Why do they protect evil?

It’s Monday Grace!

When I started this weekly segment of the blog, I intended it to be an encouragement for those seeking to understand the grace of God.  But there is a contrast to grace which, sadly, is more familiar to most of us.  What I have called “performance spirituality” is the fundamental system at work in most churches.  While these churches would be very careful to deny any hope of salvation by works, they still teach that our relationship with God depends on good performance.  Good performance, by this teaching, can be measured and compared.  Thus, some people are more spiritual than others, some are closer to God than others, and some are more assured of Heaven than others—even within the church. 

This performance system is the root cause of all kinds of pain and disunity within the church.  It weakens the church’s witness and compromises the church’s compassion. 

Last week, I wrote about how believers are willing to betray friendships and unity to separate themselves from people in trouble.  In response, I received an interesting question in the comments.

My question is why are these fearful “Christians” and churches and their leaders so welcoming with open arms to the evil of abusers? 

The answer to that question is troubling.  You won’t like it.

What’s the primary fear of those involved in the performance system?  No, it’s not sin.  It’s exposure.  The greatest fear for many who consider themselves Christians is that others will find out the truth of their compromises.  The draw toward sin is just part of the daily battle, but exposure of sin is shameful and humiliating.  The risk of others learning the truth is the risk of weakness and failure.  To be seen as weak is to become unworthy, even to be rejected.  To be rejected is to lose honor, privilege, and power. 

Last week I wrote that the performance folks fear connection with those who go through trouble.  They push away friends and family, even turn against them, in their desire to protect themselves.  So, the question is why they are willing to protect those who abuse, why the church seems so dedicated to covering the sins of the abusers and embracing them as comrades.  The answer is this fear of exposure.

There are two parts to the answer.  First, exposure of the individual’s sin is exposure of the system’s weakness.  The truth is that performance spirituality, the attempt to find acceptance with God through the law or works, does not change the heart.  The compromises of the flesh continue to reign in the hearts of those who follow the system.  Sin is hidden, but not overcome. 

So, when the abuser is found out, the failure of the system is exposed.  If the sin of the abuser can be covered however, the failure of the system can also be covered.  The pastor who fails morally is picked up and hidden like the broken glass from the fit of anger.  Evidence of the system’s failure is tucked away so others cannot see.  It isn’t that the abuser is not punished by the system, but that the punishment is done in secret and not exposed to outsiders.  For most pastors and others there is a price for the damage to the image of the system.

This part of the answer we understand.  It is the same reason a company will hide the embezzlement or incompetence of its leaders.  It is the same reason law enforcement and the military will cover the infractions of their members and try to handle the discipline behind closed doors.  It is the same reason a hospital will cover for drunken or impaired doctors.  So, churches will try to “put a good face” on the compromises of their leaders.

But there is another part of the answer, one that reveals even more of the evil of the performance system.  The flesh admires strength.  Which person appears stronger, the victim or the abuser?  A man who has abused women and has been able to cover his sin for a long time will be regarded as both strong and smart by those who look through the flesh.  Victims, on the other hand, are considered weak and gullible by the flesh. 

There is no mention of any attempt to find and punish the thieves who robbed and molested the victim in the story of the Good Samaritan.  The victim was the picture of weakness and failure.  The “good Jews” avoided the victim partly because they did not want to associate with his weakness.   Job’s friends believed that his sins caused his troubles.  Even the disciples thought the blind man’s inability came from sin.  Weakness and failure come from sin, according to the performance system.  When examined closely, weakness and failure are sin.  Thus, the victim is the epitome of failure.

We should not be surprised by this fleshly perspective on the strong and the weak, even if we hate it.  The performance system is a flesh system.  It is not led by the Spirit, nor under grace.  The goal is not to do good as much as it is to look good.  Those who commit great sin but still look good are far more acceptable than those who do right and look like failures.

Frankly, it bothers me to write these things.  I do know the performance system, perhaps too well.  I have seen people lie, cheat, and hurt others in order to look good and claim superior spirituality.  I have read too many stories of people being rejected by the church when they have done nothing to cause their problems.  The old saying is that the church is the only army that shoots its wounded. 

None of this is right, and none of it is necessary.  Under grace, we know the compromises of our own flesh.  We know that the battle between the flesh and the spirit within us continues to rage.  But we are not afraid to admit that truth because there is no shame nor condemnation for us.   We cannot be defiled by the weaknesses of others, nor compromised by their failures. 

I know that this means we also understand the motivations and compromises of the abusers.  But we know that their compromises do not reflect badly on us.  Nor do their compromises tarnish the truth about Jesus.  We can hate the sin of the abuser while offering the gift of salvation for any who will turn to Jesus.  We can love the victim without thinking of him or her as weak or sinful.  We know better.

Now, I happen to think that restoration of pastors and church leaders who abuse is the wrong goal.  Losing a ministry, being out of a job, suffering humiliation from others: these things are small losses under grace.  We know that selling insurance or managing a fast food restaurant is not less spiritual than being a church leader.  The right goal is repentance, subjection of the flesh, and walking with Jesus.  If that means a person can no longer be in ministry, that’s okay. 

Under grace, we should understand the cost of walking in the flesh.  That’s what kept us from Jesus for so long.  That’s what has compromised our joy and victory even as believers.  Our goal is not to look good but to live in the goodness of Jesus.  The rest of this short life can be spent walking with Him and allowing the joy of that walk to bless others in our lives.

10  When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11  Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12  Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13  But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14  Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
Matthew 15:10-14

 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

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Monday Grace 3/30/2020

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Siblings

It’s Narcissist Friday!

For son dishonors father, Daughter rises against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.
Micah 7:6

There are some who understand this verse better than others. They know what it means to have enemies in their own household, particularly from the family of their birth. We have talked about narcissistic parents and narcissistic children. Now we have to consider narcissistic siblings.

You don’t dare express an interest in a piece of furniture at Grandma’s. If you do, your sister will ask her for it or just take it from her.

You hate getting together for family gatherings and hearing the criticisms from your brother.

The loud political or religious opinions of your sibling ruin every gathering.

Mom doesn’t trust you anymore because your sister has poisoned her thoughts toward you.

You find out a month later that your mom was in the hospital. Your sister simply didn’t let you know.

For those with sibling narcissists, the list above is just the beginning. The constant unwarranted competition, the condemnations from nowhere, the private deals and manipulations—these and so much more plague almost every thought of family. Having a narcissistic sibling has probably been a lifelong challenge.

Controlling not just mom and dad, but their finances, property, and life decisions is often part of sibling narcissism. If you are silent, the narcissist will take over everything. If you protest, the narcissist will actively work to destroy you and any relationship you have with your parents, other siblings, or extended family. Decisions are made without your input. The house is sold, the furniture gone, and you didn’t even get a chance to do anything. Guess who has the power-of-attorney.

If you do find out that dad needs help, your presence is unwelcome. You feel like you are an intruder. Your narcissistic sibling accuses you of stealing, trying to turn dad against her, and butting in where you are not needed. In the narcissist’s eyes, you are a threat. Unwelcome competition.

It isn’t that the narcissist cares about your parents, nor does she need the money or things. She just doesn’t want you to get any credit. She hovers and criticizes and complains, but you can only lose. No matter how much you give and help, it is never enough and never wanted.

And, for many, the narcissistic sibling is connected with narcissistic parents. It isn’t true that all children of narcissists become narcissists, but some do. In fact, the chances are good that one or more have chosen to follow the lead of mom and dad. It may be that you are the only non-narcissist in the family. Together, your parents and siblings can make your life miserable.

For those who do not have this kind of relationship with siblings, imagine what you know of narcissistic manipulation, anger, and superiority. Now imagine that is one of your brothers or sisters. As long as mom and dad are alive, you feel that you have to attend family gatherings and respond to emergencies. No matter how you are treated.

What are you supposed to do? No contact seems like a dream. If only. Maybe when the folks are gone. Maybe now. Boundaries seem almost trivial when they are met with cold rejection. You can tell them not to call in the evening, but they have no problem not calling at all. You can try to set some limits to the family conversation, but they just laugh. Negotiation with these people is a joke. You feel like you are stuck in the abuse.

My advice, as weak as it may seem, is to separate in your mind and heart the responsibilities you feel from the welcome and love you wish to experience. In other words, go to the family gathering if you must, but expect only what you always get. Put in your time and leave. For a few hours you can endure almost anything if you plan for it. Just remember that you can drive away. You can love from a distance, but you may not be able to do much more than that.

If you are rejected by family, remember that’s their problem more than yours. You feel the pain, I understand, but your birth family is not the most important thing in your life. Many people live full and happy lives without connection to their families.

If your access to your parents is limited by the narcissist’s control, maybe you can find ways around it. Just because you are told not to call or visit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just because you are criticized for “disobeying” doesn’t mean you have to do what you are told. But there will be consequences. And, if that access is physically limited (maybe the parent lives with the narcissist), you may be able to tell your parent of your love even as you explain that your sister doesn’t want to let you visit. In that case, your parent may also feel trapped.

Of course, you can watch for signs of abuse. 2 out of 3 elder abuse cases are committed by family members. Physical abuse is not the only form. Financial abuse and more happen regularly. There are resources available to help those who see or suspect. (IE: elderabuse.org)

This topic is so complicated. Maybe you are the one taking care of your parent(s) and your narcissistic sibling(s) still try to control everything. Maybe you are constantly being put down and challenged. All I can say is that you should do what you believe is the right thing and remember that your siblings are not your judges. If the Lord is leading you to stay, then trust Him with your health and wisdom. As much as possible, let their criticisms and accusations roll off your back. Ignore them as much as you can.

This takes a great deal of personal strength. Don’t forget who you are and Whose you are. Look to Jesus for that strength and affirmation. Trust that He blesses those who follow Him. Then do what He leads you to do. Know that you are loved and accepted by the only One who can judge you. And, listen, take care of yourself. Get some time for you. Do things for you. Make a point of working toward emotional and physical health.

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How are you doing?

It’s Thursday morning, and Colorado is in lock-down. First, they said that it would start this evening at 5. Then the governor set it at 8 this morning. Then, late last night, we got word that it was supposed to start at 6am. There are all kinds of things you can do to get out, but this disruption is disturbing to many people.

One of the lessons God has been trying to teach me under grace is to relax and trust Him. When the world, either large or small, gets crazy, I need to focus on Him and rest in His faithfulness. He has promised to supply my needs. He is in charge of my future and my peace. Like I said, He has been trying to teach me these things.

My family and I are fine. No virus. No great inconvenience. We can get supplies, and I stay in touch with church people. In several ways, this is simply an adventure.

But that isn’t true for a lot of people. We tend to think about those whose work is disrupted or who have health problems, and we should. But there are also those for whom home is neither pleasant nor safe. Being stuck at home is being stuck with criticism, fear, perhaps even abuse.

If you are in this situation, we care. We will pray that you can get the help and the space you need. We will pray that you stay safe, even if you are afraid. Look to Jesus.

Please pray for each other. If you need special prayers these days, just post “Pray for me” in the comments. Be sure that there will be people around the world praying for you. Lots of people read here without commenting, so don’t worry if no one responds. We will pray.

Tomorrow’s post will come out like it always does, but know that we are praying for you and your special needs. God knows. He loves you so much.

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Why do they betray?

It’s Monday Grace!

I have been a pastor for over forty years. I wish I could say that betrayal by those who consider themselves Christians was just an acceptable part of the job. But it isn’t. It hurts every time.

For those who have been through marriage problems, financial problems, and other personal struggles in full view of the church, betrayal by Christian friends is almost unavoidable. People who stood by you while things were good want nothing to do with you when trouble comes. They seemed to love you before, but now they judge and criticize. And those who have dared to disagree with a teaching or a project in the church, who have called attention to a scandal, or who have challenged the leadership have found the same kind of rejection or betrayal.

No, it isn’t only pastors who suffer betrayal from Christian “friends.” Christians have been turning against fellow church members, close personal friends, and even family for many centuries. People who were trusted became enemies and shared secrets and told lies. David understood.

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Psalm 41:9

Suddenly the church you and your family enjoyed becomes a toxic place. You dared to speak up, and now you are outcast. Even your kids suffer the rejection. It hurts.

Why? Of all the connections we have in life, why would the people of the church turn against us? Was there any reality to the relationship we thought we had? Was it all just for show, nice Christians getting together to be nice then showing the true colors when the trouble comes? We ask these questions, don’t we?

The performance system, the religious system that says we will be judged by our works, produces a culture of fear. Fear of not measuring up, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, fear of discovery, all kinds of fear. Because we cannot perform perfectly as we are commanded to, we worry about the consequences. If people knew the truth… When we have to stand before God… In that system, people worry.

And when people are afraid, they pull whatever protection they can around themselves. They cover themselves. They don’t open up. They don’t want transparency or closeness. They can only allow a certain amount of connection. Friendship can only go so far.

What if your failure were to somehow connect to me? If you disagree with the leadership, and we are friends, will I suffer consequences? If your marriage is in trouble, and I am your support, will others turn against me? In the performance system, “guilt by association” is a real thing.

In some churches a subtle message is sent out that those who disagree or who have failed are to be shunned. Few of us talk about that these days, but the effect is the same. Those who are shunned know it and feel it. Their friends don’t want to spend time with them. Their support fades away. The love they shared before has disappeared. And it feels like betrayal.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart. I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother. But in my adversity they rejoiced and gathered together; attackers gathered against me, and I did not know it; they tore at me and did not cease
Psalm 35:13-15

I believe this is the natural result of performance spirituality. This problem transcends denominations, even cultures. The fear of association with the troubled or the wicked drives people away. Because they lack confidence in their relationship with the Lord, they fear anything that might defile them.

Under grace, nothing can defile us. Think about that. We belong to the Lord. He has washed us and made us His. He has made us acceptable. That will never be taken away, not by Him and not by anything less than Him.

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? The point of the story was not that we should help the downtrodden (although we should). The point of the story was that the “good” Jews walked past the hurting man. They were afraid of defiling themselves. Maybe he suffered because of something he did. Maybe his trouble would become theirs. Maybe they would end up like him. His own countrymen, comrades in faith and community, betrayed him because of their fear. It took someone outside their system to help the man. The Samaritan, whom they would also reject, reached out to help.

Under grace, we are outside that system. The struggles of the hurting will not defile us. Even if others label us with the label they give to the offender, it does not stick to us. The one who dares to call out the scandal, the one with exposed family problems, the one who struggles with addictions or behaviors—cannot defile us. We can be that friend. We can love because we know we are loved.

Because we are secure, we can walk into those situations that make others afraid. Because we are forgiven, we can love those who struggle with wrong behavior. Because we are strong, we can reach out in love to the weak.

Grace changes everything. The grace for your heart is Jesus!

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Children

It’s Narcissist Friday!

What if your own child is a narcissist? Not much is written about this, but I have received several private notes asking for help with this situation. Frankly, the question is difficult because it brings out so many emotions.

When you read about narcissism, you will almost always find that it begins when the person is young, perhaps very young. Something happens in the life of the child to make him/her afraid. The child learns to hide behind an image that is superior to others. This choice is not genetic or physical. It is not a disease or a mental disorder. It is a learned response to the struggles of life—and that makes parents feel guilty.

Now, you can find that in almost every book and from almost every professional that teaches about narcissism. In general, I agree with that assessment. But that does not mean that we can take the next steps without extreme caution. Before you begin to judge yourselves or your children, consider these things.

First, young children often lean toward narcissism. In the process of finding “self,” a child may go through many personalities. At various points, a single child might be boisterous, quiet, kind, mean, critical, accepting, happy, and sad. That’s normal. Children learn how to deal with life by experimentation. If you happen to catch your child in a narcissistic time, when trying to be superior and uncaring, don’t assume the child is stuck in that stage. I would not diagnose a young person (under 18) as a narcissist even if I was in the role of a professional counselor. In fact, today’s young people might be well into their 30’s before their identity settles down. (That’s another topic for another day.) Please do not be quick to label your son or daughter as a narcissist.

Second, parents are not the only influence in a child’s life. While I believe distant or over-bearing parents can trigger narcissistic behavior, it may not always be parents that are the direct cause. How many parents have learned years later of the pains and fears their child had in school or even church? Children may be afraid to talk with parents, even good parents. Grandparents may also influence children, as can other siblings. Parents are often unaware of the real struggles of their kids.

It seems sad to me that good parents blame themselves when they see their child exhibiting a narcissistic personality. The more they read, the stronger they feel the shame and blame. They forget that they could not control all the influences in their kids’ lives. Yes, some parents are to blame. Not all.

Third, children raised in the same homes by the same parents grow up to be different. Each person is complex. It is arrogant and foolish for any parent to think that they could raise their children to all be the same. It simply doesn’t work that way. If one grows up to be narcissistic, but the two others do not, how do we understand that? The only answer I know is that children are different from the beginning. Some are sensitive. Some are loud. Some make friends easily. Others are quiet. While parents may try to be fair and still treat each child according to his or her uniqueness, the job is far more complex than we usually understand. No one can always say or do the right thing, especially under the pressures of parenting. And no one can be fully responsible for the choices of another, even when that is your own child.

Fourth, children make many choices as they grow. Some of those choices are made many times until they become habitual or internal. I have been convinced that narcissistic behavior is a choice. It comes naturally to a person only after many other such choices have produced successful or acceptable results. Professionals are still not sure what to call narcissism. It doesn’t even fit well in the category of a personality disorder. Instead, narcissism seems to be a pragmatic lifestyle choice. It doesn’t pay for the narcissist to care, so she doesn’t. It doesn’t make a difference if the narcissist is kind, so he isn’t. The only way to get ahead in this world, the narcissist thinks, is to take what you want and let others suffer the consequences.

It does seem to be true that narcissists lack empathy and don’t know how to love, but even those seem to be choices, choices made almost unconsciously after long habit. We know that narcissists can be kind, attentive, generous, sensitive—when they want to be—but they are able to turn that behavior on and off. This is why it is sometimes long into a relationship before a victim discovers the truth. But, again, parents are only a small part of the influences that have touched those choices.

One more thing: parents will not be able to fix narcissistic children. It is a normal part of parenting to struggle with the negative things you see in your kids and the desire you have to change them. Sometimes just a good talk can help one of them make better choices. But not a narcissist. If your child is a narcissist, back away. Love from a distance. Pray and let the Lord do His work. That may be the only choice you have available.

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Why do they criticize?

It’s Monday Grace!

“No matter what I do, it isn’t good enough!”

“I am so tired of constantly being criticized by Christians.”

If you ask ten unbelievers about Christians, chances are that several of them will comment on some aspect of criticism. If you ask ten Christians about other Christians, chances are that most of them will comment on criticism. Putting others down, commenting negatively on choices and behavior, gossiping about almost anything—these seem to be regular practices in the church.

Some of that reputation is undeserved, of course. There are churches where all are welcome without comments. There are believers who are kind and accepting without being judgmental. But almost all believers have received criticism in the church. Why?

Being judgmental is seen as a spiritual gift, a mark of superiority and righteousness. I remember a man arguing with me that condemnation is an important part of the church’s message. He believed that he should condemn behavior he didn’t think was right. This particular man also believed that when he became convicted of something in his life, he had the responsibility of convicting others.

Why does this happen? Shouldn’t we support each other and encourage each other in church? Yes, there are verses that call us to admonish each other, but that is always to be done in humility and love. It is done to lift others up, not put them down. Seems like people have forgotten that.

Last week I wrote about comparisons and how they come out of wrong teaching. Criticisms come from the same source. When the preacher stands before the congregation to point out the wrongs of others, he models judgment for the people. He gives them permission to do the same thing in their own circles.

Some of the criticism comes out of the culture of comparison. In order to avoid having others put me down, I criticize you and put the focus on you. By pointing out the behavior of others’ kids, or financial irresponsibility, or lack of church service, I direct attention away from my own failings in those and other areas. The only way to win the comparison game is to find others worse than you.

But I think there is more to it than this. Some people seem to think that calling attention to the sins of others shows God that they believe. They hope for some spiritual points from Him for doing right.

The example is too familiar. Pastor X has a moral problem. He lusts after women and enjoys porn. Of course, this brings him down in the sight of God, he thinks. Since he lives and works in a performance system, he knows that he is not measuring up. What can he do? He can redouble his criticisms of others. He can scold the women of the church for the way they dress. He can rail against sex on television and movies. He can scold the men for lustful thoughts. He can warn the young people against compromise. He can teach people about God’s expectations in marriage. His options are many.

Now, all these “good works” don’t overcome the evil of Pastor X’s heart, but they make him feel like he is moving in that direction. If God weighs him in the balance, the criticisms and scoldings should help offset his own sin. This is the performance system at work.

We read something like that and can hardly imagine someone thinking that way, yet this is the basis for so much of the criticism we hear. Criticizing someone else makes us feel like we have done something against sin, even if we are committing the same sin ourselves. At least we have done something. That ought to count somehow. Eventually, this becomes an unconscious habit. Criticism comes very easy to some people, and often those people have a lot of their own stuff to hide.

I believe the Lord has taken the right to judge others away from us as individuals. There are calls for authority to judge and to act, but individuals are to love each other. Yes, we can and maybe should express concern when we see someone hurting themselves and others, but real concern rather than judgment.

Once we accept that the Lord has honestly and completely forgiven us, that He has already paid the price for all our sin, we can accept that He has done the same thing for someone else who belongs to Him. If we trust that He is working in our lives to help us live according to who we are in Him, then we can trust that He is doing the same for others.

In other words, I don’t need to put others down to lift myself up. Jesus has already lifted me (and them) up. He is my hope and my life. His performance is the only performance that will be counted.

There is one Master. We are all accountable to Him. We are not masters of each other. And the one Master has given us His righteousness and has made us holy. He has forgiven our sins and accomplished everything that is needed for our salvation. Here’s how Paul said it:

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4

“God is able to make him stand” by the love and the blood of Jesus. Whatever the judgment looks like, you and I will stand, not cower in fear, because of Jesus. We are under grace.

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Parents

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Children of narcissistic parents usually cannot remember a time when things were different. All they know is that they have wanted to get away for a long time.

Manipulative, controlling, overbearing, uncaring, competitive: these are all words used to describe narcissistic parents.

Remember how a narcissist sees others. I have said over the years that the narcissist sees people as “tools, toys, or obstacles.” In other words, narcissists see others as things to use or to destroy. If they can’t use a person, that person must be pushed into nothingness.

Now, imagine how a narcissist sees his or her own children. Tools, toys, or obstacles. The narcissist categorizes offspring. There is no love, no compassion, no empathy. Either the child serves the narcissist in some way, or the child is abandoned.

So, in narcissistic homes, we find children who are coddled and doted upon alongside children who are ignored. We find children who grow up to be narcissists and children who grow up to be victims of more narcissists. And sometimes the damage is so deep that the same child suffers on both sides.

Some people will say that the children of narcissists grow up to be narcissists. That simply is not true. Since the abuse differs for each child, the response to that abuse also differs. Even more, children in the same family respond differently to the same circumstances. Some may learn narcissistic behaviors from parents without becoming narcissists, just as normal kids learn behaviors from normal parents. Others will decide quite early, usually as a response to the abuse, to shield themselves with narcissistic personality.

It is normal for narcissistic parents to have favorites. One child is rejected while another is chosen. To be rejected is to be neglected, abandoned, or even attacked. Because this began so far in the past, the victim has no cause to which he/she can point. Feelings of inferiority and unworthiness are normal. Even choosing partners who continue the narcissistic abuse is normal.

Perhaps the child of narcissistic parents has a better opportunity to leave the relationship than a spouse, but the damage is deeper. The normal childhood others talk about, the loving parents others enjoy, the close family ties others remember—these things are not part of their background. Everything from family trips to personal privacy has been tainted by the narcissism.

It is one thing to leave mom and dad, but quite another to leave the influence they had since birth. The pain of narcissistic abuse, even when there has been no physical abuse, can be traumatic and lingering. Children of narcissists often wonder why they were picked on or hated, but they find no answers. Narcissistic rejection may seem arbitrary.

Because narcissistic abuse seems so normal to the children of narcissists, they often find spouses or intimate others who are narcissists. The criticism, rejection, arbitrary emotional responses, and lack of love seem normal. Without parents who love each other, children often don’t expect to find the love others talk about. Without parental affection as children, some don’t expect spousal affection. Some suffered a series of narcissistic relationships before they began to realize that their experience is neither normal nor right.

A counselor who understands narcissistic abuse can help work through self-esteem and behavioral issues. As always, be careful. Few church counselors or pastors understand narcissism, especially the depths of emotional scarring children of narcissists have. Reading about narcissism, talking with others who have struggled in the same way, and joining a support group—these can also help.

And, of course, adults can still have their narcissistic parents. The manipulation, rejection, favoritism, and other abuse doesn’t go away once the child becomes an adult. The twisted ideas of family and love affect grandchildren as well.

One of the most successful and practical methods of dealing with parental narcissism is understanding and maintaining boundaries. It may not be possible to establish no-contact with a parent. It may also not be desirable. But firm boundaries regarding visits, phone conversations, etc. can give power back to the child of a narcissist. But, again, prepare for battle. Those who can’t be used must be destroyed—at least that’s how most narcissists think.

It is right to stand up to the abuse of a narcissist, even if that person is a parent. But you will pay a price. Gather your support and be careful. Vindictive narcissists can be ruthless. Still, getting separate from their control is right.

We will pray for you. Seriously.

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