Narcissistic Apologies (2)

It’s Narcissist Friday!  


I recently read yet another statement by a well-known Christian leader confessing sin and asking for forgiveness. It was one of those apologies that leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. I would say that it was a narcissistic apology.

The difference between the narcissistic apology and a real apology is the center. In the center of the narcissistic apology is the offender saying, “I am hurting because of this.” The real apology sees the victim in the center and says, “You are hurting because of this.”   The difference is empathy. Just like always, the narcissist doesn’t care about your pain, just his/her own.

The purpose of a narcissistic apology is to divert attention away from the offender. Your knowing and accusing gaze is extremely painful. You see too much and too well. Under that scrutiny, the abuser is laid bare and vulnerable.

Apologies aren’t always used. Some will attack in anger. Others will blame the accuser or a third party—anyone else. Some will admit to lesser evils, trying to keep your attention away from the truth. Some will claim that you simply don’t understand the truth. Some will create bold lies. Whatever it takes to get you to stop.

The narcissist needs you to turn the light somewhere else. The offender cries for relief, pushes for forgiveness, begs for mercy, bargains for reconciliation. Just, please, make it all stop.

If intimidation, negotiating, and pleading don’t work, then you might hear the narcissistic apology. The one that admits to nothing except those things that can be interpreted as positive for the offender. He was too dedicated, too focused, too strong a leader. His intention was always good. The hope is that your attention will center on the image of the offender, the one that is superior and righteous. The purpose is still to push the attention away from the offender’s heart.

A real apology, something seldom heard, admits the validity of the victim’s perspective. The repentant one doesn’t try to point the light away from the painful exposure because he trusts that his exposure will help the victim. Someone who offers a real apology also wants the pain to end, but not at the expense of the victim.

The narcissistic apology is part of our culture and certainly is not limited to narcissists. Many of us learned that type of apology from our families and friends. It offers little and solves nothing. We have become used to hearing it from politicians and public figures.

When we receive it, it does not satisfy our hearts and often leaves us feeling somehow guilty. A part of us knows that we have not been heard or valued. The burden on us has somehow become greater, rather than less. We experience confusion, even anger. Yet, we are not supposed to continue feeling anything negative because the offender has apologized.

The effective narcissistic apology moves your attention to your confusion or anger or pain or guilt . . . and away from the offender.

And let me add one more thing: the narcissistic apology almost always ask for forgiveness in some way. This puts the burden back on the victim. “Will you forgive me?”—sounds a lot like, “There, I said it, now can we be done with this?” If you say yes, then everything is supposed to be back the way it was. If you say no, you are the bad guy. Then you may hear, “Well what do you want? I apologized!”

Understand that the purpose of the narcissistic apology is not to admit the offense and lessen your pain. The purpose of the narcissistic apology is to get you to shut up.


Filed under Narcissism

18 responses to “Narcissistic Apologies (2)

  1. Jeff Crippen

    Why do our seminaries not teach pastoral studies students these things? I know I never heard a word about narcissists or abusers in my MDiv program. The subject really concerns the very essence of evil and of our enemy – “I will be like the Most High.” So to thoroughly understand evil, sin, and its schemes and tactics, the pastor (and really every Christian) simply cannot afford to be ignorant of these things. The Christian church is one of the most often chosen arenas for these kinds of people to operate in. They like sheep, and like Diotrephes, they crave to be first. Thanks for this great article.

  2. Forrest

    Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir and commented:
    This article nails it …

  3. Heather2

    I can finally admit it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I have struggled with labels because my ex didn’t fit the mold 100%. But this describes him to a T. I have heard all of those words! Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my broken heart!

  4. E

    The narcissist always asked me (and more often solicited others to ask me) for an apology when she did something unkind. It always went with the elaborate system of smoke and mirrors, a deflection blaming the week she was having, the weather, her blood pressure, menopause, depression (she didn’t have depression), my general attitude of hostility she was reacting to (I must have started it), her career, and finally the way she was raised (referring often to a “miserable childhood.”) It was my fault for being XYZ and so she had no choice but to lash out with verbal abuse, shaming, hanging up on me in the middle of a question, and pretending to be unavailable when I needed anything. When she did apologize, it was usually in a way that made me feel worse as well. “I’m sorry that I mistakenly thought you wanted to spend time with me instead of your friends. I guess that’s what I should be used to from you.” And “I’m sorry you feel like I’m such a horrible mother,” when I hadn’t suggested anything of the sort. It was always “I’m sorry YOU…(seem to think I did something wrong.” I even hate the word “apology” because it was asked of me so many times when I was the victim. The way my enabling father would ask me “did you apologize to your mother?” after she screamed at me for some unknown and often made-up infraction makes me physically ill.

    • I am going through this w/ my best friend of 40 years. It’s called Gaslighting. It makes you feel like you are losing your mind. I feel like such a fool to have tolerated her abuse but I think I was more of a frog in a pot of hot water. Only recently has she become unbearable as I have increasing demands on my life and can no longer cater to her. I have always allowed her to have control of our outings as she is such a control freak. She does the planning and always insists on driving. She never ever stops where I want. It’s all about her agenda. She has been generous in that she likes to invite me for dinner and has given me a hand me down couch. But……I think I will pay dearly as I recently found out during our “break up” how deep, ridiculous and distorted her resentments are. I have done things for her and her daughter but they never will be acknowledged of course. She hates coming to my house always talking me into driving the 30 minutes to her much “nicer” home. She called me at midnight recently having a real estate crisis because she couldn’t purchase the house at the end of her street for her daughter. Meanwhile my husband has been out of work for almost 3 years but she has no clue that there might be a discrepancy here? She has stalked me in that she let me know she stopped by my house , my car was in the house but I did not answer. “Where was I” she was basically accusing me of deliberately not answering door. Hello.? Maybe I was out walking? She has been acting like she owns me lately. Like I OWE her. I fear what she is doing right now in retaliation but I must release myself. It is very scary for me and triggering as when I was very young I was in a terribly abusive, stalky relationship. I am soooo shocked that she is doing this. I am disappointed in myself that I did not get out sooner but it’s very painful and depressing and I find I am obsessing even though she’s ONLY a friend. But I’m realizing just how much she took, how much Time and I feel physically ill.

  5. Jennie

    E….((((Hugs)))), I’m so sorry you had to go through that with your mom. It’s not easy, but here you are on the other side, and I pray for your healing.

    And as for the original post, spot on and fantastic. You should have heard my husband kick into narcissistic apology mode when I informed him that I couldn’t take it anymore and was thinking of leaving. Oh my, oh my. It’s too bad I couldn’t have caught it on tape and used it as primary example material. This guy could switch from “top dog” to “bottom dog” in a heartbeat, and 6 years after the marriage has ended, he STILL pulls this stuff with me if any conversation is directed towards what has happened between us.

    It’s pathetic, maddening and mind-bending all at the same time; and it would be confusing too, if I didn’t know what he was doing. Thank you God for all the knowledge and wisdom you’ve given me in the past 6 years, and for the people who have taught me these things. Amen!!

  6. George Smith

    Very good thoughts and very well.written you have hit the nail on the head.Because of you I am finally understanding about the grace for my heart

  7. How much we need wisdom in dealing with these types of people! I have been learning that I nee to learn to trust those gut feelings more than words which can be so confusing.

  8. HDG

    My N would be angry and abusive (multiple times)but “apologize” later about some small thing-never the real issue.He often told me,very humbly, of how he sought people out he felt he’d hurt in some way-even decades later to “ask forgiveness as God requires.” This post and these replies are so relevant! The words “I feel bad” and” I’m sorry YOU” were always part of the FEW apologies I got. Still blame was brought back to ME in some way.I’d ” frustrated him” or said something that reminded him of his ex wives-he’d even call me by their names sometimes. His favorite poor ME,pity ME, it’s all about ME excuse was: I’m feeling ill or it’s the pain meds I take. I don’t want to leave out the “as a Christian you will forgive me like I forgive you for the times you’ve offended ME.” I’ve taken criticism about using narcissist to describe him.That I don’t “own up” to my part in the break-up.YES_I HAVE TRUST ISSUES, I ADMITTED THAT TO HIM.I should never have asked him “what’d you do today” ?or about his online female friendships. I heard he is supposedly crushed that I ended it (I called him out on the abuse-I doubt he told that part of the story)but not a word of apology from him,just another tirade of MY faults . I DO have some regrets- the difference is the word “I.” I asked him to forgive ME but I do not take blame for his ACTIONS. Feels good to get this out- the memories of the false image have been haunting me lately,luring me.This site brings pain to the surface yet helps me to avoid more. Thanks,hugs and prayers to all!

  9. Kay

    Ugh! How many times have I heard the “you just haven’t forgiven me!” line. “You’re supposed to forgive!” It’s a great formula (for THEM): crazy verbal (or whatever kind of) abuse, followed by an apology, followed by the expectation of “Christian” forgiveness. Puh-leeeeze. I can honestly say I have forgiven my N, but am completely over expecting or needing an apology. Done. Hugs to “E”….I have a dad just like that. I’m not sure what happens to these so-called men that they become the N’s dithering henchmen over time. It’s great to be free from it, tho.

  10. Great article!
    May we quote this paragraph from it on our “Gems” page at A Cry For Justice?
    “The difference between the narcissistic apology and a real apology is the center. In the center of the narcissistic apology is the offender saying, “I am hurting because of this.” The real apology sees the victim in the center and says, “You are hurting because of this.” The difference is empathy. Just like always, the narcissist doesn’t care about your pain, just his/her own.”
    Blessings to you, brother.
    I’d like to offer you a copy of my book “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion”. If you would like to receive it, just email me. You can find my email address at

    • UnForsaken

      Barbara, what a beautiful ministry!

      I enjoyed your link and will keep it in mind to point out to anyone who is struggling between their former convictions and a need to divorce. Your site fills a much needed gap in resources…..Keep it up!!!

    • Anthony de Odor

      There is a danger. I have a NM who uses the “I am hurting because of this” all the time. Her most sincere apologies go like “I feel sorry because I did not get to” or “I am sorry because I did not get to have all the” or “I am so sad that I missed out on” and so on. I am afraid of getting into an accident or falling severely ill because she would make that all about herself and how she feels about it. Now I have done “no contact” with her, which she has broken a couple of times, but happily not too often.

      Twice I was forced to listen to her tries to hook me back into the relationship. Our meeting was about other, more important things, so I had no choice. I just stood fast and silent, not allowing the discussion to go anywhere, for about two hours each time. I was silently picking out tricks and reminding myself that it was all just her point of view.

      One hook went like “I know you are hurting because of all this”. But she would never fill in the blank of what does she mean by this. Sharing any hurt with her is fruitless, so I have decided that it is none of her business. The problem is, she wants the attention. Everything goes in one ear and out the other. And it is impossible to accuse her of not listening, because she visibly is, all the time.

      “You are wasting your time accusing me of not listening, even now. Instead you could just talk and I would listen, as I am doing even now, listening to your accusations.” A quasi-secret never-ending special relationship of forever talking. In circles. Of me wasting my time and energy on her. She even wants, now, that I would unload anger, hurt and accusations on her to make me feel better. My experience tells me that it would all be a wasted effort.

      But, to sum it all up, even a N can and will see you hurting, even an imagined hurt (and here imagined is better than real), if that allows him to get what he wants. By, for example, projecting a caring facade.

  11. Kathryn Benson

    I broke down and sobbed when I saw my husband’s personality in every word written. We have been married 31 years. The courage this supplies me is tremendous as I secretly prepare to leave him. I am 63. I am frightened to death. I have no resources, no savings. I am more blessed than others in my situation. I had a successful business years ago that I gave up because of him, one that I am able to resurrect. I am a strong woman and I will do it!!! And after reading the testimonies of others I will delay no longer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Kathryn

  12. HDG

    My prayers are with you. Leaving isn’t easy. No matter what he and his “followers” do or say keep your head up,stay strong( I was the queen of “relapse”) know Jesus loves you and will always be with you.

  13. I’ve worked with men who have experienced a lot of worldly sorrow. They have wasted years drinking and drugging, going to jail and living lives of petty crime to support their addictions. They regret the wasted years, the lost opportunities and the emptiness of their lives after they have discarded their relationships of family and friends and then being without the comforts of their addiction as they start recovery. Their sorrow starts out as pure selfishness. It’s all about them.
    For some men, as they move through recovery, their sorrow doesn’t stay selfish. As recovery proceeds and the fog of a drug beguiled mind lifts an even more painful realization sets in. A person begins to realize the hurt they have brought into other lives – the lives of those who love or loved them. They start looking back and begin to appreciate the wreckage they have caused. The pain of broken relationships, disappointment and betrayal of parents, spouses and children cut through their tough selfish hides and create the first stirrings of feeling for others. They begin to have Godly sorrow.


    O.M.Goodness. i love a N. for a very long and abusvive time. But God The Holy Spirit really Blessed me . pls focus on the Most High it is a sure way to heal . mind spirit and soul from the evil condition of ever one of God’s children . because they do belong to God . they just don’t get it Remember God knows everything. pray, serve, fellowship even when you dont feel like it . AND pls no CONTACT WITH THEM. LOVE BEEN THERE . DONE THAT. GOD BLESS

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