How Do I Forgive?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

The narcissist is out of your life, but not out of your head.  He/she is part of your history that you would like to forget; but there are lingering effects that just won’t go away, memories that still hurt, and fears that have become part of your life.  Every time you encounter one of the consequences of the relationship, the anger returns.

Or maybe you are still in the relationship and you don’t want to be controlled by the anger and frustration you feel any longer.  Is there a way to forgive?

Let’s talk about forgiveness.  Now, I understand that some people may not be ready to forgive.  You just realized what happened to you.  The relationship wasn’t that long ago and the hurt is still fresh.  I understand, but you will still want to move in the direction of forgiveness for your own sake.  Others need to think about this today.

What forgiveness is not

  • Forgiveness is not saying that what happened is okay.  It isn’t okay.  What happened was wrong.  Your narcissist used you and hurt you.  Call it abuse.  Call it meanness.  Call it sin.  But don’t call it okay.
  • Forgiveness is not trying to act as though it never happened.  That’s called denial.  If you try to lie to yourself, you will suffer even more problems.  The old struggles won’t go away and new ones will come.  It happened and it was wrong.  That’s the truth.
  • Forgiveness is not excusing the sin.  Just because you realize that the person who hurt you was a narcissist and narcissism is considered a personality disorder doesn’t mean that you have to excuse the behavior.  Almost all narcissists know very well that what they do to others is wrong, they just don’t care.  They don’t stop to think about it.  They are culpable for what they do.
  • Forgiveness is not becoming friends with the one who hurt you.  Some people, very few, are led to re-enter the lives of those who caused such pain.  You can if you want, but you don’t have to.  If you want to love the narcissist, you may do so from a distance.  Forgiveness and love, even reconciliation, do not require an ongoing close relationship.
  • Forgiveness is not some big religious sacrifice that brings you closer to God.  I believe Christians should be better able to forgive others, but I don’t think forgiveness makes you a better Christian.  It just frees you to be a better person.  God won’t give you extra points for forgiveness, but He will help you enjoy the freedom it can bring.

What forgiveness is

  • Forgiveness is releasing the other person from your right to vengeance.  When you claim that you have a right to justice or vengeance and choose not to exercise that right, then you re-claim the power in the relationship.  You are not afraid to bring justice, not intimidated into submission, but you are choosing to let the person go.  This doesn’t necessarily stop you from warning others or coming alongside those who need your help.  This just means that you choose not to carry the weight of revenge.
  • Forgiveness is you moving on with your life.  That person and that relationship, even if it was a parent, do not define you.  You are not them and you are not theirs.  Let yourself be separate from them.  Go on to be what you were before or to become what you were never allowed to be.  One of the best ways of putting the narcissist in his place is to marginalize him in your life.  He no longer matters.  If your narcissist remains in a relationship with you and you feel morally obligated to continue it, you can still separate who you are from that person.  Her opinion, for example, is not yours.  You are moving on.
  • Forgiveness is a gift from the Lord.  If you are a Christian, your sins were forgiven when you came to Jesus.  At the same time, He showed you His willingness and ability to forgive the sins of others.  Forgiveness is His thing.  All sin is an offense against Him.  When you forgive someone, you are simply acknowledging that the other person needs the Lord’s forgiveness and that you are willing for them to receive it.  Let Him forgive them.

These things may help.  Wrong ideas about forgiveness are often the reason we hesitate to forgive.

Let me know what you think.


Filed under Freedom, grace, Narcissism

8 responses to “How Do I Forgive?

  1. Clear understanding of what forgiveness is and is not can be extremely valuable. My mistake was to think if I still had hurt or sad feeling then unforgiveness is still active. Thanks Dave.

  2. Kelly Smith

    Thank you Dave…I think you are right on about separting our identity with that of the narcissist we are involved with. You may divorce a narcissistic spouse, but if you have a parent like that too…well you have to find a way to live with it sometimes.

  3. Luke

    Forgiveness is the only way your going to recover from the hurt caused by the N.Forgiveness is as much if not more for you than for the N in my case defiantly more for me. Without forgiving what has been done to you you will carry resentment and bitterness in you twisting your soul for me it did so much that I almost thought I was becoming an N myself that I had caught N! Forgiving is not excusing what has been done it is facing the reality of it completely. Facing the full horror of what has happened and deciding that it’s in the past that it’s not your fault what was done to you and that letting go of the anger, fear, dejection etc is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you are walking and bitten by a snake get very sick rushed to hospital and almost die but recover and one day walking see a snake do you get angry yell at the snake and try to harm it? No sensible adult would you’d just avoid the snake because it is a snake and it is it’s nature to attack through fear. The N’s are very sick people almost running on animal instinct unconscious of their behaviour. Better to forgive, move on and avoid than spend the rest of your days or at least a very long time carrying poison in your mind, your life and maybe even pass it on to those you love. Forgiving is saying to the N “look you did do it there’s no denying it but i know you cant help it I’m no longer angry but that does not mean that you will ever be put in a position where you may do it again. I know what you are”.
    This not only gives you a sense of peace, an ending, your own closure but has the added benefit of completely disarming the N they can no longer berate you or devalue you for being angry etc and they will see that you can no longer be manipulated and as such no longer a source of narcissistic supply.
    You are free to go on and live a happy and fulfilling life knowing that you’ve done the right thing for all involved. No bitterness or resentment. The only sadness I feel now when I think of my N is pity for them knowing that not only never be truly happy but never even comprehend what happiness is. They only see supply or ego boost as happiness. Very sad you have to pity them. So forgive and free yourself like I finally have.

  4. Truth and Justice

    I agree that forgiveness is noble and necessary. However, the actions of a literal gang of narcissists in the workplace harmed me in innumerable ways. I have yet to recover emotionally or financially from being mobbed in the workplace. I have experienced depression and I have almost daily battled the pain, fear and frustration of wondering if I am even employable. My faith is almost completely shaken; so much so that I have not questioned not only the motivations and “love” of a God that would allow such “soul killing”, but also such a God’s existence. How can there be love without justice? I feel terribly lost, hopeless and unable to move forward. I would be thrilled and relieved to be able to forgive the creatures responsible. And I would be truly relieved to see God’s hand, God’s justice.

    • Truth,

      I understand this more than you know, although I won’t pretend to know what you have gone through. For me, forgiveness meant moving on. I have not forgotten what was done to me, nor have I ever believed that it was in any way good or right. I still believe they are accountable for their actions.

      It really does help me to believe that there is evil in this world and their actions were part of it. I don’t hold God accountable for the evil, but I understand how your thinking could go there. I was spared that kind of crisis of faith. What I do know is that God had nothing to do with their actions or the values they seem to hold. And I believe there will be justice one day, but it will be as the Lord sees fit.

      More and more I have come to realize His love for me, in spite of what I have lost and suffered. I know now that the changes in my life have been good, because He has made them good. In fact, I am happier and more fulfilled in what I do today than at any time in my life. But that’s no thanks to them.

      Forgiveness was a release in me that had little to do with them. I simply realized that my desire for revenge or justice held me to them and I wanted it all to be done. It has been almost ten years and only some of the intensity has passed, but enough for me to enjoy my days again. Do I blame them for what they did? Sure, because they were wrong. It would be a lie for me to say otherwise. I still run into the main perpetrators from time to time and we are all uncomfortable. They know what they did and I know. If someone asks me, I tell them the story. But I don’t live there anymore.

      Please don’t think I am comparing my pain to yours. It sounds like you have been through the ringer. But I understand something of having a vocation ripped away by the manipulations of narcissists. I know something of the fear of the future because of dramatic financial changes and damaged reputation. And I have walked with others through some of the same things.

      Please feel free to write to me directly through the contact page link. I do care and I will pray for you and hear your struggle. Thank you for sharing the reality and intensity of your pain with us here. Forgiveness is so easy to talk about, but not so easy to do sometimes. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a wonderful idea, until they have something to forgive.”

      • Truth and Justice

        Thank you for your kind words and empathy. In my process, I gave in to anger and despair. On reflection, I believe the trigger must have been my concern about finances and my inability to meet a commitment. Moving forward, I will try to remember the little sparrow… . Hopefully, I will be able to reclaim myself as I was before “the incident” and “the insensitives”. (smile)

      • Oh, anger is just part of the deal. We have to work through these feelings of betrayal and exposure. And those feelings do come and go. Please feel free to communicate with me privately anytime, even if you just want someone to hear your rant. 😉 And, yes, you will find yourself again and you will like what you find.

  5. Theresa

    Hi and blessings. Great commentary on the importance of forgiveness. I just have to share, God INDEED DOES care whether we forgive. “Do not judge, lest ye be judged.” and Yeshua told me in prayer time, “forgive them because I forgave you.”

    Thankfully, he gives us the strength to do that. He heals the wounds and surrounds us with a hedge of protection, in where the little one’s inside of us know that we ARE safe and we CAN forgive. And its AMAZING. The blessings the Lord wants to shower on us he then can. Unforgiveness is a sin and he wants us to be free of sin so that he can pour on us all the blessings he has for us. Its for real!

    I was in relationship with three narcissists, and my father was also. I was used by him as a surrogate girlfriend then “dumped” when he moved out to be with the woman he was cheating on my mom with. That sort of programmed me to be with men like that after that. Oh-my-gosh the hell I, and later my abandoned (by a narcissist) children went through. But FINALLY, and let me tell you the freedom is so sweet, the Lord has helped me forgive all of them, even my father.

    I needed his help and he prodded me to forgive for a while. The Lord loves us so much and I can tell you this: he wants us to forgive so WE can be free and he can heal us and pour blessings on us. Because as long as we are in sin, he is limited in that. And unforgiveness is a sin.

    Blessings to all and seek the Lord if you are having difficulty forgiving. Trust me, its the sweetest feeling known to humankind! Amen!

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