Forgiveness After Narcissistic Abuse

One thing that every adult victim of narcissistic parents I have spoken with has struggled with is forgiving their parents.

So many people, particularly Christians, think that these victims need to forgive & forget.  They often quote Ephesians 4:26 which says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”  When victims struggle with forgiving & forgetting, they are shamed & even shunned by the very people who should support them, creating even more pain, guilt & shame in the victim.

I want to give you a new perspective on forgiveness that I think can help you today.

If you look at the definition of forgive, nowhere does it say you don’t feel anger.  According to, to forgive means:

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON; forgive one’s enemies
2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; forgive an insult
b : to grant relief from payment of; forgive a debt

It’s possible to forgive someone while still feeling anger for them.  What I mean is when you forgive someone, you decide that they don’t owe you an apology or repentance. You won’t try to collect that “debt” from them.  You have released that person from paying you the debt that they owe you.  This is what I try to do any time someone mistreats me- give up expectations of an apology immediately.  That way, I have forgiven that person, as God wants me to do.  Yet, even forgiving quickly doesn’t mean I may not still feel some anger for that person for a while.  See what I mean?  You can forgive while still feeling anger.

I also firmly believe that releasing the anger you feel can be a process.  If the waitress makes a mistake on your order or a clerk is rude, those minor incidents are easy to forgive.  Big issues though, it takes time to work through the anger.   Processing anger from years of abuse takes a lot of time & work, especially if you learned early in life to ignore your anger which is the case with most children of narcissistic parents.

There is also the fact many people think to forgive your abusive parents is a one time thing.  You just forgive everything in one fell swoop & *poof* you’re not angry & you never will be angry again with them.  As anyone who has tried to forgive their narcissistic parents knows, that isn’t how it works.  You have to work through many different traumas individually, not lump them all together as one big trauma.

I honestly can say I have forgiven my narcissistic parents.   However, there are still some times I feel anger at them.

When a repressed memory comes back to mind, I feel anger at my parents about the incident.  When I have flashbacks, nightmares, the anxiety & depression get bad, I also feel  anger.  It’s their fault I have C-PTSD, after all.  Plus, when I told my father about having it, he ignored me then changed the subject.  Sometimes I also feel anger when others talk about what a great relationship they have with their parents.  I wanted that with mine, but wasn’t able to have it, because their narcissism was more important to them than me.

Do you think this means I haven’t forgiven my parents? If so, I’d have to respectfully disagree.  I have released my parents from any responsibility to apologize or make amends with me, which is the definition of forgiving.

Yes, there are times I still feel anger at them, as I admitted, & I think it’s very normal.  I also work through the anger & release it quickly.  That is the best I can do, & I know God honors that I am trying.  That’s all He asks of us, to try our best.

If someone tells you you’re wrong for not forgiving your narcissistic parents, Dear Reader, please remember what I said in this post.  If you don’t expect your parents to apologize or repay you for the trauma they inflicted on you, you already have forgiven them.  The more you heal, the less anger you’ll feel towards them.  It just takes some time.


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

11 responses to “Forgiveness After Narcissistic Abuse

  1. I very much appreciate this post, as I do with all of your posts. However, in the definition you cite, the word “resentment” is used. I did a Duck Duck Go search to see the definition of “resentment”, and the first thing that popped up was a definition that said “anger” was a synonym. Here is the definition: “n. Indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance. See Synonyms at anger.” I got hung up here.

    Perhaps it’s more that forgiveness is a process? And being willing to forgive the debt is the first step?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not disagreeing with your post. I think anger is valid. Jesus was angry when he overturned the tables at the temples. I’m just saying I got hung up when you used the dictionary definition that used term “resentment” and acted like anger wasn’t the same thing. I think probably the dictionary definition is wrong, and the correct definition of forgiveness in God’s mind is just not expecting a debt to be returned.


      • Well I had responded to your original post.. I see it’s vanished. UGH! Not sure what happened there. Anyway I agree with you. Forgiveness can be a process, & is one with bigger issues. Small things like some jerk taking your parking spot? Eh, no biggie. Your parent abusing you your entire life? Much bigger deal & forgiving that person is a process. I also found for me, being willing to forgive is the first step. Making that decision is where forgiveness starts, I believe.

        That makes sense what you said about the dictionary definition of resentment. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yea, what you said makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is something that all abuse survivors need to understand. I could do a lot to lash out at my mother, but I don’t because I have given up any claim to reprisal for the harm she’s done. I have forgiven her the debt she owes me of sincere repentance and apology. But I’m still angry at times because of the harm she’s done, harm that lingers to this day. And that isn’t a sin; it’s the consequence to her of the many cruel things she’s said and done over the years. It’s also my protection because it keeps me from being drawn back into a relationship that has caused so much damage and likely would again.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That makes perfect sense, Suzanne. I don’t see anything wrong with righteous anger & that is what you’re describing. It is helpful by helping you to protect yourself. How can that be bad??

      Liked by 2 people

      • It isn’t. God built the emotion of anger into us for a purpose. He never said it was wrong, only that lashing out in anger is wrong. And I do believe that there are different kinds of anger. One is a kind of fury that can take over our lives and prevent us from moving beyond the abuse. The other is, as you said, righteous anger that is not impelling us to sin but tells us we need to take action to protect ourselves. Used and appreciated correctly anger can be very good and useful. I can’t imagine, for example, the value of suppressing anger about things like murder and child sex abuse. These are heinous crimes everyone should be angry about, and use that anger to bring the criminals to justice. An example of the misuse of anger against those criminals would be to take some action against them outside of the judicial process and commit vigilantism. Clearly that would be wrong. In the case of narcissistic abuse I don’t take on the responsibility of punishing my abusers but leave them to God. Like you I pray for those who hurt me every day. But I still feel anger about the abuse and the lingering harm it caused. I simply don’t allow it to rule me and use it as an excuse to harm others.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. “To cease to feel resentment.”
    Resentment is actually a form of anger. So if you still feel anger while forgiving, then the resentment may still be there. I know you can be angry without being resentful but generally the thing keeping someone from forgiving is actually resentment. So if you are still feeling angry while forgiving, (which I don’t honestly believe this is really possible) then you are likely still feeling the resentment.

    That being said, I’m not one of the people who will say “You should forgive” either. I can completely understand how difficult it is. I come from a seriously toxic environment and have trouble forgiving.

    I am angry and in touch with my feelings enough to know it’s a stew of different types of anger, including resentment.

    I also understand that forgiveness is about letting go of anger so we (the offended) can live more at peace. It’s easier to live when the heaviness of anger is part of a chronic state.

    I agree with the release of anger being a process and forgiveness being a process though, particularly in this context of ongoing narcissistic abuse by parents (or anyone.)

    I also think (and I’m going by my own experience) that we the abused also have resentment built up for ourselves. (How could I stay so long living at home when they treated me so bad. Why did I not leave when I was 18 when I was old enough to do so? Why did I not stick to my boundaries and tell them no when they wanted me to do this or that? Why did I not stand up for myself (when such and such happened?)

    To me the self forgiveness is more important because…you know…wherever you go, there you are.

    Liked by 2 people

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