Do Narcissists Know Right From Wrong?

zari-ballard-quote-narcissismOne of the most frequent questions I get asked about narcissists is whether or not they know right from wrong. It appears, obviously, that they don’t because how else could they possibly keep doing all those hurtful things over and over and over? Some people (i.e. experts) will say that they don’t as well…that narcissists can’t differentiate between the two and therefore the consequences of their actions have no meaning. Well, I have a different theory and it’s fairly simple: Narcissists know right from wrong…they just don’t give a shit. To me, this explains a whole lot more about the behaviors of these people than giving them what I call the psychological “Jesus” pass. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. I don’t think so! [By the way, I don’t believe we have to forgive narcissists either and you can read about that here]

What people seem to forget is that narcissists are grown up members of society. They know enough about the world to blend in seamlessly or else we would have never have found them. Certainly they know enough about people to know that mimicking certain emotions and producing certain narcissistic behaviors will bring about certain results and they do this beautifully. My ex marveled at his own ability “to read a person in five minutes” and he bragged about it regularly. This is what they do. This is who they are. Of course they know right from wrong…they just don’t care! If what they want to do happens to be the wrong thing, oh well. That’s just the way it goes. In a narcissist’s twisted mind, the impulse – no matter what it is – is well worth the consequence.

Now, we all know that narcissists and sociopaths don’t feel empathy and sympathy which is why our feelings about their behaviors mean absolutely nothing. So the next question to ask is Okay, so they know right from wrong and they don’t care. But do they ever feel guilt? To this, the experts will often say no and, based on this lack of empathy and sympathy in a narcissist, this would appear to be the logical answer. I actually have another theory which, to me, explains so many of those behaviors from the narcissist that we can’t explain. I actually believe that narcissists, indeed, do feel guilt…just not the same type of guilt as we, as normal people, will feel when we hurt someone or do the wrong thing. What we feel is remorseful guilt which is the type of guilt that makes us feel bad, see the error of our ways and change it, ask for forgiveness, and so forth. What narcissists and sociopaths feel is what I call inconvenient guilt and this is very, very different. Inconvenient guilt goes along with my “knowing right from wrong and not giving a shit” theory. Allow me to explain…

Think back to a time period when you and your narcissist were actually getting along and suddenly, one day, out-of-the-blue he just starts treating you like shit. Everything you say is wrong and  you get the feeling that he (or she!) is trying to start a fight but having difficulty finding a reason to do it. In my mind, THIS is the behavior of someone (a narcissist, of course) who is having inconvenient guilt.  Inconvenient guilt is usually what happens right before a silent treatment because the narcissist absolutely knows he is going to go silent….that he is setting up and he knows it’s wrong and that he doesn’t give a shit. He’s feeling guilty alright but, believe me, he’s finding this guilt mighty inconvenient!  In fact, he’s finding it so inconvenient that he’s going to take his frustration out on YOU, the very person that he will soon betray. In doing so, he may even convince himself that you really are annoying him and he has every reason in the world to leave!  Either way, his main goal is to get the fight going or to get you crying and confused so he can leave and get his party started. A narcissist hates inconvenient guilt because it reminds him that what he is doing is wrong and that he doesn’t give a shit about doing it. Does inconvenient guilt ever make him think twice about what he is about to do? Of course not because inconvenient guilt is very different from remorseful guilt…and because he (or she!) is a narcissist!

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So, expert theories aside (and I’m no expert!), let’s stop giving narcissist’s a “Jesus Pass” when it comes to their knowledge of right and wrong. They know right from wrong, they just don’t give a flying fuck. And the next time – today or tomorrow – a narcissist starts treating you horribly for no reason at all, stop trying to figure it out. No more suffering! Don’t blame yourself or go silent trying to make nice because it’s not you at all. Rather, look him right in the eye and say, “You can stop this right now because I’m on to you motherfucker” or, better yet, you can show him the door and go on about your life. You don’t have to stay with a narcissist – not for love or for anything at all. Either way, a narcissist is going to do what a narcissist is going to do and what we allow will continue. By understanding the enemy, doing the right thing for ourselves becomes our only logical reaction to any and all situations. With a narcissist (especially!), this should be an absolute no-brainer.




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  • LizD

    January 1, 2018 at 8:21 am Reply

    Happy New Year Zari!! So glad to see you are fighting the good fight. Your understanding of Narcissists surpasses all. Just wanted to say to all your readers that life will get so much better when you free yourselves of the toxic hold of a narcissist. May 2018 bring you blessings and more importantly peace in your life. Love u Zari xo

    • Zari Ballard

      January 10, 2018 at 6:19 pm Reply

      Same to you, Liz:) Thank u for making my day:)…xo

    • Sick of BS

      January 12, 2018 at 1:46 am Reply

      There is NOTHING worse when a Narc or sociopathic male enters our lives as women (& I u/stand there is a male abuse issue with females with this DISORDER….but is IS just a 1/4 what females have to face). I’m NOT so sure the disorder was born (esp Narcs cf sociopaths)…but what I DO KNOW….it doesn’t change after full brain devt of 25yo…NEVER! NO LOVE, NO care changes these men on ideas of women…wh IS – they believe ALL women are a commodity to be USED & so played. They believe ALL women are dumb (even with education)….if they can just get them into bed with them. There is science that we (as women) do BOND thru that act if there was a sign of caring from them & that’s where WE need to be more AWARE. These type of men DON’T care…EVER!
      Now with-holding sex on new relationships sounds HORRIBLE….esp if they’ve been nice & ur like him….but lets face it ladies…men have been abusing sex for YRS. U feel horny…do what they do….& have NO shame to have toys. Play them out until U know.
      Trouble with a Narc or sociopath…he’d like U to have toys & make U feel bad about it….BUT he’s just an IDIOT. Don’t WORRY if he thinks U’r a whore…he thought that from the BEGINNING….& he’s a whore himself…in the REAL sense…he USES ppl.

    • Sick of BS

      January 12, 2018 at 2:00 am Reply

      Most of ALL understand…NARCS & sociopaths are unfeeling ATTENTION junkies….go look up Sam Vaknin…self-confessed. We ALL like a lil attention…..just make sure it don’t fall into the prey of an UNCARING person on the PSYCHOPATH spectrum.

  • Brian Evans

    December 21, 2017 at 12:43 am Reply

    Hi Zari,
    I just bought your book: When evil is a pretty face.
    Only got as far as the introduction and I am brought to tears… tears of joy!
    Joy that someone really does understand… even better than I do about the female N.
    I was married to her for 22 years before I finally faced The reality that change would never happen and my Love for her meant nothing more to her than a weakness to be exploited.
    I fled on 20th March this year to go into a male rufuge after all those years of toxicity and abuse. Verbal, physical and emotional… all this and much more whilst she plays the victim to everyone. One time I called The Police after one of her attacks, she was in our kitchen with the senior of the two Police Officer alone for maybe 5 mins. Much to his colleagues amazement he then came bursting into my living room shouting at me and it was clear that she had manipulated him into disregarding his professional duty. (She told me she likes men in uniform, and had also had one of her many affairs with a married one soon after we were married)
    I cannot wait to read your book over the next day or two.
    I went no contact once I left, but I miss our children so much. I hung in partly as long as I did for them. Our youngest was almost 16 when I left. She has been poisened with many blattent lies and won’t talk to me. Same with our other two older boys. It breaks my heart.
    Thank you Zari for all that you do for us all and God bless you.
    Warmest wishes,

    • Zari Ballard

      December 29, 2017 at 6:23 pm Reply

      Hi Brian,

      I do understand and I will always feel that then male victims of this abuse suffer so much more because of the pure evil of the female narc. I am grateful that you have escaped but very sad for you how you miss your children. I pray that one day they will see it clearly…chances are that they will. If you ever feel like talking about it, consider booking a session with me. I want you to be happy in the coming year with no more tears. I’d be happy to help in any way that I can. Thank you so much for writing, brother…

      Zari xo

  • Kim

    November 11, 2017 at 1:40 pm Reply

    They absolutely know right from wrong. That’s why in the beginning, before the mask comes off, they pretend to be what they are not. Once they get you, the mask comes off. They know what society thinks of cheaters, liars, manipulators, etc. So they pretend to be what society accepts. Empathetic, hard working, man/woman of their word, faithful, considerate, etc. But they are none of those things and once you have fallen for them, you see what they are.

    • Zari Ballard

      November 13, 2017 at 1:19 am Reply

      Yup, Kim…you get it…you are EXACTLY right…..xo

    • Sick of BS

      December 8, 2017 at 1:00 am Reply

      Yep, U put it in a nutshell, Kim. The only BIG difference on the spectrum of Narcissists & Sociopaths….while they are still quite the SAME mindset & NEITHER capable of love or any empathy for another…Narcs NEED CONSTANT adulation supply (they are “attention junkies” – see Sam Vaknin on that one, proclaimed one himself, it’s their WHOLE drive)….they even enjoy playing with the doubtful of their behaviour….where Sociopaths (absolute Narcs & functional unjailed psychopaths) can be JUST as charming to get attention & adulation yet couldn’t care either way, if they got your attention or not… like Narcs, they’ll just dump & discard U…yet have a more sadistic way of getting back on U, even if U never discarded them…yet they sense U worked them out – so, they feel some payback is needed, now knowing UR secrets….& U never even overly reacted about the breakup…just was left emotionally HURT.
      JUST MEAN horrible men…but sadly, they are ALL MEAN on this particular spectrum & just self-serving…& what U MOST have to understand…UNCHANGEABLE…it’s seriously MIS-WIRED in their heads…totally UNCHANGEABLE….NO matter how good-looking, U think they are….or how NICE U think they could be. It’s a PERSONALITY DISORDER…it IS what it IS….like a seriously brain damaged person….U just CAN’T love them out of it…if that emotional part was destroyed. And that IS the hardest part to accept. They looked normal, they sorta behaved normal at the start, even seemed fun….& then, they just got WEIRD!

      • Sick of BS

        December 8, 2017 at 3:36 am Reply

        All I say is STOP making excuses for BAD behaviour. Yeah it can seem HARD to be on ur OWN…but unless U learn how to…& really LOVE it…U got nothing to offer & nothing to be PROUD of to protect…that is a NARC’s opening. SO,DON’T give it. Play with him if U must…BUT KNOW urself & know u will NEVER let urself be a TOOL. U WILL DIE one day….& let’s hope U can look back & smile…& not find U became a prisoner to someone else’s enjoyment & all U found was HURT. U have a right to LIVE UR life….so, find it without need of someone else…then see who comes running…and if they DON’T…too bad…they missed something FAB.

  • Mars Petard

    October 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm Reply

    you will never know how wrong you are. my mom is a narcissist, and I know better, after 63 yrs of dealing with her

    • Zari Ballard

      October 16, 2017 at 5:46 pm Reply

      Hi Mars,

      Female narcissists are the worst of the worst and when they are adults and have to blend into society, they absolutely know right from wrong. They just don’t care…the “rules” do not apply to them and they feel falsely entitled to break them at anyone’s expense. You can think that she doesn’t know what she’s doing or that she doesn’t know right from wrong but that’s actually how she gets a free pass. She can hurt someone and then just give them a blank stare when called out as if she hadn’t a clue what they’re talking about. Narcs do it all the time. They DO know right from wrong, they just don’t give a shit. They simply want to do what they want to do.


      • Leila

        October 16, 2017 at 6:32 pm Reply

        They do know right from wrong but they have to control and feel safe. Then they forget their lies and mixed up stories.

  • Leila

    October 12, 2017 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Had my last phone call and date with the narc in my life very recently. 4 months of daily writing on a dating service, texting, thought i really knew him. He is long distance. Then 4 months of an intense relationship. With little, subtle controlling things, once said ” I only want to see you once a month.” never a reason why. Next wek he repeated it and said, maybe he would be the one uncomfortable. He lived 1 hour and 20″ from me. He finally drove me crazy enough where I reacted. He said when he got to the door, I’m leaving, not staying. Took the few things he left and ghosted me for 9 months. never answering anything from me. His good bye letter was full of mixed messages, let the dust fall, I’ll be back, don’t know when, we’ll do all the things we did as friends.’ All this happened after a text that he loved me and was commited to me. I knew I had to observe him and see him one more time to heal. What I saw after almost 10 months: he aged so much in the year, he looks sad, he said he was dishonest and did not want a commitment, he threw another lady in my face, said I was the target of his sexual obsession. He started to comment on my face book. I told him I did not go after men who did not want me, that I no longer had those thoughts, I do not bark up the wrong tree and am not like his lady friend ( a friend he only allows so close) I have a sense of freedom, am a little angry, with him, myself but have grown and changed thru the months. I can now have NO desire to reach him, see him, write to him. I can give hm to God. I can’t fix him and won’t try. what a 10 month rollar coaster. Intense relationship. I always blamed myself as the reason he walked out was my mouth. But it wasn’t, it was his inability to not get what he wanted, a docile gal building him up when he pulled a few things. I really do not think he will pull anything. His apology was really lame!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks for the articles.

    • Zari Ballard

      November 12, 2017 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Hi Leila,

      You are spot-on, girl. You deserve to be treated in a respectful, genuine manner and that’s not what he did. You put down boundaries and too bad for him. It WAS a lame apology and you did the right thing! Good for you!

      Zari xo

  • My Sister is a Narcissist

    October 3, 2017 at 12:31 am Reply

    I 100% agree with what you’ve said Zari. 🙂 Narcissists know what’s right from wrong. They just don’t give a sh*t. Even if they’re family is already affected and suffering with the consequences of what they’re doing, still they don’t have empathy. Heartless in other words. What they do is all about them.

    • Zari Ballard

      October 9, 2017 at 7:11 pm Reply

      Hi My Sister is a Narcissist…(shhhh…so is mine! Heartless is the word for it.)….xo

    • Mars Petard

      October 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm Reply

      if you listened to yourself, you are saying that your sister is different than you bc (list of narcissist’s characteristics) she is mentally ill. Narcissists are not normal people, they are classified a Custer B personality disorders. How can you expect pears from an apple tree? If they produced what you expect, apples, they would not be narcissists.

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