Do Narcissists Know Their Behavior Is Wrong?

One thing I think all victims of narcissistic abuse wonder about at some point is does the narcissist realize what they are doing is wrong?  The answer is a resounding YES!

Everyone knows the difference between right & wrong, barring any physical problem with the brain that may destroy that natural ability of course.  This includes narcissists.  So it is very safe to assume that if they don’t have a physical problem with their brain, they still know the difference between right & wrong.  Evidence of this can be found in the fact they hide the abuse & try very hard to make sure people don’t find out what they do.  They will do anything to prevent their victims from telling others about their behavior.  They threaten the victim not to tell anyone or shame the victim into believing the abuse was not the fault of the narcissist.  They try to convince the victim that the victim was at fault for making them do what they did, the abuse didn’t happen they way they remember or it didn’t happen at all.  They tell everyone that the victim is crazy, a liar or anything else they can think of to discredit that victim so other people won’t believe him or her.  A lot of effort goes into keeping the abuse hidden.  This is evidence that they do know what they’re doing is wrong.

Narcissists simply don’t care about what is right & what is wrong.  They want to do whatever they want to do without people trying to stop them, which is the only reason they work so hard to hide it.

Narcissists have chosen to do evil, abusive behavior many, many times.  In doing so, they have shut down the natural empathy that human beings are born with.  This is why they don’t feel guilt when they hurt people.  Every decision to do evil shuts down that empathy a little more, or sears their conscious as some folks say.  God gave me a good visual on this.  I imagined a person standing at a revolving door.  God was on one side, Satan on the other.  Each decision a person made pushed the revolving door open to either God or Satan.  Bad decisions opened it wider to Satan while good ones opened it wider to God.  After a while, a lot of good decisions open it completely to God & close out Satan, while a lot of bad ones open it completely to Satan.

Knowing all of this, don’t be fooled if the narcissist in your life pretends to be innocent or oblivious to the pain he or she has caused you.  Many narcissists pretend they don’t know that what they said or did would hurt their victim, & covert narcissists in particular do this.

Pleading ignorance is a very effective tactic for an abuser.  People are usually quick to forgive someone who hurt them without intending to, but not with someone who deliberately hurts them.  They are also much more apt to be lenient with someone they don’t think is intentionally hurtful, overlooking their bad behavior.  Also, if the abuser is forced into therapy, pleading ignorance can work out well for them.  Therapists often will focus their attention on explaining to the narcissist why their behavior is bad.  Once their attention is so focused on the narcissist, the narcissist can manipulate them however they see fit. . If you think therapists can’t be manipulated, you’re absolutely wrong.  They’re human just like the rest of us.  Not to mention, they don’t receive much teaching on cluster B personality disorders like narcissism.  Unless a therapist has personal experience with narcissistic abuse, the chances are excellent that therapist can be manipulated by a narcissist.

So to sum things up, yes, narcissists do know what they’re doing is wrong.  Observe their behavior, & you’ll see for yourself that they DO know what they’re doing!


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

28 responses to “Do Narcissists Know Their Behavior Is Wrong?

  1. This is what puzzles me the most about my MN mother. Her life revolves around her church. Singing in the choir. Going to Bible studies. Evangelizing, trying to “win lost souls to Christ” and banging people over the head with cherry-picked scriptures.

    And yet, she lies. She twists truth. She is verbally abusive. When I was a child, she was at times extremely physically abusive. She gaslights. She gossips. And she projects her own evil deeds onto others, mainly onto me.

    During our last conversation a few weeks ago, when I stupidly fell for a beautiful birthday card and sweet loving letter that my mother had sent me, after years of peaceful no contact, my mother started off the conversation by asking me, yet again, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you know that no one can come to the Father and get into heaven but through Jesus?” And I answered, yet again, that yes, I am a Christian believer, yes, Jesus Christ is my Saviour and my Lord, and yes I am saved by grace through faith in Him, alone…

    Then my mother went on to say this: “Repentance and forgiveness is so important, and you know that we are to forgive others, just as He has forgiven us. So, if I have ever done anything to you that you think I need to apologize for, you just let me know, OK?”

    At that point, my head was beginning to spin. Because my mother has been by far the most abusive person in my entire life. The worst thing she did was try to gas us all to death when I was twelve years old. She told me at the time that because she had brought us five kids into the world, she had the right to take us out of it. She also said that, because life was so hard, she would be doing us all a big favor by killing us — and, being gassed to death while we slept in our beds would be such a nice, easy way to go!!

    Fifteen years ago, in the fall of 2003, my mother called me one day and asked me if I had ever heard of the book by Dave Pelzer, A Child Called It. I told her yes, that I had recently read the book. Then she asked me, in a tearful, quavering voice: “Was I as bad as that mother?”

    My mother went on to explain that one of my younger stepbrothers was in therapy for some emotional issues, and that his therapist had recommended he read that book, and after reading it, my stepbrother had given the book to my mother, saying that she had been as abusive to him, as Dave Pelzer’s mother.

    But fifteen years later, my mother has the audacity to say to me that IF she has ever done anything she needs to apologize to me for, that I can just let her know. And then the next words out of her mouth were: “In fact, I will just go ahead and say it now: IF I have ever done anything to you that was wrong, I am apologize. OK?” And then she LAUGHED.

    THEN she began lying, the worst kind of lies. She accused me of doing something horrible when I was a child, something that I never did — it was something horrible that SHE did, on several occasions when I was a little girl.

    Now I wonder: Is my mother completely crazy? Has her own guilt for her horrific past evil actions driven her mad, to the point where she cannot face the truth anymore? Has she lied so much, that she now actually believes her own lies?

    Even the world’s most perfect mother is going to make a mistake and need to apologize at some point. I just don’t understand — how do you get from seriously asking your adult daughter: “Was I as bad as the mother in A Child Called It?” to saying, fifteen years later: “If I have ever done anything to you that you think I need to apologize for, you let me know, OK?”

    A person would have to be crazy beyond measure, to try to gas her five children to death and believe that she was within her rights to do this, and think that she was doing them a FAVOR. Maybe my mother really, truly isn’t responsible for her abuses and lies?

    I really don’t know. But I am so glad that God knows what is in our hearts. I am thankful that HE knows what is going on with my now 83 year old mother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really believe that narcissists are at least influenced if not possessed by demons (depends on the person which the case is, I think). It’s the only thing that I think can explain why so many in different countries, of different genders, religious beliefs, cultures, financial standings, etc. act so much alike. It also could explain why some are so hot & cold, like your mother. I don’t know for sure if I’m right but it seems right to me, & your mother seems to prove the case for demons.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Oh thank you, Cynthia. Your reply makes sense.

        It was on August 3 that I had this last crazy conversation with my mother. I called her, because she had sent me a beautiful card and a sweet loving letter and I was hoping she had changed… that maybe old age and being widowed since 2010 had made the difference.

        She sent me the card and letter in April, but it took me until August to read it, even though my husband had read it back in April and told me: “She must have had a stroke, it’s actually nice!”

        When I finally did read it, it was SO nice, that I went ahead and called the new phone number that she had put on the card. For the first few minutes, the conversation was great. But then, when she said the things she did, I felt like my heart had been ripped out and shredded.

        I keep asking myself: “Well, what did you expect from a woman who tried to gas all her kids to death?” But that happened 53 years ago, and she has become a Christian since then. And, even when I was a child, she could sometimes seem so WONDERFUL. She is my mother and I miss her — the good parts of her. But I cannot remain in contact with her. She is poison to my soul.

        It really hurts. But I can feel the Lord healing my broken heart. Your blog is a big part of my healing.

        Thank you, Cynthia. Seriously, big time: THANK YOU.


        • I am so so sorry. The good can be a blessing & a curse, I think. In 2013, my mother started being nice to me for the first time. It lasted a couple of months- long enough for me to get my hopes up- before she returned to her abusive ways. It happened a few more times before going no contact, & I learned something from it. If you can enjoy those good times & accept that they won’t last, it’s a good thing. However, that is incredibly hard to do! If you can’t, then it’s best to stay away rather than have your hopes continuously dashed & be hurt even more.

          He is healing you.. to be able to accept that you need to stay away from your mother is proof of healing & growth. That isn’t an easy pill to swallow. Big hugs to you!!

          And thank you.. I’m so glad my blog helps you! ❤

          Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry that you have suffered so much at the hands of your own mother. My mother is also outwardly religious, but has no genuine relationship with God. Religion is a great cover for abusers. And I firmly believe that our churches are the devils favorite place to put his children. They cause so much chaos to the children of God, and, sadly, too many of us are unprepared to identify them and cast them out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, Suzanne. I am sorry you have a wolf in sheep’s clothing for a mother, too. It is very confusing, isn’t it!

        My mother had a bad head injury when she was around 6 years old, she fell on her head on cement and was knocked out cold. My mother told me when I was a little girl that she never felt the same after that, and she blamed her poor memory on that. She comes across as intelligent, not at all brain damaged. But still, head injuries can cause very subtle types of damage. It is possible that her ability to love, to have empathy, to understand right from wrong, was damaged in that injury. I know from my aunt, my mother’s younger only sibling, that my mother began abusing her sister after her head injury.

        My mother probably also has PTSD. A few months before my mother tried to gas us to death, my dad was arrested for trying to murder my mother. I was a witness, he really came very close to killing her. So, my mother had lots of reasons to not be thinking right.

        But, still — I have at least as many reasons to be messed up in the head, and yet it is beyond my ability to imagine ever trying to kill my kids or anything like that. I have had head trauma, too, mostly due to abuse. Yet I would lay down my life in a heartbeat for any one of my children.

        I just don’t understand! But I believe God does understand, and I find rest in that thought.

        I feel I should apologize for going on and on here in these comments. But I appreciate you, Suzanne and Cynthia, for being here, for sharing and caring. This is the first time that I have really been able to write down the details of the last phone conversation I had with my mother, and now I feel better. Not so alone.

        Liked by 2 people

        • You’re absolutely NOT alone Linda. Unfortunately so many people have grown up abused by narcissistic parents.

          I sometimes wonder if brain injuries open the door for narcissism somehow.. maybe by reducing inhibitions? I don’t know. I was in a TBI group on Facebook not long after my brain damage & was stunned by the amount of narcissistic behavior in there! Plus, my father nearly died from a drunk driver hitting his car head on when he was 15. Actually he did die on the operating table a couple of times. That TBI caused him a lot of trouble his entire life. One of my cousins told me her father (my father’s brother) said after the accident, he became very devious & manipulative. Got my uncle in trouble with their parents, tried stealing his girlfriends & such.

          Certainly I’m not trying to excuse your mother’s behavior.. just trying to make sense of something that really doesn’t make sense, I suppose.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “Trying to make sense of something that really doesn’t make sense” — yes, that’s exactly it.

            I suspect that, depending on what part of the brain is injured, narcissism may result from a head injury. Again, I thank God that HE knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart! He knows how capable and culpable any of us are, at any given moment.

            When Christ prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” — I wonder how often that may be true? Even for myself, thanks to growing, learning, and healing over the years, and thanks to the perspective that I have gained from neurofeedback treatments — when I look back over my life, there are some things I have done that I now find abhorrent. Especially the things I did in my desperate need for someone to love me. And my husband, a Marine who fought in Vietnam, now wishes that he had never raised a weapon against another human being. But at the time, when he was 19 and 20 years old, he just wanted to follow in his father’s and uncle’s and grandfather’s footsteps in serving his country. He wanted to be a hero.

            We live and we learn… with the exception, it seems, of the narcissists. Whatever causes them to be the way they are, I am just going to leave them to God. As they say in AA, I did not cause the problem and I can’t fix it. But I can protect myself by maintaining healthy boundaries from now on!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Very true & well said!

              One thing about TBIs is they’re so unique. No 2 are exactly alike. It amazes me one person can turn narcissistic or whatever & another person with a similar injury has no lasting effects. Strange things!

              I’d dare say most people don’t always know what they do. We all have things we wish we’d never done or are embarrassed by simply because we didn’t know better at the time. I look back at my first marriage & shake my head. I’d like to kick my own butt.. lol But, at the time I was desperate for love & he made me think he loved me. It was all I knew at the time. The same goes for you & your husband. Yall did the best you could with what you knew at the time.

              Wise words from AA & so appropriate for narcissists.

              Liked by 1 person

        • You NEVER have to apologize here. We all need to speak out about our experiences with abuse. It helps us and it helps others. I can’t begin to tell you how much it has meant to me to know that I’m not alone, to feel validated, and to have the knowledge and wisdom I have been so generously given by other survivors. So thank you for all that you’ve shared here. You really are helping us all.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I can’t agree more, Cynthia. Unless someone is in the throes of a psychotic break, or is otherwise genuinely unable to distinguish between right and wrong, they are responsible for the choices they make to hurt others. I wish that this was more widely understood in the survivor community. Too many of us waste our time trying to decide if we’re wrong to protect ourselves from our abusers because of the excuses they throw at us, or if they are at all culpable for the evil things they freely choose to do. My mother once told me that my fathers extreme selfishness when it came to money had to be excused because his brothers stole from him when they were young. In other words, we should tolerate the punishment for things our uncles had done decades ago, before we were born. It’s irrational on its face and terribly unjust. It’s also a form of enabling, and it’s why we need to stop it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really think that calling narcissism a disorder has a lot to do with survivors wondering if they’re wrong for not tolerating the abuse. I mean, disorder sounds like something beyond their control, doesn’t it? I honestly thought it was when I first learned about it, & as a result, tolerated way too much by telling myself my parents couldn’t help it. It’s great it has a label but “disorder” really can mess with those who have been exposed to its evilness.

      That is ridiculous what your mother said about your father’s selfishness with money. It’s not fair to make people who had nothing to do with the problem pay for his pain, especially his own children!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Pop psychology has done a lot of damage by labeling evil acts mental illness or disorders. I see this every day in support groups. Many survivors, especially those who aren’t Bible believing Christians, feel more comfortable with the idea that their abuser is only hurting them because they’re mentally ill. It makes them more comfortable with remaining in a relationship with an abuser and gives them false hope that they can somehow be cured of the abusive behavior.

        Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so crazy, what your father did, Suzanne. My father did a similar thing. As I was growing up, my paternal grandfather usually sent me a card with a small amount of money in it, every Christmas and on my birthdays. And my dad would always, always, always take the money — usually $5 — away from me. My dad told me that he should have the money instead of me, because his dad had abandoned his mom when she was pregnant with my dad, and he had been absent throughout his childhood and never sent him any money or gifts.

      Isn’t that crazy reasoning? Just like your mom’s reasoning for justifying your dad’s behavior.

      I think Cynthia may be right about there being a demonic influence. How else to explain all the eerie similarities?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t disagree that people can be influenced by demons. But I believe the greater influence is simply the sin nature in every human being and our willingness to use our free will to choose evil conduct over good. And the similarities we see in those who choose evil over good is illustrated by the Ten Commandments. There is a reason why there are only ten and not ten thousand commandments. It’s because all sins stem from the ten core evils proscribed by God. It’s why we in the survivor community say that all abusers use the same playbook, or, facetiously, we say that they all attended the same charm school.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I couldn’t agree more Suzanne. I actually should’ve said the demon part better. I think people make choices for good or evil & the choices open the door more towards one & close it towards the other. Narcissists keep making bad choices & it opens the door to evil more every single time while closing it to God more. That means demons have their way easier & easier with these people, maybe even fully possessing some, I don’t know. But they still have a choice & still choose poorly by following evil.

          Liked by 1 person

        • “I believe the greater influence is simply the sin nature in every human being and our willingness to use our free will to choose evil conduct over good.” Well said. Yes, I believe you nailed it.

          In my mother’s case, I don’t want to believe that she is willfully choosing evil. I prefer to believe that her brain is broken, or… something. However, what I want to believe, does not change what in fact IS, right!?

          Only God can know for sure. I know that I can trust Him to judge my mother fairly. I was just so hoping that she would see the light and change, somehow, before one of us is gone from this world. But, it seems to be true what they say about narcissists getting worse with age.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Linda, if this helps….

            I really don’t think it’s necessarily them choosing evil, like, “Hey, this is a dark, evil thing to do- I’m gonna go for it!” I think it’s a lot more subtle than that, more like, “I want that. If I do this, it’ll get me that.” & “this” happens to be evil. If they’re not born again, they won’t have the same wisdom & discernment that someone who is has & they’re not as aware of the true danger of evil. They also may not see “this” as a bad thing at all because they’re too wrapped up in what they want to think of anything else, although I think that’s not usually the case. I think most commonly, each bad choice they’ve made shut down that conscience that people are born with just a little more until it finally shuts down entirely. Eventually their consciences don’t work at all so they don’t care about the fact what they’re doing is wrong or even evil. In their minds, they’re not doing anything evil- they’re just doing what they want to do.

            I hope this makes sense. Not sure I explained that well.

            Liked by 1 person

            • You know what, Cynthia — you explained that very well. I hadn’t really thought of it quite like that, but yes, what you say makes a lot of sense.

              I wanted to tell you this yesterday, when you mentioned the possible demonic aspect of malignant narcissism, but I chickened out, because it is so bizarre. But I am just going to be brave and go ahead and tell you: my dad was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder in the late 1960s. And he really, truly was more than one distinctively different personality. When his different personalities would take over, my dad told me, he would “black out” and not remember anything that he said or did.

              His demeanor, facial expressions, style of dress, speech patterns, and even the sound of his voice was very different when he was in his other personas. But the most bizarre thing of all, happened on the night when my dad almost murdered my mother, which he was arrested for the next day. On that terrible, terrifying night, my dad’s eyes were glowing bright red! I saw this and my mother saw this also, although later she said that his eyes were glowing orange. Red, orange, whatever — his eyes were glowing like fire and it was the freakiest thing that I have ever seen! A few years later, I learned that at least two other people had seen my dad’s eyes glowing red, on different occasions.

              My dad’s father practised witchcraft, from what I have been told. So, maybe this is where that came from, I don’t know.

              When I was 13, I got involved with some school friends who were holding seances with a Ouija board. What happened next was … REALLY bad.

              I have since repented for my ignorant involvement in the occult, and I know that I have overcome the enemy in my life by the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus, and by the word of my testimony. So, yes, I do know that demonic forces are very real. But most of all, I know that I have been set free eternally in Christ Jesus!

              Liked by 2 people

              • That is incredible Linda! I absolutely believe you though. My mother’s eyes used to turn black sometimes. The night she threw me into a wall, her eyes turned black. It happened other times too. I’ve heard stories from others about their narcissistic parent’s or spouse’s eyes turning colors. It’s one more argument for narcissism being demonic!

                I got involved in the occult before becoming a Christian too. I really think God understands when we do things like that when we simply don’t know better. In a way, it’s kinda worked out for me because I learned about demons that way. God truly works all things out to good, even bad things like that.

                Liked by 2 people

          • Even though she has hurt me and my children terribly over the years I still care for my mother and I fear for her immortal soul. I pray that she will repent before it’s too late, but I accept the possibility that she won’t. She hasn’t changed at all and in a recent conversation with my GCB I learned that she claims she doesn’t know what she has done to make me go NC. This, if true, demonstrates that she is unwilling to accept responsibility for her actions or even to question them. And my mother has all of her faculties so dementia or AD doesn’t enter the picture as a hindrance to her self-reflection. She simply chooses not to entertain the possibility that she has done anything wrong. But that isn’t the same as being unable to distinguish between right and wrong or to control her words and actions.

            Liked by 1 person

            • That’s exactly how I feel about my mother. I figure either way, I’ll keep on praying for her. When my father died & was saved at the very last minute of his life, I realized how possible it is to get saved even when all looks impossible. Plus, God said to keep praying for her, so I will. At the very least, I can know I did all I could. The best case scenario is she gets saved.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Whew. That really hurts, doesn’t it. Especially what she said to your GCB. That says it all, right there.

              I just said a prayer for you, for your children, and for your mother and brother. I know God does not override our free will, but I know that He can certainly make it hard to stay in denial. He did it for me!

              Liked by 1 person

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