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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39 Comments

  • annabelruffell

    March 9, 2017 at 12:13 pm Reply

    Hello Zari,
    Thank you for your article. I was just about to give my ex a note basically thanking him for showing me what it means to truly love myself (I embarked on an energy healing path after my experience with him) and how I did love him despite everything and wishing him peace etc. I felt the need to have some conclusion to it all that’s peaceful…I don’t know. He was and still is until June 2017 my 6 year old sons Kindergarten teacher…(it’s a 2 year program)…anyway I ignored him completely for 2 months end of last year and it just got tiring in a sense….I had to communicate with him which I have been since January. It’s hard though as i see him flirting with other parents (who knows who he is seeing now) and even my communication with him lately he has been his charming flirtatious self again that I even find myself making sure I look good and hoping he is there when I pick up my son…(dangerous in a sense yes I know)….I have truly come a long way though and becoming an energy healer was because of my devastating experience with him. But I have definitely been tested with him being my sons teacher. He stands too close to me as well and I always have to step back. I find myself wondering if he regrets his behavior or thinks about me…anyway the note was just in a sense to have closure/peace of mind for me…but maybe not….Anyway thanks! Annabel

    • Zari Ballard

      March 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm Reply

      Hi Annabel,

      Well, the situation with him as your son’s teacher will likely always keep you in the loop. And yes, it is dangerous. I would stay away as often as possible and just continue on the right path. Sending him a note will only put a smirk on his face, proving to him once again that exes never stray far. Narcissists LOVE to keep all the girls in the queue along with the new ones. Don’t give him the satisfaction of any of it and pray long and hard that June comes QUICKLY.

      Stay strong!

      Zari xo

      • Annabel

        March 14, 2017 at 5:56 pm Reply

        Hi, thanks for your response Zari! I ended up talking with him one on one yesterday and I felt strong but he responded very very sincerely with how sorry he was again for what happened, how I’ve changed him, how he’s in therapy, how I changed his relationship with his daughters mother and his family and how he wants to honor and respect me moving forward and maybe we can be friends….I know I know….he seemed very sincere and his energy so compelling but yes I will keep my distance moving forward! His “friendship” offer was tempting but just BS and I need to just move on! Thank you again. Annabel

        • Zari Ballard

          March 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm Reply

          Hi Annabel,

          Your welcome, girl. I just felt I had to remind you one more time that there is NOTHING sincere about this guy. Nothing. There is no “being friends” with this person…he was never your friend before. All this “friendship” will mean to him is that he still has you in the queue…and he will be right. A narcissist only returns again and again to make sure that we never move on from the pain he has caused us. There should be nothing tempting about that.

          Be safe and stay strong, sister….

          Zari xo

  • jarwithaheavylid

    February 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm Reply

    I agree. Self-forgiveness is the key and in time, you will not think about the narcissist, let alone think that you need to forgive him/her. You just need to ACCEPT absolutely everything that happened in that horrible relationship, not fight it, clear your cognitive dissonance and live a grander life – fully recovered and more empowered than you ever dreamt you could be.

  • Julie

    February 5, 2017 at 11:30 am Reply

    I love this blog. Problem is I can’t let go of the anger and rage and it is only hurting me. I feel that this Narcissistic Person who bled me, should have to pay, not go to another woman to do the same!!!

    • Zari Ballard

      February 5, 2017 at 8:00 pm Reply

      Hi Julie,

      It all takes time…especially letting go of the anger. That happens on it’s own as we get on with life. We can’t stop him from moving along to do what he does best and our suffering changes nothing. Keep reading and working on each day, one at a time. Suddenly, there WILL come a day where what he might or might not be doing won’t matter to you. I wish there was a quick fix for that pain but it’s really all about time and acceptance.

      Stays strong!

      Zari

  • Kindred Sage

    January 20, 2017 at 3:44 pm Reply

    RE: “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.”

    Here’s a question, or rather my situation. I’m not innately narcissistic. Sure I have some tendencies and frankly our lovely USA encourages a lot of narcissistic things, but I digress. Regardless, I have on numerous authorities, aside from my own research (and I’m going back to school for a Masters in Psych), that “I lack the core sociopathy for narcissism.” Ok, that’s great, I’m somewhat validated but that only goes so far.

    Here’s where I got into trouble and the false-positive narcissism thing ran rampant:

    1. I have borderline personality disorder…
    2. I was addicted to dissociatives (NMDA Antagonists) which I used to self-medication my uber strong emotions
    3. Dissociatives chemically dissociate you from your emotions
    4. Long Story Short: Narcissism is essentially dissociation from self, that’s why you can be so sociopathic…
    5. ergo chemically induced narcissism that crept up on me as the years of abuse altered my personality
    6. Chronic NMDA Antagonist addicts correlate strongly to narcissistic manifestations
    7. I was not narcissistic prior to my drug addiction
    8. I’ve been clean for three years in June 2017.

    There are LOTS of parallels between behaviors of NPD’s and BPD’s as you well know.

    To those less discerning,it’d be easy to confuse one for the other without adequate scrutiny (especially if emotional and cognitive biases are doing their lovely magic).

    I have to summarize as I am attempting to digest tomes of mental information and research on this:

    I was branded a narcissist by my ex-wife (and her friends)
    The drug abuse thing was totally ignored
    The borderline thing was totally ignored
    Many behaviors of addicts alone (those without other psychopathologies) are narcissistic.
    This is common sense to anyone that’s studied addict behavior.

    So I am stuck, because while being seen through narcissistic lenses, virtually everything I try to do is getting labelled and dismissed (which is ironically something narcissists and abusives and manipulators do).

    Essentially, I am just seeking some sort of validation because there is SCANT info online about drug-induced narcissism (which is quite more ‘fixable’ than what I call “innate narcissism.”)

    I am very much better now since I got clean and started reincorporating mindfulness, meditation, proper medication, long-dormant healthy coping strategies, exercise, volunteering, etc. etc.

    I ask people in my ‘new life’ now if I seem narcissistic. They say basically that they can’t believe the person they know now was like the person I described to them from late 2013.

    Yet I am branded the immutable narcissist by people who haven’t even bothered to entertain the notion that their hasty “trendeigh” jugments just might not stand up to objective scrutiny (reminds me of mob-mentality/groupthink/sunken-costs).

    Further, many of these same people have narcissistic tendencies of their own, as many are performers (that’s not the only reason of course but I can’t delve into all the supporting data).

    I realize this is a lot to parse. I guess I just want some affirmation that those people that are genuinely and demonstrably remorseful (heck I was raised Catholic for one thing; I know guilt) for actions they did that hurt others they genuinely cared about…and that work dilligently to improve themselves and try the best they can each day to be mindful and compassionate and empathetic to everyone they can…that they just maybe might not be worthless and justifiably abandonable POS’s doomed to walk the earth into perpetuity like Judas for mistakes they didn’t even comprehend they were making AND received virtually no negative feedback on until after the fact (if anything quite the opposite; literally).

    see I kinda disagree fervently with the whole justified abandonment thing for narcopaths…well not for actual ones, but for “acquired” narcopaths, no contact and abandonment, I feel, should be addressed on a case by case basis. Argh, label and dismiss, thus avoiding cognitive dissonance and any moral accountability…if you label accurately that is.

    Yup, I’m a mess. It’s been three years, I still think about my ex way too much. I wish her the best, but I wish her the best that is congruent with the Reality of the past (big picture); for I know her and I know how she bottles up things and how they knaw at her…and there are ample external physical manifestations of her inner conflict, aside from her cyberstalking me and things that got back to me via the grapevine.

    I know it’s not my job anymore to fix her, but I’m a classic Pisces anyway and she wasn’t some rechargeable battery of narcissistic supply for me; and I still care because I always did. Hello – BPD – Abandonment issues…

    She was my co-addict and my best friend and she shows no indications whatsoever of grasping the complexity of the past since she’s applying the over-simplified abuse/victim model to everything as she plays disengenuous martyr.

    I understand the whole moving on thing, I just want to make sense of some things and bounce some ideas off people who aren’t so relentlessly negatively biased to things I say (when I have credible references).

    Thanks for your time and trying to follow my poor attempt at organizing these thoughts and emotions.

    Any help is appreciated.

    • Zari Ballard

      January 20, 2017 at 5:59 pm Reply

      Hi Kindred Sage,

      Based on your letter and assuming all is true, I don’t think you’re a narcissist at all. You’re ex-girlfriend might be one though…LOL. Look, we all have narcissistic qualities but being in the US has nothing to do with it. Narcissists exist in the same quantities – and even in larger quantities – in other countries all over the planet. I’m thinking that you need to give yourself a break and stick close to the friends you’ve made in your new life. Don’t ask questions of them anymore about this and don’t be stuck on a label given you years ago by a girl and company who were indulging just like yourself. It sounds like you’ve been working really hard to get your shit together and thinking about her and the past behaviors is just going to mix that up.

      I don’t know of drug-induced narcissism (by the TRUE definition) and personally I don’t buy into that particular theory at all. Do drug-addicts exhibit narcissistic behaviors? Sure they do but, if this person isn’t a true narcissist, then he (or she) is probably just exhibiting asshole behaviors induced by the drugs. Once the drugs are gone, an asshole usually isn’t an asshole anymore. A narcissist, however, is a narcissist whether he’s on drugs or not. To me, there is never an excuse for the kind of behaviors that we speak of here on this website. Just so you know, I don’t give haphazard labels top anyone who misbehaves. It’s absolutely possible to be an asshole – and even an asshole who cheats – and still NOT be a narcissist by the REAL definition. It happens all the time. People make mistakes. Sometimes they learn from them or grow out of the behaviors or sometimes they don’t. A narcissist LIKES being a narcissist and feels falsely entitled to always cause suffering. In fact, a narcissist isn’t happy UNLESS another person is suffering. They don’t believe for a minute that a single thing is wrong with them. There isn’t a pill or any amount of love or therapy that will fix it. Ever. When we talk about someone being a narcissist here, we really mean it and the behaviors define it. The blurb that you quoted at the top of your post is how I see it and I stick by that. Narcissists are narcissists. The fact that you are here writing to me like that…that you are worried about the label and trying to rectify it…the fact that new people in your life don’t even recognize the person you describe as being you…all of it screams that you are NOT any such thing.

      So, stop talking about it or thinking about it. Keep moving along in your recovery. Stay away from your ex and anyone associated with her. Don’t try to explain to her ANYTHING because she’s probably the true narcissist who was projecting who she was onto YOU in drug-induced stupors. Let it go. Don’t try to fix her and no more apologies. You fucked up and now you’re better. That’s what happened…end of story. Don’t talk about it anymore with new friends. No need to fill their heads with false images…start new.

      I wish you the best…assuming all you said was true and sincere, YOU ARE NOT A NARCISSIST AND NEVER WERE. It’s time to be happy. Life is too short to look back…

      Zari xoxo

  • Suzi

    November 30, 2016 at 12:10 pm Reply

    I am so pleased to be in touch with you and somebody with such incredible insight. Thank you for coming back to me.

    As I said in my initial email I consumed “When Love is a Lie” in a matter of days and what insightful and profound writing. I am now about to embark on your No Contact guide “Stop Spinning Start Breathing”. Although if I am entirely honest not sure how committed I am to make real changes forever from my addiction.
    My story is really simple I was married at 21 within 3 months of meeting my narcissist ex husband. Proper whirlwind of love intensity and rock n roll existence for a cumulative period of about 4 years. He coming in and out of the relationship numerous affairs. A roller coaster of love, sex and most intense pain I had ever experienced. I left the city where I could not escape his presence to try and heal. It took about 5 years of mostly no contact. I think the real healing began when I met my current partner a very different choice kind and gentle. Very much not the Heathcliffe creative soul that was the magnetic pull of my ex. My current partner and l had children, my career and my development as a strong dynamic woman was nurtured in this safe existence. There you would hope is the happy ending.

    However that was not to be in 2011 Facebook enabled myself and my ex to reconnect. As old friends initially. He lives in LA now and I in London. However about 18 months ago I want to LA for a friend’s wedding and we met up after 17 years, and yes you guessed it had one night of passion. Which has subsequently kick started an electronic affair and taking me to emotional places I thought were long since buried. I am now 49 (mid life crises – I suspect) and caught up with obsessional behaviours which I am desperate to seek answers and guidance for. Most of all asking those key questions can he really be a narcissist, and has our relationship over the years really been one big fat lie.

    There are many intricacies to this relationship that I have not detailed, I just wanted to give you a basic understanding. I have been completely preoccupied with finding out about the other women of which I am sure there are several (including other women from the Alumni of affairs when I was married) proving their existence, and my obsession with our relationship being the most meaningful and significant in his life. These thoughts are back with me and consume me. All thoughts, guidance, similar stories would be welcome

    • Zari Ballard

      December 6, 2016 at 8:09 pm Reply

      Hi Suzi,

      As you know, narcs will come in and out of our life until the end of time if we allow it. Years can go by between chance meetings or social media makes it possible but you can pretty much guarantee that it will happen. For you, I suppose the good news is that you are continents apart. This being the case, you can technically shut him down so that he can’t contact you online or off. You can’t expect your relationship with him to be the most meaningful and significant because 1) NO relationship in his life is any more important than the next (they all mean the same – including the one that you have with him), and 2) the fact that you are still in your relationship at home can and will always be his Ace in the Hole. Again, since you don’t share the details of what has transpired or how you are dealing with it, perhaps you might consider talking to me so that I can help you find a way to deal with it and/or accept it based on your situation. You don’t say whether you will leave the person you are living with or even if you want to. To the narc, this situation – just the way that it is – can go on forever. He’s fine with it this way…all narcs would be. It’s your happiness, however, that is important here and you have to find a way to get to that. The narc will never change. He drove you crazy way back then and he’ll gladly do it again if you allow it – even if it’s a long distance endeavor – and there is no more time to waste in this life.

      Zari xo

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