Tag Archives: narcissistic patterns

The Mystery

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

Some of us are old enough to remember when telephone answering machines had two cassettes. One was for the incoming message and one for the outgoing. The one for the outgoing message was an endless loop. It lasted only a few seconds or a minute and you had that amount of time to record your message. (I was going to mention the early talking dolls with similar tapes, but then I remembered the ones with the little records in them and I started feeling old so I stopped.)

I learned something about how the memory works a while ago. For years, every time I fried some eggs I would remember a restaurant in Kansas City where I had a good breakfast. I kept trying to figure out why I thought of that every time. It wasn’t a bad memory, but not a great one either. It just became connected to frying eggs.

I puzzled about this, until I listened to a recording that mentioned the phenomenon. The explanation was surprisingly simple. The memory can be triggered almost at random. We simply find ourselves thinking about something. But when we puzzle about the connection between that memory and what we are doing, the puzzle becomes a memory on its own, a much more recent one. So, after the first time this came up while I was frying eggs, I remembered it as a puzzle the next time. I couldn’t figure out the connection before and it felt unresolved. Wanting resolution, my mind connected the two almost every time from then on.

So the idea is that unresolved conflicts, puzzling events, mysteries—these things stay in the front part of our minds because we want them settled. The problem is that our mind doesn’t really know when and how things get settled.

Narcissism is puzzling. Narcissists do things that don’t make sense. You know the questions. Why did he do that? Did I do something to cause this? Is she really that cruel? Didn’t she hear what she said? Did she mean to cut so deep? What kind of person does that? The more questions surround the narcissistic relationship, the more we long for resolution.

So strong is this desire for closure and understanding that we will often make assumptions about the narcissist or the situation just to try to settle our minds. We hear that many narcissists suffered as children. Oh, that explains it, we tell ourselves. We hear that narcissism is a mental illness and suddenly we think we have an answer. Or someone tells us that we just aren’t loving enough and we grab the statement as truth. But explaining narcissism isn’t usually that easy. His childhood wasn’t that bad. Narcissism is not a mental illness. You are a loving person. So now how do you explain what happened?

This seems to come up a lot in narcissistic friendships or short intimate relationships. They are often like drive-by shootings, dangerous but random. But those in long-term narcissistic relationships ask many of the same questions. Why? How does this make sense?

Ever wake up in the morning with an unexplained bruise? It hurts and it is dark on your skin, but you don’t remember hitting anything. So you puzzle about it; and, when you think about it, you rub it. When you rub it, it hurts. When it hurts, you think about it more. And on and on. The pain reinforces the question, aggravates the puzzle, in your mind. Narcissists cause pain and sometimes, in situations that continue, that pain keeps going. The best way to handle the unexplained bruise is to ignore it. If you stop rubbing it, it will probably go away. (Now, I know that some unexplained bruises are indications of more serious internal problems, but we will let the analogy stand as it is.)

Sometimes you have to let the mystery go. Force yourself to move on. Sometimes there are no answers for you to find. As we move through our days we sometimes bump into things. It happens so often we don’t usually remember it. And sometimes, as we move through our days, we meet people whose brokenness moves them to use and hurt others. The mystery of their brokenness belongs to them, not us. We may never understand why they do what they do.

So let me give a practical suggestion: Do what you need to do to protect yourself and to find health. Establish boundaries, create distance, find support. Then give the mystery to God.

As I get older I learn more that mysteries belong to God. We even have a simple saying, “God only knows.” Sometimes that’s true. Only God knows the answer you are looking for. And He knows that you don’t really need it. You just need to move on. Wipe the dust off your feet and don’t look back (you know those are both Biblical references?). Leave the puzzle, the anomaly, the question, with God.

Once I understood why I thought about that restaurant as I was frying eggs, that there was no real answer for the puzzle, I could let it go. It still happens once in a while, but I mostly shrug it off. The mystery is gone.

Once you believe that you will never really understand the narcissist in your life, that his or her actions have little to do with you, you can let it go. Every time the puzzle comes up, give it to God. Thank Him for taking the mystery and trust Him with it. Then shrug your shoulders and go on with your day. Don’t let narcissism be an endless loop of focus in your life.

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Why is that person your friend?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

 

A commenter recently asked an obvious question of another: “Why do you think that person is your friend?”  That rang a bell in me.  There are times, when reading the stories people send me, that I ask something similar in my heart.

Why do you think that person is your friend?

Why would you keep putting yourself through this?

Why did you think that person loved you?

Why don’t you just walk away?

Outside the situation, things seem so much more clear.  We read a story and the details are so contrary to anything that makes sense to us.  The narcissists are so cruel, so persistent, and so obvious that we want to grab the writer and help her/him run away.

But it isn’t that easy inside the relationship.  We know this because of our own situations.  We can look at others with logic and reason, but our own circumstances seem different.  They are filled with emotions and complications.

 

So let me take a bit to work through what happens in a friendship.  I suspect that friendship seems like the easiest narcissistic relationship to deal with—from the outside.  Those who grow up with narcissistic parents feel that they are stuck forever.  Those who are married to narcissists have to do a lot to get out of the relationship.  Those who encounter narcissists at work or otherwise professionally don’t usually have the power to remove the person from their lives.  But we all think the person with a narcissistic friend should be able to just walk away.

Very few people go through life interviewing strangers to see if they would make good friends.  Friends are rarely chosen methodically or even carefully.  Instead, friends come to us through circumstances, coincidences, or common interests.  We inherit them, they come with the job, or we suddenly discover them by our side.  Before we know it, the person has spent enough time with us and we have shared enough of ourselves that we think of him/her as a friend.

And few of us have ever really considered a definition of friendship.  We think we know it when we see it; but, when a friend turns against us, we are surprised and wonder if he/she was really a friend.  Even then we don’t take the time to sort out what we mean by a friend.

So without a careful way of choosing friends and without a helpful definition of a friend, we go through life gathering people into our circles.  We think of them as comrades, co-workers, acquaintances, colleagues, and associates.  Someplace along the line a few of them become something more—friends.  We assume they value the relationship in the same way we do.  We would miss them if they were gone if for no other reason than that they have become a part of our lives.

We acknowledge that there are different kinds or levels of friendship, but we still don’t think about it much.  A friend on Facebook is different from a friend from school days or a friend we confide in, but the overlap we allow is amazing.  We live in a culture where friends we have never met except online know more about us than friends who have walked with us through many trials in person.  Our culture speaks of “friends with benefits” or “friends in business” or “friends online” without regard to the conflicts inherent in the terms.

All of this is a way of saying that we have not been taught to be careful about whom we call or consider a friend.

So, when the narcissist comes along, we don’t have a guard up because we don’t think about guarding ourselves.  I have written often about the narcissist super-power, that amazing ability to manipulate what others think of them.  The narcissist might not even need a super-power to become a friend, but it gives her the ability to jump quickly past any fuzzy barriers we might have and get right into our hearts.

I suspect that the real reason it is hard for those in narcissistic friendships to end the relationship is that they can’t fully understand how they got into the relationship in the first place.  They might know the details, but they don’t understand the feelings.  All the red flags were there, the things others mention are true and should have been obvious from the start, but some kind of fog or deception took place.

Remember how narcissists work.  They look for people who are open.  Those who are lonely, sad, angry, frustrated, or afraid.  They manage to share a common cause or life circumstance.  Then they begin to tell you secrets (which may not be true) about themselves and get you to tell your secrets to them.  Pretty soon, they know much more about you than others and they know how to manipulate you.  You find yourself giving them your time, energy, even money—when you don’t want to.

So why not just walk away?  It seems obvious that this is one narcissistic relationship that could end easily.  Yet, it isn’t all that easy.  The narcissist knows too much.  By the time the victim realizes that the relationship is toxic, the hooks are firmly in place.  The narcissist knows how to threaten, how to plead, how to place guilt and shame, and all kinds of other manipulative methods.

Yes, you should walk away from a narcissistic friend.  Yes, you are being used.  Yes, you will be hurt again.   No, it will not get better.

It is possible to get out.  Set boundaries and maintain them.  Say no and mean it.  Don’t believe the lies, no matter how sweet they sound or how they tweak your heart.  Don’t blame yourself for being deceived.

And, for the rest of us, remember that the narcissist has to work harder to rule over a friend who can walk away.  Much harder than a boss or a parent or a spouse.  The narcissist must convince the victim that he is a lover and necessary in the victim’s life.  A narcissist knows how to do this very well.

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The Wheel

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

I recently discovered something many of you may already know about: the Power and Control Wheel. This may be a very helpful tool to print out and share with others who are trying to understand the reality of abuse other than physical or sexual. It’s from a group in Duluth, Minnesota, called “Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs.” I know little about the group, but I think their illustrations look helpful.

PowerandControl

I might have some things to add to the wheel. For example, under “Isolation” I would add moving away from family. And for our purposes, I might remove the words “Physical VIOLENCE Sexual” on the top and bottom of the wheel. I suspect their point is that these kinds of control often lead to violence, but it may be misleading for some. Many of the folks we deal with have experienced neither type of violent abuse, but are still truly abused by their narcissists. You might see other things you would add or change.

 
All in all, I think this could be very helpful as something to give a person you suspect is a victim.

 
Another wheel has been produced in contrast to the Power and Control Wheel. The word is overused and loaded with political connotations, but it is called “The Equality Wheel.” It gives a contrasting picture to show what a loving and reciprocal relationship would look like.

Equality

From time to time I hear from people who wonder if their relationship is abnormal. As they describe what happens, it is easy for me to see that theirs is a broken and, possibly, narcissistic relationship. But they can’t see it as clearly. When you are in the midst of this kind of relationship, perhaps for many years, you simply see what is normal for you. The verbal and emotional abuse is just part of your life. Or if you come from a narcissistic home, you may not realize that this kind of cruelty isn’t something everyone experiences.

 
But it isn’t. Many people have good relationships with family, friends, and spouses. The pain suffered in narcissistic relationships is not normal, nor is it right. Maybe these wheels will help someone to see that their pain indicates that something is wrong.

 
I could see someone giving these to a friend, perhaps to explain your own spousal or friendship relationship. Or maybe you have the opening to ask the person to examine their own relationships in this light. Maybe someone will have the courage to copy these and post them on the church bulletin board. ;)

 

You should be able to click on these jpg files to enlarge them or to print them for your use.   I would love to know your thoughts about how you might use them.

 

There is blanket permission on the website to copy and distribute these images. The site is: http://www.theduluthmodel.org/index.htm

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Confrontation!

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

“People who confront the narcissist always lose.”

 

What do you think? Is that a true statement?  It certainly seems true, doesn’t it?  Only enter the fight if you are prepared to get beat up.  To confront the narcissist on behavior or attitude is to walk dangerously.

If you are reading this, you probably understand. It might be at work where you confront the narcissist about the lies he has told about you.  It might be a parent who has always put you down.  It might be a friend who takes advantage of your time and energy.  Or it might be a spouse or lover who is often cruel and uncaring.  But when you point out how they hurt you, you end up hurt again.

Somehow it is all your fault. You started it.  You deserve it.  You are the real culprit.  If you hadn’t done what you did, this never would have happened.  You should be thankful the narcissist puts up with you at all.  On and on and on.  By the time it’s over you wish you had never dared.

Then you feel like crap. Sorry for the vernacular, but that’s the way it is.  You built up your courage, gathered your nerve, prepared your words—and got creamed.  And this isn’t the first time.

So what do you do? Simple justice seems to demand that the narcissist be confronted.  She has to be told that she is hurting you.  He has to have the boundaries made clear.  They ought to be stopped.

But here’s the problem: the narcissists either already know they are doing something that hurts you or they simply don’t care. All your energy seems out of line to them.  They don’t understand why you are attacking them, since they have done nothing wrong.  Again, you deserved it.  To the narcissist, it is almost hypocritical of you to challenge them for their cruelty when it was your own fault.

 

And     so     you     go     slowly     crazy.

 

But understand that this is not your problem. You are not the crazy one.  This is how narcissists generally deal with confrontation.  Whether it is the boss, the mother, the neighbor, the police officer or anyone.  Even the counselor.

To the Officer: “Yes, Officer, I see your point. Thank you.  I appreciate your diligence.”

To you: “That jerk!  If he didn’t have that badge I would have pushed his words down his throat.  Who does he think he is giving me a ticket?”

Even when it seems that the confrontation works, it still doesn’t. There may be limited success.  He might shut up for a while.  She might walk away.  But they really don’t understand your anger and don’t care about your point.  They can’t see you as a real person whose emotions are valid.  Your anger, your sadness, your joy—they don’t understand them the way you might understand the emotions of others.

 

Back to the question: What do you do? Here are some ideas:

  1. Do what you must. If you must say something, do it. It will feel good to get it out, no matter how it is accepted.
  2. Plan for failure. There are times when it is right to do something even if you know ahead of time that it won’t work. Maybe someone else will hear and understand your point, even if the narcissist doesn’t get it. If you plan for the narcissist to avoid or miss your point, you might not be as hurt when he/she does.
  3. Accept small victories and benefits. Sometimes a confrontation can set up a boundary. Sometimes the narcissist will be set back and have to take a different tack. That can be good.
  4. Or you don’t have to confront at all. Why put yourself through that if you don’t have to? Set your boundaries and maintain them without confrontation. The narcissist will probably try to use confrontation if you seem to want to avoid it, but walking away or staying silent can be a very effective strategy.

 

Confrontation is hard and narcissists usually choose victims who hate it in almost any circumstance. It is hard because you see the other as a real person and you don’t want to hurt them, nor do you want to fail to get your point across.  Just know that your desire to confront and your struggle with confrontation are okay.  They’re normal.

So I have attached a little video that seemed to illustrate what happens when we try to confront the narcissist. I apologize in advance for the “dumb criminals” part.  You are neither dumb nor criminals, but the narcissist is usually as hard as bulletproof glass!

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Insidious

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

A friend is dying of cancer. I hate cancer. Cancer is sneaky. It lies in wait and pops up to ambush a person. It doesn’t care whether you are young or old, married, have children, have unfulfilled dreams, or anything. It just hides until it surprises you.

 

Oh, there are signs. A cough. A lump. An itch. A pain. A weariness. Little things that make you wonder. But it is so easy to shrug those signs off and just keep going. Sometimes people even go to the doctor, but the cancer is so small that it isn’t detected . . . yet. But it’s there, waiting. It’s insidious.

 

Insidious.   Seems to me that’s a good word for narcissism also. It means to wait, as in ambush. It comes almost directly from the Latin term. The idea, in Latin, is to sit waiting. The enemy in hiding. The enemy in our midst, not quite identifiable. You can almost feel that something is wrong, but you can’t see it or touch it. It might be right around the corner, or the next. Then, suddenly, it’s there.

 

That lady in church who welcomed you with such kindness. You notice how others seem to let her have her way. You notice that she is much better at getting others to work than she is at doing work herself. The more you get to know her, the more you realize that she speaks a little too freely about others. You begin to wonder if she speaks that freely about you. You have trusted her with private information, but now you begin to worry. Insidious.

 

The young man was so full of love and attention. He was polite and patient and thoughtful. At times it seemed like he was courting you instead of your daughter. She seemed so lucky and so happy. Just because she started wearing her hair differently and she sometimes wouldn’t tell you where they were going, you weren’t worried . . . at first. After a while, when he left his good job because “they didn’t know how to use his talents,” you began to see a different side of him. Soon he and your daughter were living in another state and she never called or emailed. That’s when you saw that you were ambushed.

 

Insidious. I could tell story after story. Husbands and wives; in-laws; co-workers; leaders; friends. People who seem great at first. Even when you begin to see the little things, they seem benign. But the cancer waits and grows.

 

Some people grow up with narcissism. It surrounds them from their earliest memories of parents, grand-parents, or siblings. What seems so obvious to outsiders just seems like regular life to these folks. Nothing is wrong, but everything is wrong.

 

Others have narcissism creep up on them. They enter into relationships with kindness and hope, never suspecting that an abuser sits waiting for an opportunity. It might be at work, where a co-worker tries to take your position or clients. It might be at church where the narcissist decides you are the one that needs their control. It might be an intimate relationship where you thought there was only love. Insidious.

 

So what do we do? Well, we do the same thing we do with cancer. We watch for the little things and pay attention. We tell others about the reality of narcissism and teach them to watch for the signs. Not every unkind act or selfish focus is an indication of narcissism, but we can watch. Patterns begin to emerge, evidence accumulates, and maybe we can act before the damage is done.

 

Sometimes aggressive treatment does work against cancer. Sometimes a change of diet or the right medicines or simple surgery can reduce or eliminate the effect of cancer. In the same way, catching certain behaviors or attitudes early in a relationship can allow us to build defenses, watch even more closely, or escape before things get bad.

 

And I have noticed an unexpected relief for some people who are diagnosed with cancer. Finally they have an explanation for being tired or for that pain that won’t go away. Finally the whole thing makes sense. Again, in the same way, those who have grown up knowing the pain of narcissism sometimes find a relief in naming the insidious enemy. They always knew something was wrong—their family was not like others—but now they know what it is. It doesn’t make it go away, but naming it brings both explanation and options.

 

Parents can talk with sons and daughters about the warning signs of a narcissist. Bosses can learn, as can pastors. Marriage counselors and therapists are beginning to see the truth. Narcissism no longer hides as easily in our society. More of us are sounding the alarm.

 

Yes, narcissists are adaptable, just like cancer. They adjust their tactics and hide differently so we have to be alert. Certain regimens will help. Clear and strong boundaries. Acceptance of ourselves and our uniqueness. Trust in the leading and love of the Lord.

 

We may never eradicate narcissism and it might still surprise us from time to time, but the battle is not the same. Narcissism may continue to be insidious, lying in wait to abuse, but we are watching for it.

 

We are no longer unaware.

 

 

 

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In the Church

I have been challenged a few times for using the term “narcissist.” The concern comes not from the fact that I am not a board-certified psychologist but from the fact that I am a Christian. Christians aren’t supposed to categorize people, I am told. There are only people who know Jesus and people who do not, some suggest. To categorize people further than this just gets in the way of the real concern.

In a way, I understand. Theologically, there is a very simplistic sense to the concern. However, the error exhibited by the concern isn’t quite as simple. The error suggests that behavior reveals inner truth. Again, there is a simplistic rightness to that, but not all behavior is overt. In other words, the behavior you and I see may not be consistent with what lives inside.

If you turned over the rocks and looked behind the locked doors, I think you could find almost any sin in church or among church members. Active sin with willing participants. Some find that hard to believe. All of us find that hard to accept.

Nine years ago the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita learned that their church president had a terrible secret. Dennis Rader, whom they had known for many years, was the BTK murderer. For nearly twenty years, he had terrorized the community. The people never knew if or when they might be his victims. The fact that the police couldn’t seem to catch him made it possible for him to bring so much fear. Even when the killings stopped, no one knew if he was still out there watching his next victims. They certainly didn’t think that he was living among them as a trusted church leader.

BTK (bind, torture, kill), the nickname used to identify the murderer, has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder. ASPD is similar to narcissism in many ways with the additional factor of almost habitual illegal activity. It involves lying, grandiose ideas, lack of empathy, difficulty in personal relationships, and more in common with narcissism. And at least one active church member, a church leader, exhibited it.

My point is that we really should not be surprised that these folks can be found in church. There are many reasons. Maybe some of them actually feel some guilt over their sin and hope that association with the church will help. Maybe some of them find the church to be a great hiding place or a feeding ground. And because of their willingness to play the games, people with personality disorders are often trusted in positions of leadership.

This is also true in any other organization. Dennis Rader (BTK) was an active scout leader. You find them in clubs and organizations, neighborhood associations, and political groups. Many seem drawn to public gatherings, perhaps for the affirmations or even for the contacts. The church is not more susceptible to the wiles of these people than other groups, but certainly not immune from them either.

So how do we deal with these people in the church? Should we ignore the truth about them as we embrace them in fellowship because of Jesus? Do we have to determine their doctrine before we can deal with their sin? In other words, if they believe the right things and act right when they are with us, should we overlook concerns and reject labels? I don’t think so.

Matthew 18:17 shows us that it is possible for an abuser to be dealt with as an abuser, apart from consideration of his personal faith. There is a point where the behavior has to be confronted as it is, not as it ought to be. Matthew 18 shows us that there are limits to the “breaks” someone might get because of an expression of Christian faith or church involvement.

Another helpful passage is 1 Timothy 5:8, where we are told that a man who will not provide for his own household is outside the faith and worse than an unbeliever. In other words, it doesn’t matter what he says he believes. What we have to look at is his behavior.

So let me be blunt.

    Abusers should be treated as abusers. Murderers should be treated as murderers. Narcissists should be treated as narcissists.

God may accept them because of Jesus if they cry out to Him, but society has a right and a responsibility to deal with their “personality disorders” and sins without regard to their faith. And the church should support society’s involvement.

That means we do not cover up the sins of church people any more than we would want to cover the sins of school teachers or scout leaders. We call the police and let the justice system do its job. We help the victims and listen to their stories. We understand that there may well be predators and abusers even among us.  And we teach people to identify these disorders.

All my previous cautions about using labels still stand, but naming a behavior is different from calling a person a name.  Not only is it right for us to discern and label behaviors and attitudes like narcissism and ASPD, it may be very important . . . in the church.

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The Monster’s Legacy

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

I recently wrote an overview of the damage the flood from a year ago did to our little church building. It surprised me to look at the simple facts. We had to strip everything from the building, down to the studs in the walls and the concrete under the flooring. Everything was lost: all furnishings, wall coverings, fixtures, appliances, and nearly every small item. Our final costs, with a great deal of volunteer help, will be well over $50,000.

So, if the water only came up to three or four feet in the building and didn’t actually reach the rear of the building at all, why so much loss? Simple answer: mold. Invasive, destructive, smelly mold. Within a week or so, it had climbed to the top of the A-frame and penetrated almost everything in the building. Books sitting on the shelves, far above any water, were destroyed by the moisture and mold. All wood surfaces had to be sanded, treated, and painted. That meant removing all the drywall in the whole building. It took a crew of four two weeks and cost us nearly $19,000 just to stop the mold.

And our beautiful wood interior chapel will never look the same. Instead of wood grain, there is paint on all the beams. Instead of simple pews, we have steel chairs. It’s brighter and everything is new, but it is not the same.

Mold was the monster that changed everything.

I have a couple I talk with who have battled narcissism for many years in their extended family. We call narcissism “the Monster.” Just like the mold in our little church building, the narcissism monster has invaded nearly every part of their lives. It took years to identify it and more to understand the best ways to deal with it. And then there’s the monster’s legacy.

When the mold mitigation was finished, after so much damage and so high an expense, we still had all the work of rebuilding. When the monster has done its damage, the damage remains even after the monster is gone. Many people have written to tell me of the continuing struggles they faced after the narcissist left. Even when the problem is “solved,” and the monster is gone, the damage still affects us. In spite of the desire to move on, to start a new life, there is a lot of work to do.

Narcissism was the monster that changed everything.

Inability to make decisions, fear in personal relationships, nagging false guilt and shame, broken connections with others, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. These are some of the normal internal struggles. Then there are the external struggles. Financial stresses, custody and visitation issues, the need to find a job or the loss of a job, the physical consequences of stress, and so much more. When you look back at the end of a narcissistic relationship, you usually see a wide path of destruction.

And, again just like a physical disaster, there is fatigue. People sometimes have energy in the midst of battle, but find themselves drained and weary after the end. Not only did they spend precious personal resources to make the decisions and survive the conflict, but they borrowed energy and assets from their future. Now they simply have little to give to their own renovation and recuperation. The excitement that might come with starting new does not compensate for the drain caused by the battle.

I feel a special concern for newly single parents who have to minister to their children in the midst of their own grief and fatigue. Some of those who read this have been through that situation and are, in my estimation, heroes of a special order. Long after they should have been free to rest, they spent from their own hearts to care for children who needed stability and love. I have been so impressed by some of the stories I have read.

It is very important that we acknowledge the reality of the continuing struggle of those who have left narcissistic relationships of any kind. You feel drained, angry, discouraged, and lonely. You want to hurt someone and you want to crawl into a hole in the ground and what you really need is a good hug. You look around at the damage and wonder how you will ever continue.

No, things will not be the same. To be honest, some things will never be as good as they were once. But you will survive. Find support, someone to talk with, whatever agencies or ministries or good people will help. Take the help. Give yourself permission to screw things up, to go through the whole day with no measurable accomplishments, and to hide from the world once in a while. Don’t be ashamed of your occasional weakness or sadness or fear or even anger.

All of this is normal when the monster has swept through.

Is it wise for us to renovate our Chapel? It is worth all the work and expense? Some would wonder, given that another flood could happen. But it is important that we have a presence in that community. It is who we are. In another location, we would be different and we would lose even more. So we are a little wiser now. Paint will not be as susceptible to the ravages of mold. The flooring will be easier to replace. Our landscaping will, perhaps, be a little stronger.

Is it safe for you to trust again, to open your heart to others? Maybe not, but you are wiser and will be more careful. You know more of what to watch out for. And you are a person who needs relationship. Your kindness and patience and giving heart may have given the abuser the opening, but to change those things is to change who you are. There are other monsters out there, but you still have to be who you truly are. Be more careful, but don’t close your heart.

Rebuilding is hard work. The monster is terrible. But we do get through these things and there is life, better life, on the other side.

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