It’s Narcissist Friday!
(The following was posted a few years ago, but it seemed important to share it again. I pray for all of you at this special time of the year.)
For Christians, Good Friday reminds us of the day Jesus went to the cross for us. We who were sinners, broken and hurting others in our brokenness, needed something more than we could ever get for ourselves. Although we needed a change of thinking, we needed more than new ideas. Although we needed forgiveness, we needed more than just cleansing from our sin. We needed new life.
When Jesus came, He came to give us life. The primary message of the passion is the message of the cost of that life. Jesus suffered, bled, and died to give us life. His life. Life in relationship with Him.
Thinking Christians are aware of the great love our Lord has for us. We are only able to come into His presence, to seek what we need, because of that love. That love makes all the difference. We who deserve nothing from the Almighty God, receive everything because of that love. No matter what we have done, He loves us. No matter what we are doing or will do, He still loves us. That kind of love humbles us.
Then we look at the people around us and we are impressed that we, who have received such love, ought to love them. Even the most difficult people in our lives. Even the narcissists. And then we feel guilty.
Fairly often someone asks me how to love a narcissist. I flippantly answer, “From a distance!” I am not being facetious, though. Sometimes the only way to keep loving is to keep that distance.
So how do we, as Christians, love the narcissists? How do we show them the kind of love Jesus showed us?
1. You are not Jesus. You will never be able to give the narcissist what he/she needs. Your love will never be enough. The best you can do is bring the narcissist to Jesus for His love. But even that result is not in your hands.
2. Love does not always demand your presence. I am impressed with how often Jesus withdrew from the people. He was human and needed rest and space. (Luke 5:16) He took care of Himself. How can you get by with less?
3. Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people. (John 2:24) That means that He did not allow them to command His time and energy or to decide His purpose. He did not allow them to define Him. Narcissists are driven to control. You don’t have to let them control you.
4. Jesus knew the truth and spoke the truth about people. (John 8:44) He said hard things that people did not want to hear. Then He allowed them to accept or reject His words. He knew that some people lied when they expressed their affection for or interest in Him. He knew they just wanted to use Him.
5. Jesus understood that there was a time to walk away. (Mark 6:11) Those who did not want a relationship with Him were free to go their way without Him. Let Him lead you to know when that time will be. It may be that He tells you to stay longer, and He may give you freedom to leave.
Now, my point with all of this is to say that the One who is love most amazing, who loves most generously, who gives and serves most sacrificially—even He allowed limits. There was nothing He would not do for them, but only if it would truly help them. He didn’t walk around giving money to everyone or even healing everyone. He reached out to those who wanted what He offered. He would forgive them, empower them, set them free—if they wanted. If they didn’t want it, He would respect them and Himself enough to walk away. And, all the while, He was loving them.
When we talk about unconditional love, we often think that means putting up with anything no matter what the outcome. But when it becomes clear that it is not helping for us to continue and that the person we are trying to love is not willing to receive what we offer, then there comes a time to walk away. And, even then, we can love them. We can continue to pray for them, to bring them to Jesus. We can do that from a distance. We can be safe and productive and never see the person—and still love them. But we don’t have to continue to put up with their abuse.
Narcissists may say they want a relationship with you, but they only want someone to serve them. They need people to use. Allowing them to use you is not love. They want your service, loyalty, and energy–not your love. Your love offers relationship.
It is not love that moves a person to become passive and victimized in a relationship. Love means offering something of yourself to another. If you have no more to give, or if what you give is never enough, perhaps the problem is not yours. Perhaps what keeps you in the abusive relationship is guilt or shame or fear or desire, but it isn’t love. Duty is not love.
Over the past few years I have worked to respond to a movement in the culture that says God saves people even when they don’t want Him to. There are teachers who say that God will somehow, someday, make everyone respond to His love. But that is not love. That is control.
The One who went to the cross for you and me, offers His love freely and allows us to accept or reject what He wants to give. The truth reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw: “Not all sinners want to be forgiven.” And there it is. Jesus offers forgiveness in a relationship. Those who want the life He offers, will find the forgiveness that comes with it. There is no end to the love of God and no limit other than respect, respect for the will of those who want no part of relationship.
Sometimes people just want to take your time, money, loyalty, service, and anything else they can get. They don’t want your love, your life. They just want to use you. They don’t want a relationship with you as a person. Love is relationship. Love is sharing. That’s what Jesus offers to all of us. That’s what you offer to the narcissist. But when it is clear that the one to whom love is offered really doesn’t want it, it may be time to move on.
14 responses to “Unconditional Love”
Awesome post! Thank you once again.
Dave – I have been receiving your posts for a few years now and I just want to say that this is the best one ever! You addressed the crux of the matter when it comes to being a Christian while being in a relationship with a narcissist. When we ponder what Jesus did for us, while we were yet sinners, we feel obligated to continue to love others no matter how unhealthy or painful the consequences. But you gave us a much more comprehensive and realistic view of what that unconditional love of Jesus looks like. This truth is so important because I really believe that the enemy twists the teaching of scripture for his own purposes – to kill, steal and destroy. Those post is worth reading once a week as a reminder! Thank you – God used your body, mind and spirit to speak truth into my life today!
I agree with everything Cookie said. Great post. Thank you, Pastor Dave, and thank you, Cookie.
Christ is risen indeed!
Dear Dave. I agree wholeheartedly with Cookie. This is an excellent post. Thank you for speaking the truth about Jesus. Thank you for speaking the truth about narcissists.
Thank you for your timely post. The Lord used it today in my life and has given me grace and peace to settle my heart.I am going to save this one for a very long time and reread it during weak moments. When I am weak, the Lord reminds me of my twin sister’s inability to have a meaningful relationship with me at this time. She is lost (unsaved) and needs Christ. The most loving thing I can do is to give her to God in prayer and let God work in her life. Thank you again and God Bless. Tara
Wow, I was practically begging God yesterday for answers to everything that you addressed in this post, especially the “Guilt”! I agree with what the other ladies said, no need to repeat.
May the Father bless you this Resurrection season, you are truly doing what He has sent you to do Dave. No doubt you will hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
He Is Risen Indeed!!!!!!!
It seems every Easter there is a heightened awareness of God doing something great and this post by Dave was certainly one of them. Dave’s words are the icing on my cake during a week of heightened discovery.
God prepared me for Dave’s article a few days ago when I read Dan Allendar’s “Bold Love” description of people who are Evil, Fools, Simpletons and Wise and how to “love them”. I learned on page 281 “the temptation to create conversations that are designed to get the fool ‘to see’ is stronger than the most addictive drug known to humankind…and it must be resisted, fought, and fled from…or else the fool will trample over the pearls spread before his cloven feet. If and when a fool begins to feel some sadness over his sin, discussion should be poignant, penetrating, and visionary.”
“Holy Thursday” was the 20th Anniversary of the day I became engaged to my covert narcissist husband who notified me 2/15/18 he wants a divorce next year after the kids graduate from homeschool H.S. He’d ignored me for Christmas and Valentine’s so I knew something was up, then after our 2/15 talk he bought himself a speed boat… Having women pray for me this week, I made time for more discussion on that special day and had my husband take a Leslie Vernick Top 5 values test. Though “having companionship” and “loving someone” were on my top 5 they were bereft from his which were more self-serving and detached. It seems these talks of divorce actually create more respect in his treatment of me because they support his drive to be detached so I’m treated better like one of the “outsiders” he impresses. Finding comfort in Abigail’s story of heroism as she lived in truth while married to Nabal, I’m no longer afraid of the future and confident in who I am as a valuable person.
Looking to the future and wondering how I got here so I can avoid another repeat, I’ve puzzled over my pattern of loving husband’s who don’t love back. Then this morning I realized the way my narcissist parents raised me, they always supported one of my “bully siblings” and overlooked the anguish and damage he was doing to my heart. My mom over-rode my feelings of dislike and insisted I didn’t hate him but that I loved him. Repeated over and over, this twisted pattern bred narcissism and the reason I didn’t see red flags but followed that pattern into adulthood. My brother still emotionally bullies my mom with her support and I’m being divorced from my 2nd narcissist husband (first was a more obvious overt narcissist and I was out in 7 years, but I didn’t know about narcissism till three years ago so I fell right back into it when I thought I was completely avoiding another bad marriage). Now I see I believed the lie that it was more important that I love others than whether or not they loved me. That’s my mom’s theme song but it’s not the song of Jesus as He wants me to love and be loved. He too reaches out His loving arms calling to every one of us in Luke 13:34 “…how I’ve longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” and it is up to us to reach back and take Him in. That is love. That is a marriage. A relationship in which the aroma of love is found in the embrace of living forgiven rather than perfect. It is Grace for my Heart.
Once more I am grateful for your words and the comments which have sustained me as we navigate this life together. It will be exciting to meet and greet all of you in Heaven with a big hug. I wish you all a glorious Easter weekend and much love resting in the arms of our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, our Messiah, our Christ, our redeeming Savior. Bless you all!
thankyou Dave- I sat in our Good Friday service and rightly focusing on God’s amazing grace and unconditional love and couldn’t help but wrestle with those questions you have addressed here- thankyou, your words are like healing balm to my soul. Blessings to you and yours this Easter
Thank you for helping to clarify things like duty and relationships and unconditional love. I was ready for this post. The comments were also helpful. God bless.
I’ve been contemplating this post for 2 days. Please pray for me. I want to leave, but don’t see a way to do so. When someone ruins every dinner conversation, can’t be trusted to not have inappropriate behavior in public, much less in private, when the kids won’t come to visit because their dad makes it so unpleasant, it’s probably time for a change. It just seems too overwhelming after almost 3 decades.
this is a great reminder thank you pastor Dave. almost finished your book it helped me feel lifted above the problems and see our value , thank you its a blessing
I would like to share an amazing worship song ;