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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  • Christine

    August 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm Reply

    Oh, narcissists don’t deserve any “Jesus pass” at all! If they didn’t know right from wrong, how do they seduce victims during the idealization phase? They obviously know enough about human nature to tell us what we want to hear and get us “hooked”.

    They also tend to intermingle “good” times with the bad ones. During the devaluation, they know when they’ve been bad and might cause us to leave–so then, they’ll give us brief glimpses of the idealization phase to keep us hooked, until they’re ready with our replacements and can discard us. Or look at how they put on the sweet act during their “hoovers” afterwards–again, because they know they treated us badly, so they need to pour that act on to get us to return. I swear the narcissist just sensed when he’d gone too far and that I wanted to leave. So then, he poured on the sweet act again to get me to stay longer. This is why I blocked him after leaving for good, to prevent myself from falling for that again. No one can pull off this type of manipulation without knowing right from wrong.

    So leave and don’t look back. They DO know right from wrong. So they COULD treat you well…but they CHOOSE NOT TO! So people have NOTHING to feel guilty about for leaving them. They chose to treat you badly, so they brought the consequences on themselves with you leaving.

    Do as I both say AND do…leave, don’t look back, then move on to a healthy relationship with someone who treats you like gold, as you deserve (or, if you want to stay single that’s great too…but whether you move on to another relationship or not, just do NOT stay with the narcissist no matter what)

    • Over and Out

      August 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm Reply

      I totally agree. I had a book about narcissists and he asked to borrow it. I swear he reads and knows exactly what to do. I have always send he is totally aware of what he is doing. It’s a game. He even told a girl that he lies to manipulate and get what he wants. I have left but still see his posts in fb. Still hard for me to give that up yet it is painful to see all his activities and all the people that adore him. But you are correct…leave and don’t look back.

    • Zari Ballard

      August 7, 2017 at 10:16 pm Reply

      That’s it, girl….leave and never look back. It’s the only way…..xo

  • Jenny

    August 5, 2017 at 11:01 pm Reply

    My ex narcissist husband knows what “society” says is right and wrong and will act accordingly when the situation calls for it. Or in other words, he’ll do what’s “right” if it benefits him in some way to do so. I don’t however believe that he personally agrees with what most of us would say is the right thing to do. His moral compass is turned around. It points towards him. Only HE determines what’s right in his world. Therefore, I believe narcissists know exactly what they are doing. It’s a choice. Especially if they are super intelligent like mine is (summa cum laude.) I believe they are always planning. The Puppet Master at work. It’s all acting to them. Deciding what role to play, lover or torturer. Or as I like to call it, The ___ Show. Seriously, what consequences do they actually experience? Those of us who give them narcissistic supply are usually so well trained to forgive and forget, that they never experience any negative consequences for their atrocious behavior.

    • Zari Ballard

      August 7, 2017 at 4:39 am Reply

      Hi Jenny,

      I don’t believe that narcs personally agree with what most of us would say is the right thing to do either. However, they do know what those “right” things are and will – reluctantly and periodically – concede in order to meet the status quo that is beneficial. As for negative consequences, they do occur (getting fired, losing a friend, losing a lover, etc.) but because a narc feels no attachment to anything, they simply shrug their shoulders and move along as if it was no big deal (because, of course, it wasn’t). The PAIN of the HIS consequence is subsequently felt by everyone else. Does that make sense? It’s so twisted and convoluted even I can’t find the right words to describe. Yikes!! …..Thanks for sharing, girl!…xxoo

  • Finally Free - Long Gone

    August 5, 2017 at 3:42 pm Reply

    Zari, have you ever thought of having a podcast!? You could reach so many people that way!! Every word of this is spot on (as always). My narc is long gone (though time spent with his mom still goes on because she’s a patient at the office I work in) so it’s unavoidable but for the most part she’s let go of the antics (fake crying etc). I still enjoy reading your posts and will forever wish I had found you sooner but still ridiculously grateful I did find you even if some damage had been done (could’ve been worse and for much much longer)! So thanks for these articles that I know will impact so many who NEED to KNOW!! Hope you are well ! 😊💓

    • Zari Ballard

      August 7, 2017 at 4:29 am Reply

      Thank you for the motivation, Finally Free….I’m working on my podcast series I swear! I’m just not going fast enough. Hope to have a few up within the next month or so and then I’ll keep them coming. I will also be doing a video series as well so stay tuned….xxoo

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