To Forgive Narcissistic Abuse… Or Not?

My mother and me, some time in the 1950s.
My mother and me, some time in the 1950s.

I have been no contact with my mother — my primary narcissistic abuser — for a little over three years. Prior to this, I had been very low contact with her since the fall of 2005.

However, if I had followed the advice of my psychiatrist when I was sixteen years old, I would have gone permanently and completely no contact with my entire family in 1969!

But I kept going back to that toxic well looking for water — looking for family — looking for LOVE — over and over and over again. And, I kept getting kicked in the teeth by my mother and her “flying monkeys,” over and over and over again. Until three years ago when I finally gave up all hope.

I wrote my mother a very long letter right before I went completely no contact. Initially I was writing it as part of my therapy, with no intention of ever sending it. But then I decided that I really wanted to send it. Basically, I told my mother in that letter what it has been like to be me, her scapegoat daughter. I did not pull any punches whatsoever. I also told my mother that I have come to believe that she has some kind of toxic personality disorder, either narcissistic or possibly sociopathic. And I explained all of the reasons why I believe this is so.

At the end of the letter I told my mother that I would forgive her of everything that she has ever done to hurt me — but only if she fully admits to and sincerely repents of all her wrongdoing against me — and also on the condition that she must TELL THE TRUTH, in writing, to everyone to whom she has ever lied about me.

Finally, I told my mother that if she is, as I fear, a malignant narcissist or a sociopath, that she will never admit to any serious wrongdoing, she will never genuinely repent, and she absolutely will not tell my siblings, or anyone else, the truth about all the scapegoating, projecting, gaslighting, character-assassinating, evil LIES that my mother has been telling people about me since 1968.

Yesterday was my mother’s eighty-first birthday. Day before yesterday my aunt, my mother’s only sibling (my mother’s younger sister by five years), sent me this text on my phone:

“Well, tomorrow is my ex-sister’s birthday, 81 yrs. I wonder how your momster is. I also wonder if God has or will forgive her for her MANY MANY sins. I haven’t been able to forgive her. I hope your retreat was great. And I also hope you and yours are HAPPY and HEALTHY. FOREVER LOVE!!”

I am very grateful for my aunt. She wasn’t always on my side, however. For many years it seemed like she was neutral at best, when it came to the many lies my mother has been telling about me since I was in my early teens. But several years ago my mother did something that was so cruel, my aunt finally saw the light.

Now my aunt says that she has not been able to forgive her “ex-sister.” I thought I would never be able to forgive my mother, either, despite my Christian beliefs and despite what the Lord’s Prayer says about God forgiving us of our trespasses, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How could I forgive my mother for trying to gas us all to death when I was twelve… and then HATING me for not agreeing with her argument that she had the right to kill me and my younger brothers and sisters, simply because she had brought us into the world??? How can I forgive my mother for her many other countless hateful cruel ego-destroying acts against me over most of my lifetime??? How can I forgive my mother for getting involved with my first husband??? And how can I forgive my mother for her worst sin against me — her evil, projecting, character-assassinating, soul-killing lies??? How can I forgive her when she refuses to acknowledge her sins, refuses to repent, and refuses to set the record straight about her lies, which so many in my family of origin apparently believe?

Until recently, I thought I never would be able to forgive my mother. But lately I have been reading a daily devotional book written by Paul Meier, MD, the Christian psychiatrist who diagnosed my PTSD thirteen years ago. The book is called Free to Forgive: Daily Devotions for Adult Children of Abuse. Since I began reading this soon at the beginning of this year, I have finally forgiven my mother, despite the fact that she has not repented — not to ME, anyway — and despite the fact that she has made no effort, to my knowledge, to set the record straight where I am concerned.

Forgiving my mother does not mean that I will ever let her back in my life again, however. That is not going to happen, not unless she makes a huge, genuine, good faith effort to show that she is sorry for what she has done. And even then, I would still be very careful and cautious. I still would not trust her, and I would remain very low contact.

But I know that is not going to happen. My mother is eighty-one now and I have been waiting and hoping and praying for her to change since she was thirty. Barring a major deathbed confession, it’s not going to happen.

And yet, I no longer hate my mother. I no longer obsess over her many sins against me. Now when I pray the Lord’s prayer, when I get to the part that says I forgive those who have trespassed — sinned — against me, I include my “momster.”

Why? I don’t really know. I guess it’s partly because I have also sinned very badly, myself. No, I’ve never tried to kill anyone. No, I never tried to destroy anyone’s reputation with lies, least of all my own child’s. And no, I never in any way shape or form tried to have an affair with my own daughter’s husband or with any of her boyfriends. I mean, YUCK!

But I have sinned. I have done things that I would give anything to undo. And yet I believe that my sins have been completely forgiven and paid for, simply because I sincerely repented, and simply because God is loving and forgiving like that. After I have been forgiven of so much, who am I to say that I cannot forgive someone else?

I also forgive my mother because I believe she may not be able to help being the way she is. She had a severe head injury as a child, and I have heard her say she never felt the same after that. It seems to me that part of my mother’s brain is missing, the part that allows you to genuinely love others, the part that allows you to feel deep empathy, the part that allows you to understand that you do not OWN your children for the rest of their lives simply because your body brought them into the world, and therefore, because your children are not your possessions, you do not have the right to kill them, you do not have the right to have an affair with your child’s spouse, and you do not have the right to “justify” your evil treatment of your child by telling horrible lies about her.

I believe my mother is a malignant, sociopathic, covert narcissist and I also believe that she cannot help it, just as a blind person cannot help being unable to see. And therefore, I forgive her. But… until we meet in heaven, IF we do…. I do not want anything to do with my mother ever again.

— — —

 

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30 thoughts on “To Forgive Narcissistic Abuse… Or Not?

  1. sleeping tiger March 14, 2016 / 10:29 am

    These types of posts are always so powerful to me in a couple different ways. I believe it’s good to be able to come to terms with such a difficult thing. I understand why and how you could keep going back for the love that wasn’t there. We are basically hard wired to be part of a tribe/family. And in particular our mothers are SUPPOSED to love us…it’s the natural order of things. So when she doesn’t it causes lots of cog dis, wouldn’t you say.

    But man, you really articulate this whole thing really well and in such an organized manner that has helped me a lot. My mother isn’t a narc but she was the flying monkey for my sister who I believe to be somewhere on the spectrum.

    As usual I’m sorry you have such a mother and it’s good you have a family member from the past who understands even if she didn’t always get it. She was also probably caught up in her own cog dis.

    The whole situation is bitter sweet, although more bitter than sweet…at least for me.

    It’s sad that my siblings and I never really had a chance because my parents (particularly my father) kept the whole family dynamic toxic, dysfunctional and chaotic. I’ve learned through therapy that they pretty much set us all up to this end… although it wasn’t intentional or about us really.

    My father was all about himself and making sure he had control. He was a strange character and probably falls closer to the borderline side of the spectrum but was quite narcissistic to the point that even childproofing the house didn’t happen.

    Ok, here I go rambling again. But I guess I should include why I said bitter sweet rather than just bitter. The sweet part comes in from freeing myself from the physical situation and not having to continue to be abused in the presence of the family.

    Happy for you that you are able to forgive. I’m not there yet, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 14, 2016 / 12:36 pm

      I love your ramblings, dear Tiger. You may ramble here any time. Thank you for saying that my writing in this post is articulate and organized! When I am writing about something that cuts this deep, I am never sure how coherent my writing is.

      Cognitive dissonance… yes and yes and yes. Also, what you said about the bitter and the sweet: Yes, again. I get it.

      ((HUG))

      Liked by 1 person

  2. survivednarc March 14, 2016 / 11:01 am

    Oh, a heartbreaking read. And also, at the same time, it is so beautiful what you have written about forgiveness! And so healthy for yourself, to think that way. I completely agree about everything you have said about forgiveness. And I know that I myself will forgive the narcissist ex some day…. some day, not yet. For me, it is all still too raw and too fresh, the wounds. But, in my head, I think like you do, about forgiveness. I think it will only harm myself in the end, if I hang on to anger and bitterness year after year…. but i still have so many feelings of anger, rage even, that it will take me a while more to cleanse all that out, and be able to forgive, to let go..
    But I will, with time, I am sure of it. Thank you for writing your story as a reminder. You are spot on – we can forgive, without ever letting the narcissist back into our lives (unless we see overwhelming proof to us that they have indeed changed and had an awakening).
    Hugs to you! I am amazed by your strength to have lived through all this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 14, 2016 / 1:09 pm

      Aww… your comment has given me teary eyes and chills. Thank you. And yes, coming to a place of genuine forgiveness is a process of healing. It takes time. The deeper the wounds, in my opinion, the more time it takes. Christian society has grievously failed the wounded by insisting on “instant forgiveness.” It is an outrageous act of abuse heaped on top of abuse, when the focus and condemnation is on the abuse victim’s failure to quickly forgive, rather than on the evil acts of the abuser.

      “Instant forgiveness” is about as real and palatable as instant coffee.

      This was one of the biggest reasons why I became agnostic and remained so for fifteen years. Until very recently, I was simply incapable of forgiving my mother. I could no more forgive her, regardless of how hard I tried, than I could move a mountain with my bare hands. If God expected me to do the impossible, I decided, then God was unreasonable. And if God was unreasonable, then God was not God.

      I came back to believing in Christ thirteen years ago, when I was in Dr. Paul Meier’s clinic in Richardson, Texas. I stopped being agnostic then, NOT because I had found valid answers to all my questions and doubts, but simply because the preponderance of the evidence in my life compelled me to believe.

      And yet, even as a Christian believer and Christ follower, it has taken me until this year to feel that I have fully forgiven my mother for everything. Fifty years have now passed since my mother sat me down and confessed that the reason the pilot light on the gas furnace kept going out at night, while the thermostat was being turned up as high as it could go each time, was because she was trying to kill us all while we were asleep in our beds…. and, because the gas kept mysteriously shutting itself off each time, we were all still alive, so now she was trying to think of a nearby cliff that was high enough to drive us off of. Because she had brought her five children into the world, she explained, she believed she had the right to take us out of the world. And because life is so hard, she would be doing us a favor by killing us.

      My mother made that unthinkable confession to me in the winter of 1965-1966 when I was twelve years old. It has taken me until now to finally fully forgive her. In the meantime, I have had “Christians” jump all over me and tell me that I wasn’t really a Christian, because I still held resentment and anger against my mother.

      But the Christ I believe in is gentle, compassionate, kind, gracious, and absolutely loving. It is only through the healing virtue of His great love and forgiveness toward me, that I can now love and forgive my mother.

      Liked by 2 people

      • survivednarc March 14, 2016 / 1:28 pm

        Wow. As I said, but I have to say it again.. I am in awe of your strength. And that, I feel, can be an inspiration for me, as I am now embarking on a journey to forgive… and my experiences aren’t nearly as bad as yours, but they include serial cheating, pathological lying/gaslighting, constantly broken promises… including the ex pretending for 4 years that we were going to try to have a child eventually, which wasn’t ever true, so I ended up being almost 37 years old, and now single, broken, without much chance of ever having time to have a child and a family… (that is what hurts the most, of course)… and does he regret any of this? Um.. no. He says “of course I regret it, of course I want to mend things”, and all the while, he is out with several different women… There is lots more to tell but I won’t spam your comment section. The main theme here is, I am in awwof your strength to finally be able to forgive, and tro try and move on. I am trying to do the same, but so little time has passed (in my perspective), that I am not successful in this, so far. I keep on trying, fighting to survive, to be a good person, to find myself again…

        Lots of light and love to you, friend. I wish you all the best! Thanks for being a light and an inspiration, in the darkness. xo

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 14, 2016 / 1:34 pm

          Tears in my eyes again. Hugs and best wishes back to you. Someone kind once told me: “Be as gentle with yourself as you would be to a friend who told you this same story of trauma and sorrow.” Her advice got me through some hard times. Be gentle with yourself, and know you are doing your best right now with what you have.

          Liked by 2 people

          • survivednarc March 14, 2016 / 2:01 pm

            I have heard that saying too, but it was so very touching to hear you say that, as I am in a state of trying to “rush” myself through all the grief… anxious to move on, but knowing that this pain needs more time.. thank you for that beautiful reminder! xo

            Liked by 1 person

          • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 14, 2016 / 4:15 pm

            LOL.. I’ve tried to rush my healing to the point where I’m reading 5 or 6 self-help books at once. Which… trust me… doesn’t work so good. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 14, 2016 / 4:37 pm

          I wanted to come back and address something you said in this particular comment. You said: “…my experiences aren’t nearly as bad as yours…”

          This is another thing that has held me back from sharing “too much” of my history on my blogs. Part of it is the fear that people might not believe that my childhood and early adulthood really was that insanely bad. And a big part of it is the worry that some people might read my story and then discount their own trauma and abuse, and feel like they aren’t entitled to have their very real wounds and scars. I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed in any way after reading my trauma history, because now they are thinking they don’t have the right to be struggling and to be in pain, because on the surface it seems like they didn’t have it as bad as I did.

          Because here’s the thing: of all the traumas I have gone through in my life, the one thing that has hurt me the most, the deepest, and has crippled me and hindered me in life, far more than anything else, was simply this: not being wanted, not being cherished, and not being loved. More than all of my other traumas and abuses combined, this singular hurt runs the deepest.

          When you reach out to someone with a heart full of love, and your love is spurned — and YOU are spurned — it HURTS, horribly.

          Please don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you that your pain doesn’t count or that it “really isn’t that bad.” I have found that self-compassion, and giving yourself permission to feel what you feel, is very important to healing.

          Liked by 2 people

          • survivednarc March 15, 2016 / 2:43 am

            Thank you for these beautiful and compassionate words! They went straight to my heart. Hugs 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

      • lynettedavis May 29, 2016 / 12:34 pm

        “And because life is so hard, she would be doing us a favor by killing us.” The words of an absolute psychopath.

        This post so touched my heart because I still held a lot of resentment toward my mother for years. She’s seventy-eight now and still playing the victim. I wrote her a letter years ago. And the first thing she said when I saw her again was, “I can’t believe you wrote me that letter,” never once addressing the contents of the letter.

        The “Christians” that said you were not a real Christian because you still held resentment in your heart should probably check their own hearts and motivation for pushing you into something that you don’t feel. That’s why we have so many “fake” Christians today. Many people will tell you that you don’t have to “feel it” to forgive, just say you forgive. And keep saying it everyday until you do. Again trying to force the issue. There is nothing sincere about that process. And it’s just heaping more guilt, shame and abuse on the already burdened abused person.

        Isn’t it interesting that no one pressures the abuser to repent or make amends–only the abused? Clearly taking advantage of the abused that already feels powerless. Twisted.

        Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness. I determined that my problem wasn’t forgiveness, but a matter of trust. I forgive my mother but I don’t trust her. Like you, I kept going back, looking for love, even if it was the crumbs for the table. It always ended up the same. After awhile, they didn’t even want to give me any of the crumbs. Anyway, I was thinking: If I’m a child of God (and I am) and he predestined me for his purpose, then God knew the road that he laid out for me (my life), that I would come through smelling like a rose, so to speak, because it certainly wasn’t a bed of roses. With that understanding, I let go of the last lingering resentment I had for my mother because God had my back the entire time.

        So now I’m fulfilling my purpose–telling my story, helping people to see the strategies of the enemy–Narcissism is straight out of the enemy’s playbook.

        Do I want to see my mother again? NO. Do I trust my mother? NO, but as the old saying goes, “One monkey don’t stop no show.” I will fulfill God’s purpose for my life.

        Geez, this was supposed to be a comment, not a post.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee May 29, 2016 / 1:16 pm

          Thank you for this wonderful comment, Lynette! Your understanding and validation is precious to me. I am so sorry that you can relate, but deeply thankful that you and I can connect.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. atimetoshare.me March 14, 2016 / 11:09 am

    Wow – deep purging! Good for you, getting out in the open. Forgiving Is so hard for us mortals. That’s why we need our Savior so much. He knows all the pain you bear with your relationship with your mother. I really can’t imagine surviving unscathed by what you’ve been through. I know from your writing that you are a survivor and day by day you are working all of this out. I’ve had instances in my life similar to yours. My dad was a pillar in the church we attended and had an affair with someone else’s wife in our congregation while married to my mom. I found him to be such a hypocrite that it took me years to forgive him, but I did. I never forgave the “other woman” though. I still carry that in my heart. Forgiveness can give us such freedom though. Not only the forgiveness we are given by Christ, but through our own forgiving of others. That and prayer changes hearts. I will pray for your momster, for healing of her brain and for repentance from her heart. I pray then that you will see her in heaven as the perfect mom you longed for. God bless you my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

      • atimetoshare.me March 14, 2016 / 2:30 pm

        I think we have more in common than we know. Keep writing!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. katiesdream2004 March 14, 2016 / 4:52 pm

    I appreciate this post so much and honestly sharing your soul helps everyone struggling with this question. We struggle with it because we have a conscience and God is alive in our lives convicting us to be Christlike. Otherwise, there would be no struggle. Yet, Christians are so quick to get to the “forgiveness” question regarding other people’s past. No one ever asked me “what would justice look like for you”. Justice would have looked like acknowledgement that the abuse was monstrous, harmful and intolerable rather than a trite “did you forgive, you must forgive” judgement against me. Justice is being heard, believed and having the pain acknowledged, which makes forgiveness more likely. telling people to “forgive” before you heard their pain only cements their loneliness in that pain. There is a time for everything and you are right, the time for forgiveness comes when it comes.

    In my case forgiveness has come because my mother is so incapacitated by Alzheimers that she cannot harm me anymore. The harm she did remains in a family corrupted and broken by the narcissist structure that she created in my siblings. I am an orphan that way, the one that no one speaks to and I’ve finally concluded that I don’t want to speak to them anyway.

    The statement I never agreed with was “everyone is doing the best they can” when people tried to convince me to forgive. This isn’t true, some narcissists are doing the worst they can and getting pleasure out of it, taking pride in the pain they inflict. It is a moral illness not a mental one and the failure to recognise evil and call it what it is, makes it harder for victims to forgive. Naming what you have to forgive is not a sin, it is taking stock of the damage done so you are more informed about what it is you are forgiving.

    I’m grateful and its is evidence of grace that you have an aunt that calls it what it is and is offended by the way you were treated. I didn’t have that, and my struggle with forgiveness is that when my siblings could have banded together in our shared oppression they didn’t. After my mother’s Alzheimers made her persecution of the black sheep impossible, my sister took up the mantle. She was devastated by the damage my mother did to me, she went to therapy to deal with watching me be abused and yet, she turned around, denied it all and took up the practice my mom was too disabled to continued. That is what I struggle to forgiven now.

    Apparently the golden child can turn into the narcissist. in the grand scheme of things I’d far rather be a victim of a narcissist than a narcissist if that was the 2 choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 14, 2016 / 8:22 pm

      “.in the grand scheme of things I’d far rather be a victim of a narcissist than a narcissist if that was the 2 choices.” I second that!!

      I agree with you that evil is evil, and saying that someone “did the best they could” when they really didn’t, compounds the evil. My first husband, who physically assaulted me probably somewhere between 50 to 100 times during our marriage, while cheating on me with both men and women, including my own mother — there is no way that I believe he was “doing the best he could.” And he is just one example of the blatantly evil narcissists I got involved with as an adult, after my crazy childhood programmed me for the “victim-codependent” role, until I finally got the help I needed to break out of that toxic pattern at the age of fifty.

      My mother, on the other hand — I think she may be like one of those whom Christ prayed on the cross about: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” My mother fell on her head on cement as a little girl — I remember my grandmother telling me about getting a call from the school telling her that her daughter was injured, and how she “followed the trail of blood” to where they had taken her little girl. I think my mother’s brain may have been broken then, and maybe she really is doing the best she can with what she has.

      In the end, of course, only God knows for sure, only He can look on a person’s heart. Maybe I am in denial because it helps me to think that my mother is broken, not evil.

      Liked by 2 people

      • katiesdream2004 March 18, 2016 / 1:37 pm

        Somewhere you asked if I was blogging, I can’t find that post but I am starting to blog again this post relates to how narc Christians abuse the concept of forgiveness to silence their victims. It is about discernment too, that is one of the gifts of being chewed and spit out by a narc, we get some sensitivity about it. https://dreamsofabetterworldblog.wordpress.com/

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 18, 2016 / 11:07 pm

          Wow, thank you, Katie! It is late here and I am very sleepy, so I will bookmark this and read it tomorrow. God bless. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 19, 2016 / 6:12 pm

          It’s been a busy day. But now I am finally going to read your post…

          Like

  5. katiesdream2004 March 15, 2016 / 3:29 am

    I believe some people are broken and not evil too. Your gut knows and if that is what you hear in your gut you can trust it!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. luckyotter March 19, 2016 / 7:40 pm

    Wow, wow, wow–this is a very powerful post! You have an enormous amount of courage for writing your mother that letter! I could never have done such a thing. You are fortunate to have had an aunt who recognized how evil your mother was, and a psychiatrist who got it right too. You are one strong lady and I have no doubt justice will be done–by God. We can forgive, but we never should forget.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Diana March 19, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    I have gone through this kind of reality with my mom and sister and although they claim Jesus they do very evil things especially my sister—-she was the golden child and never abused like I was. She hasn’t ever had any kind of brain injury but still I feel empathy for both of them even as I have no contact and am currently working through rage at them for what they have done to me and others and continue to do while going to church faithfully. I am working to forgive them for my health and because I want all God has for me. Thank for sharing and being so transparent!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. bluebird of bitterness March 20, 2016 / 4:45 pm

    I think one reason that so many of us have trouble forgiving — even Christians, who believe that we are positively required to forgive those who have sinned against us — is that we have a poor understanding of what forgiveness entails. I struggled with this for years myself, because I thought forgiving meant that I then had to behave as if the wrong had never occurred. When I finally learned that this was not the case — that there was no contradiction between forgiving someone, yet still having nothing to do with him/her — I can’t tell you what a tremendous relief that was. If only I had known this earlier, I could have saved myself a whole lot of pain and anxiety.

    This video, which I have posted many times — usually in the comment section of other people’s blogs — explains the whole thing as clearly and succinctly as anything I have ever seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 20, 2016 / 8:30 pm

      I love what you said here. And thank you for the video link. I haven’t watched it yet, I need to get in a place where I can, first. 🙂

      Like

  9. earnestlydebra April 1, 2016 / 12:45 am

    Lady Quixote/Linda Lee – Thank you for sending me this link. I’m so sorry you had to grow up like that. It’s a terrible loss not to have had a nurturing mother. I’m so glad you’re writing about it because that’s a huge help to someone else too. It helped me. I had a similar situation with a sister, the family star who was given every privilege. I was abandoned emotionally by my parents because of her lies. I wrote a similar letter – and she replied that she would pray for me. My parents will go to their grave without her confession. The whole lot are church-going pillars of the community, so it took a long time to face the truth that it wasn’t my fault. It’s not your fault either. And I know I can’t wish anything but Love, or it will come back on me.

    Someone told me that forgiveness was a decision, not a feeling. The hurt may never completely go away, or the anger – but when it comes up, it’s easier to let it go when I remember I decided to forgive. When it gets the best of me, now I cry my tears to God and and surrender my feelings of unforgiveness. That’s the best think I can do. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of tears to heal some hurts – along with the courage to cry them.

    I have to trust that God will make something good of it. I know I am a better mother for it, and I have compassion that comes from knowing how it feels. So do you.

    We have to rewrite the story of who we are, by our own definition. I believe in you.

    Love and blessings, Debra

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee April 1, 2016 / 5:58 pm

      Thank you for your kind and caring words. I have more I want to say but am rushed for time. Hopefully I won’t forget to come back to this later. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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