Where’s the Church?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


For most of us who consider ourselves Christians, the church represents a place of comfort and safety, a community of support.  Yet, many of those who struggle against narcissism find the church to be far less supportive and comforting than they need.  Time and again I get the comment that the church leaders wouldn’t listen or help, or even that they support the narcissist against the victim.  I have heard some horror stories about how the church became part of the problem.

It is obvious that this shouldn’t happen.  Of all the helping organizations, the church should be the strongest voice against narcissism.  But it isn’t.  Here are my thoughts as to why…

First, the church is full of compromise, particularly in areas where narcissism lurks.  Let’s look at a few:

Money: Narcissists may not be big givers, but they usually want church leadership to think they are.  They depend on the confidentiality expected in regard to giving.  So most church leaders will look at the narcissist and expect him to be generous.  Who wants to rock that boat?  Church leaders know that the victim will have nothing.

Leadership: Often the leaders are impressed enough with the narcissist to place him in leadership.  If they discover that to be a mistake, it will be too late.  He will already have found ways to control them and maintain his power.  If they don’t see their mistake, it may be that they look past his characteristics because of the same ones in themselves.  I mean that many church leaders have narcissistic tendencies.  That’s why they aspired to leadership in the church.

Image:  For so many in the church, image is everything.  Their local church must be superior.  They have the one true message and they practice the one true way.  To admit that there is trouble among the membership is hard.  They don’t want to hear it and, if they must, they will try to quiet it as quickly as possible.  This is often true in all kinds of abuse situations.  Even in a day where public organizations and leaders are required by law to report certain abuse, church leaders still try to cover it up or handle it “in house.”

Legalism: I think many churches are unwilling to acknowledge narcissism because it is so close to the legalism they hold.  It’s all about image and performance and measuring up to standards.  Depersonalization is just the way things work.  It is common for people to be rejected and abused in legalism and narcissism may be seen as one person attempting to do right while another holds him back.  The leaders often don’t see any difference.

Unity:  If a narcissist has a presence in the church, he probably has a following.  If he is rejected, others will leave or take up his defense.  Then the leaders will have a problem.  Loss of unity might mean loss of people and loss of people might mean loss of money and loss of image.  The victim is rejected because it might damage the unity.


Compromised churches certainly have reasons for ignoring the victims of narcissism.  But there are other reasons churches fail to help.

Some have been so robbed of authority that any intervention into a marriage or family situation seems impossible.  Who are the church leaders, even the pastors, to tell a husband or wife or parent what to do?  Leadership in churches isn’t always compromised, sometimes it is just weak.

Some are poorly equipped to counsel, especially at the intense levels needed by a narcissistic relationship.  Many pastors and church leaders haven’t even heard of narcissism; or what they have heard is just the popular portrayal of the person whose ego is too big.  They have no idea what the victim is suffering and have no context in which to learn.  Pastors have so many other problems that they can rarely give more than pat answers for common situations.

And some have bought into the idea that we can change others by changing ourselves, no matter who those others are or what they are doing.  In other words, they blame the victim.  If you were just more loving, more prayerful, more gracious.  If you tried harder, he would change.  Blaming the victim only makes things worse.


Well, I would guess that is as depressing for you to read as it is for me to write.  What are we supposed to do then?  We are Christians and we look to the church for support.  Can’t they do something?

So I want to give some suggestions.  I do believe that the victim of narcissism should find help in the church and support from the leaders.  I just want you to be careful.

First, don’t use the word “narcissist” when you go for counsel.  I can almost guarantee that it won’t have the effect on others that it has on you.  Instead, tell the pastor or elder or whoever what is happening.  Be gentle, but share your pain.  Watch for sympathy or empathy.  Do they listen?  Do they ask questions to understand?  Or do they preach at you and minimize your pain?  Do they pray for you to change or for the Lord’s help in your situation?

You should feel the difference between these approaches.  If it appears that they just want to straighten you out so that you will leave them alone, then leave them alone.  They don’t want to help.  If all they have for you are pat answers or blame, then find your help somewhere else.

And have a reasonable expectation of what you want from the church leaders.  They can’t reach in and fix your narcissist.  They probably won’t tell you what to do, even if they do listen and care.  But they can pray with you and stand by you.  They can listen and try to understand.  They can study narcissism and help you find a counselor.  They can even help you when the whole situation hits the fan.

I know pastors who have gone far out on a limb to help people in narcissistic relationships.  I know churches that have helped with thousands of dollars of legal aid and counseling expense.  I know church leaders who have stood strong alongside victims to protect and support.  Some do listen and some do understand.  Don’t give up.

It is worth trying.  Go to your pastor and ask for his ear.  Tell your story without embellishment and without a lot of blame.  Tell what you feel.  Then wait and see.  If he chooses not to help, okay.  Find your support somewhere else.  God will deal with him.


Filed under Narcissism

36 responses to “Where’s the Church?

  1. Recovering

    It can be so hard in the church because often the NPD has so completely charmed those in authority that again the victim of the NPD is considered the problem maker.

  2. Repol

    So accurate.
    I wish I had read this 12 years ago, or even earlier. But it was 12 years ago this month that my N blew up because the sick baby was getting too much attention, pinned me against the wall and broke his hand (and the actual vertical wall stud) right next to my head. I demanded then to go to the church for help. Got none. None. They even made him a deacon after that. And my life spiraled into hell.

    • Sunflower

      A voice-activated tape player in your pocket ( or whatever the equivalent latest technology is). I managed to get a one-hour tape and even though it was too late…….I still had it if needed and knew that I knew for myself that I was not making it up. I wish I’d had one years earlier.

  3. prairiemom

    My church is full of wonderful, loving people who have reached out to my friend who is married to an N. Though I was really worried the N would completely deceive them, the leadership did eventually, over time, see what kind of person he really is. The church reached out and gave my friend every single opportunity so that she could leave and get her son away from this terrible situation, as she said that was what she wanted. The leadership even contacted the authorities on behalf of her son. But now she wants to return to the N and is shunning her church friends so she can have her dysfunctional relationship. We have seen this coming for a long time but hoped she would become healthy and make good choices in spite of the signs that she would return. The addiction to an N must be terribly strong if she would jeopardize her own child for him, making excuses for the abuse and minimizing all that the N has done, even though she has been given much better options and a team of those who are willing to help. I am so sad about her choices, but I was encouraged by the way my church family showed God’s love and discernment and had the wisdom to offer the right kind of help, even if it was ultimately rejected. I have a much deeper trust and respect for those in my church community after seeing how this was handled. I am sorry that victims cannot count on that kind of support in every church.

  4. Kay

    I found this website, along with several others, back when I was searching for answers about our former pastor who up and left our church, taking about one third of the remaining congregation with him. I knew there was something wrong for several years before this happened, but just didn’t have a term for it. Then I discovered NPD, and it was like scales falling off my eyes, combined with relief, yet a deep sadness from the realization that there were several N’s in my life, including a parent! It only took me 4 decades…better late than never, I guess! Anyway, if it hadn’t been for this crazy N pastor, I might never have found this information! Very freeing!
    Regarding what you say about the church, in our case, the leadership had confronted the pastor on this or that minor issue, but just didn’t seem to have the fortitude or combined strength to really confront the big issues and wouldn’t really believe me when I told them I had been flat-out lied to. It wasn’t until the N left that story after story began coming out from people who had been deeply hurt by this person, yet kept it to themselves for fear of being the lone voice, or making the pastor look bad, or whatever. Shameful! Needless to say, we are now educated and on the lookout for this type of wolf in gospel-sheep clothing, although it was a diploma from the school of hard knocks! Thanks so much for these articles, Pastor Dave!

  5. E

    I have asked that question my entire life. Where was the church? I finally found the church support I needed in a completely different denomination and haven’t looked back since. It has been almost three years since the change and I have experienced more healing and grace in that short time than my entire 29 years at the “home church.” I encourage others to attend a different church if your narcissist attends with you. The home church was my mother’s “pathological space,” what they call a group or physical location in which a narcissist feels comfortable holding court, projecting their false image, and receiving narcissistic supply. In other words, she worked very hard to build that space from a teach and was deeply embedded in the social structure and choir, etc. I didn’t stand a chance! And when I left the church, my mother’s friends contacted me attempting to make me “smooth thing over with her” so I “would have no regrets” about what I had done to upset her. They told me the details weren’t important, they just wanted to see my mother have the supportive and loving family she needed. See, they didn’t care one bit about what I needed as a church member.

  6. Joy

    My N (ex husband) still attends our church. He is so good at quietly inspiring others to pity him, and they feel good about being sympathetic to this poor, poor man. It amazes me, because before we split, I was so heavily involved (board member, ss teacher, etc), and ex went sporadically and rarely wanted to do things with other church members. After I left, he started going every Sunday and accepted every invitation to socialize he got. Everyone is so happy to make him feel loved. On the other hand, they have known and loved me for years, and I don’t need the attention, I guess.

    I can see that he is still playing games…church is about the only place he ever sees me anymore, and he seems to be targeting my old friends to hang out with and charm. He’s even exaggerated to me the amount of contact and invitations he’s gotten…I found out later. It makes me so sad, but I don’t have the energy to combat his games anymore….I left him so I could be through with that.

    I don’t want to change churches because our kids go there, and also because it’s the denomination I grew up in, and I still think it’s a good fit for me. When we split he asked if I wanted him to go to another church…instead of just doing it. I knew if I said “yes” he’d be telling everyone I asked him to leave the church…and then I’d be even more of the “bad guy” than I already am. I’ve known him for over 30 years and he is pretty predictable that way. I just told him “do what you think best” and of course he stayed. He rarely speaks to me, but his presence and his networking our friends and church members has made me dread going to church on Sunday….I used to look forward to it all week.

    • prodigalkatherine

      One of the reasons it seems to be difficult for churches to confront Ns for their misdeeds is that the Ns have already launched a preemptive strike against your reputation. They understand the need to be perceived as an injured party, especially if they know they are doing something (in my case, infidelity) wrong that you are still in the dark about. Whether they plan to keep you around or not (sometimes they don’t know either), I am convinced that they begin smear campaigns about the person they are injuring. It’s kind of like “money in the bank” in case you call them out for doing something they are trying to keep hidden.

      The way this plays out at church is that they ask for “prayer” for your “emotional problems” even if they never pray at home. They ask for “godly advice” to “help you in your struggles”. Their uptick in church attendance looks like a heavy reliance on God to endure emotional trauma. But that’s the opposite of what this is. It’s a set up.

      To me, more than any other behavior, this represents the true depravity of the N. When Jesus talks about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, I think that this is the sort of behavior that He means. It’s using “God talk” to create a cover story for Him(her)self that also deliberately disconnects you from your faith community. It’s using God’s words to do the work of Satan.

      Nobody likes to believe that evil walks among them, especially if it is a person who seems like they are rededicating themselves to God. But make no mistake, this sort of behavior is the antithesis of behavior that builds a Christian community. I often find that Christian women are far more willing to believe a male N because he is saying all the right words that they wish their husbands would say. He seems sensitive, evolved, and complimentary. He seduces without being sexual. If his victim is attractive he says things to a less attractive woman known to be a gossip like “She is so focused on her looks. I wish she loved Jesus the way you do.” If she has a skill other women might envy or works outside the home, he identifies who might be threatened by that and uses the victims “out of order priorities” to fan the flames of resentment. He might even go so far as say “I don’t know why my wife never liked you. You are such a sweet person.” He turns the female consensus against the “errant wife” by targeting a few “talkers”. It’s so calculated it’s spooky.

      Pastors generally like to stay out of female drama so they are unlikely to want to “get involved” rather than get to the root of the matter. It’s far easier to believe the gossip about the woman with a faraway look in her eyes because she knows something wrong, but has no idea she has been preemptively ambushed.

      I know this because it has happened to me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I can see it now and I have discovered many untruths that were planted. I have also seen it happen to other women. Women tend to travel in packs. The final blow to the Christian woman is to isolate her from Christian community by tarnishing her character with outright lies she can’t defend herself against because she doesn’t even know that they are out there.

      And then? The victim has been eliminated. The cycle of idealize, devalue, discard can begin anew without the righteousness of the N ever being doubted.

      • E

        I know too well the preemptive strike and smear campaign. It’s exactly as you say. My N mother was busy dropping little comments like “I just never see E anymore…” long before my boundaries became a relationship deal breaker for her and everyone at church thought I must have “done” something unspeakable. Instead of actually stating what happened (narcissistic injury and rage over me setting boundaries) she would make abstract comments and let everyone’s imagination do the rest. People were so good at filling in gaps that she didn’t have to do much more than insinuate. Some people even thought I’d left the church because I didn’t like the music, was ashamed to face my mother, was traveling, or was very ill. My “domineering husband” was also implicated in my sudden change of compliance. (My husband is nothing of the sort.) Perhaps, they whispered, he had led me down a dark path and I’d lost my faith, perhaps he was pushy, perhaps…

      • UnForsaken

        You are both so right. I’ve been through one church situation that destroyed Everything i’d ever valued and more. Now I go to church with my N to keep the peace and”unity”, but can hear the prayer requests like the ones you mentioned. It’s not a smear campaign in full swing, but I still feel the damage and have no friends there.
        It’s great to be accepted as a human with a right to speak…and all of you have done that for me.

    • Jennie

      Holy doodle….Joy, Prodigal, and E…you have all just exactly described my N husband. O.o The lies and smear campaign started almost the minute I walked away. Apparently, I had lost my marbles. And the increase in church going was practically miraculous. He was suddenly involved in everything, teary eyed, seeking God. It was enough to make you want to vomit. It was a smallish church though, and eventually they figured it out and he went somewhere else.

      Now he is in that church, going on mission trips (MY husband? Mission trips? You must be kidding me). He’s dating and pulling the wool over some very nice woman’s eyes, and I’m still crazy, and now my daughter is crazy because she called him out on something.

      And of course this church-going, mild-mannered, Christian victim role is exactly how he lured me. Nothing changes apparently. Wow, I knew he was doing it, but I didn’t realize it was a pattern with others as well. Of course, my mom insisted I was in a cult and smeared my name that way….took it to the national level and it got into the local and national newspapers. Yeah….maybe I did realize it was a pattern, I just wasn’t seeing it.

      Lord Jesus your name is Truth. Thank you so much for allowing us all to see this truth; to see very clearly who these people are; thank you for each one here who with their stories help us more and more to see with clarity. Amen!!

  7. Leslie

    I was disgusted by some of the responses by Christians! I at times wanted to leave my faith but I remember it’s not Jesus doin this it’s humans. I asked a teacher at a Christian school help communicate with him to prevent manipulation and blame in that circumstance he pretty much became unnerved and included the principal in the emails. It was crap! No support

    • prodigalkatherine

      @ Leslie. I know what you mean. It’s hard bc you feel like everyone is turning on you. But what you can’t underestimate is the power of a smear campaign. They were manipulated so they just weren’t operating with the facts you know to be true. In time, you may find some of those relationships are restored when the true colors emerge. I know that was true in my case. Still, it is so hard to feel like an outcast when you were the one who was victimized, not vice versa.

      • Leslie

        Yup I have to see him for my kids basketball he lives 40 min away and he obviously is trying hard to make friends to create a good image with parents at my school I can barely take seeing him my anxiety and anger goes sky high . I’m planning on moving home six hrs away just so I can heal from all his bs, this man is sick never been remorseful for anything he did to my oldest and I. The only one who knows the truth is God! I can’t heal when he continues his behind the scenes onslaught on me it’s to the point I will fight and I’m sure I will win to move with the children but I can’t continue this way he’s got my own parents fooled it’s sick I think strangling your own child, punching , hitting, bullying is bad enough that my own parents shouldn’t play his charm game

  8. Richard

    Being a pastoral counselor from 1992 I was taught to love your people..
    Most churches today are just ill equipped to deal with serious N issues.
    Leadership tends to be proud. The think they know everything because they should, they have been doing this for 30 years or so.
    I’m a victim so I know first hand how it all works. Jesus was a victim..Rejoice.!

  9. Penny

    Jesus was nobody’s victim

  10. HDG

    My N has managed to keep his carefully crafted image in church. Trying to work on our relationship (since ended) at my request we spoke with his pastor together. I was reminded to respect. He was reminded to show love. I wasn’t comfortable revealing my concerns-control,anger,grabbing,secret (caught him)online/texts .We were going to seek additional help with counselors he found. When I suggested we make separate appointments he no longer wanted to go. He used his pastor’s words against me any time he felt I was “out of line”to “correct”my thinking.I attempted to meet with his pastor on my own-no calls/texts were ever returned,yet he has lunch with the N quite often. I felt responsible for his anger(“YOU FRUSTRATE ME “!!!!!) I should have set boundries but believed if I was Christian I should continuously forgive and submit.No thoughts,no questions. For months I wasn’t allowed to go to church with him but he asked if I saw marriage in our future?/dating?/do you expect me to just keep hanging around?then another wrist grabbing incident .I gave up . I truly wonder what story he tells his church/family and friends. I was a total fool believing his exes were all liars,according to his friends he “just fell in love too fast.”Even though I broke it off I find myself looking back still loving the prayerful, loving,caring,gentle man I met.The pain and loneliness is so intense but I am fearful of letting anyone in my life again.Hardest of all is the lack of response for help from a pastor and church I felt such a part of. I feel inferior and rejected.I so wish I could send his pastor this web address. Blessings to you pastor Dave and to all those who share here!

  11. Penny

    After 18 months of going “no contact” with my N, her pastor approached me about “working out a compromise”. In that instance I had to accept that he truly did not understand narcissism or would never have suggested such a thing; a “compromise” with an N is a fantasy. My response to the pastor was “I cannot compromise truth”, which left the pastor fumbling for words. The Apostle Paul said, “what fellowship has light with darkness?”, which is exactly what it is like with the N. The Church often fails to see the deception, the darkness, and expects us to compromise with evil. I recently read that “narcissists don’t have relationships, they take hostages”.
    Until the Church realizes that Ns hide in plain sight within their fellowship, taking hostages and wreaking havoc, the cause of Christ is compromised damaged and diluted, which grieves our Savior. Jesus said that whoever causes those littles ones [ie:the vulnerable] who believe in Him to stumble would be better off with a stone around their neck and cast into the sea. That doesn’t sound like a compromise to me.

    • prodigalkatherine

      When I first started commenting, Penny, I was a bit overwhelmed by your firm stance. My whole life I’ve been urged to “be merciful” or “you’re too sensitive”. But as the evidence accumulates that this behavior is not accidental and that many N’s prey on the individuals most likely to exhibit fruits of the spirit- I think I’m starting to appreciate your position.

      There’s a level of deliberate malevolence that is hard to comprehend- yet at the same time, the words “Vengeance is mine…” echo in my head. I’ve never considered the idea that there are living human beings who can not be reached my grace- yet it’s like that classic scene where Charlie Brown and Lucy are playing football- I’ve been Charlie Brown so many times. The “seventy times seven” part in the bible is where things get hard for me.

      I don’t want to be judgmental and cruel like the “N” yet also see how my over willingness to forgive and forget repeatedly lands me in hot water.

      I’m curious, Penny. Did you have a specific experience that clarified your feelings about the “N” that helped you achieve your clarity of mind?

      • Penny

        Yes, ProdigalKatherine, there was a specific experience. I am bravely going to reveal that here and hope I can retain some anonymity. Some of what I write I am not proud of, some is humbling but it is my story, warts & all. It’s a little long, so I apologize especially if I get preach-y. While “clarity of mind” began with a huge, grievous error on the part of the N, what tipped me over was what Anna V refers to as “the sameness”:
        It was the “same-old-same-old”: scapegoating. The same critical spirit. The same slander. The same smears. The same false accusations. The same undermining. The same deception. The same trap. It was the trap that scared me. I felt so trapped, with no way out, no way thru, no options, no answers, that I began to contemplate suicide–and that scared me. I was actually thinking about ways to do it–and that scared me even more. I knew that was from the enemy, and in no way did I WANT to do that, but it was overwhelming and undeniable. I went to a local church that has a prayer garden, and I cried for 2 hours straight. I didn’t just cry: I wept, I sobbed, I shook, I rocked, I despaired, I tried to pray, I begged God for help, I was racked with grief and pain. During that 2 hours my mind wandered to Elijah, the bold, mighty prophet of God appointed to oppose idolatry, expose false gods, perform miracles, & to speak for Him; the same prophet who did not see death, but was taken to Heaven by God Himself. And yet….after the miracle[s] against the prophets of Baal and other false prophets, the wicked, angry Jezebel threatened Elijah and swore to kill him, so Elijah ran and hid in a cave and begged God to take his life. That’s all it took: a threat. Suddenly, I thot that if even this great man of God could despair of his own life, then who was I to think i was any different? Elijah ran and hid, desperate for relief, and God met him in that cave. I went home and re-read the story in 1Kings 17-2Kings. I had an epiphany of sorts, which was that I had been going about this all wrong. Nothing, NOTHING should be this hard. I came to the conclusion that for me this was a spiritual battle, which is exactly why it IS so hard. [Pastor Dave helped me to understand that Jezebel was not Elijah’s problem, but God’s. It was not his battle, and God sent Jehu instead of Elijah.] Elijah needed to get out of the way, kind of like “no contact”. My N is a malignant narcissist, one whose “M.O” is to co-opt Christianity for her own selfish purposes, not for the Savior or for the cause of Christ or God’s glory. She refuses to bend the knee to Almighty God and, like Jezebel, had usurped the throne reserved for Christ alone. Since she was never wrong she didn’t need a Savior anyway, so why not be on the throne? For the first time I allowed myself to call this “evil”. I researched Jezebel, and discovered how evil she really was, and how devious, manipulative, deceitful, demoralizing, critical, calculating, controlling and seductive she was. Jezebel was never wrong, dominated men, and would either seduce them, emasculate them or murder them. Then I stumbled on something about narcissistic, Jezebel-like women: it observed that they “turn their husbands into little boys, and demand their sons behave like husbands”. Shazammm! Eureka! That was it: my N had done this for decades with her 2 husbands, with humiliating, dominating, controlling & emasculating behavior[s], while demanding her “golden-child” son (my husband) step into a husband-like role, thus violating the boundaries of our own marriage (not in a sexual way, but in an engulfing, overbearing, undermining, controlling, critical way). That, too, is evil. Marriage is sacred to God, yet she has violated that sanctity in ways too numerous to name here. Like you, I was merciful, patient, kind, forgiving, gentle, long-suffering…. and worn out. All it did was embolden her to exploit every opportunity to devalue me & my children while continuing to exploit my husband’s kindness. Even tho it was “the sameness” that tipped me over, it was finally naming it as “evil” that began to free me. I began to realize that her endgame was destruction: she wanted to destroy me & our marriage, b/c she wasn’t willing to share her son with a wife. She had never shared her husband[s] with their sons. She had never shared her own children with one another; they could relate only thru her. She was always competing for affection, admiration, adoration and as we know, Ns want it all for themselves. Ns “do not play well with others” and she had no intention of playing nice once the jig was up and she was exposed. I knew she would never change, but if I was [literally] going to survive, then I needed to change. Says Anna V:
        “This all means if there is to be any change it has to start and end with you. You can’t change their hearts or their behavior. You can change your behavior and start to implement changes in your circumstances. If your life is to be any different tomorrow than it was yesterday you will have to take control of it.
        Those of us who’ve experienced last straw moments are greatly blessed. Blessed to finally have the moral certitude and resolution to not take their shit anymore. Blessed to finally be able to escape the crooked reality of the narcissist.”
        I was no longer willing to live in her “crooked reality” and I drew a line in the sand. It was the last straw, it was not a grudge but reality, & an honest evaluation of evil, which scripture tells us to turn away from. I was not going to be “endlessly patient with evil”. She started a smear campaign from which I will never recover; the “betrayal of the bystanders” is in full force and no one is interested in the truth; all involved are willing to ignore her abuse while condemning the abused & the vulnerable, abandoning the truth & God’s word. The sharks are circling b/c she has now resorted to the last trick in her bag: the mighty “Last Will, Testament & Trust”. The “bystanders” will be getting what they wanted all along ($$), she is getting her drug of choice (attention) and we are cut out, discarded & devalued. No one is even shocked by this, but rather they are licking their chops, faking their affections & biding their time to cash-in. I humbly but mistakenly threw my “pearls before swine” by saying that my faith was in God alone and not her money, which opened the door to be “torn to pieces and trampled underfoot” by her and others. The morally superior bystanders have no problem heaping on more abuse and slander; there is no accountability from the Church for evil, elderly Ns who have always behaved this way and do not have dementia but are simply defiant. Professional colleagues with whom we are friends are getting an earful during doctor/lawyer/CPA visits while the smear continues. Yet, thru the strength of scripture I remain steadfast, my marriage is intact, my husband chose me and loves me and my kids do not miss her. I read the book of Nehemiah almost weekly, and cannot think of a better metaphor than the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, as rebuilding the walls of our lives–lives that have been attacked and broken down and in need of repair. There is a short synopsis here: http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/3048/0216.html
        I love in chapter 4 the word picture of “keeping one hand on the work and the other on their weapon”, meaning we ARE allowed to defend ourselves & oppose evil. I love how Nehemiah stands up to those who taunt them & the rebuilding, saying, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.” I love how he holds enemies accountable, how he opposes their sin (and his own), how he leads worship, he weeps over sin & destruction, he threatens to remove by force those who compromise & continue to defy God, he IS judgmental, & actually pulls out the hair of some in anger, yet this is not described as cruel in anyway. He is seeking God, not self. Nehemiah has a righteous anger that is seeking restoration in the face of opposition. The final verse says, “Remember me, O God, for good”. That has become my prayer and my guide. If you hear any confidence or resolve, it originates from Him and not from me. If I sound judgmental, I take heart from 1Peter 4:17, “It is time for judgement to begin with the house of God”. If I sound angry, I remember Jesus in Mark 3 (when his accusers were lying in wait in the synagogue) and, seeing a man with a withered hand, Jesus said “Is is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or evil, to save a life or destroy it?” But they were silent. After looking around at them in anger, grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said “stretch out your hand” and it was restored. So the Pharisees went out plotting to assassinate Him”. Sound familiar? I think the Church is too often silent (I am speaking within the body) while reputations are assaulted and character assassination is tolerated and spiritual abuse is ignored. Jesus also said “they will hate you on account of me”. I answer to Him, and if I am hated for that, then so be it. “Remember me, O God, for good”.

  12. Fellow Survivor

    Katherine and Penny, I know your discussion is ongoing but to answer your question Katherine about a specific experience for me there were many, but one stands out more than others. She was doing something that was hurting me and damaging my trust in her and I made this statement to her:

    ” You either know that what your doing is wrong which makes you evil or you don’t know what you are doing is wrong which makes you clueless”

    She knew what she was doing was wrong, she knew that it hurt me and damaged our marriage but she did it anyway. All the other times over the years I tried to explain it away with all the mind tricks we all play on ourselves to keep the peace and keep the marriage intact. After that we were just play acting the part of husband and wife.

  13. Penny

    Hmm, PK–I am sorry if I am overwhelming. I would prefer to come across as resolved, so I suppose I am working out the best way to be firm. Anyway–let me ponder your question a bit about a specific experience, but while i am doing that, I would like to give this link to Anna Valerious regarding evil and avoiding it:

    • prodigalkatherine

      Penny-Let me clarify- I have always appreciated your candor- but my own self doubt and lack of confidence combined with my fear of “judging” that comes from having been judged very unfairly over the years has made me a lover of mercy. The tricky thing about that, though, is that it is my blind spot. So I appreciate all of your insights even if my initial response is to wrestle rather than immediately agree. I am incredibly grateful for you and appreciate your boldness. I wish I had your confidence.

      • Penny

        ProdigalK~wow, you are so kind and I needed that today. Before I try to answer your question about “clarity of mind”, I would like to tell a brief story related to the word “clarity”–a story that those of us experienced with the insanity of Ns will find instructive & somewhat hilarious. A few years back, after yet-another incident with my N and 6 months of NC, she was flinging out the usual “non-apology/apology-with-guilt-trip-on-the-side” nonsense, I thot I’d try another approach, just to see how she would respond. Dennis Prager (wise radio guy) often says that he prefers “clarity over agreement”, meaning of course, that he’d rather clearly understand someone’s point of view than insisting they agree on it, but they need to be able to articulate their position, which Ns are loathe to do. So while she was using her typical, legalistic approach: “we’re Christians & YOU need to just get over this so I’m sorry and now you need to say you’re sorry and let’s just move on”. But since I had done nothing wrong and wasn’t about to cave in to more false accusations, I asked, “exactly what is it that you are sorry about?”. That sent her into tailspin, sidestepping the real issue[s] of violating boundaries & unprovoked attacks & character assassination & slander. So, I calmly explained that for an apology to actually be meaningful, I needed to know exactly what she was saying she was sorry for, which of course she refused to do [b/c Ns are never wrong]. Rather than answering that simple question, she predictably ramped up her accusatory tone and went into attack-mode & blame-shifting by replying “why can’t you just drop this?”. That’s when I said “wouldn’t you prefer to have clarity on the issue?”, to which she literally screamed into the phone: “I DON’T WANT CLARITY!! I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH CLARITY!! I JUST WANT YOU TO DROP THIS AND GET OVER IT!! WHY CAN’T YOU DO THAT?? I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU??? WE’RE CHRISTIANS!!!”
        oh.my.wow. At least she spit it out, no? Funny if not so maddening.
        We have all had “defining moments” with Ns, and that was one of mine. But in a way it was “tragic comedy” that she defiantly refused ANY clarity, wanted nothing to do with clarity, yet demanded a blind, blanket, bilateral apology without naming the offense[s] and insisted that I share in such nonsense. Let it be said I refused. Stay tuned……

      • prodigalkatherine

        what you describe about the non-apology is maddening.

  14. Jennie

    I also have a no contact policy with my husband, and the initial reason I adopted that was because I was terrified by him; terrified for my emotional welfare; terrified of being fooled, negated, and confused again by him. I couldn’t trust him AT ALL and once I admitted that there was a problem, I instinctively knew these things to be true.

    Now, 6 years later, I remain no contact (unless there is business about the kids, or whatever) because what is the point? You cannot have a relationship of any sort with someone you can’t trust, so why bother. It isn’t a matter of forgiveness, although he most certainly is forgiven in that I’m not laying a sentence down and taking revenge. It’s a matter of trust. How can I trust a person who has behaved the way he has when I tried to love him, ignore him, plead with him, talk to him about it for 20 years. He has proven himself untrustworthy. Period. He has given me THAT gift of himself. It’s the one gift I’m accepting.

    • prodigalkatherine

      Nobody is “owed” trust. We are called to treat others with respect and compassion and to not sin in response to anger they may stir up, but we are called to forgive (like you said- not seek revenge or badmouth) but nowhere does it say that you have to forget. Given that the best predictor of future actions are prior actions, you a have a responsibility to keep strong boundaries for the sake of your children’s well being. I am sorry that you’ve had to suffer this way. Hugs to you.

  15. UnForsaken

    Trust…it is’t owed. PK, your words comfort me as I try to keep in mind that ” the best predictor of future actions are prior actions”. He usually ignores me, but when it comes I have to be ready. I’m so easily lulled when he can be nice some of the time.

    Penny, WOW…that “apology” style is So familiar! It’s all about making themselves feel better. Another thing even children figure out. My N has done this all of his life, along with his insistance on honesty…probably for our benefit. But self-deception is right up his alley, although I’m sure he still knows in his heart of hearts what he’s saying. It’s about looking generous and benevolent, always right.
    PK and Penny, I feel I fall between you in type of expression. At one time I was as firm as you, Penny. But whaen I began to feel emotionally stronger I also became physically wealer. I’d always been misunderstood, so I started saying nothingand becoming less sure of the words to use. Sometimes I still can’t find tham for myself, although I’m even more sure in my mind then I was before. I appreciate both or your styles of communication, because of the spiritual strengths they convey to me. We’re here to comfort and remind eachother of special truths, and I can’t count haow many times you’ve both done that for me . I need need words in this time I’ve “dried up” . ( Whew, that’s a lot for me to say.)

    Penny, I loved your story and it did make me smile, esp. the Clarity! Confusion is their tool and she was deprived of it. I’m glad you could deal with it that way at least once and get away with it. I’ve only come close to it once, with near disaster , but changing tactics is a good practice.

  16. SingingEagle

    YEP, that says it all in a condensed message and very well! Thank you for putting into words what we all here have had to deal with for so long. Thankfully, I have a network of Godly connections who understand and can give biblical support and an occasional shoulder to cry on. Thx again!

  17. Repol

    I was thinking about this today, and how my situation went down and was handled at the former church, and how the blame was misplaced, and I wondered how they would handle this fictional scenario:

    The elders of the church had a regularly scheduled meeting in the evening. They all arrived after their own busy days at work. Some were tired. Some were fine. Some had had busy or bad or normal days. No one knew what the others’ day had been like though.
    One elder (let’s call him Jim) came in particularly irritated. Who knows why. He didn’t say a word. Just entered the meeting room, didn’t speak to anyone, didn’t smile.
    The meeting was called to order. Normal protocols were followed, prayer, Robert’s rules, things are going along as usual. First agenda item is introduced and discussed. Jim sits and broods, maybe makes a few curt statements, doesn’t seem plugged in too much.
    When the second agenda item is introduced, Jim gets up, strides across the room to Ted, a smaller guy who has been participating normally in the meeting up to this point. Jim grabs Ted by the throat, raises him to his feet, gives him a few hard shakes and then tosses him to the floor, standing over Ted with fury in his eyes, threatening to begin kicking him.
    The other elders watch, but no one gets up to intervene or help Ted. Ted crawls away, asking for help, which doesn’t come. Jim then goes back to his seat, and takes his place in the meeting again.
    What happens then? Well, the other elders gently say to Jim, “We all have anger issues like that Jim. Let’s go to breakfast tomorrow, OK?” And then they turn to Ted and instruct him, “Ted, you have got to do better about not getting Jim so worked up! Before you come back to another of our session meetings, we expect you to evaluate how you are provoking him and have a better plan in place to keep the peace around here. If you would just be a better member of this session, more sympathetic to Jim’s ego issues, then these outbursts would not happen. We hope you are taking this seriously, Ted. This is a terrible witness to the rest of the session and the church body. And think of the young people! What will they think of the church authority if you can’t manage to keep Jim under control here? We cannot possibly ever approve of removing anyone from the session, so you are just going to have to find a way to make sure this never happens again.”
    Ted replies, “But it was Jim who attacked me. I didn’t provoke it.”
    And the other elders say, “Ted, you are looking at this wrong. You need to reflect more on Philippians 4. ‘Whatsoever things are lovely and good and honorable.’ If you will just put your mind on those things, then you don’t have to fear what Jim will do next and we can just keep on with business as usual. You act as if you somehow DESERVE to be treated with respect and kindness by Jim. Don’t you realize what a sinner you are? The first step is in accepting your own responsibility here.”

    It’s ludicrous. And it is exactly parallel to what happened to me.

    • UnForsaken

      Repol, I’ve been there when volatile things have happened , and you nailed it! What cowardice! It happens so fast, good people hardly know what to do. Now, I keep my eyes open and almost expect it. But injustice one of the few things that makes me truly Angry, so I pray I’d do the right thing. The misuse of Scripture is also horrifying.
      I’m praying for you now in the choices you have to make, your safety, and that you would especially know His presence in hard times. Thank God you’re no longer at your former church ! ( Me too!)

      • Jennie

        Repol, that is awful!!! It’s hard to believe that happens in a church setting. That was assault and should have been treated as such. When you are walking on eggshells around someone and making pathetic excuses for them like that, you KNOW they are a narcissist.

  18. Repol

    Just to clarify, Jennie and anyone else reading: That’s very much the kind of response I got when, YEARS after the abuse was first known by a few in authority in the church, it continued and became public knowledge because I finally had a first-hand, eye witness who was in my home at the time. Upon public exposure, however, the leadership and laypeople in my church responded like that above to me. He got to go out to breakfast and lunch, and I got all manner of “You ought to’s” and “You musts.” There was a letter written to him to say he should stop and remember that I was “the weaker partner,” but in retrospect (I did not realize it then, because I thought so little of myself–I gave myself no value either), they should have rushed to separate us for a time of individual counseling and healing, they should have thrown their arms around me and my children in comfort, protection, love, support, and SORROW. They should have offered to help me and the girls find counseling as well as safe housing. But that wouldn’t LOOK GOOD. That would look like a family in crisis, and Christians don’t have crises. Christians stay buttoned up and in denial and just put their minds far away on some distant dream of freedom and peace. So the session scenario above is a fictionalized account of how ludicrous it would have been if that abuse of headship had occurred in their own little institution and they had dealt with it the same way. Of course, THAT wouldn’t have been allowed.
    My idol really was the church, and God had to take it away from me. I expected the church to be Jesus’ body here, his love embodied, and to treat me like a beloved daughter…until they didn’t. They had to fail, and fail BIG for me to see how much bigger Jesus is instead.

    • prodigalkatherine

      Wow- very profound insight- “My idol was the church”. And so poignant because you really were trying with all your might to do the right thing. Your comment makes me think- perhaps God’s admonition against idols has less to do with His jealousy (in a way, if that were the sole motivation it seems kind of petty) and more to do with His protection of our spirits. Whenever we hand over our moral agency to an organization (even one that speaks for God, like the church) we run a serious risk of being exploited and misused by that idol.

      Very wise, Repol.

    • Leslie

      I’m sorry you had to go through that doesn’t sound like a TRUE church. I feel your pain I too was very very dissapointed in the response of the church after I left my x and the abuse came out. Like you did I had to remember not to blame the Jesus for the lack of support from the church!

  19. grace551

    This is such a sensible, wise and practical post. Thank you. It could really help people who follow your advice.

    I’m not in a position to apply it myself. I have an emotionally N husband whom I think God is convicting. He went to our pastor for help with his unexplained fear and anger, nearly two years ago, before we realised that emotional abuse and narcissism were involved. I had realised there was passive aggression and my N had agreed. Unfortunately, besides asking for prayer counselling, he also manipulated the pastor to pity him, and the pastor has been more keen to support him than me ever since. He has been getting something more of a true picture through talking to me and reading online articles I have sent him links to, but he still seems a long way off understanding my experience and how twisted my husband’s thinking is.

    Our pastor’s involvement has brought me added pain and stress rather than love and support. Yet I can see how much worse treatment other people have had in their churches. And I think I can see God working in my husband’s life. He seems to be changing: I am waiting to see if the change lasts and increases. If not I will leave him – I can’t carry on otherwise.

    Your blog has been very helpful to me. Thank you so much. I wish all pastors were as well-informed, wise and kind as you.

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