It’s Narcissist Friday!
“Vengeance is fine, says the Lord.” Oops! That isn’t quite right, is it? The verse says this:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19
We are instructed not to seek vengeance, not even against the narcissists in our lives. But isn’t that hard?!? I remember Sam Vaknin saying something like: “the most common reaction of a person who realizes that he/she has been victimized by a narcissist is rage.” I haven’t quoted that precisely, but that’s what opened my eyes to what I was seeing in the counseling that began my study of this type of abuse.
And rage desires vengeance.
Well, we understand some of the reasons why we should not seek vengeance, don’t we? It lowers us to the level of those who hurt us. It rarely accomplishes what we think it should. It often hurts others the abuser has gathered to his life. But let me add that attempting vengeance against a narcissist rarely works. The narcissist is way ahead of you. He/she has played the game much longer and is far more ruthless than you would be. Many could tell stories of how their vengeance backfired because the narcissist’s image was so strong. Now the friends you used to share see you as the dangerous one, for example. Now the resources you wasted in your fruitless attempt at vengeance are gone, and you have less.
No, vengeance won’t solve anything. But let’s define vengeance here. What I am talking about is my desire to hurt someone in the way or at the level in which that person hurt me. My desire to make them feel the pain and grief and loss I have felt. If I want vengeance, I want to be the cause of their pain. I want that person to look me in the eyes and realize I am repaying the abuse he/she gave to me. And, even as I write those words, I realize why I can’t be in charge of vengeance. That isn’t me; it shouldn’t become me; I don’t want it to ever be me.
But the narcissist may still get what’s coming to him. It isn’t that vengeance is wrong. It’s that it is not ours. Evil does come with a price. Those who do not come to Jesus, confessing sin and yielding to Him, will pay a price for their sins. That is something the church has taught from Scripture from the beginning. But this is in the hands of God.
At the same time, there are a couple of things that should be made clear. Sometimes teachers and other believers add to our burdens by making wrong connections. They prohibit actions that are not prohibited by the Scriptures.
For example, should an abused wife seek a significant settlement from her cruel husband in a divorce or separation? Should she go before the authorities to force him to provide care for her and her children? Some people say that isn’t right, that it falls within the desire for vengeance.
But a narcissist father and husband may have an amazing ability to walk away from his responsibilities—and will do so if he can. So, yes, she should sue him at court if necessary. A father has a responsibility to provide for his children. A husband has a responsibility to care for his wife, even when his mistreatment of her drives her away. This is not vengeance, nor even justice. This is using proper authority to enforce what should be enforced. Don’t let anyone suggest that this is somehow tied to vengeance.
Should you report the illegal actions of a boss or co-worker? Should you expect repayment of debts made by narcissists? Should you hold narcissists accountable to the same reasonable expectations the rest of us live under? Yes, yes, and yes. These things are not vengeance.
Some of these same teachers and believers want us to feel bad if the narcissist ever does receive punishment or consequences for his actions. We cannot rejoice in the pain of others, they say. Love does not rejoice in justice, they say. And, when they say these things, they bind us unnecessarily.
God does not do wrong. If He allows someone to suffer for their own actions, that is not wrong. God does love the narcissist and desires that the narcissist would repent and turn in humility to Him. God would quickly forgive and receive the narcissist in love. But apart from that, the narcissist will receive just consequences for the life he/she has lived.
If we see someone humbled after a career of abuse and lies, it is not wrong for us to feel a sense of satisfaction. Sadness, yes. I suppose. I would always rather see someone repent and turn to Jesus than suffer for sin. But there is a sense of vindication when others see what you have seen, when the narcissist is exposed. And that sense of vindication is not wrong.
What do you think of this:
LORD All-Powerful, you test good people; you look deeply into the heart and mind of a person. I have told you my arguments against these people, so let me see you give them the punishment they deserve. Jeremiah 20:12 (NCV)
Jeremiah even made this a matter of prayer. Again, I would rather see a person change than suffer, even if the suffering is deserved. But it is far better to take your desire for vengeance to the Lord and lay it in His hands.
Let’s be honest. These people can cause great pain. They are cruel and uncaring. When they are done using one person or group, they move on to another. How can it be wrong for us to pray that they would be exposed and stopped? How can it be wrong for us to pray that they would feel something of what they made others feel? Yes, our first desire should be for the narcissist to change, but sometimes the only way for them to want change is to begin to see the truth about themselves. Exposure, humiliation, legal consequences—these are often the way change begins. There is nothing wrong with being encouraged when we see these things happen.
Allow the Lord to choose the time and method. Give the right of vengeance to Him and trust Him. He knows what you have been through, and He loves you. He will care for you—whatever He chooses to do with the narcissist. You may not get to see what happens. In fact, you may think that nothing happens. Just trust the Lord.
Vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to you and me. But it does belong to Him, and when He allows pain and recompense to come into the life of the abuser, it is good.