Forgiving Narcissists,Psychopaths and the Mentally Ill

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”  (Matthew 18 KJV)

How many of you were raised Christian? My family was Catholic. We did not  attend mass not every week, but I went to Sunday school for several years. I was a bright child who enjoyed learning and absorbed all of the main lessons from the bible, Sunday school, and the Davey and Goliath television show we watched on Sunday mornings.

I learned that forgiveness, then, was a command straight from Jesus Christ. Forgiveness was part of the moral code of the Christian faith. In order to live our lives correctly, we must forgive as a practice in response to any wrong done to us.

And, so, I have spent my adult life practicing the basic tenets of the Christian faith. I try not to judge others, I do what I can to feed and clothe the poor and I “forgive those who trespass against me.”

OK, so what happens when you run into a situation where you can’t forgive? When someone trespasses against you deliberately and with such dire consequences that the very concept of forgiveness flies right out the window? Then, what are your options?

I spent my life forgiving others their trespasses and I even forgave my first husband for having abandoned me and our daughter so that he could pursue a life of drug dealing. I thought to myself “Forgive him, Lord, for he knows not what he does.”

However, as this turns out, he knew exactly what he was doing. A narcissistic psychopath, he was not ‘led astray by a bad crowd’ (the fairy tale I told myself for the next twenty years in order to not blame him.) No, he chose his friends, his lifestyle, his activities.

At any rate, forgiving him turned out to be a very bad thing, because it allowed him access into our lives to do more damage. How many others out there have experienced that? Have you forgiven the narcissist, the sociopath, or the psychopath only to leave yourself open  for him to hurt you and mess up your life again?

There is no point where he will be grateful for your forgiveness. Whether or not you forgive him simply means, to him, whether or not the door is open so that he can access your life again, in whatever way suits him.

So lack of forgiveness is actually self-protection? Yes.

Wow. So, then the gospel of Christ was completely wrong, wasn’t it? Well, perhaps Christ had never met a Cluster B personality. I’m ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. ‘Cause, If you haven’t met one, then you’ll never believe what dealing with one is like.

So yes, when it comes to Cluster B personality types, forgiveness is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Let me be clear: If you feel in your heart that you can forgive this person in a way that brings you peace and closure, and does NOT let him back into your life, all the power to you.

However, for me, this is not the case. I cannot forgive what he did to me, which I have described at length earlier in this blog. The lies, the deception, the cheating ,the devaluing, the discarding, the time he stole and how mixed up it made me at the end and how long it took to get back on my feet afterwards… No I cannot forgive the train wreck he created in my life for no reason other than to enjoy himself at my expense in a superficial sexual relationship which he convinced me was a loving, caring committed one.

However, I did choose to forgive my bipolar mother on her deathbed for a childhood of physical and emotional abuse, and the experience was spiritually uplifting for both of us. I believe she died in peace because of my forgiveness, and I feel good about my relationship with my mother because of that death-bed scene, where I had the power to forgive and acted upon it.

The difference is in the diagnosis. I watched my mother struggle with her mental illness her whole life. Being bipolar made her miserable. It drove the people in her family away from her. It prevented her from ever having a successful romantic relationship.

I saw her trying. I watched her take medication and go to therapists, psychiatrists. When I was a very young child, I remember her trying very hard in between her depressive stages to do wholesome activities with me. In between lying in bed for days she would decorate easter eggs, teach me to bake cakes, make homemade stuffing, plant a garden, etc.

She was someone who struggled with being mentally ill and who did her best. When she lost her cool and slapped me, at the time I hated her, but looking back and seeing how much stress she was under, I can appreciate how much restraint went into only slapping me once.

On the other hand, my ex, the psychopath,  lived his whole life avoiding responsibilities, both moral and financial, so that he could pursue his chosen path, of dealing drugs, doing drugs, drinking and hanging out with others like him. He has spent his entire adult life in criminal activities and either ignoring, mistreating, abandoning or lying to his family members. There is no conflict inside him, as there was in my mother. In addition, he has been perfectly happy living his life this way. He has not suffered from it because he enjoys being the way he is.

Perhaps it is true that he was born a psychopath, and cannot help the way he behaves, , but I cannot forgive the cold calculating ego inside him which caused so much damage in my life and in our daughter’s life, not only once, but twice.

He has always put  himself first, which was never the case with my mother. She was extremely loyal.  She was loyal to family and friends. After she died many of her friends told me stories of how selflessly she had come to their aid over the years, in some cases many times. If any of her friends or family needed anything, she’d be there.

So, my ability to forgive my mentally ill mother but not my mentally ill ex husband is based on intent. My mother always intended and tried to do better. My ex husband always intended to immerse himself in criminality and degenerate companionship. He has never tried to live a better life, he has never tried to make up for his lack of responsibility.

That’s the line I drew in the sand on forgiving the mentally ill who harm us. Where and how do you draw yours?



7 thoughts on “Forgiving Narcissists,Psychopaths and the Mentally Ill

  1. Pingback: Grieving the Person You Thought You Loved « Phoenix Rising

  2. I see forgiveness as something I do for myself, not the one who harmed me. Forgiving does not mean condoning what someone did, nor allowing them to harm me further. It just means I relinquish the right to avenge, to punish.

  3. Pingback: links to read and expound « She's a Crazypants McGee

  4. Here is a great lit review on the concept of “forgiveness” which answers the dilemma of which you refer. Jesus actually asks the lord God to forgive. There were different translations/contexts for the word, which I find very informative. It comes from above & at the time written, came was granted from a higher position to a lesser, which is why, I believe why asking for forgiveness, which requires humbling one self, is so necessary for true “forgiveness” to occur, otherwise, forgiveness can mean refer it to the higher power for absolution (or not) and the victim can let it go and move on.

    • Thank you, this is excellent. Until this situation in my life, I felt that my involvement in ‘forgiveness’ had to play an active role in the part. Asking God to forgive in situations where the wrong done is severe is exactly what I thought of after it had happened- that I could not forgive him but that I could ask God to forgive him. Ixchel

  5. This was just the confirmation I needed. I am struggling with my dad who is mentally ill. He will never see how he lies and treats everybody terribly. He even believes the lies that he says. He is in my opinion, demonically oppressed, or even possessed. I am sad for him. I will lift him up to the Lord and ask God to forgive him. I will not allow him to be in my life. Why would I let someone in my life who is so dangerous? I’m also cutting him off in the spirit because he is committing the sin of slander against me, which is “as the sin of murder.” ” the truth is not in him and he is a liar.” God forgive him. I am getting free of him.

    • Yes, you need to keep yourself safe first. If a person is so toxic that they are lying constantly and treating people badly, then you have a right to keep a person like that out of your life. I had to do that with my mother and a few other people in my life! Good Luck! Ixchel

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