How Grace and Forgiveness Fit in the Equation

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In the last blog we looked at the tragic reason the narcissist becomes egotistical rather than loving, which clashes with the heart of God, who loves him.

God’s heart is tender towards the wounds and diminishing of each individual that incurs damaging blows to their personhood. He does not expect us to live past the level of our development. But He does desire for ongoing healing and growth so that we can live full lives, navigating life and relationships well with love!

The essence of grace and forgiveness must encompass every aspect of our lives, including how we go forward in our own healing as well as how we relate with the narcissist. The grace of God is incomprehensibly big towards us all, as well as His forgiveness. It would do us well to think through what this means and what it does not mean. On this foundation we can move forward to look at what is happening within our selves that we need help with, in order to relate well with the narcissists in our lives. We will look at some of our unhealthy reactions, our fear-filled choices that enable the narcissist to continue in their hurtful paths, the need for growing our emotional stamina and some practical suggestions as we relate with a narcissist.

We often have 2 extremes in how we react to a narcissist.  On one hand, we do whatever we can to avoid them.  We may remove ourselves from their presence, either geographically or shut our souls off behind protective internal walls in an attempt to increase safety.    Another tendency for some people is to attempt to fight them and put them in their place.  Fight fire with fire in attempt to increase safety.

But both of these approaches are impotent if the real source of the problem is to be addressed.  They do not address the motivation of fear within us, whether it is a ‘passive’ or ‘aggressive’ reaction within those harmed by the narcissist.   And these approaches do not engage the narcissist in a manner that increases the chance that they will receive what they need, leading them towards repentance of becoming safe individuals.

A theology of grace is needed as we enter into the arena with a narcissist. But it is often inappropriately applied by those who have abused their power, manipulated truth and exploited the vulnerable. And used by those afraid of exposing the narcissist. Grace is never to be used as whitewash to cover over the ugly realities that need to be exposed. Fullness of grace will expose the abuser, not to shame, but to create an environment necessary for healing.

A theology of grace is needed as we enter into the arena with a narcissist. But it is often inappropriately applied by those who have abused their power, manipulated truth and exploited the vulnerable. And used by those afraid of exposing the narcissist. Grace is never to be used as whitewash to cover over the ugly realities that need to be exposed. Fullness of grace will expose the abuser, not to shame, but to create an environment necessary for healing.

One ingredient that is necessary to put into the equation is forgiveness.  Let’s consider what this means and does not mean.  Forgiveness is an internal stance of whether or not one will take on the role of pursuing vengeance.  It is appropriate for us to desire justice and intentionally living in a way that increases setting things right in society.  But it is ultimately God’s role to decide on how to pursue ‘vengeance’.  

He says in Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”.  When we take on this God size problem, we take on narcissism of our own.

Jesus recognizes the significance of this challenge.  In fact when Peter was struggling with the enormity of forgiveness and suggested that forgiving a brother seven times might be a good goal to shoot for, Jesus response was “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18: 22)

Realistically, forgiveness is not a one-time event!  We will hurt each other over and over and are in need of forgiveness over and over.  It is a challenge to develop a lifestyle that does not include subtle or not so subtle attempts of getting back at those who hurt us.

Simultaneously, forgiving someone does not mean that they have become worthy of our trust!  Forgiveness does not automatically ensure that they are to be given access to the intimate regions of our soul or positions of authority and leadership! 

Only God sees the big picture and life history of a narcissist and can know how to dispense a blend of mercy along with vengeance in a way that will lead a narcissist to repentance.  God will not pull out of pursuing the narcissist with kindness that leads to repentance.  The Holy Spirit will stay engaged in interactions that convict of sin, righteousness and judgement.  (John 16:8)  

Our job is to stay connected with our God and tuned in to His guidance, partnering up in pursuing the narcissist in a manner that increases the chance of deep repentance and restoration.  In addition to intentionally being led by our God as to how to go forward, it is important for us to do our own work in developing emotional capacity to stay engaged with the narcissist, which will include our willingness to suffer.

In the next blog we will begin looking at what is happening within ourselves that we need help with, in order to relate well with the narcissists in our lives. We will look at some of our unhealthy reactions, our fear-filled choices that enable the narcissist to continue in their hurtful paths, the need for growing our emotional stamina and some practical suggestions as we relate with a narcissist. Please join me in my next blog.

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3 Comments

  • Such a well written and clear piece of writting for those of us who do not know what to do now.
    I will continue this walk as God leads. And wait for more knowledge such that you provided.

    Reply
  • Thank you Maribeth for taking the time to write these posts. They have come at the perfect time for me as I am enrolled in Barbara Moons Pandora Problem course offered through Deeper Walk International. I signed up to take the course because after reading the book I recognized that my mom in raising me exhibited many narcisistic qualities. I wondered if narcisism was impacting my relationships and marriage. It has been a very eye opening, convicting and redemptive journey as I repent and say no to the strongholds of narcisism within my family.
    Your posts have been key to my growth. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joanna, thank you for taking time to read my posts, and taking the time to jot me a note of encouragement. I’m glad you are in Barbara’s group so have others to be walking this part of your journey with you! It is to an easy topic, and painful to grasp ways we have been impacted. And an avenue for healing and gaining wisdom in order to live and navigate life well. May you sense the Interactive Presence of our God much these days!

      Reply

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