Narcissist Abuse & The Truth About Forgiveness

zari-ballard-quoteOnce again, I’m compelled to present a slightly offbeat perspective to an aspect of the narcissist abuse recovery process – and this time it’s about forgiveness. Like many of my perspectives, this one differs greatly from the norm in that it doesn’t subscribe to any part of a “victim blame” philosophy. To the contrary, it makes the process of recovery easier by suggesting that victims can skip the most spiritually nefarious step entirely. Okay…so hear me out…

Several people that I “counsel” regularly have been entertaining a notion that is widely popular in mainstream self-help circles and it is this: that to fully heal and recover from a break-up with the narcissist, we will first have to actually forgive him. After all, it is explained, the narcissist is suffering…he just doesn’t know it. Wait..What? Needless to say, I don’t see it this way and will quickly (and enthusiastically!) nip this notion in the bud during each consultation, thankfully changing a few minds in the process. Here in this article, by presenting that same argument, I absolutely intend to change a few more.

zari-ballard-consult-supportIn a nutshell, the core of my theory on forgiveness is this: you don’t have to forgive a narcissist for all the pain he has caused you. You don’t have to feel compassion about the fact that he can never truly feeeeeeel love. You don’t have to be sympathetic anymore towards the bad childhood that he can’t seem to get over. You don’t have to do any of this. Well, what about the ‘ole “forgive but not forget” thing? Can I do that? Well, what’s the point of forgiving if you’re not going to forget? The “forgive but not forget” strategy is what we use throughout the entire relationship. All it means is that we forgive the narcissist just enough to take him back and then we make ourselves sick not forgetting what he did. Hmmmm…it didn’t work for me. How’d it work for you? However, now, I’m making it easy for everyone by suggesting that, when it comes to the narcissist’s very special brand of evil, we don’t even have to forgive. 

Did anyone see the recent story in the news about a father who was giving an impact statement in court just prior to the judge’s sentencing of his young daughter’s killer? This psychopath had killed 4 girls in the most brutal of ways and had been found guilty just months before. As is the norm, parents and family members of the victims are given time to stand before both the judge and killer and say whatever is on their mind. It’s often very hard to watch. Well, this dad is standing at a podium facing the judge with the killer seated directly behind him handcuffed at the lawyers table. As the dad begins to speak, he turns to face his daughter’s killer and the motherfucker grins at him. An evil “I-live-to-see-you-suffer” grin for all the world to see. This dad literally leaps up and dives head first over the table grabbing at the prisoner. The killer, still smiling, jumps up and out of the way and chaos ensues. The cops, of course, bear down on this poor father who is horribly distraught. He saw that grin and wanted to destroy it. The cops bodily remove this dad from the both courtroom AND courthouse and he never gets to say his peace. SHOULD THIS KILLER BE FORGIVEN?? He’s obviously a narcissist, sociopath, and psychopath all rolled into one and I bet there’s even a bad childhood behind it. DOES THAT MATTER?

So, now swap the psychopath with your narcissist. Sure, your narc didn’t kill anybody but you can bet he loves to see you suffer. With glee, he destroyed your sanity and squashed your self-esteem. He made you doubt yourself and what you knew to be true. He was a pathological liar who managed down your expectations so he could get away with everything. He thought nothing of disappearing without a word, leaving you in limbo, riddled with anxiety, and unable to move forward until he returned. And he always returned because he knew that he could. He broke promises to you and/or your children and never had your back. He’d make you feel insignificant and then call you insecure. He created chaos day to day and accused you of being dramatic. He was the master of passive-aggression and the keeper of secrets. He felt entitled to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted with anyone that he wanted at anyone’s expense…namely, you. Whatever he did to you, he expected you to do the opposite and to ask no questions while doing it. In the end, you became the tiniest reflection of your former self, almost unrecognizable. Yet, despite everything he’d done, you felt addicted to the very drama that you hated. You accept that recovery is a long process and you sadly hunker down. Meanwhile, he continues on without skipping a beat as if the history of the relationship never happened. Indeed, for him, you were no more important than the dirt on his shoe. Who would have thunk it? SHOULD THIS KILLER BE FORGIVEN? He’s obviously a narcissist and I’m sure there’s a bad childhood behind it. DOES THAT MATTER??

The truth is that someone who makes a bad mistake but has total remorse and a narcissist who abuses freely with a clear conscience should not be forgiven equally. One deserves forgiveness and the other does not. If you say to the mistake-maker, “I realize that you’re sorry and I forgive you. I know you’re a good person and we all make mistakes. Now let’s just move on”, the mistake-maker is likely going to burst into tears with appreciation. If you say to the narcissist, “I want you to know that I forgive you for everything because deep down I understand that you’re just an empty soul that deserves compassion”, the narcissist is likely going to burst into laughter. Why waste perfectly good forgiveness?

We don’t need to become martyrs to heal. We’re not obligated morally or spiritually or mentally to forgive all the bad people in our lives – particularly someone like the narcissist who knows no boundaries. Maybe I think this way because whenever I see or hear the words narcissist, healing, and forgiveness in the same sentence, I automatically hear Jesus on the cross whispering Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, don’t have those kind of credentials. I really believe that this forgiveness thing we speak of…well…sometimes it’s better left to the higher ups.

Okay, Zari, you’re the only self-helper that thinks like that. What do you want me to do – become a bitter old person? Of course not. I’m actually saying that you don’t have to do anything at all about the narcissist except go no contact. The rest – the healing – will take care of itself, no forgiveness required. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody, least of all the asshole that caused all this to happen. Believe me, the narcissist could care less – and has always cared less – about your compassion and forgiveness capabilities unless it was serving him. He counts on your forgiving nature and compassion to do what it’s always done…keep you in his loop. In order to appreciate compassion and forgiveness, a person must first understand it – and vice versa. A narcissist can do neither.

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In normal break-ups with normal partners, as time passes and wounds start to heal, the grief and anger simply fades. Some of us even, after time, become and remain good buddies with an ex. Do we forgive this person for the pain that was caused to us? Sure, but it’s different. It’s not a conscious effort to forgive. It just happens. The truth is that we healed first and then the “forgiveness” happened – naturally. We didn’t need to forgive to heal. We healed first and somewhere along the line we forgave. After a normal break-up, wounds heal naturally and ex partners who are “normal” will naturally be forgiven.

The narcissist is different. The break-up isn’t normal. The entire relationship isn’t  normal. If you think about it, all we ever did was forgive. We forgave the narcissist every fucking day for every fucking thing during the relationship. In order to be close to this person and to love this person, our entire existence with him was about forgiveness. Forgiving was what we did. We forgave his narcissistic behavior, his cheating, his indifference. Forgive, forgive, forgive. And what good did it do us? No good at all. Moreover, when we weren’t forgiving him, we were busy begging him to forgive us – even when we did nothing wrong. My ex was so good that he could get me to both forgive AND forget just by saying that he didn’t even remember why we broke up! I’d be so relieved he was back, I’d think “Okay! Me either!” Good grief…so, what does all this forgiveness even mean?

Once we go no contact, we just need to be done. If all our forgiving throughout the relationship couldn’t heal us OR him, why would it heal us after the fact? The only person we might need to forgive at the end is ourselves for allowing it all to happen but, even then, that particular process should be swift, effective, and then put behind us. We need to trust the normal order of things in the Universe. Unlike a break-up with a normal asshole, there will not come a time down the road where we will FEEL like being buddies with the narcissist because…well…we just won’t. Forgiveness will not happen naturally this time because it’s not supposed to. But you will still heal.

phone-consults-availablePsychologists and textbooks and many of the other blogs about narcissism will not agree with me on all of this but I guarantee that I’m right. I think logically and it’s not logical for me to ever think that we need to forgive our narcissistic abusers for all of the awful things that they did in order for us to get better. I’d much rather be mad than sad because I know my feelings will naturally adjust. I paid my forgiveness penance and so did you. And, by the way, you are still the compassionate and forgiving person you were before the N. He hasn’t turned you into a cold uncaring monster. Everything that you were before the N…it’s still there. It just got muted, that’s all. He can’t take it from you and even if he could, forgiving him for all the grief he caused is no way to get it back. You forgiving yourself and getting on with life is what does that.


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  • Yvette

    November 27, 2016 at 7:06 pm Reply

    Finally someone who agrees with me about forgiveness! Thank you Zari. I have been looking for practical ways to let go of a 8 year relationship with a Narcissist and getting through the pain of realising that it all meant nothing and your blogs are wonderful. I love the way that you write … it is like you have put all of my thoughts and feelings on paper for me. It is exactly what I have been through, feeling and thinking. I would like to purchase paper versions of your books so if you have a link that would be awesome. I can not thank you enough … you have brought me to happy tears =’)

    • Zari Ballard

      November 29, 2016 at 5:19 am Reply

      Thank you, Yvette:) I’m grateful that you found your way to my blog and even more grateful that you “get” my attitude on forgiveness. I’ve said it in the article and I’ll say it again: we don’t have the credentials to forgive at that level…it’s not our job. Not in this life anyway. The anger fades in time and that enough! LOL Please share here anytime, sister. Stay strong and keep an eye on your happiness.

      Zari xo

    • Zari Ballard

      November 29, 2016 at 5:24 am Reply

      Here’s the link to the paperback When Love Is A Lie from the US. You should be able to link to my other books from there…. xoxo

  • Sam

    July 31, 2016 at 7:29 pm Reply

    This is very true in my case.

    Its been years since I left my ex husband and till today he NEVER admits to anyone that he hurt me, that he beat me up, that he cheated.

    He acts as if it never happened. He tells me I will be food for the devil because I can never forgive and there he is in church playing the good christian.

    The only person he admitted (downplayed) that he hit me was his mistress. I have had the good fortune in a way to meet her also by accident.

    I realized not all mistresses are evil conniving women who want to destroy families. Some are normal girls that get taken in too. Just as I was long ago, only difference was he wasnt married then.

    I had to sit there and endure he very sympathetic face, her pity and her concern (looked real to me) that he “used” to hit me. But according to her, he HAS changed. When she first met him he was so easy to anger (probably due to the fact that it was just a month or two after I left him). Believe me this mistress looked incredulous that a person could throw tantrums like that. Then her face takes on a relieved look and tells me, he has changed this year you know. He isnt like that anymore. (I have never heard of a Narc who shows you the bad side first then changes to good then hopefully changes to bad again.) Have you Zari?

    The funny thing is her FB likes contain this very popular site on Narcissists and how to spot one.
    Why then would she be researching and reading up on it if everything is just peachy? Heaven forbid that she thinks I am the narcissist. That is quite distressing and funny at the same time.

    Forgiveness is hard to come by but with time, there is a sense of peace at the very least that we do not have to put up with the Narc’s crap anymore. He is someone else’s problem now. I have never forgotten the hell he put me through, but I think forgiveness is coming to terms that it did happen but things are looking up for us currently because he is not around anymore.

    That is more than what he deserves from me actually. But I am doing it for myself so I wont have to live the rest of my life waiting around for him to change, for him to love me, for him stop cheating, for him to stop beating me.

    The reason why I left my ex husband was that I imagined the next years worrying where he would be, and who he would be cheating with and I got REALLY SCARED shitless. I got REALLY cowardly. Its like doing bungee jumping for the first time and you’re scared stiff. Id rather miss the experience and have coffee in a nice Paris cafe than risk getting myself scared.

    That realization really did save my life.

    • Yvette 1

      March 7, 2017 at 1:14 am Reply

      Hey Sam. It sounds to me that you are a pretty strong lady, not cowardly at all … and at the heart of it, do you want to be in your old age still wondering who he is with and what he is doing? Hell no! You deserve luurve babydoll! You have totally done the right thing. Be proud of yourself.

      Regarding the mistress and his “change of heart” .. pfft. Remember sweet pea that humans often use denial as a coping mechanism so, maybe she was still in the love bombing phase or maybe she just didn’t want to hear the truth, from you or from herself. Either way, he is not your problem anymore. Enjoy your wonderful new life and realising who you are again and connect with the love that you have deep inside of yourself …. that love certainly gives me hope and nutures my vulnerable and hurt inner child. *big squeezy hugs* and a big thumbs up.

  • Free2Love

    July 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm Reply

    I don’t usually respond to posts, but I couldn’t stop reading your blog. Everything you say is true. I just went NO CONTACT two days ago. I couldn’t take one more moment of his silent treatment. Something you said about the silent treatments made everything so clear. You said, silent treatments are break ups in disguise. How true that is. I never saw it this way before. I would often tell my NARC that he had left me a long time ago, only to hear that it was all in my head. His actions never matched his words. He’d say one thing and I’d see something contradictory. There isn’t one thing you wrote that didn’t happen. Although my NARC was a cerebral narcissist, where he was primarily concerned with head games rather than sex, he flirted with an online target. I would call him out on it and he would tell me it’s all in my head, that I was being dramatic. I told him that the very next time I experienced this disrespectful behavior, I’d be done with him. Well, that’s exactly what happened. I deleted all my social media, blocked him from my phone and any chat app. It’s the first time I took drastic measures, but now I see that I was building up to this. I don’t miss him. You’re right about realizing that you don’t miss your NARC. You’re so spot on about all this. Thank you for everything you shared for us women and men who go through this horrible ordeal.

    • Zari Ballard

      July 23, 2016 at 2:05 am Reply

      Hi Free to Love,

      Bravo to you for taking the “drastic measures”…it’s the only way to finally get some peace. Sounds like you had a narc much like my own. I’m grateful that my blog is helpful because it truly empowers to know that we are not alone in the mess – even if some of us are continents apart. As I always say, recovery is a team effort.

      Thank you for the kind words and stay strong!

      Zari xo

  • David

    June 23, 2016 at 10:06 am Reply


    I found your website only yesterday, and just by chance, while searching the web for PTSD and break-up related help. Nothing I’ve found yet (and I’ve been at it for 8 months now…) has shed so much light on my experience as your writing on narcissists. I read your articles one after another, with a knot in my stomach and my heart in my throat, and a very sinking feeling that everything you’ve written is true for me as well. It had only ever occurred to me in passing that I was dealing with such a person– especially since this was someone I loved with all my heart, and to whom I was devoted like none other. The last 10 years of my life were spent living at the mercy of a truly heartless and soulless person. After the “honeymoon” years with her, the gloves came off and I was masterfully kept in a perpetual state of isolation, anxiety, loneliness, and fear of her next disappearance, sickening sex escapade,” or emasculating insult. She was fond of calling me her “sin eater” (i.e., the one who suffers all the consequences and fallout from her antics), and was fond of reminding me that she was the best thing that ever happened to me. Wow. It’s been 8 months since I last saw or spoke to this person, but only two months since she last tricked me into contacting her. I pray to god that I never hear from or see her ever again, as every time I do, I am back at square one, like it all happened yesterday. This person destroyed my life and my sanity in all of the ways you’ve enumerated in your articles, down to the letter. And you are right, it is impossible for anyone to understand what it’s like to deal with, and suffer, on account of what a narcissist will do to you; there truly are no limits, and you can never make them make sense. Your site has been a godsend since I truly have no one to talk to about what happened to me, and certainly no one who can explain why I’m in the state I’m in, that I’m not out of my mind. My grief over the loss of my “best friend” and “soul mate” has been overwhelming and devastating, and I’ve been living at the very edge of the edge on account of the misery and the mental war inside me. It is astonishing to me- astonishing– that the answer to the question, “how could someone who loves me do—THIS,” is that they truly don’t give a fuck about what happens to you. They really do enjoy knowing that you suffer and grieve over what they’ve done to you, especially when you pour your heart out to their mocking wall of silence. They’re having a great day– and they know that even if you’re not weeping your eyes out over them, you are sure as hell thinking about them, and you’ll never have them figured out. It’s nauseating. I don’t know what all I mean to say Zari, except that the scales have started to fall from my eyes because you cared enough to tell your story and articulate the truth about this breed of human monster. What remains is trying to put my life back together, figure out how to let go, move on, and all that. But I’m still playing her victim/fool since I can hardly function normally, and feel sapped and possessed by the past, the recent past, and the empty present. I feel like I lost myself to her, and I guess I did. She always won. Pretty much all I think about is her. If I’m distracted from mentally reliving my nightmare for 15 minutes (or weeping my eyes out over the “good times”), I count it pure bliss. I fall asleep thinking of her and wake up thinking of her every day. The worst is when she’s in my dreams. It feels like there’s no escape from this woman, no safe place in my head, nowhere to set my thoughts where she’s not lurking. What little I know of her present activities (and believe me, I want to know nothing at all and never ever go looking) just confirms that she hasn’t missed a beat, and is doing fabulously, and that the few remarks she made to the contrary were just another lie. She had others lined up well before she ever dumped me. They worst thing, and it hurts like hell, is trying to understand that she never loved me, that she never cared about me at all. I can see it, but god, I almost don’t want to. I feel so stupid and childish for having been this person’s doormat for so many wasted years. I really do regret that I ever met her– nothing– not the wonderful times, our passionate love, all the best times I’ve ever had with anyone– is worth this. I’d give it all back if I could. I do hope there is a way to live beyond this. Your site is amazing. It hurts like fuck to read a lot of it, but it’s the first “good pain” I’ve felt in ages. Maybe it’s not me who’s crazy after all. I hope not. Sorry for how long this is. Thank you Zari.

    • Zari Ballard

      June 24, 2016 at 8:30 am Reply

      Hi David,

      Thank you so much for sharing, brother, and you are always welcome here. I just sent you a PDF copy of my book When Evil Is a Pretty Face which is all about female narcs in relationships. I sent it from my personal Gmail to the email that you used to write this post so please look for it. I believe it will truly help you.

      Consider booking some consult time so that we can devise a strategy to get you back your sanity. You are not doomed to always feel this way. Help is on the way….

      Zari xo

  • Caro

    June 19, 2016 at 10:59 am Reply

    Zari, I have a question I was hoping you’d shed light on, because this honestly stumps me …

    Why the hell does a narcissist get married?

    I’m thinking specifically of a narcissist I had the misfortune to know. This guy cheated on every woman he’s ever been with, couldn’t commit to anyone, even told his girlfriends that he had backup women waiting on standby.

    So why the hell would he WANT to get married? And how is still married five years later? I’m sure he’s cheating on her, but I’m stunned they married in the first place. What’s the point?

    • Zari Ballard

      June 21, 2016 at 1:03 am Reply

      Hi Caro,

      That’s actually an easy one to answer. Don’t forget that, to a narc, everyday all day it’s all about what they can get away with. For some, it’s about getting away with “looking” like the guy who’s got his shit together…appearances. Sometimes it must be done to keep up with the Joneses at work or to look good for the family or because the girl gets pregnant. Of course, this doesn’t stop them from being the narcissist that they are. They will still cheat and, in fact, feel MORE entitled to do it because the narc feels that the wife should feel PRIVILEGED that he actually went that extra mile (the marriage). Ultimately, the marriage will end because 1) one of the narc’s newest girlfriend puts the pressure on, or 2) the wife has had enough. Whats; interesting is that, many times, the narc will marry the girl who he pretty much knows will put up with the cheating…turn a blind eye to it. This way, he gets to keep up the facade. After all, even a narc wants to NOT look like a narc to the rest of the world and he knows what he has to do. Love, of course, has nothing to do with it.

      Zari xo

      • Caro

        June 21, 2016 at 6:42 pm Reply

        “Many times the narc will marry the girl who he pretty much knows will put up with the cheating.”

        OMG. This makes so much creepy sense. This poor girl clearly lived to serve him too. I saw them once at his birthday party, and she was running around like a servant at his bidding. It was the saddest, strangest thing and woke me up that something was desperately wrong. She also got him a job at her company when his business venture floundered. Come to think of it, she got her PhD, meanwhile he got rejected from every PhD program he applied to and then dropped out of a Master’s program in an unrelated field. She was always more successful than him, and was gorgeous to boot, yet she was a complete doormat. I could never figure it out, because she clearly outranked him.

        Meanwhile, years earlier, I dated him for all of a month then dumped him because I wouldn’t tolerate his pathological lying, standing me up and trying to triangulate me against other women.

      • Christine

        June 22, 2016 at 2:04 pm Reply

        Oh, and another thought just occurred to me…obviously, like the rest of us, the narcissist is getting older and not younger. Yes, once in a while you get someone like Christie Brinkley who still looks hot in their 60s, but not that often! (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t former supermodels with those kinds of resources to maintain a youthful appearance)

        So as they age and presumably get worse looking, they won’t be able to attract new sex partners as easily as they did when they were younger. So sometimes they almost HAVE to get married, to always have one in the wings…since they can’t go and attract other ones as easily as they used to. To borrow Zari’s fishing analogy, they need to land one fish since they don’t have as much “bait” to lure in others as frequently (or in as much quantity).

        Boy, when the narcissist tried to contact me on social media, I couldn’t help inwardly gloating a bit (just from looking at the profile photo) that he really is losing his looks already, even at a relatively young age. In all modesty, I’ve aged better than he has. In fact, when we were together, people seriously thought we were the same age, even though he’s younger by six years (and that says something, that I look young for mine and he looks old for his!)

        My fiancee is older than both of us, but still looks young for his age. I like to think that once in a while, karma works! 🙂

    • Christine

      June 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm Reply

      Ditto what Zari said. I’d also like to add that the married narcissist is basically, having his cake and eating it too. They get to have the “security blanket” of someone always being at home for them…and also the variety and excitement of having a different/new person when they’re so inclined, while cheating on the spouse (I doubt any of them are ever faithful). Why wouldn’t cheating narcissists want to get married, if they can get all the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities?

      Remember these narcissists are not like you or me, or any other emphathetic human being who marries for love and commitment. It’s only to get certain benefits out of it.

      If anything, you should feel honored and privileged when narcissists don’t want to marry you. Seriously. I feel privileged knowing that the narcissist sensed I wouldn’t make a very good doormat for him in the long run, and that I wouldn’t tolerate cheating…which is why he gave me the silent treatment to cultivate his new prospect, whoever it was. That’s also why I always suspected cheating, but didn’t get smoking gun “proof”–he knew I wouldn’t condone it, so never explicitly said he was seeing other people (but instead, engaged in suspicious behavior and gave implausible excuses)

      If anything, I was actually irritated when he dared to try contacting me again. I was irritated that he presumed I could possibly still have enough feeling left over for him, to want any contact with him…and that I couldn’t have found someone better than him who would give me the good relationship I wanted (which I did). But then, I remembered what Zari has told us and just let it go, then went about my day. I decided that I already invested enough wasted emotion on him…and he wasn’t entitled to any more (not worth raising my blood pressure)

      • Caro

        June 24, 2016 at 7:14 pm Reply

        I really appreciate your comments. You’ve given me so much food for thought. Thank you!

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