First of all, let me say that this post is not meant to tell you what to believe, sit in judgment of your beliefs or make myself out to have loftier spiritual beliefs than you if you don’t happen to have the beliefs I do. If you are still interested in reading on, please exchange my spiritual vernacular for your own.
This is a tough subject for alot of us. Before I even get into the principle of forgiveness let’s talk about the injustice narcissist’s dish out to their targets / victims indiscriminately.
Here are just a few injustices that narcissists inflict:
Infidelity Cheating partners out of finances Defamation, False Prosecution
Lying Smear campaigning Rumor spreading
Triangulation Backbiting Manipulating
Tricking Getting targets fired from jobs Turning children against you
Controlling Using others Verbal, Mental, Emotional & Physical Abuse
Threatening Soul Rape Identity thieving
Breaking someone Ruining relationships Abandoning / Discarding
Gaslighting Refusing to apologize Finger pointing and blaming
I’m sure I’ve missed a number of them, as narcissists are so lethal to other human beings, there are a plethora of transgressions not covered in this short list.
From the time we start interacting with a narcissist, our feelings are required to be suppressed in order to keep the narcissist comfortable with their view of reality. We were forced to play it small, stuff our thoughts, feelings, needs and wants, because a narcissist is not capable of sharing mutually within a relationship. When we have complaints or have boundaries that are crossed, our attempts to communicate those have the narcissist chastising and verbally berating us with put downs that discourage us from sharing again. The narcissist shows us that our honest expression will be met with abuse. With healthy communication squelched, our emotions become a pressure cooker waiting to blow. Sometimes the containment of our anger lasts for years.
When we’ve finally escaped the prison of the narcissistic relationship, we not only have the emotions we’ve long put a lid on, but with each new discovery about how ruthless and inhumane the narcissist really is, we process emotions that we weren’t prepared for: shock, disbelief, denial, hurt, abandonment, injustice, fear, and the most intense anger I believe a human being can feel. If you’ve ever experienced being betrayed, soul raped, identity thieved, robbed and then lied about and blamed by a person you called a close friend, this is the closest I can get to describing what narcissistic abuse feels like to those who haven’t experienced it.
We pass through many stages of grief and healing as we recover from this type of abuse. Although each stage feels like an eternity, we finally arrive at a place where we feel that we’ve gotten over most of the feelings, only to arrive at a place that requires we do something that feels like the impossible: Forgive the narcissist for their injustices.
I grapple even writing those words because honestly, in my anger and disgust over the things that narcissists get away with, they should be punished criminally and spiritually. I’d much rather put these soul sucking psychopaths away in prison or cordoned off to a penal colony / island with others like them so that they can experience the hell they put others through.
However, It all comes down to being people with integrity, people who take the high road, who don’t want to be attached through hatred or bitterness for the rest of our lives to the likes of a narcissist. It becomes another choice we make, another step we take, another classy thing we do in response to this abuse.
I’ve got to be honest. It is VERY VERY VERY difficult to let go of this anger. It seems that if I let go of the anger, that I will be enabling and allowing narcissists to get away these atrocities against people I care for and want to protect; myself included. If my anger has been channeled in order to advocate for all victims of narcissistic abuse, what happens when I let this go?
I am, willing to let go of any bitterness and unforgiveness that I have that could be harming myself and others. I want to face this injustice and anger. In the coming weeks, I will be exploring many techniques, tips, writings, as well as spiritual counseling to overcome the soul tie and trauma bond I have with the abuser and sharing my findings and research with all of you who are at this stage of recovery.
Below is a great article I found to get us started:
10 Keys to Forgiveness… A Christian Perspective
Emmett I. Aldrich
1) Let Go Of The Anger – Holding on to the anger that may be associated with an incident or experience that causes us hurt, can lead to hate, and perhaps a lingering desire for retaliation or revenge. This is destructive and causes an emotional drain on us even if we don’t realize it.
Dr. Michael Obsatz, in his book, Healing Our Anger: Seven Ways to Make Peace in a Hostile World indicates that there are eight types of anger (page 12). These include:
- Chronic anger is an ongoing feeling of resentment toward others.
- Volatile anger is explosive but comes and goes.
- Judgmental anger comes across in hypercritical statements.
- Passive anger is suppressed anger that is expressed indirectly.
- Overwhelmed anger arises when people believe they cannot handle the complexity of their circumstances.
- Retaliatory anger is specifically directed at another person or persons.
- Self-inflicted anger is directed at ourselves.
- Constructive anger is anger we put to positive uses.
With exception of this last type, most of these angers are destructive. Continuing to be angry over something that happened in the past, can be all consuming and distorts our ability to focus on happiness. Consequently, letting go of the anger is in our own best interest. We must let go of the anger for our mental and emotional well-being. In the language of today’s common phrases – “Get Over It.” Forgiveness gives you peace of mind and helps to let go of the anger.
2) Don’t Be Stubborn – For some reason, it seems to be a lot easier to hold on to the anger and hurt feelings associated with an injustice, and we can become comfortable with the feeling of retribution because we somehow want to punish the person that hurt us. After all, why should we be willing to forgive someone when what that person did or said was not our fault? We feel justified in our anger with the other person, so we feel that we have every right to be stubborn and locked into the position we are taking.
Don’t get stuck on your position for the mere sake of maintaining a position. Be willing to compromise in order to move forward. Stubbornness, like anger keeps us from moving beyond hurt feelings, and it also perpetuates a strained relationship.
3) Stop Thinking Of Yourself As A Victim – Generally, if we are angry with someone, it is because we feel that they have committed a serious wrong against us. Whether this feeling is real or perceived, we still feel that an injustice has been done, and that we have been treated unfairly. We can’t help but feel sorry for ourselves to some degree, and we expect others to feel sorry for us as well. This is perhaps the classic “victim mentality” which is easy to fall into when we feel an injustice has been done.
While this mentality may be soothing for a short period of time, unfortunately it keeps us from moving beyond the hurt that we feel. We remain caught-up in a state-of-mind that makes us hostile, cranky, untrusting and keeps us “looking over our shoulder” for fear that someone else may come along to hurt us.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, in his book titled, There Is No Future Without Forgiveness (page 272) [By the way, I highly recommend this book if you want to do more reading on Forgiveness] – Bishop Tutu tells a classic story of forgiveness about former soldiers visiting the Vietnam War Memorial, when one veteran asks another, “Have you forgiven those who held you as a prisoner of war? He replied, “I will never forgive them!” The other veteran responded, “Then it seems they still have you in prison, don’t they?” Years later he was still holding deep-seated resentment for what his captors had put him through.
Perhaps his friend’s comment helped him to start to think of his POW experience differently and to take responsibility for his own feelings. If we cannot get beyond the “victim mentality” we cannot expect to think about forgiving others.
4) Focus On The Future – Usually what has been done cannot be undone and dwelling on the past only perpetuates the hurt feelings that resulted from what caused the problem in the first place. Continually bringing up sore points or issues of the past will only make the rift larger.
Some time ago, I received one of those many email messages from someone who had too much time on their hands and sends email to everyone they know, usually all of their family and friends. Most of the time, I will just delete them after glancing at it just enough to get the gist of what it is about. One of the ones that I received had the title of, “Sand and Stone.”
The story tells of two friends who were walking through the desert. At some point during the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who was slapped was hurt but without saying a word, he wrote in the sand: “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.” They kept walking until they found an oasis where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire of the water and started drowning, but his friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: “Today my best friend saved my life.” The friend who had slapped, and then saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now you write on a stone, why?” The other friend replied: “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
5) Re-Learn to Trust OTHERS and ourselves
Additionally, re-learning to trust involves Trusting ourselves and TRUSTING OTHERS.
6) Be Reasonable in Your Expectations of Others – In the midst of anger, our emotions are high and frequently our judgment of fairness is clouded. We expect others to recognize the injustice they have done, and apologize immediately and profusely. We want the person to atone to us in some elaborate or excessive manner. The mind-set is that this is our way of ensuring that an apology is genuine if one is offered.
7) Expect That It Will Take Time To Forgive – At this point in time in human evolution, we have grown accustom to, and expect “quick fixes” and “instant gratification” for solutions to almost every problem. Healing from a hurt may generally come with the passage of time, but you must allow yourself time to reach the level of forgiveness appropriate for the circumstances. Deeply emotional circumstances or extremely sensitive hurts (such as the loss of a child or spouse to crime or spousal infidelity) will take time to move beyond the hurt before a person can even begin to consider forgiving those who caused the hurt.
Lesser transgressions on the other hand, such as hurtful words, comments or some actions are likely to be forgotten in a shorter period of time. Have you ever had another driver cut you off in traffic, and for an instant you are very angry because you felt that the person jeopardized your safety. But after a few blocks (or maybe even sooner) you have forgotten about it and refocused your attention on your driving. Generally, by the time you get where you are going, you have completely forgotten about the incident and may not even remember what kind of car the other person was driving.
Have you ever forgotten why you were angry with someone? You know that at the time, the person did something to make you angry, but months later you can’t remember what it was that made you so angry at the time. You may even feel that you should still be angry with the person now because whatever they did must have been so horrendous because you were really upset with them before. You remember that you are angry, but can’t remember why. If you can’t remember what it was about, perhaps you have already forgiven that person at least subconsciously in your mind – and perhaps in your heart you also let go of the anger without really acknowledging or realizing it.
8) Examine Your Heart – [This is one of the hardest] – Look within yourself to see if you are contributing to situations that you may later regret and will need to seek forgiveness. Is your behavior or off-handed comments contributing to a strained relationship? Think before you speak. While we have a constitutional right to the freedom of speech, we do not have an “inalienable right” to say what ever we want, any time we want, particularly if it may be hurtful. Would you be willing to forgive someone for the same offense you committed against someone else? – And would you expect the person offended to forgive you? The concept here is to be honest with yourself in considering your own behavior and whether it contributes to strained or hurtful relationships.
There are a number of every day values that we can follow to examine our hearts and take this inward look. These are not new to us, but we can use occasional reminders. While there are many more, here are 10 of those values to consider:
- Be tolerant of others
- Treat others like you want to be treated
- Be polite with your interactions
- Treat others with respect at all times
- Avoid criticizing others
- Don’t jump to conclusions
- Give others the benefit of the doubt as a matter of routine
- Be willing to overlook minor offenses
- Have a positive attitude
- Be willing to apologize
9) Let Forgiveness Become An Everyday Practice – What a transforming experience it would be in our lives if we were able to forgive someone immediately upon them committing the offense – without hanging on to the anger for a much longer period of time. This might be possible if we let forgiveness become an integral part of our lives and a guiding value to live by.
It takes a lot of energy to maintain resentment, anger or distrust. Instead of holding on to those negative feelings, why not refocus and redirect that energy into making a contribution of time and effort to a special cause or ministry? Why not use the energy to serve God? Let the focus become what you can do for others, rather than dwelling on the hurt and anger you feel because of an injustice. Count your blessings. Remember the good things about your life and don’t dwell on hurt feelings. Let forgiveness become an essential part of your life.
10) Ask God For Guidance – Being able to forgive or seek forgiveness is not just an intellectual decision, but there is also a spiritual dimension involved. In the parable of the unmerciful servant in the book of Matthew in the Bible, we find some guidance on how we should deal with forgiveness.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
This tends to suggest that forgiveness is limitless, and that we must be willing to forgive someone for a transgression time and time again without seeking retribution. This is a powerful message. For most of us, this standard may seem impossible to meet. Nonetheless, it sets-forth the objectives we should attempt to achieve in our lives. In order to achieve this level of forgiveness, we must pray for strength, patience and perseverance in our relationships that may require forgiveness.
In Mark 11:25, Christ tells us,
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In Luke 6:36-37, Christ admonishes us,
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
In the Book of Psalm we find this passage,
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”
If God kept an account of our sins, we would all be in trouble. But God both forgives and forgets our sins by not keeping a record of them. In turn, we receive power from God through Jesus Christ to forgive others, and to forget the hurts they might have caused.
In 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 Paul writes about the Ministry of Reconciliation. From this we learn that “God reconciled the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” The passage continues: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us.” This calls for us to be Christ-like in our behavior, and requires us to forgive others for the offenses they may commit against us.
In her book, Do it Yourself Conflict Resolution for Couples, Dr. Florence Bienenfeld points out that, “Forgiveness is a great healer. This involves forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and seeking forgiveness from others.” (Page 157).
While this article does not address self-forgiveness in any detail, we are called by God to forgive others and to seek forgiveness from others as noted in Matthew chapter 18 earlier. Furthermore, we cannot overlook the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).
Even if direct communications are difficult with a person we would like to forgive, we can forgive them in our heart without ever talking to them. When we realize that we have committed a wrong, we are compelled to express sincere regret and ask the person to, “please forgive me.”
On July 23, 2002, NBC News reported on the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken the foundations of the Catholic Church. The reporter noted that a sign in front of a Church displayed this phrase: “Its not about forgiveness, it’s about justice.” While the child abuses that have occurred are despicable, I don’t believe this is the posture God would have us take on forgiveness.
In Ephesians chapter 4:31-32, Paul tells us,
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgaveyou.”
Paul repeats this requirement in Colossians Chapter 3:12-14, where we find Rules for Holy Living. Paul writes,
“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ”
These passages from the Apostle Paul call for us to use the example of God’s forgiveness and love for us, as the model for our own behavior in forgiving others. Above all, while God has already forgiven us for our sins, we must continually ask for his forgiveness in order for us to model his love.
Forgiveness ensures the presence of God in our lives. As Christ died on the cross for our sins, we receive divine forgiveness from him.