We left off last week with Myth #1). “If I forgive someone, then that’s the same as saying that they didn’t do anything very bad. My painful feelings will be discounted.”
Myth # 2). “To forgive someone, I must also simultaneously forget that they ever offended me. And if I haven’t forgotten, then I must not have really forgiven.”FALSE.Forgiveness is not AMNESIA. :-). Your memories of pain are brain connections made – biology and chemistry of the past. Reversing your neural connections is impossible. Meaning, you both remember AND forgive. That’s normal. (God doesn’t do memory wipes on us. If He did, then we wouldn’t be able to forgive because, duh, we wouldn’t remember what happened to us.) It doesn’t mean that you didn’t really forgive the first time around, or that you’reabadforgiver, or a bad Christian.”Well, for argument’s sake,” you say, “can I simultaneously obsess/rehearse/reenact my pain AND forgive?”No. Very doubtful.Wise up! You only have so much mental energy, and the enemy would love for you to squander all of it on the past. (I mean, dwelling on what’s past is like saying you want to buy real estate at 1 Bad Memory Lane. If so, then don’t build a house. You won’t need it. Just install a sty. I’ve had days, weeks, years when I just wallowed in a sty of self-pity (aka, sin). Wallowed, wallowed, oinked…told everyone who’d listen to my tale of woes. Rehearsed my NPD parent’s sins and dirt, churned up all the old emotions. Not surprisingly, none of that gave me inspiration or the strength to obey God by forgiving like He commanded. Eventually I crawled out of the sty and repented of my sin, my God-Daddy washed off my filth, and I got back down to forgiveness again. Please learn from my sins. Don’t hang out in the sty of self-pity.)Memories of your wounds can be valuable. If they remind you of God’s past faithfulness, His sweet healing Grace, His deliverance from your NPDer’s control, or wisdom in how to protect yourself from unsafe people, keep them near. If not, dump ’em. (This is not the equivalent of giving your NPD parent a “get out of jail free” card. Remember, they still have to face God for what they did to you.)
Recognize that you are in a battle!! Say to God, “Daddy, I am not welcoming these unhealthy thoughts back after giving them to You. Slay them on Your altar as a fresh gift from me. Strengthen me to repel them.” And mean it… mean every word. Short of a miracle, your NPD parent will continue to be themselves and sin against you (even if you no longer live with them, they will find a way!). So you are likely to have new offenses to forgive on a pretty regular basis. Yep, sigh. Forgiveness is not a one-time deed. It is a conscious choice that you will have to make again, many, many times…at least that’s the goal. Which leads me to the next myth.
3) “If I forgive someone, then we will be able to hang out together and have a satisfying relationship because they will have changed.”
OH, MY! FALSE. SOOOOOOOOO FALSE.
Let’s review the basis of affirming relationships, shall we?
– Valuing the other person for who they are, not what they can do for you.
– Seeing the best in the other person, desiring their good.
– Gently building them up in their weak spots.
– Recognizing that they belong to God first and that your relationship with them is a stewardship for which you will have to give an account.
– Addressing conflict in light of the other person’s God-given dignity, your/their sin natures, and the goals of repentance, restoration and unity.
Hmm. In case you’re not sure, I can categorically state that these bear NO similarity to the mindset of a NPDer. NONE. In my non-professional opinion, a NPD parent is incapable of any affirming relationship with anyone, their child included. After all, one of the defining characteristics of an NPDer is their sense of superiority over nearly everyone else. Especially you (after all, you are JUST their kid). The concept that they could be wrong about anything is unthinkable. This is why they never have to take responsibility for their behavior nor do they need to apologize, like people do in healthy relationships.
So with a NPD parent, your forgiveness is rendered in obedience to God IN SPITE of your parent’s ongoing behavior. It is not dependent on their repentance happening first. It will not change your parent at all. They have not repented, changed their ways, and sought reconciliation with you or with God. (I mean, how can they repent when they are perfect, right?!?). Basically, they have no role in your labor of forgiveness. It’s entirely between you and God. Its role is to transform you with healing. It has nothing to do with them.
Which is why respectfully, even humbly, biblically approaching a NPD parent in order to point out their offense against you is a lost cause. *** A true NPDer does not speak the language of repentance, so it will serve only to confuse and inflame them. Since our battle is not against flesh and blood, but rather the enemy who keeps our NPD parent in bondage, there is no profit in creating strife with them. As far as it depends on you, live in peace with them.
***[Please note that this does not apply to grave matters concerning the law (ie., commission of a crime, abuse against yourself or others). Then you must seek God and act with protection in place for your safety and that of others. Appropriate civil authorities must be brought in, for that is their God-ordained function. Also go with no expectation that they will repent. In fact, they will likely turn the tables on you, attacking with intent to make you defensive. It will be an unpleasant conversation at best, draining/devastating at worst. Therefore marshal your spiritual and emotional resources before attempting any approach. You will want people praying for you, and you will want to be prayed up. Prayer and fasting is paramount.]
The recovery rate among NPDers is minute. Carolyn had one professional peg it around 1-5%. I want to say this gently and not to depress you. But in all likelihood, your NPD parent will not change. Of course “nothing is impossible with God” (which is why I continue to pray that He will do a mighty work in my NPDer. To date, I have prayed for two decades, without a visible “yes” answer…yet. Yet. 🙂 I am more than willing to be amazed at God effecting change in such a heart.)
So, if you can keep a door to a redeemed, transformed possible future relationship with your NPD parent by lightly maintaining the relationship in the meantime, do it. Then, if they recover, there will be a place for them in your life. When I say “lightly maintain” the relationship, I mean this: It is not safe for you to be intimate with them. They cannot use intimacy for any of the healthy purposes it was created for. For them it is an opportunity to sin. Therefore, be superficial. Be vague. Don’t give out unnecessary details that will just be used as ammunition against you. Honoring your parent does not mean that they are entitled to every personal detail of your adult life or to interfering with your marriage or parenting. Yes, you need to forgive them, but charity dictates that you not set them up to sin against you anymore than you can help.
Remember, God trumps your earthly parent. He is the Master. He is the REAL parent, the one who “subcontracted” the role to your earthly parents for a season. If you are His servant, you belong to Him. Be wise about dealing with your NPDer, but don’t fear them. You are in Your God-Daddy’s Arms. To the extent that He directs you to meet their demands, do it. But not because of them. Because of HIM :-)!!
You belong to Him.
Save the details for Him (He knows them already, but He loves it when we talk to Him). He directs your life. God is who you trust. Go to Him in prayer and in His Word for your parental relationship needs. Go deep with God. (With your NPDer, stay out of the water if you can; if you must get in, stay in the baby pool! :-).
Seeking a counselor steeped in biblical wisdom and experienced with NPDers can equip you to effectively set boundaries for both your parent’s and your good. They can help you role-play conversations so that you can confidently and lovingly set limits without getting rattled or losing your temper when your NPD parent pushes back against your healthy boundaries. (I am NOT talking about worldly counseling where you are encouraged to do undisciplined things like exploding in anger, smacking pillows, screaming, and raging in letters. Whatever your counselor suggests needs to agree with the Holy Spirit, who is foremost “power, love, and a sound mind.” So be discerning in your counselor choice if you go that route.)
Join us next week when I share from my experience with an excellent counselor some tips that I will pass onto you at NO CHARGE.
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