Who is Safe?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

 

I recently read “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” by Carol Kent. A compelling story by a mother who went through tragedy. At one point, she relays something another person told her:

“When you’re in a crisis, if you have only one supportive person, you can make it through the journey. We all need at least one person to be there for us in the middle of a tragedy.”

Good words, and I agree, but they leave one begging question: Who? Who can you trust? Who qualifies as supportive? Who is safe?

This blog post won’t give you a personal answer to that question, of course. I wish I could say, “your pastor,” but I know better. I have heard too many stories where the pastor was not the one to trust. Same for counselors and friends and family members. There just isn’t a certain group of trustworthy—safe—people. Instead, I can share some thoughts on what kind of person to watch for (and who to avoid).

First, remember that the narcissist can be one of the most supportive people you will meet. Some have shared how the narcissist would listen and sympathize and be just the right person at the right time. But later, things change. Later, the things you shared, the personal and private details, come back at you in manipulative ways. You regret telling the narcissist anything. The support was just a way for the manipulator to get the information needed to twist you and hurt you.

So be careful who you trust. That probably isn’t really news to anyone who reads here. Most readers here have been burned. But we all need someone for support. When the narcissist has been pretty much the only person in your life, how do you find someone safe?

Consider these thoughts:

 

  • A safe person doesn’t need the details. If someone prompts you to tell more and more, beware. Safe people are supportive even when they don’t really know what’s going on. Safe people can pray without knowing what they are praying for.
  • A safe person doesn’t try to fix you. Watch out for the person with all the answers. They tell you what you did wrong and what you should do next. If you just do what they say, then they will support you. Safe people don’t have the answers, but they stand by you while you find them for yourself.
  • A safe person doesn’t bring in others without your permission. Safe people don’t run to their “prayer group” with the latest information about you. They can pray for you by themselves. Safe people respect your privacy and confidence.
  • A safe person doesn’t need to be with you all the time. Safe people allow you to come to them. They just stay available. They might remind you that they are available, ready to help, but they don’t punish you or pout when you don’t call.
  • A safe person doesn’t judge you. Safe people know that we all make mistakes and we all hurt when our mistakes come back to haunt us. Safe people don’t consider themselves to be more spiritual or more wise.
  • A safe person doesn’t talk a lot. Safe people listen. They don’t correct or interrupt or lecture. In fact, you may wish that your safe person would say more. But safe people know that you need to talk, or that support is found in presence rather than words.
  • A safe person doesn’t tell you that your problem is the same as hers. Safe people can have the same struggles as you, but they understand that you are different from them. It may be nice to find someone who understands from personal experience, but every situation and
  • A safe person doesn’t invest in your problem. Safe people invest in you. They rejoice when your problem is solved. They don’t need to bring it up again, but they understand when you do.
  • A safe person doesn’t expect to be your only support. Safe people want you to have as much support as you can find. They want you to have a team, and they understand that not everyone will have the same place or words. A safe person might warn you if they fear you are trusting someone unsafe, but they let the decision be yours.
  • A safe person doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear. If a safe person needs to talk, he/she might tell you the truth as they understand it. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, and sometimes you won’t like it. But the safe person understands that truth is often difficult and approaches it with love and concern for you.

 

Well, that’s ten, and I will stop at the round number. You probably already have someone in mind who is safe, and someone who is not safe. I think this list works even for a professional counselor. I have known professionals who have broken several of these with clients. Same is true for pastors and family members. You are welcome to add more in the comment section, and I would encourage everyone to read the comments.

The bottom line is that you need someone safe. If you begin to trust someone and they break one or more of these, find someone else. And be patient with yourself. Your instinct for reading people may be damaged. You probably find it hard to trust yourself. So, if you make a mistake, look for support somewhere else and don’t punish yourself. We have all done it.

I guess I should add another one:

 

  • A safe person will not use you, abuse you, mock you, manipulate you, trap you, trick you, lie to you, exploit you, or endanger you. If someone you are trusting is doing these things, step away. Find someone else to trust. You don’t need a person like that, no matter how much he/she has been entwined into your life.

 

Now, I really want to say that you should not try to find safety in someone of the opposite gender, particularly a friend, but I am avoiding that. Just know that the risk is very high. If you have been abused by a narcissist, you have to go into a relationship very carefully. Too many stories have been told (some here) of people who are rescued from a narcissistic spouse by another narcissist. Trading one abuser for another. It happens. Don’t let it happen to you.

You need a safe person. If you don’t have someone, share your story or your need here in the comments. You will find that this group truly cares. Be careful of connecting off thread, because we have had phony people here, but there are many good people who truly understand and care.

Stay in a safe zone and don’t be ashamed of asking for support. Just one person can make a huge difference.

25 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

25 responses to “Who is Safe?

  1. I am so blessed. My husband is a safe person. My 41-year-old daughter is a safe person. And my 43-year-old stepdaughter, who now lives with us, is a safe person, too.

    For most of my life I did not have any safe people. Or if I did, I didn’t know how to recognize them. I grew up with very unsafe, abusive people. Then I continued this unhealthy learned pattern in my adult relationships, until 2003, the year I turned fifty. That’s when I finally met some genuinely safe people, people who had the love of the Lord in their hearts. They helped me heal. By the end of 2003, when I was ready, I met the man who is now my best-friend-husband.

    I am also very blessed to have this wonderful blog to read. I should say, WE are very blessed to have this wonderful blog to read. I’ve recently started reading the posts here starting from the very beginning, all the way back to 2010. There’s so much good, healing, Godly information here, I don’t want to miss any of it.

    God bless everyone, and thank you, Pastor Dave, for this ministry.

  2. On the Healing Journey

    Pastor Dave, thanks for the wisdom you share every week. It’s so helpful and informative. I would recommend the book “Safe People” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It provides more details about the points you shared. I think these points can also be applied to churches and other organizations, albeit with some differences.

    I have found it difficult to trust one person because I inevitably choose the wrong one. But I think there may be different people you can trust for different things. As a simple example, you usually wouldn’t trust your auto mechanic for advice on how to do your income taxes or go to an accountant for advice on how to fix your car. Similarly, different people fill different voids in our lives, and we may need to lean on different people during different seasons or for different issues.

  3. Grace Wynns

    Thank You for such powerful information Pastor Dave. As you know there are so many people in needed of safe people that they can trust so that healing can take place in the heart, the mind, and the spirit. I am truly blessed by the blog today!

  4. Tee3

    The two people I know who are safe are my twin sister and my first son. My second son sees all what is happening, doesn’t approve of the abuse, but I sense that his loyalty is more towards my N husband because he fears him.

  5. Still Reforming

    This is timely for me – as now that I’m divorced, I’ve had a few men show interest. For two the red flags showed right away. A third now has appeared on the scene, and he’s harder to discern. That makes me all the more wary. So very grateful for all of these bullet points. It’s very hard to find safe people. I’m meeting tomorrow with a friend (female) who is safe. She’s encouraging me because she has a healthy marriage, but had a very abusive father, so she ‘gets it’ at the same time.

    • Pam

      to Still Reforming- I like the comments of Bruised Reed, below, on trusting your gut instinct. I am in the same boat as you, learning and looking to God.

  6. A very timely post. There are very few whom I would consider safe people and try to be emotionally supportive, however, I’m praying …. God knows my exhaustion and fears … I’m praying that a safe person will help me make wise decisions and actually stand up to my abuser(s). The abuser(s) seem to gain much strength as they know I am very much alone. I’m alone and yet not alone because I have God but even His Word speaks highly of true friendships; face to face friendships for times of trouble.

    • Pam

      HI HealinginHIm, as I look back on my journey with a N for first, 25 years of marriage, and then, getting sucked back into another 6 year relationship, I have to say that no one ever stood up to my abusers, because they were so good at the game. It did make me go deeper into Jesus because like you, He is all I had/have. I would encourage you to make wise decisions as He leads but give up expectations of human people standing up to them. God, who knows everything, will someday put everything right. I have found too that He heals us first, from the inside out. Llater we may see how the abuser either reaps what they sow or does have someone stand up to them, but when we are healed, it is not such a big deal for us to see that. I pray that God leads you to a safe person or persons for face to face comfort.

  7. Rachel

    This is very timely for me too, thank you Pastor Dave.
    I am wondering about the people who seemed to be safe until we revealed the abuse in public and who then suddenly won’t believe us and are not safe any more. This process has a particular bitterness to it which I am finding very difficult, I can’t square it at all with God’s love. I can get my head around the N doing what N’s do, that’s part of his disorder. But the others who appeared to be lifelong friends?
    Are they caught up in some kind of process? Will they come our the othe side with their common-sense intact? Are they lost to us forever?
    Any ideas please?

    • As most here know, I don’t get the opportunity to respond to comments very often. This just came through as I sat here and it rings a bell that compels me to offer some ideas.

      It sounds to me like your friends found a cost to their public support which didn’t exist for your private support. In other words, standing by you when you confided in them was real and honest, but standing by you when they had to be accountable for being on your side was something different.

      I have noticed this in a lot of church situations. People are very supportive and encouraging … until it might cost them something. I can think of several times in my own life where this happened and I was just as puzzled/hurt/angry as you are. I assumed that their previous support was either a lie or insincere. But that may not have been right. They were probably just afraid of the cost.

      Narcissists are very good at creating a cost for those who challenge them. They put their families into churches where the leadership will be weak or compromised, particularly in marriage problems. They create situations at work where anyone who disagrees with them is seen as an aggressor. (That’s why your supporters at the water fountain become part of the problem later.)

      Sometimes a supporter will just come out and tell the truth. “I believe you and support you, but I can’t stand up with you.” Maybe it would be a challenge in their marriage or it would make their position in the church at risk. Whatever the reason, they simply cannot or will not stand with you in public.

      And, yes, it hurts … a lot. It feels like a betrayal and it is, to some extent. They are not real support for you, at least when you need to move forward in dealing with the problem, and you should no longer consider them support. But be slow to judge them. We are all weak creatures. No, it doesn’t “square at all with God’s love,” but much of what we do doesn’t. Consider them compromised and weak. They still believe you, but they are not the support you need for this stage of the journey.

      Thanks for a great question and for making me think!

      • Bruised Reed

        I think you’ve hit on something big here, sir. At least, I have seen this play out more than once in my dealings with N’s. My hubby and I both have had to deal with friends “sympathizing” with the hurt and trouble certain people caused us, yet no one has publicly taken a stand with us/against them, or openly admitted that these people are evil! My brother also is no longer standing with me against my mother’s abuse and manipulation, and I’m it is because she has some means of blackmailing him.

        I think the “by-standers” fall into three categories:
        1) Those who are truly ignorant of the evil;
        2) Those who know, but choose to turn a blind eye and deaf ear because of fear (the N is a threat to them) or willful ignorance (the N has either fooled them just enough, or has simply given them something they don’t want to lose);
        and 3) Those who are Narcs themselves, and who (usually) refuse to turn on one of their own kind.
        (I think that “flying monkeys” or “minions” are typically either the willfully ignorant or simply fellow N’s in training.)

  8. Judy

    In the past 2 yrs, I have experienced some betrayals by “Christians” who acted as to befriend me (having separated from a long-time narcissistic, abusive husband). I have been praying for a true friend who also puts God first in their life & with whom I could be mutually supportive. My whole life has been painful, but the past 3 yrs have been the most isolating & painful of all. I also need to find a church where I can feel safe, & where others will welcome me into their fellowship. Please pray for me to KNOW that the Lord does have a good plan for my life. I feel discarded & forsaken by my husband, children, former friends & church. I have no one. I want God to be my all in all, but I still need human connection too. If He truly wants me to only have Him, then I have failed by not being content & joyful in my circumstances. It seems my entire life is a failure & waste. Please pray for me.

    • Dear Judy. I hear your cry. Your life sounds very much like mine. It is very painful. I will pray for you and wish I could personally give you a ((hug)).

    • Pam

      Judy- good news is that He is holding on to you, not vice versa! As His child, He will never let you go. Remember too that church is the grouping of people, but He is greater than the church, and will meet you anywhere, anytime. He is with you. Your life is not a failure or waste. I have also felt that way, and sometimes still do. It has been 11 years since God began this part of the journey to get me out from under the abuse of the N. I have had many bumps, mostly of my own doing as I ran looking for love in all the wrong places. (sorry for the cliche, but, hey, it is true.) Underneath you are the everlasting arms, you are being held, even if you don’t feel like it. =Lean into HIm. He is here. He loves you.
      Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never give up”, good advice, and when you feel like giving up, lean into Him more. He will carry you and give you the manna strength/desire you need when you need it.
      Emmanuel, Judy.

  9. Penny

    Narcs always have allies, and they work hard to maintain allies, and those allies can (and will) deliberately & intentionally choose the narc over you.
    I once had a “trusted” family member admit that while she recognized the cruel behavior in my abuser, when it came to “picking sides”, she clearly chose the narc. Why? Because “she’s still my Auntie”.
    What was I? Chopped liver? Precisely. Why? Because I had only married into this [dysfunctional] family, therefore I had less value to her than “blood” relatives; I was worthless, I was disposable…& so was the truth.
    It was then & there that I chose to live in the “safest” place I know: in the truth. In reality.
    This person actually did me a favor b/c now I knew to not trust her ever again. She wasn’t safe.
    I learned to look for the red flags, and to believe them when I saw them. It hurt, it stung, it was stunning.
    No one supported me. No one.
    Recently my narc changed her will (horrors!) and promised all the other “blood” relatives a nice chunk of money…..so, that’s how allies are bought. Literally. She bought their loyalty.
    In my mind, they sold their souls.
    And THAT is never safe.

  10. Bruised Reed

    Yes, yes, yes. All of these things are so very true! As a teenager, my mom would use several tactics to get me to confide in her against my will, including manipulation, guilt trips, false sympathy, and at times, raging and outright threats. Most of the time, I resisted and refused, but I couldn’t always stand up to her like I wanted to. And I *always* regretted it, because she would *always* find a way to use it against me, sometimes weeks or even months later. (N’s have incredible memories, but are surprisingly -and suspiciously- “forgetful” when it suits their evil schemes.)

    All that to say this – never, EVER ignore a red flag, or “gut feeling” about someone. N’s train us to doubt our own instincts (N parents especially), so we become “colorblind” to things that would otherwise warn us. Even at the expense of being lonely, it is far better than being taken advantage of yet again. (Trust me, I’ve made that mistake more than once.)

    • Bruised Reed

      Sorry, that should have said “When I was a teenager…”

      • Pam

        Bruised Reed,
        Yes, as I look back on the begining of the relationship with the N, I had strong gut feelings that I ignored. Now I know they were true and am trying to pay attention to those. It is true to that N’s train us to ignore our own instincts and doubt ourself, constantly. I too am alone, but LEARNING, and would rather be alone and at peace than in the tormented relationship with the N.
        Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Pam

    As always, “Wow”….. I really appreciate this week’s blog, will keep it for future reference. I am very thankful that you are out here and understand this whole dynamic. I am now out of the N relationship, but am findind that I have definate trust issues!

  12. The only people I feel are safe, are those who either ‘get it’ from personal experience or those I have felt safe enough to share with, who then seek information on their own to understand me. I know if I were on the outside of this (meaning the fog of abuse and NPD) I wouldn’t understand it at all. I have waited to see who, of my close friends and family members (and very few have I told) that know what I have been through, have said to me that they have read up on what I’ve told them and they understand much more, knowlege-wise at least, what I experienced. There have been none, so far. Not even my bf. It saddens me, but it is what it is. I am so thankful that I have a friend that sticks closer than a brother in Jesus! Not only has He been there with me, He carried me through it all and delivered me whole, safely to shore. Thank you, Pastor Dave for the 10 + 1 rules for safety, I pray I can be the safe person for someone in need.

  13. Celeste

    I have been unexpectedly blessed by a committed Stephens Ministry servant. Six yrs ago, we met together for the first time and continue even now. Never once, has she betrayed me or given up on me. She listens, asks questions, advises when she discerns, and believes in me as a person. At times, I disconnect from her because this is a pattern of mine. When I call her, or when she discerns it is time to reconnect, she embraces me. She asks if I am still meeting with my therapist. She leaves plenty of room for me to be myself. She prays for me every day when her day begins. I am extremely blessed.

  14. Gillian

    My “N” was a phony on here so I know they do it. I was sharing or defending that I found a good christian blog which listed all the traits he had and I could see what was going on in our marraige. He became furious, Denied it, fought me and cut me off emtionally. Then days later came to me angry but laughing at me, mocking what I said on here. I was reaching out for help, used no real names, asked a question and made sure I didn’t expose him (his worse fear). He was not feeling guilty for his abuse, just afraid someone would know I wrote it and he’d lose his job etc. He then made up a phony name and actually defended himself. I’m surprised no one noticed by his lack of remorse and blame shifting. I’m able to get on here again but stayed off for the lines time put of fear he’s watching and would use it against me.

    • healingInHim

      Gillian – The man I married is considered a ‘quiet man’. As issues escalated in our almost 40 yr marriage and after I discovered another ministry that untwisted Scripture, well, he read the posts and then claimed that I was the abuser because of my outbursts of anger towards him!
      This is after years of sexual / emotional abuse by him; emotional abuse from adult children, siblings, in-laws; and also spiritual abuse by the ‘c’hurches.
      I’m still here but he is quietly confident as I am to remain in my place and not speak to him concerning the sinful family situations. He quietly has controlled my voice to some degree knowing that I have had to leave the churches because they don’t want to get involved. He made several false professions of faith, however, now that the adult children live faraway and have decided to enter the ‘wide gate’, he has decided to not discuss his spiritual life with me … it’s long and complicated and many counselors have hinted strongly that ‘this is not a marriage.’
      He has stated he doesn’t want to be my husband but will not divorce me b/c it would cost him too much but also said he would not contest if served the papers. Very confusing and I believe his way of ‘testing me’ …
      I too, have been fearful of him or my adult children discovering some of my comments on blogs. I have days were I don’t care … what have I too lose since my children have alienated themselves emotionally from me and only contact me sporadically to they can tell others that they keep “in touch?” (it’s all about public image 😦 )
      ((hugs to you and others))

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s