It’s Narcissist Friday!
How long did it take you to see the light? Some have lamented that it took 40 years for them to see the truth and do something about it. So many wish they had separated from their narcissist before they had kids, signed that contract, moved their family for the new job. They kick themselves for not seeing the light sooner.
“Wasted time.” That’s what they call it. Time in which they could have been happy. Time in which they could have accomplished some of their dreams. Time that was lost to fear and sadness and turmoil.
Listen: I don’t believe that was wasted time! Every moment of my life has been used to bring me to where I am today. Maybe I didn’t accomplish all I wanted when I wanted, but I am here now and glad of it. I didn’t like all the things that have happened. I certainly didn’t choose some of those things. I wish some of those things hadn’t happened. The journey has not taken me where I thought it would, not even where I wanted to go, but it has brought me here. And it is still going.
I remember an old conversation where one person was encouraging the other to go back to school. The other said it would take four years to get a degree. “Do you know how old I will be in four years?” The first person responded: “How old will you be in four years if you don’t go back to school?”
Learning the truth, seeing the light, is good no matter how long it takes. You have accomplished so much more than most people. You have looked at your circumstances and have made a decision. Maybe you decided to make some drastic changes. Maybe you decided to stay in those circumstances with the new understanding you have. Whatever you decided, you did it. You made the decision. That alone says you are free.
We often hear of people who were imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. When the real perpetrator is discovered, the innocent person is set free. Sometimes they get a settlement for the time they wrongly spent in prison. I suppose some are angry, perhaps bitter, for the wasted time. But I am always impressed by those who say they are just grateful that the truth was finally discovered. Those are the ones who will continue their lives. Those are the winners.
I put many years of service into an organization, sacrificing time and energy, only to find that the organization cared little about me. They took the contribution I gave, then wrote me off. I have been through my anger, even with hints of bitterness, but the truth is that I grew and learned during those years. Yes, I was hurt. Yes, at times I wonder if the sacrifice was worthwhile. I can still feel the anger, if I want. (They still send me requests for money.) But I have moved on.
Whatever I went through was nothing compared to the pain some of you have felt in the years of marriage and family struggles. Your injuries are deep and the scars severe. But you are moving on. You have become free, either in or out of the relationship. I am humbled by your strength and determination. You have seen the light.
It’s always surprising how senseless regret can be. It’s not like you can go back to change anything. Nor should you regret what others have done to you. You didn’t do those things. You might mourn the losses you have experienced. You might grieve over what might have been. But those feelings eventually lessen and go away. Grief is a process of finding yourself after loss. It may take time, but it does happen. Keep moving on.
Regret is telling yourself that you should not have done certain things. Even if you are partially responsible for the troubles you have suffered, so what? You can’t undo them. Forgive yourself and find the way to health and better decisions. There is no reason to punish yourself, and you are not given the freedom to punish anyone else. Regret is a way of bringing up uncomfortable things of the past and feeling bad about them over and over. It is a form of self-punishment. Move on.
Are there things you wish hadn’t happened? Of course. Some of them were serious. Some hurt others. Most hurt you. But now you see the truth. Now the truth has set you free. So give yourself permission to move on.
Do you need permission from someone else? I hereby give you permission, in the name of the Lord, to move forward with your life. I am not going to tell you what that should look like, what you should do with your life. Let the Lord lead you. I simply say that you can move on.
Maybe it comes back again to the old Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
And let me add one more line:
And the strength to move on with my life, leaving the regrets behind.