Once 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.
In 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.
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.
Psychologists 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.