Forgiving Narcissists

Many people have very definite opinions on the topic of forgiving narcissists.  Usually it’s one of two extremes- either you forgive & forget, or you refuse to forgive because narcissists don’t deserve forgiveness & aren’t sorry for the damage they cause anyway.

 

I am a firm believer in forgiveness, but not in the “forgive & forget” sense.

 

In a relationship with a narcissist, if someone confronts a narcissist, they can count on any of a variety of possible, ugly scenarios happening:  The narcissist denies everything, the narcissist blames the victim for “making” her act that way, the narcissist turns the tables so she is the victim & the real victim is mean/unreasonable, or the narcissist recruits her flying monkeys to talk some “sense” into the victim while taking attention off the narcissist’s actions & making her look like an innocent victim.

 

When this happens, many people end all contact or greatly limit their contact with the narcissist.  Often, especially in Christian circles, this is mistaken as the victim hating the narcissist or holding a grudge.  That can be true of course, but in my experience, it’s seldom the case.

 

Using myself as an example, I’ve had to end friendships.  The hardest was with an old friend I’d had for over 20 years.  I’d prayed a great deal before doing so, & knew in my heart it was the right choice.  Not because I hated my friend, but because I knew I deserved to be treated better than I was being treated.  I forgave him for his actions, but since I’d seen him changing, realized I would be hurt again if I continued the friendship.  I didn’t trust him anymore.

 

I’ve seen many scenarios with adult daughters of narcissistic mothers that are very similar.  The daughters go no contact because of how awfully their mothers treated them, & they learn their mothers are trash talking them to other people which shows they don’t want to fix things.  It also shows they have no desire to apologize or accept responsibility for what they have done.  These daughters are seldom angry about what their mothers have done, & almost never say they hate their mothers.  I would guess that 99% of the daughters I’ve spoken with in these situations don’t harbor anger.  They have forgiven their mothers, but they also know they have to have her out of their lives for the sake of their own mental health &/or to protect their husbands & children.

 

Unfortunately with narcissists, a normal, functional, healthy pattern of working problems out doesn’t happen.  Normally, someone is approached about the hurtful action they did, that person apologizes & if necessary, changes their actions to regain your trust.  Since that won’t happen with a narcissist, many times very limited or no contact is the only option left.  If you are in that situation, please don’t allow others to make you feel badly for making that choice or accuse you of being unforgiving or un-Christian.  Do what you believe you need to do!

 

And, remember- forgiveness isn’t about the narcissist.  It’s something you do for yourself because you deserve better than carrying around anger or bitterness.  That is all.  It can be done whether or not you’re in a relationship with your abuser.  Reconciling the relationship & learning to trust the abuser require that person’s participation, but forgiving her does not.

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6 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

6 responses to “Forgiving Narcissists

  1. It took me a very long time to see the truth of my family dynamic. But when I did I tried to talk about it to my NM, thinking (naively) that if she knew how much her words and actions hurt me and others that she’d change. I did that for 5 years after waking up to the truth. She said, initially, that she knew she was wrong and had to stop but she never did. I finally gave up talking about it. For those 5 years I considered NC and I even did a sort of trial run with LC. I did everything I could to show her that I loved her but it didn’t matter. She continued to be verbally and emotionally abusive and I realized that NC was the only thing that would make a difference. I don’t regret my decision. I don’t hate my mother. I continue to pray for her and for my siblings and their families, all of whom chose to defend her against my decision. Do I have moments when painful memories stimulate anger about my mistreatment? Of course; I’m only human and anger is a normal, healthy reaction to mistreatment. But the dominant emotion I feel toward my mother and her enablers is sadness. I feel sad for them and for myself because I have come to realize that we never had the normal, loving family life we could have had. Whittled down to it’s most succinct definition forgiveness is simply the refusal to return hurt for hurt. And that is what I have done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so sad how many situations are like yours Suzanne where no contact is the only choice. It seems like that is the only option left in the majority of cases.

      I’d have to agree too, that the most succinct definition of forgiveness is refusing to return hurt for hurt. There are going to be times of anger as you heal because healing is a long, often lifetime long, road. There are bumps along the way when you get angry. But processing it & refusing to get revenge is healthy, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. brokenlady

    I thought narcissists were unable to change?

    Liked by 1 person

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