As some of you may remember, my late mother in-law was a covert narcissist. She also was exceptionally good at what she did. My own husband didn’t believe me when I told him of many of the things she said & did to me. Like everyone else, he was fooled by her innocent act. I can’t blame him entirely for that. Like I said, she was VERY good.
During the time she was in my life, I knew something was wrong, even though I had no understanding about Narcissistic Personality Disorder at the time. It blew my mind how, like my mother, she could appear one way to other people, but the moment we were alone, the fangs came out. That just isn’t normal & you don’t have to have a degree in psychology to know that.
Then one day when my husband & I were at his parents’ home, visiting his parents. My mother in-law said something, & my father in-law said, “Shut your stupid mouth. Nobody wants to hear what you have to say!” I’d never seen that side of him before, only heard about it. He & my husband went outside shortly after. My mother in-law & I were left alone. I don’t remember exactly what she said, it was probably over 20 years ago by now, but I do remember that she was especially mean to me that evening. I figured she was just upset by how her husband spoke to her & taking it out on me.
The anger I usually felt at her because of her nastiness softened a lot. I felt bad for her for what just happened. And, for some time after that, I put up with her nastiness without complaint. I figured she obviously has no real coping skills, so maybe being mean to me is the only way she can deal with the hurt & anger she felt inside. I didn’t like it but I figured if it helped her somehow, fine. If I could live through the horrible things my mother said to me, I could handle the mother in-law.
This didn’t last long, a couple of months tops. I realized it wasn’t helping her, it was really hurting me & frankly, it wasn’t fair.
Situations like this are no doubt why so many people say you should never pity a narcissist. It means you will tolerate a LOT of abuse. Well, that is a very valid point. I tolerated so much more than I should have because I felt pity for my mother in-law.
However, that being said, I still don’t regret feeling that pity for her at that time or at any point. Probably that makes me sound crazy, but hear me out…
I realized some time later that the ability to feel pity for someone who was so cruel to me showed that in spite of all of the narcissistic abuse I’ve been through in my life, it didn’t destroy my ability to feel compassion for others. It can be so easy to turn bitter & angry when you’ve been through narcissistic abuse. I also didn’t turn into a narcissist like a few victims of narcissistic abuse do. I am grateful that neither happened to me.
Feeling pity for my mother in-law motivated me to pray for her, & all Christians know God wants us to pray for others, including our enemies:
“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, [a]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that? 48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (AMP)
I prayed for her quite a bit over the years, albeit not as much as I should have. All of my prayers for her were answered. My mother in-law did come to know Jesus, so she is in Heaven now instead of Hell. She also died in her home rather than a nursing home, as she wanted. She even died in her sleep, peacefully.
Praying for her also was good for me. It helped me to release the anger I’d felt at her for so long. I eventually got to the point of feeling nothing for her beyond wanting her to come to the Lord & not to suffer at the end of her life. Sorta sad, I admit, but it sure beats hating her like I once did!
My point in telling you this story is this.. some people find it easy to feel pity for people, even narcissists. When you know that the narcissistic person in your life has suffered, in spite of how awfully they treat you, there’s probably a little part of you that pities that person. It’s natural to want to shut that part of you down when the object of your pity is so abusive. Instead, why not acknowledge it? Accept that feeling as it is- just a feeling. Also, you can take the feeling as a sign that person needs prayer & you need to be the one to pray.
However, please, PLEASE do not get all crazy like I did & let the pity you feel be a reason to tolerate abuse from the narcissist. It’s very possible to feel pity for someone while still maintaining healthy boundaries & distance. I did with my mother in-law & still do with my mother. Please learn from my mistake in this area!
Lastly, if you don’t feel pity for the narcissist in your life, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad Christian. Many people don’t feel it & there is nothing wrong with that! Even good, loving, faithful people don’t always feel pity towards narcissists. It happens, & it’s ok. This post is simply directed at those who may feel differently than you. 🙂