It’s Narcissist Friday!
Mary has a lover. She also has a husband. She only wants to be with her husband because he finances her desires. She has no love for him, no commitment to him. During their arguments, she says that she hates him and wants nothing to do with him. When she leaves the house, she goes to the home of her lover.
John hits his wife. He stopped being kind and loving toward her a long time ago. She is the scapegoat of his anger. He keeps her isolated so others don’t know her suffering.
Jane hates her daughter. At least that’s what she yells at her when she is angry, which is most of the time. She wants her daughter to remain with her until she dies so that she can have a servant. She permits no outside relationships, no outside activities. Jane tells her daughter that she wishes she had aborted her before she was born. Her daughter is unworthy of her love or of any human kindness, she says.
Mike is the master of his home. His wife and children exist to serve him. When he works, he comes home and demands service. When he doesn’t work, he expects his wife to bring in money for his use. He has a new pickup and boat, while his wife and children barely have food and clothing.
In the minds of some, Mary’s husband should continue to give to her and care for her in spite of her unfaithfulness and in spite of her own statements of rejection.
In the minds of some, John’s wife is supposed to stay and be a contented wife without regard to her own safety and health.
In the minds of some, Jane’s daughter should obey and love her mother.
In the minds of some, Mike’s wife and family should serve him with sacrifice and love, no matter what.
After all, Christians should show unconditional love!
I received a comment the other day in which the writer took all of us to task for our lack of “unconditional love” and for speaking of the narcissists in our lives as “objects.” (Not all comments make it past my moderation.)
But I feel the need to address this idea of unconditional love again. I wrote about it a year ago HERE. Please read that post. This post will only add to what I said there.
Unconditional love is a wonderful thing for people to talk about. It suggests that good people will put up with anything. The idea is often used to weaken the resolve of victims for making changes. It is also used to try to hold back the hand of justice for the offender. The idea is especially convicting for Christians. After all, what is more loving than continual, sacrificial, forgiveness? That’s what we have received, and that’s what we are expected to give.
But I have found that it is a lot easier to tell others to love unconditionally than to actually do it myself. In fact, I suspect that unconditional love isn’t something we can do.
Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.
But let me ask this question to those who would expect us to love unconditionally: What do you mean by “love”? Do you mean staying in a relationship where there is danger and hatred? Do you mean never expecting accountability for the actions of the offender? Do you mean maintaining the lie that hides the broken and abusive relationship? Do you mean allowing the victim to suffer to the point of suicide or mental illness? Is that love in your eyes?
You see, most of the people who call others to unconditional love have suffered little in life, or have accepted that suffering for their own lives. They judge and criticize, rather than empathize. But unconditional love is not a demand or even an expectation. It is a glimpse of Heaven and the Lord’s own heart.
I know that there are rare and wondrous occasions where parents forgive the murderer of their child. I know that some have truly forgiven their abusers or rapists. Those are marvels in our world, worthy of story and song. This is not unconditional love as much as it is love beyond conditions. No one sets out in the morning to have that kind of love in their hearts. No one could ever create such love.
The rare times we see or feel this kind of love are nothing less than miracles, acts of God. To judge someone for not experiencing a miracle is unfair. To place the expectation of a miracle on another, when very few of us would ever experience such a thing ourselves, is cruel.
I sincerely doubt that any human love can be truly unconditional, however. Love is based on relationship, and when relationship fades, love fades. You will often hear people speaking of the unconditional love of pets, usually dogs. But pull the dog’s ear and it will make you stop. It may feel badly for biting you, but it will bite nonetheless.
A person who sets out to carry a cat by the tail will learn a lesson that will be useful throughout life.
To judge a victim for seeking escape or solace is to misunderstand the need of the heart. Narcissists often demean their victims to the point of incapacitation. They use and abuse until the heart is broken and the mind is weakened. It is natural for victims to want to leave or end the pain. How could it be otherwise? And how could they be wrong? Should we expect that victims would want to remain in their suffering? Of course not.
There will be a day when we will love fully and freely, without condition. And in that day there will be no more sin. No one will cause pain in the heart of another. There will be no abuse or manipulation or degrading. No one will lie. No one will cheat. No one will be cruel. I look forward to that day.
Perhaps, if you experience the levels of pain that some here have suffered, you might have the grace to keep on loving. If you do, it will not be that you are spiritually superior. It will be that you have been given a gift.
It is much more likely that you would go through a time of great grief, mourning the loss of love and the broken relationship.
Please don’t judge those who are in the midst of this struggle.