It’s Narcissist Friday!  


One of the things I noticed when I began to examine legalism among believers was how some would try to stifle the new joy of those who discovered grace. They became saboteurs, planting words of discouragement and challenge, whenever someone began to believe they were already loved by God apart from their performance. They would point out verses from Scripture, remind people of past sins, and generally try to plant seeds of doubt. And often these were the last people you would expect sabotage to come from.

Then, as I studied and counseled in the area of narcissism, I found the same thing. When you begin to see yourself separate from your abuser and are moving toward the decision to leave the relationship, there will be people who will seem to work against you. It is almost a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of narcissistic relationship you are in.

Some of the saboteurs will surprise you. You might expect that the narcissist’s sycophants will try to make you stay in the relationship and chide you for thinking anything less of the narcissist. But what you don’t expect are the ones who have listened to you, empathized with you, and commiserated with you. These are the folks you thought would be cheering you forward. You might even have expected them to go with you, if it is that kind of relationship. But suddenly they are dragging their feet, compromising, even breaking agreements. And these are the people who seemed to support you!

Anna’s mom always has to have a big Christmas dinner and Anna and her sisters are responsible to bring the food. But Anna lives 150 miles away and her food never seems to make the trip well. Her sisters agree that this year they should all go out to eat. The local restaurant has great food and doesn’t require reservations. All three girls agree. Mom is not happy and decides to make the food herself. Joan, the oldest sister, is helping her. The others are invited, even if they didn’t bring anything. But, of course, they will be made to feel guilty.

Bob has had it with the leader of his team at work. So have the other members. They all decide to confront the leader at the next meeting. Bob begins by sharing his concerns. When he turns to the others, however, none of them will add anything. One of them even suggests that Bob is going too far, that the problems really aren’t that big.

Judy has been married to Mike for twenty-three years. All that time she has suffered. He is a brute: very critical, loud, demanding, and unfaithful. Her neighbor, Frieda, has been a wonderful sounding-board for the past few years. But now that Judy is beginning to stand up for herself and is thinking about leaving Mike, Frieda seems dedicated to discouraging her. She quotes Bible verses about God hating divorce. She lays guilt trips on Judy. She has even threatened to tell Mike Judy’s plans.

Frank and his family have been abused by the leadership of their church. Frank has been threatened with church discipline by the narcissist pastor simply because Frank disagreed with the pastor at a board meeting. Several people have come to Frank with similar concerns. Frank has tried to talk with the pastor and with the other leaders, but no one will listen. Finally, he decides to leave the church. When he does, he finds that none of the others who came to him for support are willing to leave. In fact, some of the things he said to them in private have been shared throughout the church. Now it looks like the pastor was justified in trying to stifle Frank. Now Frank is seen as a troublemaker.

In each of these situations there is a sense of betrayal and sabotage. People who were trusted as support failed to be that support when it was needed. Why?

I know that it is tempting to decide never to trust anyone again. When people fail you or betray you, the emotional damage is deep and long-lasting. But let me help you focus those feelings and give some general rules-of-thumb that might help in the future.

1. Never trust anyone who is in a relationship with your narcissist. I know that’s blunt, but I think you can see the sense of it. The narcissist who has his/her hooks in you has his/her hooks in others. The only problem is that you don’t know where they are hooked or how deeply. Maybe Anna’s mother was able to threaten Joan or manipulate her in some way that moved her to betray her sisters. Maybe Bob’s co-workers are more compromised than Bob knows. They like his strength, but they can’t support him. They will cheer him on, but stand behind him. The narcissist whose control has oppressed you is oppressing almost everyone with whom he has a relationship. Don’t expect help from them.

2. Hesitate to trust anyone who struggles in their own narcissistic relationship. Judy’s neighbor really does understand because of her relationship with her own husband. She knows what Judy has gone through. It has been nice for Frieda to talk with someone who feels the same pain; but, when Judy wants to leave, who will be there for Frieda? And, if Judy leaves Mike, Frieda will be faced with a choice about staying with her husband. She is not willing to go through the drama and pain it will take to leave, and she doesn’t want to feel even weaker than she already feels. Pulling Judy back is the only thing she can do. If Judy fails and is stuck, Frieda won’t feel so bad about herself.

3. Never trust the people who only watch the soap opera. There are people who will agree and challenge and support you just so they can watch your drama. They claim to share your feelings and they may even get a strange parasitic thrill from being in the middle, but they are not truly supportive. Remember the people watching The Truman Show? They cried with Truman, they got angry on Truman’s behalf, they cheered for Truman; but, when it was all over, they simply turned the channel to see what else was on. The people in Frank’s church were excited to share in his determination and strength. They loved his ability and willingness to stand up for what he believed. But they were there for the emotions they could experience from the drama. Not to support Frank and his family.

It isn’t the people who disagree with you who hurt you. It isn’t even the people who just can’t seem to understand your struggle. It’s the ones who are with you in that struggle, to whom you look for support. The only ones who can sabotage the ship are ones who are on it with you. And when they try, it hurts.

Before I end this, let me make two notes. First, deciding to stay in the relationship is a valid decision and may not be an indication of weakness. There will be those who will even try to sabotage that decision. Second, deciding not to trust someone is different from deciding not to love them or be kind to them. You can be gracious without trusting.

One of my heroes, Davy Crockett, is credited with saying, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” When you are strong enough to make a decision, make the right one and trust your decision. For me, that means to pray and look to Jesus. When He leads me in a certain direction, even when others disagree or betray, I know it is still the right direction. No one can really sabotage you if you just move in the direction of what you believe is right. They can try. They can hurt you. But they can’t stop you.

And once you see them for what they are, you are free.


Filed under Legalism, Narcissism

14 responses to “Saboteurs

  1. Still Reforming

    Thank you for this wise counsel. Interesting timing, as A Cry For Justice recently posted on Facebook an update to an older post about family scapegoats, and part of that two-part series that I just read this morning says the same thing with respect to cutting off associates and friends of the narc’s. Wise counsel indeed. Wise boundaries to set.

  2. LoyaltoJesus

    Thank you for this, my N husband’s sister has had to protect her own little children when he has become furious with them and acknowledges something is very wrong but will always support him no matter what. I have never understood why but I have a glimmer now which helps as I have felt very betrayed by her.

  3. Kitkat

    Wow, this is so on target. I love how you define the personalities in each situation. It is in our willingness to move forward against all odds, that set us free. But there are those with personal agendas, whether they be conscience or unconscious, that will try to hold us back from doing what we know is right for ourselves. If we stay in a N relationship, we must do so from a place of strength, knowledge and security, with boundaries firmly in place. To do otherwise is unhealthy and detrimental to our wellbeing.

  4. grace551

    This is amazing, so wise.

  5. Leslie

    After 4 yrs mine now has a fiancé she is
    Wrapped into his lies/manipulations about me. I have learned to cut her out of the equation it’s enough to just deal
    With him. All I do is pray and count down the days to 7 years when I can live back by my family and over 400 miles from him, to me that’s freedom

  6. Savedbygrace

    Thanks Dave! so helpful – my n husband and I still have chn to parent so I can’t cut off all contact, and it helps me to be realistic about ‘support’ or validation I may seek from my adult children, point 1 -they are in relationship with him too and so it’s not realistic to think they are not hooked into his manipulation.
    then I am really helped by: deciding not to trust someone is different from deciding not to love them or be kind to them. You can be gracious without trusting.
    My nature is to be loving and trusting- I don’t want to be mean or bitter or hate my N but I do want to be realistic and safe and true to myself. i think this gives me the key. I can be gracious without trusting. Thankyou.

  7. Rina

    I’ve seen this in other respects too. You can almost guarantee that you’ll be sabotaged by friends who are struggling with the very issue that you are working on overcoming (whether it’s professional or academic success, a new relationship, weight-loss – and I’m not being judgmental here, because I have my own weight issues). 😉

  8. Annie

    Oh how true. I also had to let go of friends on FB who were joint friends because I couldn’t trust he wasn’t seeing my page through them. Eventually I realised that I had to end any sort of relationship with his family and friends. Many of them ended it with me, choosing him and his lies. The N is good at sabotage but I didn’t expect it from his friends. Fortunately it was a second marriage when I was 58 and I was OUT OF THERE in 2.9 years, with divorce, getting my belongings and other traumas taking years after. It is hard but in a way we have to think like the N and be one step ahead e.g. the FB idea that he might access his friends computer to check his FB while theirs is still open, thus being able to see my page. (I accidentally did it once on my daughter’s computer and her husbands FB page was still open, he was a FB friend, but you get the idea. My daughter closed it for me so I could Log In). Armed with that knowledge I closed down anyone I thought he could manipulate in this way. I shared an Office at our work with my ex N’s friend. (I had no choice, she became a team leader). Her husband was the Pastor who married us. It was unbelievable how she passed information to him, my N. He also used her to pass information to me. Little did I know she was trying to sabotage my right to separate and subsequently divorce. It was because of her, and the Grace message she was spouting all the time that I agreed to couple counselling which led to further abuse… ‘God loved N, in spite of his behaviour. He was a born again Christian because he said so… [in spite of his behaviour to the contrary, including physical and financial abuse], he really loved me [because he said so], he desperately wanted me back, he told her to tell me about an accident and he was in hospital [she passed on the message], you weren’t happy before you met him….’ it went on and on. She didn’t even know me before. He introduced me to her. I knew WHO her and her husband were but had never formally met them, nor she me. It was evident to me that this piece of information … and many other pieces of information … were directly from my N… exaggerated OR absolute lies. She agreed to meet with me for coffee outside of the workplace so that I could tell her why I decided to end it and apply for divorce. She agreed and said that she loved me and I was her friend too. She never did meet with me, even though I reminded her occasionally for 5 months, her reassuring me that she would. She invited him to her 50th birthday but not me, although everyone else in our team/office was invited, the others being from church. She ‘unfriended’ us both on FB (but she still had access through her husband’s FB who had not unfriended him). When I challenged her she said that she didn’t want to take sides. I responded that by ‘inviting him to your birthday and not me, you are taking sides’. Her response. “Oh well we have known him for 10 years and only known you for 4years”. What? Taking sides… sabotaging to get me back, then turning against me when I made the decision of NO CONTACT. She made trouble for me at Church as her and her husband were ‘in’ with the Senior Pastor. I was stopped from doing anything when others were selected above me. Not allowed to be a guest speaker at a women’s group when I was asked (she spoke directly to the Pastor to stop me), not allowed to sing in the choir (I had to heal first, even though another lady was divorcing and she was allowed to sing and in fact was leader as Pastor said it was good for her… double standard), I was ostracised by the Pastor, accused of getting into the relationship when I was warned (I wasn’t) and they ALL supported him, even though there was an AVO in place and criminal gun charges. Then she started to make complaints against me at work to our boss. Fortunately I had emails and documentation and she was wrong, but the damage was done. She caused me much trouble and ended in a very traumatic event at work with her the instigator and me walking out of a meeting. The outcome was that I decided to leave work, my church and to leave the town. Cutting all contacts with my N and his cohorts was the only answer. Fortunately I was almost at retirement age and was able to take extended leave and then resign/retire. After living in the city for almost 30 years and living in the Region almost all of my life, it was a huge decision. I am glad that I made that decision, but it added to my losses (family and friends whom I left behind, but still stay in touch). People who support those who are nasty and indeed violent, without holding them accountable for any of their behaviour are ENABLERS and cause us more trouble. Even though it adds to our losses, it is the only way forward. NO CONTACT has enormous ramifications. I am so glad that we didn’t have children together (age factor) and I don’t have to remain friends with these people. It is however another thing to heal from. It is the second marriage where I have had senior members of a church turn against me. The first time my faith remained strong. The second time, I have come very close to losing my life time faith. Christians causing this level of damage to each other is abhorrent. I often wonder how many people have lost their faith because of the behaviour of Christians. No we are not perfect, but being nasty is another thing. However, I didn’t expect Christian people to support a man, (who has a history of Domestic Violence, several AVO’s in the past and at the time, and is a criminal with proven gun offences, two of his children have nothing to do with him, he rarely attended church until I separated and then regularly when I was there), against me, a person who has no offences, valid complaints against me, done anything bad in private, at church or the work place…. WHY? They USED THE GRACE CARD to support him. Where was the Grace towards me? Do I sound bitter? I don’t mean to. I have come a long way and am as happy as I am going to be for now. Attending a new Church, volunteering making new friends, spending time with family and travelling. Valentines Day marked 3 years since the Divorce was final and there is still a legal action in process which I have to respond to and it has NOTHING to do with the divorce. There are always sneaky ways we can be sabotaged. The good thing is I am well, hold my head high, and will never ever be trapped again. Why? Education… from blogs like this, books, information, therapy, my Dr and family and friends. I know so much more now, but am wary of manipulative people and won’t go near a relationship again. I would rather live alone with my little dog and cat (which I adopted). Thanks everyone for sharing on this Blog and thanks again to Dave for reminding us and providing information for us to think about.

    • Penny

      Wow, Annie, what a saga. It sounds so similar to mine & many others here; so glad you went NC & that you see the truth for what it is. It IS so deeply painful when others believe the lies even after knowing you for years. “With friends like that who needs enemies?” is a reality for so many of us here. You had remarkable strength to get out & move on, in spite of the “web of deceit” that was spun. Keep visiting here as we all need each others’ strength!

  9. HDG

    Another wise post pastor Dave.The previous comment by Annie is SO familiar.He insisted he’d never done anything wrong so I felt compelled to prove ‘my case.’ Even after giving irrefutable proof of N’s emotional and physical abuse our mutual (???)friends continue to support him as does his church.My pastor didn’t want to get involved,his refused to speak to me. It was the same with his previous relationships,friends told me of every wrong these women did.He was always the broken-hearted(????) victim”He needs to be loved and he falls in love too fast.”.” You just need to love,respect and treat him like a good Christian woman should.”I broke-up with him (after several relapses)went NO CONTACT. I’ve been vilified and shunned as a cruel,demon possessed,liar.Seems common in many of these posts.Even my physical health is affected by the stress. This is the only ‘safe’ place for me to vent frustrations and after effects of a relationship with a narcissist .THANK YOU TO ALL WHO READ,UNDERSTAND and SUPPORT.I AM HERE FOR YOU TOO.PRAYERS….

  10. st

    So, do the ones who stand with and stick up for the narcissists really love and believe the narcissist is a great person? I have wondered this for years with my Father. When he defends her to no end, does he really just not see the truth?

  11. Murphy, Lee A

    I could write pages of comments on this one – but I’ll just say – Hallelujah!!!

  12. Dear, dear Pastor Orrison, every Friday I am so comforted and encouraged by your words! Thank you so much for bringing a mature and godly perspective to all this. I have just left an almost-fifty-year marriage because of this kind of abuse and find your words validating, encouraging, and always helpful. I regularly share your posts with others. Thanks again.

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