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 Merriam-Webster.com, 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.