley emojis, however beneath the surface, they are simmering with anger against you. And worst of all, you have no idea that this has been going on like this for a long time. They may have been stewing for months and years. You are kept in the dark about their anger until it’s too late. Covert narcissists are experts at passive-aggressive tactics. They can subtly inflict harm and catch you off guard.

The moral of the story is that not all anger is obvious. An overt narcissist might be over-the-top and rageful, but a covert narcissist carries anger under a cloak of manipulation. Just because anger is hidden, doesn’t make it safe.

If you are questioning whether you might be dealing with a narcissist, I have put together a 1-page checklist of the common signs of narcissistic abuse, which you can access here. I’ve also included an illustration of the cycle of narcissistic abuse and the wheel of violence in that same document. These resources can give clarity on the many ways that narcissistic rage is used in a relationship.

Dangerous Rage in the Bible

We all get angry at some point. We’ve all experienced someone fly off the handle in rage. But when is rage unsafe?

The story of David and King Saul, which I retold in the last blog, illustrates what it looks like when someone crosses the line to become dangerous. You can read this story in 1 Samuel chapters 15 to 31 but let’s recap it quickly: David was a young man who worked for Israel’s King Saul. Not only was David a trusted armor-bearer in the army, but he also played the harp to calm the king when he was distressed. One day, however, Saul's jealousy was provoked when he saw that David was becoming more popular than him. That jealousy spiraled into paranoia as Saul began to see David as a threat to his kingdom. The next time that David showed up to play the harp for him, Saul tried to pin David to the wall with a spear. Thankfully, David managed to dodge the attack. 

At this point in the story, the plot expands. Not only was David closely involved with the King, but he also had a special bond with the King’s first-born son, Jonathan. The Bible says that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself (1 Samuel 18:1). As David grew concerned that Saul was planning to kill him, he went to consult Jonathan (you can read this in 1 Samuel 20). Jonathan listened to David’s concerns and reassured him saying, and I paraphrase; “If my dad was planning to kill you, I would know about it. He tells me everything.” David, however, wasn’t convinced, saying “But your dad knows that you and I are close so maybe he is hiding it from you.” So, they crafted a plan to reveal King Saul’s true intentions. The plan was simple: David would purposefully be absent from a feast where he typically would have sat at Saul’s table. Jonathan would carefully observe how Saul reacted. Knowing Saul, they guessed that if he was not bothered by David’s absence, he probably didn’t have any harmful intent. If Saul became upset, however, it would confirm David’s fears.

Sure enough, Saul’s response to David’s absence was nothing short of explosive rage. Jonathan tried to reason with his father, urging him to restrain his anger, but Saul’s rage was unstoppable. In a matter of moments, Saul’s narcissistic rage was redirected to Jonathan, and in the blink of an eye, Saul tried to kill Jonathan, his own flesh and blood with a spear. Clearly, Saul’s malintent was not to be trifled with. 

David had his answer and was left with no choice but to flee for safety. I want to take a moment to pause here and reiterate: David fled for safety. Scripture never condemns David for fleeing. David was right to leave. God does not fault you for leaving dangerous circumstances. The proverbs admonish us that "The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble” (Proverbs 22:3).

Spotting Danger 

What should you do, if, like David, something tells you that you aren’t in a safe situation? Most likely you have not dodged a physical spear, however, the absence of a weapon does not in any way guarantee your safety. If you don’t feel safe but are not sure if you are in danger, here are three critical signs to look out for:

#1 Listen to Your Gut

Listen to your gut. David had a gut feeling that Saul wanted to kill him. But David’s trusted friend, Jonathan didn’t have the same feeling. David’s gut and Jonathan’s reasoning told two different stories. When they tested the waters, David’s intuition was right on the mark. Jonathan got a rude awakening to the shocking intensity of his father’s anger. It must have been a terrifying and heartbreaking moment for Jonathan.

The way that David and Jonathan handled this situation emphasizes the first and most important part of discerning danger: Listen to your gut. Lean into your intuition.

A woman’s intuition that she is in danger is usually right. A child’s intuition about danger is often uncannily accurate. Your gut can pick up on things that your conscious mind has not recognized. When you hear Jonathan’s voice in your head asking, “If things were really so bad, I would know,” don’t dismiss your gut. There may be some situations in which you can test things out to see if you are in danger, however, be careful not to put yourself or others in harm’s way by doing so. Ask God to give you wisdom to discern the situation.

Whether you decide to test the waters or not, do not ignore your intuition. Your intuition is a signal that something is amiss, and it requires you to take appropriate action in response.

If you have been in an unsafe or abusive environment for a prolonged period, it is quite likely that you have been chronically gaslit. In this case, you have been taught not to trust your own eyes, much less your gut. By training you not to believe your intuition, an unsafe person convinces you to ignore the flashing warning signs that your body is giving you to get out and find safety. Listen to your gut early in a relationship and do not try to reason away your internal safety system.

#2 God Is Trying to Get Your Attention

Pay attention to ways that God may be trying to get your attention. Many, many, many, times throughout the scripture, God warns His people of danger. Make sure you have your ear open to His voice. It is not uncommon for God to speak through dreams. All throughout the Bible, dreams are a sign that the Holy Spirit is working (see Acts 2:17). God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So, if He warned people of danger centuries ago, He still does today.

I know a story of a woman who, one day, got two calls from different friends who had both had a dream that her husband was going to kill her. Both friends had the dream on the same day. She didn’t waste any time. She got away. This is an example of extreme clarity, but in other cases, those red flags may be easier to dismiss.

There are so many Biblical stories like this. Here are just two examples. Remember the beloved Christmas tale of the three wise men who journeyed to see baby Jesus in the manger (Matthew 2:1-12)? There’s an epilogue to that story in which Herod, who ruled Israel at the time, asked the wise men to inform him of Jesus’ whereabouts. He told them that he wanted to go and worship Jesus as well, however, he planned to quietly kill the baby. The wise men did not pick up on Herod’s intentions, but God saw everything. God intervened, warning the wise men in a dream to avoid Herod. They obeyed the message and returned home by a different route. When Herod realized he’d been deceived, he let loose his rage, decreeing the tragic massacre of all the infants in the region. However, God also knew that Herod would come after Jesus this way. So, in another dream, He warned Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18). Joseph was obedient and acted on the warning that very night.

If you're experiencing warning dreams or your children are having nightmares, take heed. These could be divine warnings about the schemes of the enemy to use the narcissist for harm in your life. Also, be encouraged that God has your back even when your intuition doesn’t pick up on things. He doesn’t leave you on your own to fend for yourself. When your intuition fails, God can warn you supernaturally.

#3 Wear and Tear on Your Body

Our body also shows signs of being in danger. This can look like our body or health giving out. Or it can feel like losing your mind. Medical researchers are producing more and more studies showing that exposure to high stress such as abuse can make your body vulnerable to all kinds of physical ailments including cancer, autoimmune diseases, digestive difficulties, thyroid issues, TMJ dysfunction, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and hormonal imbalances.

Even though our hearts and minds want to keep fighting for a toxic relationship or persevere through it, our bodies can only handle so much stress. As stress accumulates, our bodies try to get our attention so that things don’t continue until a serious or fatal incident occurs. Your body may be telling you that you need to get out, that the situation you are enduring is not sustainable. Even if you do not feel physically threatened, the physical impact of mental and emotionally abusive relationships can eventually kill you.

God’s Heart for Your Safety 

If you're facing a situation like David did when he had to flee from Saul, don't delay taking action until everything is perfectly lined up. If things are escalating and haven't improved, having a backup plan isn't a lack of faith. God did not ask Joseph and Mary to fight off the army that came to kill Jesus, He warned them so that they could flee to safety. When you find yourself dealing with people who are devious, dangerous, or manipulative, taking steps to protect yourself is not a demonstration of a lack of faith. It is you embracing the value of the life you’ve been given.

God doesn’t fault you for preserving yourself when you are dealing with a person who lives in dishonesty or who doesn’t fear the Lord. God did not fault David for fleeing from Saul to preserve himself. God protected Jacob when he fled from his manipulative and dishonest uncle (Genesis 31). God also did not fault Abraham for lying to a pagan king to preserve his and his wife’s lives. God does not penalize victims of abuse for leaving abusive situations (Genesis 20). Instead, scripture is clear that God hates the characteristics of abuse (Proverbs 6:16-19, Psalm 11:5). You can rest assured that if you are dealing with an abusive person, who lies, who is manipulative, who does not fear God, God understands if you must take certain measures to protect yourself.

When we ignore warning signs because we are hoping for a better outcome, we are deceiving ourselves. Keep in mind that proverb that says that the wise see danger and take precautions (Proverbs 22:3). Scripture also tells us to be as innocent as doves but shrewd as snakes (Matthew 10:16). 

Safety First, Relationships Second

It’s not uncommon to feel that protecting yourself comes at the expense of damage to the relationship. I cannot overemphasize this: Safety comes first. If your body, intuition, and emotions are telling you that you are unsafe, or if others are worried for your safety, this is no longer about working on a relationship. When you are safe, you can work on relationships. Working on a relationship should never come at the cost of jeopardizing your safety, or ignoring signs of danger. 

Let me give an example to illustrate. 

In a healthy marriage, finances are managed responsibly to meet the needs of the family. Neither spouse is keeping financial secrets from the other, and quite likely the two share the same bank account. The statistics show that couples with joint accounts tend to do better than those who maintain separate financial lives. So, a counselor might dissuade couples from having their own accounts.

However, in an unsafe relationship, one that is emotionally, mentally, verbally, spiritually, or physically abusive, cruel, or violent, marriage advice is no longer applicable. At this point, the first and only priority is the safety of the abused spouse and children. I have worked with numerous Christian women who believed that having a separate bank account effectively destined their marriage for divorce. However, if you are in an unsafe marriage, the question is not “Can my marriage make it?” the question is “How do I stay safe?” Ignoring warning signs of danger in your marriage because you want to walk in faith is unwise. Once again, remember Proverbs 22:3: The wise see danger and take precautions.

If you're noticing warning signs that make you question whether you should safeguard your finances, don't be naive. Take that information to heart because it could very well be God allowing you to see things so that you can take appropriate steps to protect yourself. Pray for God to expose and bring into the light everything that is hidden. Ask Him to give you the wisdom and courage to respond accordingly.

Sometimes, a wise response doesn’t mean leaving today. If you can, it may be prudent to take time to carefully prepare your exit strategy. Making sure you can get away safely might require you to keep your plans secret, or even to use some level of deception. This can be uncomfortable, but God understands your situation and he is not unreasonable: Think of the story of Abraham lying to protect himself (Genesis 20). Depending on your situation, you may be able to start fighting for your well-being while putting an exit plan in place, securing your finances, finding a job, and establishing independence. Just know that seeking advice, confiding in trusted individuals, and seeking prayer support isn't slander; it's self-preservation.

Recap

I hope this blog was helpful. Before I leave you today, I want to summarize what you’ve read because these are such important truths:

  • Not all danger is obvious.
  • Trust your gut. Listen for God’s warnings. Respect your body when it tells you that you are not safe.
  • Your safety comes before your relationship. Scripture is clear that God protects us from people who would harm us. He hates abuse and does not blame you for self-preservation.

When you are facing narcissistic rage and potential danger, it is crucial to trust your intuition and pay attention to warning signs. Just like David recognized danger and took steps to protect himself, don't hesitate to plan for your safety.

Before You Go

Before you go, if you see yourself in situations described in this blog, I want to take a moment to sit with you as you process this. What you are going through isn’t easy. It’s lonely. It’s scary. It’s overwhelming to try to figure out how you ended up here and the future looms with uncertainty. 

I pray that this blog leaves you encouraged that God cares for you. He cares for your safety, just as you would care for the safety of your own child. He is with you to guide, protect, and comfort you. 

As you move forward, please reach out to trusted friends and family and seek out professional guidance. We aren’t meant to walk alone, and you are worth every bit of love and support that is available to you. 

In case we haven’t met before. I’m Shaneen Megji, a narcissistic abuse recovery coach and Christian counselor. After experiencing and recovering from narcissistic abuse, it has become my passion to help other victims of abuse to rediscover their true identities and build thriving, robust lives. It is my conviction that toxicity is not your destiny. I invite you to check out the resources on my website to find Biblically-based, practical content to empower you in your recovery journey.  

See you in next week’s blog.

Related Resources

Watch the video version of this blog here.

Read the prequel to this blog here.

  • 20 Signs that You Might Be Experiencing Narcissistic Abuse [Download] 
  • How to Discern an Evil Person: Is it Merely about Trusting Your Gut? [Watch]
  • 20 Signs that You Might Be Experiencing Narcissistic Abuse [Download]
  • How to Leave an Abusive Narcissist: Practical Steps to Planning Your Exit [Watch]
  • Should I Stay or Leave the Narcissist? [Watch]
  • 7 Steps to Leave a Toxic Church Unscathed [Read] [Watch]

Downloadable Resources 

 

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