Abusers

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

 

Barbara Roberts, author of “Not Under Bondage,” asked a very good question in a recent comment here. Why use the word “narcissist”? Why not just call narcissistic behavior what it is and call the narcissist an abuser?

The problem, of course, lies in the definitions. For some people, abuse means almost exclusively a physical act. It may or may not have a sexual purpose. Those who hold that definition might allow the use of the word in connection with demeaning or cruel words, but would not consider verbal abuse to be “real” abuse. They would support legal protection and separation only for physical abuse.

But we understand that there are many forms of abuse that are not physical. Roberts does a good job of calling our attention to these forms and explaining how they cause harm to their victims. Psychological abuse, for example, is very real and very damaging. I have come to believe that several, if not many, of the stories we hear about mothers killing their children are the result of long-term psychological abuse by husbands who might never hit or cause physical pain directly. Financial abuse may actually become a form of slavery. Wives who have no access to money often feel trapped, held by their inability to leave.

Certainly narcissists abuse. Narcissistic manipulation can be very abusive, very harmful to the other person. But we still have to make the case that it should be considered “real” abuse. Narcissists are often quite aware of limits placed on them by society. Not only will they not use derogatory terms toward their spouses or children in public, for example; they may not use those abusive terms in private. A narcissistic husband might not call his wife a “fat cow.” He might only, but consistently, hint that he thinks she is overweight by suggesting that she should wear a larger size or that she should refrain from dessert. While most of us would consider the cruel terms to be abusive, we would find it much more difficult to convince others of the abuse of the latter.

Is it abuse to dress up a little girl and parade her in front of your friends, then ignore her much of the rest of the time? I think so, but not all would agree. Is it abuse to invite the whole family to a celebration except for one adult child, but then criticize him for not attending? Again, I think so. Is it abuse for a husband to constantly remind his wife to be wise in making decisions, thereby intimating that her opinion is usually foolish? I believe it is, but it would take considerable time with the couple even to see it happening.

The question isn’t whether I consider such manipulations to be abusive. The question is whether it is helpful to lump those actions in with the accepted things labeled as abuse. It will be very easy for outsiders to say that this abuse is only in the mind of the “victim,” and they will certainly put the quotes around the term.

So I write about narcissism. Are narcissists abusers? Yes. Not all of them abuse physically or sexually, but they all abuse—if for no other reason than the fact that they fail to care about the harm their actions do to others. Are all abusers narcissists? Probably not, although most of them would be narcissistic. A narcissist causes pain almost without mindfulness, unless that pain serves his purpose somehow. But some abusers hurt others specifically. They do it because they learned to do it or think they should. They might do it because they are afraid of a certain person, but they don’t do it to anyone else. Some abusers give no thought to consequence, while most narcissists are constantly thinking of results and consequences. There are differences worth noting.

I realize that I have to be careful here. There may be a range of opinions on this simply because of our definitions or our backgrounds. I think narcissistic abuse is in a different category than other types or causes of abuse. It is more difficult to pin down, usually, but sometimes it looks like the same old thing.

Let me summarize by giving my very general perspective on abuse, particularly in the family:

All physical abuse is life-threatening. Whether unintentionally exaggerated or accidentally damaging or presaging further harm, physical abuse is of sufficient danger for a partner to leave or a child to report.

All sexual abuse is rape. To exploit the sexuality of a child or coerce an adult against her/his will, even without the act of intercourse, is a forceful violation.

All psychological/emotional abuse is assault. Coercion, bondage, and servitude do not require physical force. Carefully chosen words can do great damage.

All narcissistic mistreatment is abuse. It might not even feel like abuse to the victim, but there are certainly aggressors and victims in narcissistic relationships. Eventually, the damage accumulates and can be debilitating.

Now, these are my thoughts and I realize some might think I go too far with them. But I remember how Jesus saw these things.

21  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’
22  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:21-22

27  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

By the way, I am reading Barbara Roberts’ book right now and I am greatly impressed by the depth and care with which she handles the Scriptures. I plan to write a review to share here. Thanks, Barbara, for the great thought that prompted this post!

67 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

67 responses to “Abusers

  1. Great, informative posting. The examples you provide are especially helpful.

  2. Carmen S.

    For what it’s worth, I get great comfort from knowing the word narcissist. Without it I would have been lost in trying to make sense of my situation. God truly blessed me the day I was asked, “Do you know what a narcissist is?” Dave, you hit on things that others miss or don’t understand, and it made all the difference in my life.

  3. Whenever someone deliberately seeks to alter perceptions of reality for the purpose of gaining psychological leverage over another person, narcissistic abuse should be suspected. Why? Because the narcissistic is an egotist who seeks to remake the world to his/her liking.

    The calculated deceptions that are necessary to “keep the upper hand” by “controlling the flow of information” are actually a version of what Satan does. The Prince of Lies who masquerades as an Angel of Light has one goal for any individual he chooses to use. He wants to subjugate their will to his own so that they may be manipulated to serve him alone.

    Abuse/violation of another’s boundaries can happen unintentionally and be a product of mismanaging emotions and/or an earnest desire to obey a questionable interpretation of scripture. (example- beating your wife as a way of establishing headship). That sort of abuse falls into the category of “Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.”

    While narcissistic abuse is usually so subtle it does not manifest in physical abuse, it is a deliberate attempt by the narcissist to make themselves a god that the victim is subject to. As I ponder Jesus’s words that the only unforgivable sin is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit- I wonder how narcissistic abuse fits in here. Blasphemy is a deliberate choice to lie and obscure your own purposes wrapped up in a Holy image. It makes me wonder, Dave- is it possible that narcissistic abuse is what Christ is alluding to here?

    • Kathy

      The Holy Spirit came to bring to mind scriptures and convict of sin. I believe blaspheming against the Holy Spirit means a deliberate sinning and refusing to heed the Spirit, refuse to be convicted. Sounds like a narcissist to me!
      What they seek to do is deny that you are even a person, made in God’s image. Not only seek to deny that — but they seek to destroy it.
      They seek to destroy what God Himself has created, what His word has dictated.
      It was a very difficult thing to do, but I have come to the conclusion that true Ns are not abusers — they are destroyers of others, they are evil, and they are very aware of it. They have a knowing disobedience to the Lord.

      • That is what my husband finally admitted to, when cornered with our separation. (He confesses when cornered. It usually works for him to gain authority’s approval and get him off the hook, so he can get back to normal. But not this time. This time, they finally heard.)
        He said that destroying me gave him a sense of life and existence. He said that keeping me confused, unsteady, hurt, seeing my bubble burst at his hand, crushing a dream, crushing my zest for life and my happy heart–all of that made him feel alive.
        Is this just a narcissist? Is it a sociopath? Malevolent narcissistic sociopath?
        How far might that destruction have gone? How dangerous, really, is this man, when the fuel for his addiction is near to him?

      • Repol, that is antisocial behavior. It is calculated. It is evil.

        I am so sorry. You deserved better. We all did/do. The only comfort in all this is that now our eyes are open and the spell that these individuals had over us has been broken. We may have battered hearts, but we are free to go and heal.

    • Penny

      PK–so good to see your post, insightful as always. have missed you.

      • Penny

        Repol–your last question is profound: “How dangerous is this man when the fuel for his addiction is near?” That alone is the argument against legalists who “oppose divorce for any reason” which is, in itself, unreasonable. Claiming Christ should make all of us more accountable, not less. Seems to me your experience with the “church” minimized his accountability and placed you & your children in danger. Peter wrote against this in 1Peter 4:15-19, telling us that suffering as a Christian is supposed to glorify God, but being a “murderer, thief, evildoer or troublesome meddler” is shameful. “It is time for judgement to begin with the household of God”, meaning our behavior, to be “Christian”, must be righteous not abusive or self-serving. As to the other question: Most of the literature on narcissists/sociopath say that not all Ns are sociopaths, but all sociopaths are by definition Ns. But both are self-absorbed, without empathy or accountability. While it helps to “name the thing”, in the end, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, quacks like a duck…..then RUN. run to Jesus and away from the evildoers!

      • You too, Penny! I have been slammed at work and with kids. Miss this crew! xoxoxox

  4. Carol

    I divorced a narcissist after 35 yr of marriage. My family embraced my choice but couldn’t exactly figure it out. Sometimes they would ask why I never said anything. Today, you put it well, that an outsider would need to spend a long time in their presence to see it. He was the charismatic minister and I was the subservient, depressed wife. So who has credibility in the Christian community, I am now 6 yrs past the divorce and continue to sort out the narcissism. Thank you for your writings.

    • Emily

      Carol,
      Bless you in your journey. I think that you are brave to face the truth about your ex-husband. Take care, Emily

  5. Emily

    Thank you for continuing to bring light to this matter. My counselor once said to me that the other side of narcissism is emptiness. Do you have any thoughts on the emptiness that narcissists create in their children and/or significant others?

    • Leslee

      Emily,
      I have three children (21,18,16). Yes, there is an emptiness but it can be filled in God’s time and through His grace. Just pray. In terms of significant others, what I’ve seen is that often the narcissist eventually seeks out another narcissist when all willing victims are unavailable.

  6. UnForsaken

    Yes. i appreciated your thought provoking post too, Barbara! Pondering it gave me some great ideas and now reading this from you, Pastor Dave, I find a little more clarity. There are times when I feel mine fits the covert N perfectly, then I doubt. Either way, “my N” has become the way I need to refer to him ( in my mind ) to become more objective, to not take things personally, and to see what is playing out instead of ignoring it.

    The other day I was reminded of something he did out of the blue. We had just bumped into another N he dislikes. He started throwing a scene about one of us when he felt something was his decition. It was so out of proportion, so unrealistic, we all drew back. He began to soften, but according to him people never do things that way, it was unacceptable, etc. A few years later I saw him do something similar without blinking. ( And I’ve seen other polite people do it….I wish I didn’t have to be so vague so you could see how Ridiculous this was! ) Unacceptable? I came to the conclusion at the time he wanted to make us feel socially ignorant. And his habit is to always blaim that one person for whatever goes wrong. He needed a reason to blaim them and “take back the control”, so he came up with one. Anytime there is a stressor, they get blaimed for Something that day – usually unrelated.

    But this is what strikes me knowing what I do now: I believe he was trying to manipulate our view of reality. Is this gaslighting? He hardly cared how bad it made him look as long as it accomplished his purpose and made us feel what he felt.

    It did accomplish several things. I have never trusted him since. I have seen my whole family start to blaim this person when They have problems, and claim this person “always has to have their way” – definitly untrue. I have looked back further and seen multiple times when he shamed this person in public in ways no one else understood. ( Like Pushing them through the door of a restaurant first carrying something that might get a double take from people. I still don’t know if he got a high from seeing their reactions, was flexing his control muscle, or just didn’t want to carry it himself! Even if he would never know it himself, I wonder now if it was all of the above.)

    This abuse has been so confusing because he is such a successful isolator. But, you cannot hide reality forever. For me it has been refreshing to see multiple perspectives, not only his. It also has been important for me to learn empathy to be able to identifly with this person and see it might as well have been me. He only ignored, or patted me on the head. I was the “feel good” about himself , and they were the scapegoat. But it makes no difference. His reality was still a lie to all of us.

    Thank you All for putting up with my reminiscing ! I dislike having to look back, but find it helps me go forward.

    • Jennifer

      I agree, UnForsaken, running down memory lane occasionally helps me to remind myself of the whys and wherefores of my leaving; and maybe even more than that, as we remember, it will help others to have an “Aha!!” moment about their own experiences.

      • UnForsaken

        LOL, I’m not sure any of my memories would actually help anyone ( most are kind of unusual ), but you are encouraging, Jennifer! 🙂 I’ve come a long way to be able to admit this could be called abuse at all, and that helped me become more empathetic.

  7. Jennifer

    Dave, you said: ” Some abusers give no thought to consequence, while most narcissists are constantly thinking of results and consequences. These are differences worth noting.”

    DUDE. YOU HIT THE NAIL. ON. THE. HEAD.

    With narcissists, it’s all about image. They absolutely care about what others think, and so depending upon the company they keep and who they are trying to impress, their abuse may take different forms. But you will eventually begin to notice that there is always an audience somewhere, and often you are also included in that audience.

    Mine was hugely good at “managing his image”. In fact he married me so that he could hone that image in the Christian community. That sounds like I’m boasting, but I’m not. It is absolutely true. He was a “fine Christian” until he won me over, and then from our wedding night onward, he used me to cast that part of his persona. “We” home schooled, but he did not. “We” served in the church, but he did not. He actually publicly chastised me once when I said that I home schooled our four kids. (He never, ever lifted a finger to help, but he sure looked like the super Christian dad when he told everyone that “we” home schooled. He always knew enough about what I was doing to pull it off.)

    They are very subtle in my experience, because if they are too overt, they might get “caught out” and that to them is very dangerous. Outing your N publicly could be a very dangerous thing indeed, his image is THAT important to him; hence the gaslighting, crazy-making, barbed compliments, changing their mind rapidly with no explanation, etc.

    They are so good at crafting their image on the backs of others that you can pretty much be guaranteed that if you leave one, or cut one out of your life, it is YOU who will come away smelling bad. Ask me. I’ve done that twice, and both times people readily believed that I was the nutter, even though I was as stable as aces only a short time before. They are very persuasive people. :/

    • Leslee

      Jennifer, you are correct. They try to leave you smelling bad, but you don’t have to come out that way. Just keep trusting Christ, do what is right in God’s eyes, and your children and most people around you will eventually get it. :>)

      • Jennie

        Eventually they do. Sometimes it takes many years and sometimes only a few, but eventually even if people don’t see the full picture, they get the idea that there is something fishy about an N.

    • Andi

      Jenny, were we married to the same man??
      I tend to agree with the author here – narcissists by way of their extreme self-centredness, would have to be abusive, but not all abusive people are narcissists. I have come across some who were traumatized, others who suffered anxiety, yet others who were more sociopathic than narcissistic.
      Jenny, you have brought up an important element – image-preservation. If I remember, Scott M Peck in his book, The People of the Lie, pinpoints image-preservation as a central feature of the evil person. I find it useful to name my husband’s behavior as that. It is sometimes hard to label him an abuser or a narcissist, but it’s not hard to see through all his actions as part of his agenda to preserve his image.

  8. Leslee

    Ha. Here’s a subtle one for you all. After the birth of my first son, my husband said to me “don’t ever cut your hair short or you will really look middle-age.” I was 32. Now I am often told I probably look 40ish – even at 53. Later he accused me of having botox. I weigh about 110 but was often accused of being “too skinny” or “gaining a little weight there, aren’t you?” Don’t listen to that person – I didn’t – I laughed. God made me the way I am and I’m fine with that.

    • Jennie

      My husband used to call me his “wide bodied jet”. I weighed all of 106 lbs soaking wet. He also used to say, “You’re NOT the women I married” in terms of my shape. Well after 4 kids, no woman is going to be the same as when they married. 😛 It bothered me then, but not any more.

      N’s are great ones for doing self-esteem cheats. Instead of being confident in themselves, they just chip away at their narcisstic supply source; they literally be-little them so that they always remain “top dog” in the relationship (unless it behooves them to be bottom dog for a while especially when their supply source is getting angry with them, or suspicious of them). It’s not hard to be the big man around town when you are constantly whittling down those around you. But it’s cheating. Knocking others down so you can feel taller is always cheating.

      • UnForsaken

        Leslee, Jennie, thanks both for being transparent. I’ve gotten the same. Not from my N but people all around. Image seems the only thing they can see…..but they are generally Wrong! Gotta keep a sense of humor. Yes, the playground always comes to mind about cheating and king of the mountain!

        Lately I find refocusing my mind on Health, rather than their Weight obsessions, Much more productive. I’ll never be what they want in Any way, so I’ve got to aim for what God wants and look for the value He sees in each one of us. They rely only on visuals which can lie. I love coming here and “listening” to everyone talking scriptural ideas and healthy buiding blocks!

  9. HDG

    Today, 6/13, there was a wonderful Christian radio program on just this very topic. http://www.wbcl.org/programs/mid-morning Worth listening to !!

  10. Jennie

    There is no such thing as a relationship with a Narc. There is only “the game”. There is only posturing; figuring out what’s going on in their heads; readjusting yourself depending upon what you find; spinning in circles; and constantly readjusting boundaries. The closest you can get to having a relationship with them is IF you also play the game also and pretend that you have one.

    It’s just one big stage play with these folks; and the plot is more complex than some of Shakespeare’s finest works.

    • Kathy

      The Game. The Game where the rules change at the whim of the N, and one never knows what the “new rules” are. I was married to a wonderful man (he passed away 7 years ago). He joined the service at 19 years old and escaped his N parents and his N siblings. When he was dying, they all came to my home and wept and cried and carried on — and ate food brought to my home and contributed nothing. NOTHING. And they all told me “We’re so sad. YOU have to understand WE never lost anyone so close before. This is SO HARD ON US.” Never mind he was leaving behind a wife and 2 children, 18 and 12. And I had to comfort them, understand them, have compassion for them, and feed them. Then they went home and I had no food to feed my own children. My youngest was even asked to comfort her 19-year-old cousin, who hadn’t even seen his uncle in 6 years, because “he’s taking this hard.” At my husband’s funeral, not one of them had anything nice to say about him. These very hurt people, the ones who never lost anyone “so close before” said “Well, dad said we didn’t have to say anything nice because we really didn’t know him. He left home at 19.” (years of vacations and visits together were thrown out the window). The rules had changed.
      But shortly after that, my youngest found the courage to ask her aunt “What about my pain and grief?”
      And her aunt replied “What about everyone else?” And hung up the phone.
      Again, the rules had changed. They know him, they don’t know him, they know him.
      The GAME is so much fun for them.
      But I won The Game. My 2 daughters are fabulous. One is working on her master’s degree at a very prestigious school — and she counsels terminally ill people and their families, although she has battle scars.
      The youngest is a make-up artist and wants to start helping women who are chemo patients feel beautiful again — although she has battle scars.
      God is good. Very good. He is Goodness.
      Read Job again, and pay attention to the end. Not only does God restore what Job lost, He gives Job much more. BUT Job’s friends come back and console him for what he lost — which says to me that there really is never any closure, there will always be pain, but blessings too, abundant blessings.
      I’m so blessed now — I feel like Job. And that’s a good thing.
      I won The Game.

      • Jennifer

        You win by NOT playing it. 🙂 You’ve lived your life outside the game. The game sucks you dry and leads to death of your soul, but life leads to living and fullness (especially if you are in Christ)!

        That funeral experience sounds dreadful. I’m so sorry you went through all that, and I’m so overjoyed that your husband knew enough to escape that mess when he was 19 and that he found you! Praise God that your daughters are doing well and you are all healing.

        We recently lost a little granddaughter to SIDS, and her mom, my daughter, knew right away that she didn’t want her father around because he would drain us dry. She felt very mean, but desperately said to me, “Mom, I DON’T want dad around at all. I just couldn’t stand having to deal with him.” I supported her in that no matter how it looked to folks on the outside (and I’m sure he made it sound very awful indeed).

        It was bad enough at the hospital when we were all there. One daughter punched him to get him away because he kept mooning about wanting everyone to comfort him. He followed me around like a puppy until he cornered me in a little room off the main corridor. He put out his hands and said, “Don’t I get a hug?” I hadn’t touched him for 5 years, but he got his hug. Then he kept wandering around after me, break into sobs and expect me to do it again. The topper was him following my youngest and I into the room where Mia’s body was lying, the youngest who he had very recently kicked “in fun” when he was upset and caused 5 months of severe nightmares. She had been refusing to have anything to do with him since that happened, but in he walked, and when she was sobbing in my arms in front of our little darling, he tried to wiggle in their for a hug too. Mary was so angry, she elbowed him away, all this in front of a nurse, the chaplain and the police officer guarding the body.

        They have NO boundaries. It was all about him that night. He was trying to tell Anne’s father in law off for speaking loudly in case Anne might hear (it didn’t bother Anne at all) and Dave said he just about punched him in the nose for it. :/ The rest of the week, by design, we didn’t see him until the visitation and the funeral, and even that wasn’t without incident.

        I don’t know how you could stand having his family in your house for that long, Kathy. You must be Wonder Woman. Lol. We couldn’t stand the sight of him. We were all in so much shock that our little darling had suddenly been taken from us. We were on so many pins and needles we just had no tolerance for him. Kudos for you for being able to carry that burden AND deal with his family. I wish I had your strength. ((((hugs))))

      • Andi

        Yes, I agree – you win by not playing. But you have to play the game when the Family Court expects you to. You can’t have a relationship with a N, but you are expected to have a business partnership when it comes to raising kids. You set your boundaries, but he tears them down because he knows he has the backing of the court.

  11. Kathy

    Oh, you have so much strength!! Firstly, YOU have a moral compass! During your own grief and pain, you recognized that your daughter needed protection. And you did your best to protect her. You were being strong in the middle of pain.
    I think no matter what has gone on in the past we are always taken by surprise at the Ns complete and utter cruelty and total dismissal of another’s right to pain or joy or even possessions. Those of us with moral compasses simply can’t wrap our heads around their …….what? Evilness? Vileness? I can’t even come up with a word to describe them. We are in such shock at their lack of humanity that we are almost paralyzed as our brains try to comprehend what was just said or what has just happened. Our brains are shouting “Surely NO ONE could really say/do that! Let’s try to make sense of this.” And our brains are in overload and we react with that hug after 5 years, or we react by feeding those who mooch off a dying man’s family.
    My husband’s death was all about my husband’s dad and mom and siblings. As his sister told me “YOU can always get a new husband. I’ll never have 3 brothers again.”
    I am so very sorry for your pain and the doubly hard pain by having to deal with that man. I am so very sorry for your daughter’s pain.
    Please know that truly there are people out here who “get it” and who understand fully well that your daughter’s dad was NOT in grief at all, but merely wanted attention for himself and was willing to twist this horrific circumstance in order to put the limelight on HIM.
    Please assure your daughter she was NOT behaving cruelly by wanting her dad far away from her. All compassion and empathy and consoling belongs to her, and assure her that her claims to that are valid. She did nothing wrong.

    • Sunny Shaw

      body{font-size:10pt;font-family:arial,sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;color:black;}p{margin:0px;}I can’t recall over 34 years how many times I would think “how could he do this? how could he say that?”  After he threw unexpected divorce papers at me, he said “There.  You forced me to do this.  Now you can go and be a missionary like you always wanted.”  I was (still am) a ‘missionary’ in our community, and I taught piano on an 83-year old upright.  We had a lot of money and one day, he took me shopping for a grand piano – “pick any one you want.”  Of course I never got it, but he would dangle it in front of me like a carrot.  Thanks to this post and your comments, I realize I am not alone, and I also understand that the number of offenses we have all experienced at the hands of a narcissist could fill many books.    

    • Jennifer

      “As his sister told me “YOU can always get a new husband. I’ll never have 3 brothers again.””

      O.o Seriously? Boy I’m glad I wasn’t visiting you at the time. I would have knocked her mouth right off of her selfish face. :/ God forgive me.

      • Kathy

        Jennifer — really? I wish you were visiting me at the time!! I would have loved to see that!!! 🙂

  12. Penny

    I read recently that whether it’s a wedding or a funeral, Ns will ruin it simply b/c they HAVE to be the center of attention. They absolutely cannot tolerate the bride “stealing the show” (?) by having a perfect day, nor can they stand it when all focus is on the deceased. They will upstage the deceased without blinking. When my mother died, my daddy wanted a traditional funeral, with an open casket in the chapel, followed by a brief graveside service. I knew nothing about narcissism then, but had been abused by it for years. Immediately after the chapel service, my N-MIL immediately began scolding me for having an open casket! She was livid, & while the casket was being placed in the hearse, she berated me, “what’s the matter with you? don’t you now that no one does that anymore?? what’s wrong with your family?!!” My poor mother wasn’t even in the ground before I got criticized! But now, thanks to this site and others, I get it: my N got “upstaged” by the sight of an OPEN casket. How could she possibly be the center of attention when all eyes were on my precious mother in her casket?? If I may be blunt: how do you compete with a corpse??!! The sight of my mother sent the N into a tailspin–not from grief, but from rage. When I realized that fact I really turned a corner, knowing that NOTHING is sacred to an N, and the N will stop at nothing. So, when my Daddy died (on Father’s Day, no less) I made SURE that N-MIL was NOT welcome at his service. I had a clear boundary and “set my face like flint” toward it: she was NOT going to get another chance to ruin a funeral! I was able to pull off an “immediate family only” private, full-honors military service, complete with bagpiper, Honor Guard, Color Guard, Rifle Volley, Flag-Folding, Taps (performed live & beautifully by the dear Vets from the American Legion) plus Amazing Grace while the bagpiper slowly walked away. God was so gracious to provide perfect weather, with a brilliant blue sky, a gentle breeze and the US Military. My heavenly Father allowed me to give this final gift to both my precious parents, without fearing the N’s abuse or ruining the day. My Mama would’ve been so proud. At one point I actually looked up into that beautiful blue sky & whispered, “Daddy–I hope you can see this, b/c you would love it!”. And yes, Daddy’s casket was open, too, and he wore his uniform & medals. May all our loved ones RIP this Father’s Day. God. Is. Good. Thank you, Jesus, for “redeeming the years the locusts have eaten”. Selah……

    • Kathy

      Oh, Penny!! (((hugs))) I wish I could hug you!! You are so not alone – and neither am I!! EVIL PEOPLE. When my husband got diagnosed with stage 4, terminal cancer, his father called and said “Guess what? I have cancer too!! I have a melanoma they just removed from my nose!” He sounded as excited as a 10-year-old with a new toy!
      And when my husband died I said to them “IF you want him in a suit & tie, I will do that. IF you want him in the church, I will do that. BUT me and my daughters will decide if the casket is open or not.” The response? “Oh, we should all go privately and see him and then close the casket.” The ONLY thing I said they had NO SAY in is what they wanted control over. I stood my ground.
      My husband had been in the Air Force. We had the guard and the taps and the flag-folding. It was beautiful. A commercial plane flew over, and my 6-year-old nephew asked his mom “Is that Uncle Don’s plane?” And she said yes. She’s my sister. Everyone said how touching it was.
      Wait. Did I say “everyone said”? Ummm…not really. A week after the funeral my husband’s sister called and said she didn’t like the funeral. She said “Do you know what HE did when HE was 19? HE joined the service without consulting mom & dad!”
      Nice, huh? He was 49 when he died. They never “forgave” him for what he did 30 years earlier — bucked their authority.
      Penny — your mom and dad are so proud of you!! I really do believe they can see thru the veil this way, although we cannot see that way.
      I’m so glad you were strong enough!!! You rock!

      • Penny

        oh, so do you, Kathy, so do you! I’m sooo glad to hear your story, and I loved the plane! LOVE the plane. I love that your sister said “Yes”! I really think these evildoers lie awake at night just to come up with more mean things to say & do. I have noticed over the years, it takes on average about a week for them to call you up and spew their poison. ( I’ve often said to my husband,”well, it’s been a week; wonder what they’ve dreamed up now?”) I have had the same done to me as your husband’s sister. Can’t they just honor the dead? Can’t they just be nice? Can’t they just keep their mouths shut? It’s like they can’t enjoy life unless they hurt someone, so they do. But they can’t explain away that plane, can they? Those moments that God gives a gift that can’t be explained away….wow. I will remember your story forever.
        “All is well/safely rest/God is nigh”-Taps
        You rock, too!

    • Jennifer

      My daddy died on Father’s day too when I was 10. It will be 35 years tomorrow as he died on June 15. (((((hugs))))) to you for that.

  13. Laura

    What a great article! My N is my mother. I lived with her manipulation, gaslighting, physical/mental/emotional/verbal abuse for 18 years, not knowing anything different was possible, and frankly thinking that we had a “good” family, and weren’t dysfunctional. Then I went away to college. 20+ years later, I have asked friends I grew up around if they noticed anything…no. The image projected to the surrounding community was a successful one for her…and now she has people praying for ME, because I refuse to be an active part of her life. Protecting myself and my children from that abuse means that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are painful holidays…Father’s Day because my father did nothing to protect us from her.

    • Jennifer

      Oh man, YES! My mother told me she was praying for me as well, and so were others. THEY were praying for ME??? WHAT? Laura, I so very much understand your horror when you say that. I was so outraged when I kept reading that in my mother’s letters.

      She literally destroyed the reputation of our university Bible study group by going to the President of the university behind my back and telling horrible lies not only about me, but about that particular group, and convinced him to the point that he threw us off campus, lock, stock and barrel, with no hearing. When I wrote him and told him that I was the daughter of whom she spoke, and could I please come to him and tell our side of the story, the answer was NO. When the president of our group asked for a healing, the answer was NO. The Catholic group on campus believed basically the same things as us but they weren’t touched.

      It was so bad it made not only the local paper, but several national dailies here in Canada.

      And she was praying for ME? I’m not seeing red about that anymore, but a vague shade of pink flitted before my eyes when I read what you wrote, and remembered all those years ago.

      Boy howdy, do I understand the horror of that one. ((((hugs))))

      • Jennifer

        Btw, that should read that the president of our group asked for a hearing, not a healing. Lol.

    • Kathy

      The Father you have is perfect and His love for you is perfect. You are also His beloved, His Bride. Laura, may I recommend a book for you? It’s a devotional — it’s called His Princess Bride, Love Letters from Your Prince – by Shari Rose Shepherd. It’s just love letters from the lover of your soul. 🙂

  14. UnForsaken

    Wow, it took me awhile to read all this, but I kept on seeing such great comments I want to rely to…… and there are too many! Feel like giving All HUGS and shouting “YES” over and over! ( No, I am not a naturally impressed or enthusiastic person. It’s Truth that gets to me. ) Some of the stuff y’all share is just Too Good! And it’s humbling. My communication skills break down at the point where I begin to feel what others feel, so although I desire to respond in kind, I’m afraid internet hugs will have to suffice. A great big Thank You to all of you making this a safe and loving and honest bog! Keep on speaking the Truth! It heals.

  15. Penny and Kathy–thank you for sharing those stories.
    So much perspective keeps opening up for me as I look at past events. So many things making sense.
    My N even had to ruin our OWN wedding day. His first violent outburst was at our reception. I’m the only “girl” I’ve ever known who didn’t want to watch her wedding video. Ever.
    I could not understand why he would do that. Now, it makes at least a little bit of sense. Yes, he wanted to make sure I was never too happy about anything–every time I was happy, he would descend somehow. Yes, he wanted to be try to isolate me from friends and family (he attacked my maid of honor with a fistful of keys in front of one of my good friends and my former employer; I’m sure he though my maid of honor and friend would never want to be around me again, so he already thought he was setting me apart from people who loved me). But I never thought of the fact that I, as the bride, in the white dress, with the flowers was just eating him alive because people were commenting on me. They said I was pretty. They touched my dress. They admired my flowers. And it was killing him.

    My own mother’s/grandmother’s deaths also were rough for him. I wouldn’t grieve in a way that let him appear to be a hero to everyone else. I was sharing memories of those two beloved women with my cousins and brothers–memories he could not share in. Of course that explains why he had to humiliate and squelch me in front of all of them. Of course it does. And I had friends come from our town to my home town too. Just two of them, but they came for ME, not for him, and that offended him too.

    Your stories are like the lens on the microscope: they bring mine into focus.

    Thank you for sharing. I love you both. I love that you are survivors too. I am so sorry for your pain, but know that it isn’t for nothing. It is, at the very least, helping me stay a necessary course and know the truth, which will set us all free.

    • (I do wish I could go back into a reply and correct my typos. Please forgive me for not proofreading.)

      • UnForsaken

        Repol, my replies are “typo heaven”….make as many mistakes as you like and more. The Most important thing is that we are really communicating and sharing ideas/Love! I know what you mean though. If only corrections were possible…..!!!! 🙂

  16. Penny

    O my Repol and everyone here! I am so sorry to read your story & feel my blood pressure rising when I do. My flesh wants to deck that guy. But, what stories, what pain, and also what courage on display here. Oh my. I too am grieved when I read such unbelievable tales, and then I rejoice that we finally have a haven, a safe place to let it all pour out. I am so glad for the “truth tellers” here, and that the truth WILL set us free. The stories told are so important for us, b/c as Repol said, it helps to bring our story into focus, to bring clarity. Sometimes I hold back b/c I am afraid of becoming like the N, & talking about myself, and I don’t want be like that, ever. But if the story can encourage another, then it is so worth it to tell, if it will bless and heal and give hope & clarity & courage. I love you all here, too. My cup runneth over….. Hugs all around, and then another.

  17. Kathy

    I truly understand why so many Christians struggle with the word “narcissist” and “sociopath.” We want so much to be right with God that we tend to rely only on verses that speak about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek — and we forget there are OTHER verses as well.
    While I initially struggled with the abuse and intense pain my in-law Ns heaped on me, I really and truly believe that God has brought to my understanding some other scriptures that He wished me to apply. He wanted me to understand that He Himself has set boundaries — and He is not and can not be manipulated.
    Adam and Eve — “Hey, Children. I made this beautiful garden. It’s mine. I freely share it with you. BUT –don’t eat of that ONE tree.”
    So what do they do? They eat of it. Sigh.
    And then they try to manipulate God!! “It wasn’t my fault. She made me do it.” and “The snake tricked me.” NOT ONCE does God say “Well, shucks. You gotta’ point there. You were fooled so I’ll give you another chance. ”
    No way. He said what He said, He set up the boundaries, and they blew it. Out of the garden you go!! End of story. Don’t give me excuses. Yes, He planned for forgiveness, but the consequences remain. AND there is no forgiveness for man without man’s repentance. God does not take forgiveness lightly — it cost His the life of His Son.

    The other story — Jezebel and Ahab. Naboth said “No, you can’t have my field.” How dare he have a right to say no!!! Ahab sulks and holds his breath and won’t eat his veggies (emotionally arrested much?) Jezebel is outraged that someone said NO to the KING! (my in-laws would say But Dad said YOU would….), and Naboth was murdered for doing nothing more than setting a boundary.
    And we all know how God dealt with Ahab and Jezebel.

    We have a right to boundaries. We have a right to say no. Be very wary of those who can’t accept No and react with anger or tantrums. Run away – far, far away. 🙂

    • Jennifer

      Thank you for this! I knew these stories of course, but I had never thought of them in this light before. 🙂

    • Penny

      AMEN! Double amen. Every now & then someone will ask me about a friend who is clearly a narc. “What should I do?” they ask? What should I say?”, they wonder. Each and every time I tell them, “run”; you can’t fix this, you can’t change this, you can only change yourself. Get out of their way….like yesterday, don’t look back, and run.

  18. Kathy

    God’s Word is so wonderful! You could read the same thing 10 x and each time there can be more and more insight. God so “gets it.”

  19. After leaving a N husband, my then 13 year old, who wanted nothing to do with his father had to deal with a barrage of texts from the man. My son was painfully aware of his father’s issues and abuses, probably much more clear about them than I was at that point.

    In one text, where his N father tried to bait him through his subtle insinuations and quiet bullying words, my son replied, “I won’t fall for your bear trap again!” When I saw the text I asked him what he meant by “bear trap”, This was his reply, ” Mom, if you’re a bear and you get caught in a bear trap you have only two choices. You can lay there and wait until the hunter comes to shoot you, or you can gnaw your own leg off and make for freedom. Either way there’s a price to pay.”

    I don’t think I could have articulated it any better myself! That is still what it feels like, even after 4 years free, especially when the bear trap is set with one of my beautiful boys as bait! However, God is healing the wounds and restoring life to the parts of my heart that the “hunter’ killed from all the bear traps I encountered in those 14 years. I am so thankful for this post, so thankful for a community of insightful people who are bringing awareness, hope and healing to so many of the victims of narcissistic abuse. Thank you, Pastor Dave, for calling it exactly what it is!

  20. Kirsten Skands

    It really helps me after 35 years of all abuse to be able to finally feel that I am not the responsible one here, nor am I the only one to try and stay to make it work for spiritual and “children” reasons. I left and have been divorced for 7 years and he has since passed away, but I am still dealing with abuse from the family, and it is so hard. I didn’t do this or I didn’t do that and I should have done this or I should have done that. Just to be able to read what everyone has to say or authored is helping me heal tremendously. But…..the pain is still there. It makes it hard to move forward or have trust in another person, because I don’t want to make the same mistake again. Keep posting. There are so many of out here that it is helping. May God bless all of you.

    • Carol

      It took me 1 1/2 yrs to get through my divorce because of the distortions myN created during the divorce process. I was married to him for 34 yrs. Somewhere, in the middle, a thought returned to me. “Speak truth, expose lies”. With those 4 words, I was able to clear a small path through the confusion. Example: He told me that the saddest part of the divorce for him, was that I (not him) had lost our children. ( They did step away from me in disbelief for over a year.) While still wading through the divorce process, I recalled that I had helped them pray a prayer of salvation as young children. THEN, I went to myN and said, “I did NOT lose my children. That is a lie. The truth is, I will spend eternity with them in Heaven! The more I practiced speaking TRUTH, the more I saw truth. Sometimes it is extremely painful to see it, but freedom walks beside it. Speaking truth is a necessary part of healing for me. The grey cloud in my head is finally clearing. 7 years past divorce. I continue in therapy, twice a month, with a life coach (psychologist) as I learn healthy ways of relating and standing up for myself. I met the N when I was 14, married him when I was 20. Now I am 61.

  21. Kathy

    This “abuser” v. “narcissist” has been bugging me. You know that you know that you know the difference — but how to articulate it?
    So — off to the Bible!
    King David was abusive. He abused his power and his position. If you had a pretty wife, you sure as heck didn’t want this guy to be your neighbor!! His daughter was raped — by his son! And he did NOTHING. Abusive and neglectful.
    BUT — he was ALWAYS asking God “Teach me your ways.” He acknowledged that he didn’t know God’s ways. The written word is not the spoken word — he may have been begging in tears for all we know. But he did implore God, often, to make his own heart pure. David recognized himself when the prophet Nathan told him about the poor man who only had one lamb – and the rich man took it. David repented and fasted — but God still took that child. And David accepted the consequences. He blew it often — but recognized it and repented.
    Jezebel and Ahab — warned and warned. One time Ahab repented. Never Jezebel. She even TAUNTED the prophets Elijah (and sought to kill him). and Jehu. Never once recognized her sin.
    I think that’s a major difference between an abusive person and a narcissist. I think narcissists may be (I say MAY BE) reprobate.

    • Kathy that is incredibly wise. Really interesting because I have been struggling with David’s treatment of women and the fact he is considered to be “a man after God’s own heart”.

  22. Kathy

    I think David was a jerk. An abusive jerk.
    And Jezebel was evil personified.
    And yet Jesus is from the House of David! How’s that for a gracious God???
    And I think Judah was jerk for how he treated Tamar. But he repented too.
    And Jesus, of course, is from the Tribe of Judah!!
    God is just so merciful and loving — because He sees the heart.
    Lucky for me. 🙂

  23. Kathy

    Pastor Dave,
    I’ve been hesitant to ask this question, but ..well, I really need some understanding.
    In light of the fact that you truly understand the long-lasting horrific effects of narcissism on families, the unrepentant hearts, and the pure cruelty of narcissists, how do you feel about imprecatory prayer? Would you consider a blog entry about it? I think it could help me, and maybe others, who struggle with forgiving 7 x 70 times and pray for those who abuse you, and love thine enemy.
    Thank you.
    – kathy

    • Penny

      Thank you Kathy for asking the question I have been pondering forever & struggling with. The Psalms of course have many such prayers & David prayed them against his enemies. I do know that “7 x 70” is often misquoted b/c Jesus actually said “IF he repents, then forgive”. When there is no repentance, but rather rebellion, defiance, blame, Jesus walked away. Jesus also spoke only to the repentant thief on the cross, but said nothing to the other (at least nothing in scripture is recorded).
      Matthew 11:20 says, “Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent.” In Rev 2:16 when Jesus is speaking to the 7 churches, he says, “Therefore, repent! If not, I will come against you quickly and make war against those people with the sword of my mouth.” Jesus took his whip to the temple b/c true worship & prayer had been replaced with merchandise & idolatry, deceiving & demoralizing the people. Nehemiah re-built the walls of Jerusalem with a weapon in one hand and a tool in the other–he exposed the deceit, treachery & false accusations of Sanballat & Tobias, telling them “The God of heaven will prosper us, but you have no right, portion or memorial in Jerusalem”. Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth, yet as a Christian, the “love” is so often defined as NOT speaking the truth (turning the other cheek, forgiveness, keeping no list of wrongs,etc.) And yet, AW Tozer has so beautifully written in “The Knowledge of the Holy, “if literally God is love, then literally love is God, and we are in all duty bound to worship love as the only God there is”. Tozer goes on to say that [obviously] this is a great error, b/c “we destroy the concept of personality in God & deny outright all His attributes save one, & that one we substitute for God. The “God” we have left is not the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…or the prophets…or the apostles…or the Church”. The point Tozer is making is that we must get our theology right, & that cannot be done based on just ONE attribute of God or a single scripture. I think the Scottish have a saying “it takes the whole Bible to make a whole Christian”. With the narc, they have idolized themselves & demand we love/worship the false image they have created, & when we expose that truth we are blamed as being unloving, when in fact, being “truth tellers” is the most loving thing we can do. When truth is rejected for a lie, and a false image, an idol, is maintained in defiance of God, then…. What? We keep on “loving” in spite of idolatrous rebellion? We continue to offer ourselves up to be abused? We turn the other cheek? Didn’t Paul say to walk away or we risk participating in their evil deeds? At what point do we pray psalm31:18 “May lying lips be silenced – lips that speak defiantly against the innocent with arrogance and contempt!”? Sorry for the soliloquy, but I too would live to hear Dave’s thots!

      • Kathy

        I’m beginning to lean towards the permissibility of imprecatory prayer. Not a curse or revenge — but prayer that those who hid a net to capture the righteous would be ensnared in their own net, a prayer that those who have slandered and done wrong to someone (smear campaign) would be exposed, a prayer to hang on to the promise of God that He WILL repay. That is as much a promise as “I’ll be with you always….”
        The damage these people do is horrific. Prayer to stop them, expose them, and for protection for those who are exposing them — well, I can’t see the problem with that.

  24. Wow Dave, your blog is a real support group for survivors, isn’t it! I’ve read all the comments on this thread and see so many people supporting each other and recounting stories. Love the funeral one, btw!

    Thanks for taking up my input about the words ‘abuse’ and ‘narcissism’. I appreciate very much that some people have ‘come into’ this field by having their eyes opened by the word narcissism, and I would never want to stop that or pour cold water on their viewpoint or experience. Anything that helps wake a victim out of the fog is good! .

    I guess this question of what words to use is an issue that will go round and round for a very long time. And as a society we may always have a range of views about that are the best words to use for these things. I don’t want to enforce my own point of view, but I think it’s worth having the discussion.

    Having had a little background in psych nursing, and having done a fair bit of reading about mental disorders from the psychological and counseling literature, I appreciate the perspective that professional clinicians bring to this, which is that ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ is a term they currently use with a strict set of criteria for diagnosing a person with it. And these clinicians sometimes find it frustrating that the N term is being used so frequently in other contexts and with a much broader range of meanings. Personally, I don’t think that mental health clinicians should necessarily be given the casting vote on what terms to use for things (and they change their diagnostic terms and classifications from time to time anyway, as they hone their knowledge and skills and understandings), but I do respect their position, and I think we need to bear in in mind as if we get them off side, the discussion is impoverished.

    What your readers describe in their comments above is, by my use of the word, very clearly Abuse.

    Here is the defintion of Abuse that we use at our blog A Cry For Justice:

    WHAT IS ABUSE?
    Very few people know what abuse really is, though everyone seems quite ready to give advice to its victims. If you believe that abuse is physical battering, you have some learning to do.

    Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.
    While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.
    Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim’s person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.

    * * * * *
    You can see from that definition that the key components are
    PATTERN of conduct
    POWER and CONTROL
    ENTITLEMENT
    GREATLY IMPAIRED or ABSENT CONSCIENCE.

    An abuser is intentional: he has plans, he thinks quite a bit about what he is doing. He strategizes. And it’s all about maintaining power and control because he believes he is entitled to the perks and services it brings him.

    I hope you don’t see my sharing as confrontational, Dave and readers. I”m glad we can have this discussion.

    And I long for the day when everybody realises that abuse does not have to be physical or sexual to be labelled as abuse.

    Last thought: the secular family violence sector talks mostly about Domestic Violence or Family Violence. They use the word ‘violence’ to mean emotional and verbal violence, psychological violence such as gaslighitng, financial, social, spiritual, — the whole lot. And how confusing is that? VERY! Most people hear the term “domestic violence” and think it only means physical violence.

    We have a long way to go in this debate about terms. . .:)

    * Sometimes the genders are reversed.

  25. Opps ! BIG typo.
    I meant to say “I hope you DON’T see my sharing as confrontational.” Can you edit my comment Dave?
    Also, the asterisked “Sometimes the Genders are reversed” should be at the end of the definition, just above the series of stars.

    thanks.

  26. Leslie

    Don’t forget the verse math 18:6
    My x should memorize this one after
    The abuse of our oldest he is now serving satan and an addict. I know if his “dad” would’ve built his self esteem rather than crumble it he would never be were he is today. Pray for Caleb please! I love my son and I’m heartbroken over this. My x narc has accepted zero responsibility. He could care less and targeted him over the other 2 boys. He’s a sick sick man he is now playing daddy to some other women’s children so he can get praise. God convict this monster who believes he is a “Godly” man.

    • Sunny Shaw

      body{font-size:10pt;font-family:arial,sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;color:black;}p{margin:0px;}Leslie;My heart goes out to you.  Sounds familiar.  I don’t know how old Caleb is, but (after accepting Christ and being baptized) my oldest son became a Satanist when he was 15 due to similar circumstances.  When he was about 18, he decided Satanism was not for him, but neither was God – now he believes in “himself”.  I know our Savior will not let go of him and I just keep praying for him and my other two (16 & 18 – both of who accepted Christ/were baptized) who also claim to not believe in God either.  My hopefully-soon-to-be-ex’s live-in girlfriend believes in fairies and the “universe”.  I will be praying for Caleb and you as well.Leslee  

  27. Leslie and Sunny, I am praying for you and your sons! I too have a son, who is an addict and a “pagan” as in the celtic type of druidism. It seems to make sense that these boys, after living with the emotional trauma and powerlessness they felt at the hands of their father’s would be deceived within their mind to believe that some type of satanism or paganism would provide a channel for the anger and feel that it offers them a power they so desperately desire. For my son, the oldest of 4 boys, and one who was very sensitive to the undercurrents that ran through our family life everyday, the drugs became an escape.

    The god of this age has blinded their eyes, but I will confess with the book of Isaiah that He came to restore sight to blind eyes and freedom to those in captivity. This is the mission of our Savior! His ear is not deaf that He has not heard our cries as brokenhearted Moms, nor is His arm shortened that He cannot save our boys, restore their vision and break the chains that bind them. It can get wearisome holding on to those confessions as our boys spiral out of control. I know, sometimes looking at pictures of my son when he was little, smiling, innocent, is too much for my heart to bear. Then the guilt of not protecting him, of allowing him to be exposed to that monster N he called daddy; remembering the looks of fear and pain in his little face hurt more deeply than I can even express.

    So, know that you and your boys will be in my prayers! Thank you for sharing your stories so openly and for listening to mine.

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