Should We Forgive the Narcissist?
Is it possible to actually forgive this abusive personality?
Forgive the narcissist??!! I’m sure a few survivors of narcissistic abuse are shocked if not outraged. I get it. I’m right there with you. Especially since the narcissist in my life once refused to forgive me.
I remember sitting in the relationship counselor’s office in the infancy of our marital problems. My husband was angry because I told him I was lonely and dreamed of meeting someone who actually cared for me.
Our counselor said I was sharing my feelings.
My husband said I betrayed him.
Anger boiled within me. How dare this emotionally corrupt man who I had forgiven time and time again. Who made me cry until I had welts on my face. The nerve that simple words would bruise his fragile ego and leave me without a pardon.
The counselor looked at my then-husband and asked him if he was capable of forgiveness.
I don’t remember his exact response. I don’t think he had one. I only remember silence. There would be no resolution. Little did I know that day I had triggered the type of anger which forces a narcissist out of hiding. The kind of rage which repels forgiveness.
There I sat. An overly forgiving girl with an unforgiving beast.
A lot has happened in the years in between.
I’ve struggled with the residual anger left by the narcissist in my life.
Especially when this emotionally ruthless predator continues to rear his ugly head from time to time. And when he impacts my children any healing which has occurred can quickly evaporate. Turning this momma bear into an equally daunting figure.
But here’s the thing.
We know forgiveness frees us and anger holds us captive.
We aren’t doing the abusive narcissist a favor.
We are doing ourselves a favor.
It’s important to not confuse forgiveness with excusing the abuse. There is zero tolerance for abusive behavior.
The narcissist has to be held accountable for their unconscionable actions. But we no longer have to be. We can release their damaging behavior.
We can forgive.
Not only for ourselves but for our children.
One day I was sitting with my son.
“Mom,” he said. “Is dad a good person?”
I could see the worry in his eyes. How his young mind was trying to reconcile coming from a man capable of doing emotionally and financially abusive things. A man who had scared him from time to time.
“I wouldn’t have married someone I didn’t think was a good person,” I said. “Your father has an illness and when you were younger you got the better parts of him. But his illness has taken a greater hold of him.”
I knew my son needed the same peace of mind I once needed.
As the adult child of an alcoholic, my mother freed me from long-term angst. Once the trauma of a marriage gone wrong and separation was over it simply became a fact of our lives.
Not an emotional battle to carry with us for life.
I remember someone telling me I should feel sorry for a girl who was behaving badly. They said I needed to dismiss her behavior because her father had abandoned her.
“Hey,” I said. “That’s what happened to me but I don’t bill myself that way. I don’t possess anger, self-pity, or a lack of self-respect. The things that happened to me in life shaped me. They do not define me.”
A narcissist will not define me.
Nor will I allow him to define my children.
Have we struggled with the post-traumatic chaos of leaving narcissistic abuse? Yes. Have we been to counseling to elevate awareness of this serious disorder? Yes. Have my children been temporarily manipulated by a narcissist? Yes. All of this and then some.
We have to elevate the conversation in order to not only escape it, but heal from it, and hopefully avoid it in the future.
But I will follow my mother’s lead.
I will forgive the narcissist.
Because forgiveness frees us and anger holds us captive.
I will liberate my children.
Narcissism will become a fact of their lives.
Not an emotional battle to carry with them for life.
Is there an irony in forgiving the narcissist? Absolutely.
Because the narcissist isn’t capable of it themselves. It’s their anger that exposes them. It’s what enrages them to the point of uncontrollable bullying and abuse. They are incapable of letting go of anything they perceive as causing them pain.
But remember forgiveness isn’t about the narcissist.
It doesn’t excuse what they’ve done nor the damage they’ve caused.
It’s about us, the survivors. our final emancipation and proof we are nothing like them.
P.S.: I knew this piece would prove controversial and it has. I respect the thoughts of any and all who have experienced this type of horrific abuse. This piece was meant to open up a conversation and hear the thoughts of others who have survived this. No one should be forced to forgive. That’s a personal decision. And many are in different stages of this journey. It took me years to forgive. Which again, does not mean I condone the behavior nor that I’m not still outraged by the injustice, lack of support and other things that accompany freeing ourselves from a narcissist.