Shame

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Many of us knew very well which were Mom’s “good scissors.” There were other scissors you could play with, use to cut paper or tape or cardboard, but not Mom’s good scissors. Those were for cutting cloth only.

I was trying to come up with a distinction between guilt and shame when I thought of Mom’s good scissors. Guilt was what came on you if you used those scissors, especially for something you shouldn’t. Shame was what came on you when you tried to cut your own hair with them. Guilt would get you a scolding or a spanking. Shame lasted much longer. Shame became an identity.

One of the common factors I discovered in both legalism and narcissism was the use of shame to manipulate others. In a world where acceptance is given on the basis of performance, shame punishes the person who is inadequate. Notice that the person is shamed, rather than the action or lack of action. Shame attaches directly to the person. Shame is the lopsided haircut that shows everyone you used Mom’s good scissors.

We know how to handle guilt. We confess, apologize, make restitution, and/or endure punishment. The church teaches that guilt, the judgment that comes against a certain action, has been washed away from us by the cross of Jesus. God, in His love for us, provided the sacrifice for our sins to wipe away our guilt. There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus, the Scripture tells us. No more guilt.

But shame is different. Shame says that the person is bad. Shame is a label, an identity, we assume for ourselves. We wear it for others to see. We may even tell someone about it so they don’t miss it. “I am a bad person,” we say. It isn’t enough to simply admit to the sinful or hurtful act, to deal with our guilt, we want to go beyond the action to our identity.

And, of course, those who would manipulate us want us to live under the burden of shame. So the narcissist is not content with calling attention to failure and accepting an apology. No, he/she must be certain that we attach the identity of failure to ourselves. The victim must feel like a failure—and listen—no apology can take that away. The legalist preacher or church member cannot be satisfied with saying that a certain action is sin, he/she must add that the person who does such a thing is identified by that sin. Thus, an act of adultery, which could be handled in a relationship or church community, becomes a label of adulterer—and the person becomes the label.

The narcissist uses words like “always” and “never” to drive home the fact of identity. “You always fail.” “You never do it right.” Those statements are meant to give the person shame. Abusers use shame to manipulate their victims. Shame weakens and moves a victim to submit. If the person will not automatically (usually because of years of training) attach the shame to themselves, the abuser will push them to do it. “You should be ashamed!” “Shame on you!” “Look at you in your shame.” The narcissistic mother may punish the daughter who used her good scissors to cut her own hair by leaving the hair that way, at least as long as the image of shame is useful.

The legalist does the same thing. By labeling a person with his or her sin, the legalist weakens even a believer who accepts forgiveness for his or her action. “Yes, God forgives you for your adultery, but now you are and always will be an adulteress.” The dissonance between the freedom of the forgiveness of God and the feeling of permanency that comes with the label is confusing and irreconcilable. And, again, there is nothing to do about the label. If the sin is forgiven, then the label no longer fits—and here’s the rub—but it feels like it fits. That’s the shame. The narcissist and the legalist both take advantage of the shame to manipulate and abuse.

Now, this is a deep subject, much more than can be presented in a simple blog post. At the same time, the link between legalism (performance-based spirituality) and narcissism (performance-based relationship) becomes clear. As long as acceptance is based on performance, shame will be part of the deal.

Let me close with the message God has for those of us who so easily remember our sin. First, there is no shame for those who belong to Jesus. When your sin was washed away, the shame was taken as well.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11

“But,” you say, “I still did those things. Someone who has lied is a liar. Someone who commits adultery is an adulterer. How can that change?” Read this carefully.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You were those things, but no longer. You did those things, but you have been made new. The sin no longer clings to you as an identity. You no longer need to feel shame.

Is this possible? It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? All I know is that this is the promise of our Lord. If He says that your sins are washed away, then they are. If He says you and I are no longer what we were, then that is the truth.

Don’t let anyone shame you! Don’t accept the shame the abusers want you to live. If you have done something wrong, deal with it in the right way. Then trust that your forgiveness from the Lord is real and honest. That sin is no longer connected with you. It has been washed away. There is no shame in it for you.

Overcome the lie that binds you with the truth of God’s love.

 

 

(If you are interested in learning more about the message of grace, type Grace 101 in the search box on the side of this post.  You will find several posts that are meant to teach the basics of God’s grace in Jesus.)

43 Comments

Filed under grace, Legalism, Narcissism

43 responses to “Shame

  1. Guilt says, “I love you. That thing you just chose to do, however, is not okay. Please do not do that again.”

    Shame says, “What’s wrong with YOU that you would do that?”

    Guilt focuses on the error.
    Shame focuses on making the person an error.

    T/G

  2. Becoming a Better Me!

    Beautifully said!

    Thank you!

  3. I’m remembering hearing (through the bathroom door) my son’s piping voice inquiring “What are the best scissors I can use on a CHICKEN?” He was clipping his chickens wings–and he knew some scissors were off limits!

    On a more serious note… Thank you for the message–I needed it today.

  4. Anon

    Struggling today and honestly for a while. My husband’s ex is a histrionic narcissist and… And I’m tired. And I am finding it hard to forgive. I was in a good place last year, forgiving and letting things go and not letting her words or actions affect me… But I’m not there right now. She’s upped the ante recently in very aggressively passive ways… And I’m finding it hard not to cry and feel like I’m imploding… And that just makes me feel worse because I can’t help but feel like – isn’t that just what she wants? She is unbelievably ugly to me, but to the rest of the world (including my own mother-in-law) she’s worthy of praise… I don’t fish for compliments, I don’t seek attention, but sometimes I wish I had more encouragement to help combat the words that replay in my mind, and I find that encouragement lacking for me, but rolling out in spades for her.

    As a stepmom I feel I have grown so much in parenting skills and I’m so thankful for the revelatory nature of researching narcissism, because it’s helped me avoid some relational pitfalls I wasn’t aware of within myself… But as a person, as a woman with a heart and feelings… I feel lost, more than lost… Bereft is a better word. Robbed and lacking and running a little on empty…

    All that to say, I missed the prayer request thread, but I’m asking for it now. I need a miracle, not for her to change, but for my heart to change. To find a way to cope in a healthy way, to someday be able to forgive with the relative ease I used to, to trust God as the just Judge and Defender and Seer and Shepherd of my heart…

    And I just want to feel not so crazy and not so alone. 🙂

    • Anon, I am praying for you and I know many others are/will as well. Find your worth in the love that sent Jesus to the cross for you. Find your acceptance in the assurance that He is with you every step. It was His joy to die for you – that’s how much He values you. He is your strength and confidence, the strong tower in which you feel safe.

      This person is angry and bitter. She has focused that on you. Her desire is to curse you, but her curse “will not come to rest” on you. It is your strength and goodness she hates, because it reveals her own brokenness. Don’t let her bring you into her pain.

      We will be praying for you! -Dave

    • Savedbygrace

      Dear anon I am praying for you :may God strengthen you and give you wisdom, insight and courage!
      In my experience Ns are very good at subtly shifting the boundary lines in relationships so that they end up getting their way and serving their purposes…I’m wondering if it would help you to reflect on the relational boundaries say between you, your H and M-I-L and the ex ..did they look different last year when you were coping better? You may find there’s been some shifts that are working against you and the health of your marriage.
      The boundaries books by Cloud and Townsend provide ideas and encouragement if you feel like some tips in this area. It may be that the ex is getting too much “air time” in your life and going low/no contact could be helpful?

      • Savedbygrace

        Oh anon – just to add I think it is so important to share how you are feeling with your H as it would be great if he could step up and help look after you.
        Don’t neglect self care and if you can let your husband know what you need it could really strengthen your relationship 🙂

    • Phoebe

      Praying for you

    • Alabama

      I know exactly what place you dwell at this time considering I’m in the same position as you. Please know it is her internal insecure nature and struggle within she exudes via N. Regardless of the image she portrays, some are not so easily fooled even within the church community. Nonetheless, it’s destructive for all involved including herself. Just know you are not alone in this journey and have warriors of the heart in support of you.

  5. I might be wrong in my thinking, but aren’t guilt and shame actually good things? Isn’t that what forms our conscience? Isn’t that what leads us to God and truth? Are you a bad parent if you say, “shame on you” to your kids when they have done something wrong? This is confusing to me, there has to be some sort of a line that you cross when correcting your kids, I’m just not sure where that line is. Perhaps, if we use your example of using mom’s good scissors to cut your hair, it would be best not to bring up the uneven haircut every time you look at your child but it would be OK to say “shame on you ” for using the good scissors. What do you guys think?

    • Abby, this is a great question that really needed to be asked. I wrestled with this as I wrote the post. My answer is that both guilt and shame have a time and place in a person’s life. I think that’s what the Scriptures teach. Of course, guilt is the legal/official/formal pronouncement of wrong on our sin. We often use the word “guilt” when we mean “shame.” So, if we keep the idea of guilt as judgment against the action, rather than the person, that helps. By our association with our actions, we become guilty. Once the guilt of those actions is atoned, we are no longer guilty. But the shame that separates us from others and from the “way we ought to be” tells us and others that we are broken. Shame means something is wrong with us.

      So, of course, there is a place for a person to understand that something is very wrong in his or her life. That brokenness leads us to find the heart change God offers in Jesus. Only when we recognize our brokenness will we seek the new life He offers. In that sense, shame is a good thing. That’s the way the Scriptures use it. It makes me think of jail. Is jail a good thing? Well, it is a necessary thing. It calls attention to the brokenness of the person who did the crime. Ideally, those who are in jail would find help for their brokenness. But it seems hard to consider jail a good thing.

      As we parent our children under grace, we want them to understand that certain actions are wrong. Sin hurts them and others around them. But do we want them to think of themselves as broken? Perhaps, if the goal is to bring them to Jesus for new life. But do we want our children to believe that they are forever connected with their sin, even sin that has been forgiven? Certainly not. That’s how the abusers bind their victims and keep them submissive. That’s not how a parent under grace deals with the sins of children.

      So, I would say that the only goal of shame is to reveal the brokenness and move a person toward new life. If that has already happened in a person’s life, then shame has no more place. From that point on, the action is always separate from the person. The identity of the believer is not found in his or her sin, but in the connection with Jesus.

      Again, I would say that guilt and shame have a place, but that place is limited. I would say that shame has no place in the life of the believer if we define it as I have.

      Thanks for calling this out. I struggled with keeping the post short enough to read. This allows me to go further. I hope it helps. -Dave

    • Savedbygrace

      Hi Abby! I remember reading some parenting advice that I found helpful when raising my kids that it is better to say things like ” thankyou for putting away your toys, that is really helpful” than “good boy/girl for putting away your toys” as it ends up linking a child’ s identity to performance (and it’s an arena one can easily fall from grace in and so our identity becomes”bad”). Drawing attention to the actions helps develop character/highlight fruit of the spirit and it also puts the child in the drivers seat highlighting that they are responsible for their choices, to share/not share for example, but it’s pretty confusing to just be labelled “good/bad girl” .
      Hope this helps.

  6. Sunflower

    What clued me in to my h’s narcissism was when a story came out that my sister possibly had a different father than the rest of us. This ‘sin’ would have happened during WW2 when dad was off to war. I knew mom and that if it was true, she would have repented long ago, so I hardly let it rock my boat. But h would not let it go. He kept bringing it up, asking if I wasn’t really really upset, how terribly this was, on and on. Shaming me, actually, for what maybe happened 40 years earlier. That got me to realize that he didn’t understand the grace of God.

  7. Willow Hawkrider

    Wow! Thank you for this post Pastor Dave! Even though my N-husband died, I still am carrying a lot of the shame he avalanched on me.

    He did not forgive me for anything wrong I had done…not really. If I blew up he did not accept apologies sometimes for weeks. Sometimes he would give me the silent treatment for days and then come home from work and go nuclear on me verbally. He hung many labels on me. Angry, dangerous, handicapped, unwanted, burden, unfeminine, unconfident….etc.

    It is discouraging to still be carrying around so much shame. I’m working on it with my therapist, but it isn’t fast. I do not miss walking on eggshells though.

    I loved him very much. This all just makes the grieving process insanely complex at times. Also, this is the only place I have publicly admitted he was a narcissist. I am working through feeling ashamed that I didn’t recognize it sooner and that I let myself be treated that way. Yet, having been indoctrinated in a popular seminar/theology when I was in my teens…it isn’t surprising…from what I’ve learned in the last few years I was being groomed to take abuse.

    My prayer for us all is that we will have grace for ourselves and peace.

  8. Another excellent post, Pastor Dave! So here is my question. Aren’t we saying that the narcissist never changes? That there is something wrong with them?

    When I was still married to my ex, I had to give up on wanting him to change. I could see that wasn’t going to happen. Sadly, accepting him the way he is meant that we could not remain married. Many times during our marriage I did, of course, wonder why he was behaving the way he was, and would ask him questions about that. I tried to focus on the behavior, not the person. I don’t think I always said “what’s wrong with you?” but I am sure, in my pain and frustration, that I did sometimes actually say that. Whether I did or did not, though, that is what he heard. Every single time I tried to get him to work on healing our relationship, or tried to convince him of the benefits of working “his own side of the street” as I was working on my own, “What’s wrong with you?” is all he could hear. In his head, he then put words in my mouth that I did not actually say, that I never meant, that he “set in stone” and then resented and punished me for.

    The way I came to see things with him is that he is so shame-based inside himself that he cannot bear to introspect and spent all of his personal energies on building a mask to hide behind. He didn’t want me to accept him (as he claimed) but wanted me to accept (and promote) the mask. Everything behind the mask was off limits. To me. Even to himself, and apparently, even to God. But one can’t have a godly marriage or a successful life partnership with a mask, especially when the one behind it lives a double life and repeatedly cheats on you. That doesn’t work.

    So the ultimate determination to leave a narcissist is, in fact, that something is wrong with them. Something that won’t change. But his shame is not of my making–this is not me shaming him. He had taken that shameful identify on himself before I ever met him, somewhere back in his early childhood. I guess that the answer is still the one you are giving us. Until the narcissist accepts who he is in Christ, until the narcissist believes that he is washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God, he will not change. And my thoughts toward the narcissist are not that he is a bad person, but that he has consistently made bad choices. He is reaping what he has sown, and I am not required to share that bad harvest with him.

    • Yes, sadly, this is a right place for shame. The narcissist is broken, deeply shamed inside. We all grieve for these folks. They have such potential and such pain. But, until their shame brings them to Jesus for true healing, they won’t be changed. I have consistently maintained that narcissists can be changed, but only by the power of the love of God in Jesus. The “shame that binds” them should draw them to Him.

      But, again, those who have come to Jesus are no longer what they were. They are no longer broken. They need to hear this over and over for it to stick in their hearts and minds. They are new creations, washed clean of their sins, healed of their brokenness. But they go to churches where they are shamed for the sins that were forgiven!

      Shame has a place, but not in the life of the believer.

      • merieleslie

        My sister is a narcissist. Not to the degree as my ex husband … But still a narcissist. She was only one year younger than me and we grew up in the same home. As far as “something happened” to her in her childhood that may have caused this “disorder” I beg to disagree. Looking back, she was always self centered, manipulative, selfish and her needs always had to be placated to … even as a small child. So I’m trying to understand what a 3-4 year old could have possibly done that would have caused her to carry this hurtful shame around her whole life and “contributed” to this behavior. I’m coming up empty!!!

      • Hi merieleslie! You have a good point. I assume you are responding to the statement: “He had taken that shameful identify on himself before I ever met him, somewhere back in his early childhood,” from maryleemorgan. I think she is right in what she says, but she does not refer to a particular incident or trauma. What she suggests, with which I agree, is that narcissism is a chosen response to the stresses of life in general. So it is entirely possible, and almost normal, that two people growing up in the same home and experiencing the same struggles would respond quite differently.

        The jury is still out on why some people choose to respond to their problems with the extreme separation and need for control as the narcissists. The general agreement among professionals is that the choice was made very early in life in most cases. I also do not think the choice was made as a result of the child doing something wrong. Sometimes the child grows up in an atmosphere of rejection, where self-protection seems necessary. But sometimes the child feels rejected in spite of love and acceptance offered by parents or siblings. There is mystery in this, to the point where some suggest brain damage or structural problems. Bottom line is that we don’t know.

        What we do know is that narcissistic behavior is a choice. Most narcissists prove that every day as they treat some people badly and others well. The narcissist may lack empathy, but the choice to abuse or manipulate is still a choice.

        Thanks for the comment! I have a little more time today to answer on the thread than usual, so I appreciate the opportunity to wrestle with good questions. – Dave

      • I have a narcissist sister, also. I was born 5 years after her. There were 4 girls in the family. She was number 2 and I was number 3. On the day that I was born, she quit playing with her dolls and she was quite jealous of me for no reason other than I was alive and took her mom away from her. That must be her *narcissistic injury* that she suffered. Anyway, I suffered much abuse from her as a child and it has continued through adulthood. What I don’t understand is why she wasn’t jealous of my youngest sister who was born 5 years after me.

      • Savedbygrace

        thanks for raising this point MaryLee Morgan & Dave for your response- this is an area I struggle with,
        my nh has researched ‘shame’ – Rene Brown’s work, and says he has dealt with it through therapy and can now accept himself and can see how terribly he has treated me and shamed me and that it will no longer be like that now…
        on the one hand I want to believe that -especially in the light of the gospel and Jesus can make a new creation.. I want to affirm that reality …( my N claims to be a Christian) but there is that part of me that doesn’t trust him and I feel that he is a master manipulator and am wary that this is just a very sophisticated ploy/more of the same..
        How would I know if there is a deep change? How can i separate it out from just awkward relating/difficult personality ( which I’d be prepared to work with ) or how much is still the destructive Narcissim?

  9. Irene

    Last week I went to the Psych Central website and put the words narcissism and cult into the search. I learned a lot! Now i am wondering whether narcissism is pride–the old-fashioned sin that God hates.

  10. Annette

    Very good post, as usual. However, you don’t even need to do anything wrong for narcissists to shame you. Actually narcissists specialize in shaming people for things they cannot possibly change, such as gender, race or age. That is because they don’t want you to be able to correct the flaw they are shaming you for. They want to keep putting you down in order to exalt themselves.

    Similarly, narcissistic parents shame their small children for not having been born with the manners and capabilities of adults rather than realizing that it is their own responsibility to teach them. Narcissistic parents even shame their children for their mere existence if they were unwanted or not of the desired gender.

    The shame narcissists dish out always serves their own needs. One is to manipulate, but another is to feel better about themselves, usually better than you. That is, when a narcissist shames you, it may have little to do with you but a lot with their own needs.

    • Right, and even more reason not to accept the shame they want to give!

    • MS

      Annette,
      I just wanted to say how much I appreciate what you said. It is so, so true. I’ve been reading the responses here, already knowing that I wanted to write a comment about guilt and shame. And, trying to figure out exactly what to say so that my comment made sense, based on the comments (and the post itself). I had already thought to include an example of my own experience, which fits perfectly with what you say. If you happen to read my further comment (which I will post after I get my thoughts together) you will see what I mean!

    • Savedbygrace

      Thanks Annette- good observation! my nh shamed me over many decades for my height ! His first mention was just an enquiry how do I find it being so short ( I’m 5’1″)? to be honest I’d never given it a thought! My nh could not stand it that I accepted myself and this is one area that he brought up many many times!!
      Other areas he chose to shame me for is when discussing issues of love and marriage he thought it a perfectly valid point to say he married me “because no-one else would have him” – he could never see how destructive that was- so deep was his own sense of personal shame.
      When it came to relating intimately his bottom line was How can you stand me doing that to you?
      Coming up against the Ns deep personal shame is a very confusing experience for a spouse- my n seemed driven to transfer his shame onto me , to somehow relieve the pain and make himself feel better.
      But it is no way to live – and after over three decades I have had to exit the relationship for sheer survival..

  11. Gratefully Yours

    Thank you! I shed grateful tears as I read to the end.

  12. MS

    Thank you Pastor Dave, and to all who have contributed comments. Please forgive me if I don’t name each of you individually. And, if I ramble a bit.

    Guilt versus shame- that is a whopper of a topic! At least for me right now. Thus, forgive my excessively long post.

    Backstory
    A few years ago I had a conversation on the phone with my supposed “best friend” from college days. That would be going on 40+ years. She had left me a phone message. And, so I called her back.

    I was very upset, and not so coherent because I was finally having to face the fact I would have to put my beloved rescue cat Tootsie to sleep, very soon. Like the very next day. I’d nursed this cat through all kinds of travails, with the help of wonderful vets. It was a minor miracle that she had done so well, so far, and was such a happy cat. The vets told me this. But, I had asked them- “how do I know when it’s time to let her go? I don’t want her to suffer”. They said- “you will see it in her eyes, when she wants to go.” And, that is exactly what I had been seeing in the past few hours.

    When I talked to this person (“J”) on the phone, I was blubbering and not all together sensible. After I went on like this for a while, “J” said: “M, I don’t like talking to you on the phone when you’re in this state, and besides, I have to leave because Talbot’s is having a sale on cashmere sweaters, and I have to get there before they close. End of conversation. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. And, she was the person who had kept telling me, for many years, “M” you need to get a cat. You are such a cat person.

    “J” phoned me a few months later, and I happened to pick up the phone. My first response was “I’m glad you phoned”. And, then I went on, very politely, to remind her of what she had said to me in our last phone conversation. She denied that she had said anything like this at all! She eventually said that she didn’t remember the conversation, but given that I was so convinced as to what she had said, she conceded that “it was just possible” it had happened. It was a very long conversation, where I remained calm throughout. I gave her many examples of previous times (in person) where she had said things that, to me, were very dismissive. Very little response from her, mostly silence (like talking to a brick wall), albeit with occasional short responses that had nothing to do with the subject at hand.

    I reminded her of an experience I had had when we were in college, where I had said something truly awful to a boyfriend of mine “I don’t ever want to see you again.” And, I still can’t remember what made me say this, because it was certainly not the culmination of a long argument. And, that that no matter what I said to him after, because I knew how hurtful I’d been, no matter how much I apologized and offered regrets, that had been the end of the relationship. I have felt guilty about that episode for years.

    I said to “J”, that I had learned a really hard lesson from that experience. Which was, “think before you speak, especially in emotional situations, because there are times when you might say something that can never be forgiven”

    None of this, nor some later conversations, registered with “J”.

    It took me a year of reflection about past interactions, and considerable internet research, before I realized “J” is a narcissist- NPD. She sends me emails from time to time, and I don’t answer. The last was last December, to wish me a “Happy Birthday”. And, that she has nothing but good feelings for me, but that she doesn’t understand why I’ve cut her off.

    It’s sometimes been hard to keep with my NC policy. But, the essence of my reply would be: I’m tired of the way you “shame” me. But, I don’t think that would register with her.

    More general comments
    And, to Willow H above- believe me I understand the power of shame. It is totally destructive when you are on the receiving end for many years. Perhaps I should have said this straight out at the beginning of my comment.

    I was raised by an abusive narcissist mother. I know how hard it is to deal with being shamed, and how hard the continuing process of recovering from this has been. Even though it took me a long time to figure out that my “BF from college is NPD”, at least I can now recognize when I am being shamed.

    And, as example for Annette: Something my mother once said to me (probably more than once) was: It’s too bad you are so flat-chested- otherwise you could be Miss America. I had no boy-friends of any sort in high school and hardly any in college. I was never asked out on “dates”. Meanwhile, my mother was happy to regale me with tales of how many men had been chasing her. She of the C or D cup bra.
    Of course, this was only one of endless examples of how I was treated growing up.

    But, my intent in relating this is certainly not to engage in a personal “pity party”. It’s rather, to say that being shamed is a totally toxic experience. I still struggle with the after effects.

    But, again, to Willow above, hang in there. Turn the shame away from yourself. It is those who have done this to us, not our ownselves, not something that reflects who we truly are.

    And, to mlm, narcissists are totally incapable of self- reflection, nor self-awareness.

  13. MeganC

    Excellent. So so good. I wonder if you might even take it a step further and talk about false guilt. In my first marriage and in my original core family, I used to confess things over and over that weren’t even sin. Things that irritated my sisters or things that they didn’t like about me. False guilt is akin to shame. True, moral guilt can be confessed and forgiven. I struggled with that for such a long time. Anytime a relationship ended (for whatever reason), the “shame voice” inside of me wondered what is wrong with ME that someone should stop communicating with me? A few months of therapy cured that. But it was a problem for along time!

    One of the things I learned in counseling was to step back and look at scenarios from my past as an outsider. What would that outsider see and think, looking into my private family life? Scene after scene, I felt sorry for the girl who was scapegoated, picked on and manipulated. She was an easy target and everyone was too afraid of the abusers to stop them. It shouldn’t have been. Thank GOD that little girl (and big girl!) have been rescued by Christ, in every way. Jesus has rescued my children and me physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

  14. Toby

    As someone who has recently come to own and accept responsibility for my emotionally abusive behaviour for over 30 years – I rated highly on a recent NPD diagnostic test and so can be certain this is my problem – I have begun reading in more depth as ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ were intertwined, seemingly inseparable facets of my ‘identity’. In particular,I have been reading “Emotional abuse – Silent Killer of Marriage” by Austin James, where he spills all the beans on how he came to recognize and own his abusive behaviour and understand why it had destroyed his marriage and, through the love of Christ and professional therapy he is now being transformed as a child of God.

    He talks in one chapter about “arrested development” and quotes Erik Erikson’s study of the eight development stages of life. Stage 2 covers the years 1-3, and Erikson states that if the proper life cycle is incomplete through a trauma, serious illness (physical or psychological), rejection, abuse or abandonment, for example: “the child learns shame and doubt; produces passive dependency on others; cannot assert own will [no self control] and develops a rebellious personality.”

    The thing with arrested development is that we can go back to that place (often, with help from a counselor, therapist, pastor or true friend) and deal with it. The potential joy for us is that it has all been absorbed in the Cross, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and through prayer we can go with Him to that place (or places) in our past where the ‘arrested development’ occurred and walk through the experience with Him into healing and newness of life.

    Thinking about how my guilt-caught-up-in-shame identity works, I wrote these notes, recently: “I think I am seeing an important difference between my guilt and my shame. My guilt is good; my shame is squalid. Guilt tells me I have DONE something ‘wrong’ or harmful; shame tells me I AM something wrong or harmful. The former is righteous and invites reform; the latter is unrighteous and inspires rejection, even retribution (including against myself). Guilt is towards another person (and God); shame is entirely self-centred and obsessed. When I feel guilt, then I admit I did something wrong and own and profoundly regret the action and the consequences of that action, and can feel true remorse which opens the way for me to effect a genuine change of heart and mind (repentance). Guilt opens a window of grace which allows for light and the opportunity to regain peace and fellowship. When I embrace my shame identity (self-loathing) I then project that onto others, shaming them unjustly and unfairly, especially my wife.”

    What Pastor Dave says in today’s blog is just so spot-on! Thank you, too, for everyone else’s input to this topic. Paul’s anguished question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” is familiar to most of us, I imagine, but NPD SEEMS to be so insurmountable that I had seriously concluded that I was ‘unsaveable’. But Paul got his answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord…There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.,” and so, now, have I.

    • Annette

      Hi, Toby! You seem to be on a really good path. NPD is insurmountable only when the narcissist refuses to change. Unfortunately, that is usually the case because they are so fond of themselves (that is, of their false selves) that they adamantly resist change. Even if you rated high on NPD, it appears that you couldn’t be a full-blown narcissist since you are able to repent and commit to changing your ways. Or maybe God did a major miracle. I wish you God’s continued blessings and healing for all those that suffered from your narcissism!

      • Toby

        Hi, Annette.
        Thank you for your positive thoughts, although I am pretty sure that my NPD is ‘full-blown’ – I know my wife and children would say so as well as surrounding extended family members. The only way I have been enabled to see, receive and own the truth about me is very definitely due to an overwhelming intervention by God three years ago while I was staying with my parents on the Isle of Skye (off Scotland). My wife and I went on to re-marry for a THIRD time last September on the basis of that intervention but it all blew up when my abusive behaviour just overtook everything.

        My wife is currently wintering in Madeira (she also has SAD) and we have been living apart – though in the same house – to establish some essential boundaries. So, in the meantime the Lord has been lovingly but firmly working in and with me to the point that I have my first interview with our Wellbeing (State Mental Health) services next week to assess appropriate therapy and counseling needs and provision. My daughter is also seeking a specialist counselor for me (and for her and myself together, eventually) as I cannot afford private therapy.

        This is the first time I have fully admitted my emotionally abusive behaviour and positively welcomed outside, professional help. There is a lot of work ahead, but Austin’s book has reassured me that abusers CAN be transformed, although he admits he believes it is impossible without the Lord Jesus Christ, through His cross and in-dwelling resurrection power. I am sure that is so, having read so many of your testimonies and questions and answers on this wonderful blog as well as at Cry For Justice.

        God bless you, too.

  15. Annette

    Thanks for sharing, Toby. Your story should be an encouragement to those that are praying for God to intervene in the life of their narcissist. It seems that your family did set some boundaries on you though.

    As I mentioned above, narcissism is considered incurable basically because narcissists are typically unwilling to change their hurtful ways. As long as you are willing to cooperate with God (and with people), there is hope for you.

    A long time ago an American preacher said that God had told him: “You and I are incompatible, and I don’t change!”

    A Cry For Justice is a wonderful blog for abusive husbands to read, as is this one. They give you an idea of what victims go through and the chance to develop some empathy.

    • Toby

      Thank you, again, Annette, for your precise and gracious input.

      • Georgette

        I appreciate this blog; I just want you to know that I am unloading my anger towards the people of the church I had attended and the ex-N. I received a text from a member at the church I attended. They received a new pastor and she wanted me to come back to hear him. She stated he has a great sense of humor and wanted me to hear him. She knows that I am not attending church. I am attending a recovery/healing ministry, which is 100% better than any church that the ex-N with his fourth wife is attending and leader of.

        I am enraged that the woman that is the leader of the women’s ministry is allowing the ex-N to help form a group for sexually abused adults. Yes the ex-N has strong leadership skills (master manipulator, per his sister he has been this way for 43 years and can get anyone to believe anything he say’s, does and get people to say things that they would not say normally). Like I have stated before I have seen a demonic entity go into ex-N, before that I had seen twice the result of demonic activity in the ex-N. A gun is his recovery…where is God? After he was baptized per his third wife there was no change. He was still doing porn, he gave her silent treatments, and she could not discuss the issues in their marriage that would trigger a silent treatment from him. All he wanted to do is to tell her about God and his knowledge of the bible. Sure he quit drinking but he wasn’t about to give up the porn, which he has been doing for 43 years, and counting I am sure. You can’t stop an addiction if you don’t get to the root cause.

        So here he is doing porn (I’m sure of it!), and he will be a leader for the sexually abused….I’m so full of rage I can’t see straight! God allows this???? Okay, he sees the larger picture; I see a small part of it. The world is evil and we are constantly in a spiritual warfare. I am sensitive to this b/c of being raped at 4 and molested by my mom. I told the lady that texted me in detail about his evil heart and that his only desire is to be a leader and quit his job. He couldn’t careless of the brokenness in the lost souls. It is all about getting affirmation and his survival at the risk of these broken souls. Right now there is so much rage in my heart! It is like ripping off the band-aid! Like not being able to save these people from this evil soul that is growing by leaps and bounds!

        I thought I was getting stronger than this! Thought my hurt and pain was healing. I don’t get people…so confused right now.

      • Gratefully Yours

        Hi Georgette,

        My heart goes out to you. Decades ago I left a job surrounded by narcissists. When I quit I changed phone numbers and moved out of the city never to contact anyone connected to that workplace again. I couldn’t protect everyone related to that job but I could protect myself. Each person with a relationship with God could come to the same conclusion without my help. Years later I learned that not long after leaving God closed the business due to mold! Is that creative or what?! God can protect those people. It may be a hard lesson for them to learn but God’s wisdom is available to all and if people seek Him He will be found, reveal the unhealthiness in that environment and get them out of a sick situation. You in turn are set free to walk away, make a fresh start and leave the madness. God bless you and strengthen you as you cut each tie that causes you harm and set roots elsewhere. Thank God you are free!!! How blessed you are to no longer be chained to something so destructive. Keep pouring yourself in the good stuff and replacing what others meant for evil.

        In Genesis 50:20 (ESV) Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” With God you are the one who could have the true healing ministry for those who are hurt. You’re on the right path. Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Be in the presence of what is good and fill your heart, soul, mind and strength with only good things and people rather than these unhealthy connections that destroy. God bless you always.

  16. Georgette

    Gratefully yours; I am grateful and blessed for your wonderful words and encouragement! Thank you..thank you.

    • Sunflower

      Georgette, I just want to say that God does not put this man in that church position, man does. God gave us dominion, free will, and those in the church are choosing to ignore you and admire this man. God’s Word is clear that we are not to idolize men, but people do it all the time…….look at movie starts, sports stars……. and these men accept nothing less from others (especially women) than, “You are SO amazing!!”

    • Gratefully Yours

      You are most welcome my dear. So glad I could help a fellow sister. Hugs!

      • Phoebe

        Hi Georgette. I’m praying for you and for all on this blog. My heart aches with the stories. God knows our heart cries. Sometimes what we see is only a sliver of things. But God sees the whole in its entirety. God may use this position to expose. Or maybe not. We all know here He will do what is right and best though we may not understand right now. Cling to Him. Set guardrails. It’s ok to shun. But the most important is trust in God when we don’t know. Or don’t understand. The psalms speak of this.” Why does the wicked prosper?” , the psalmist asks. But In the end of the psalm he gains understanding psalm 73. Let us all encourage each other here with psalms and hymns. Prayer and understanding. For the Lord knows. He can make beauty out of the ashes of our lives. Love to all. May we grow in His grace. God bless you pastor Dave.

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