What a Shame

Anyone who has been a target of malignant narcissist abuse has a long journey to health, both physically and emotionally. (The two are related.)

For those affected, no reading is complete without understanding the role of toxic shame.  Here’s a definition of what that is:

Toxic Shame is a neurotic, irrational feeling of worthlessness, humiliation, self loathing and paralyzing feeling that has been inflicted onto an individual through repeated, traumatic experiences often, but not always, rooted in childhood.

There is the shame our consciences feel as God intended – the healthy shame – when we engage in things that really are shameful. Mistreatment of others, lying, stealing—you get the picture. This is what prompts us to try to make right our wrongs and keeps us (hopefully) from repeating truly shameful behavior. There’s a remarkable lack of this kind of healthy shame anymore in our culture.

Toxic shame is what is meted out by  emotionally abusive people, both as a tool of manipulation and also as punishment by sociopaths who have NO sense of shame themselves and who are skilled at using others for their own ends.

When this occurs, targets begin to absorb this false thinking into their identity — something that can cripple the target and destroy their ability to recover a true sense of themselves. It is startling to realize how emotionally abusive  people use this tactic so effectively.

Looking at this topic from a Christian standpoint, you can easily see how the enemy of souls uses people like this to kill, steal and destroy. Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren.” Yes, indeed, and he works through his willing tools on this planet to do so.

Those who are close to a narcissist, especially in a family or partner relationship, display their fears, insecurities and weaknesses as we all do with those we trust. What is so evil about how narcs work is that these same insecurities, fears and weaknesses are the source of the toxic shame these narcs  heap on the target once the degrading and discarding points in the relationship begin.

So, for example, if a target has anxiety problems, that will not only be thrown in the face of the target as proof they are inferior or mentally ill or otherwise unhinged, and during the smear campaign phase, if the target manages to leave,  it will be spread abroad as widely as possible as proof of just how deranged and flawed the target is.  Your vulnerability when you trusted that person becomes the place to insert the knife by the narc. They were storing up that information for future use. I heard one target describe the mind of a narc as a “steel trap” that retained useful bits of info that was later used – out of context – as a weapon to try to destroy. That’s how they roll.

The gas-lighting they engage in furthers the belief  in the target’s mind that they must be the one who is crazy. Self-doubt washes over the head of the target like a tidal wave.  The sense of (false) shame becomes the most prominent feature in the life of the target. They must be a tremendously flawed person, they think. Depression and hopelessness follow.

Satan is a liar.  His servants who have been given over to prideful minds serve as powerful tools in the destruction of others.   The target is faced with not only combating the  lies thrown at them, but also facing the cold shoulders of those who willingly enabled the narc in his destruction campaign. It can be a formidable challenge to overcome this.

When fake spirituality  is added to the mix, and the abuse takes place by someone claiming to be a Christian, , the impact  on faith can be huge. The disassociation that targets utilize to survive gets read by them internally as loss of faith and all the guilt that goes with that follows. The ultimate goal of the spiritual power behind malignant narcs is ultimately that. The destruction of a person on every level, most importantly, faith in the Lord. Whatever image they portray to others, malignant narcissists are the embodiment of evil.  Secular counselors will call it a “personality disorder.” Be that as it may, it is spiritual at its core. The enemy of souls stalks the vulnerable and innocent through them. Without understanding the devices of the evil one, it is difficult to recover.

There are some good resources on this subject that are essential reading by those who have experienced this firsthand.

I highly recommend this book, “How to Kill a Narcissist.  Don’t  worry, the title refers to the killing of the lying myths narcissists hand out to targets. It is tremendously helpful in grasping what these abusive liars do. Once unmasked, the power they have wielded over targets using toxic shame becomes less and less.

For Facebook users. Shannon Thomas of Southlake Christian Counseling has been one of the most helpful sources of truth on this subject that I have encountered yet. Linking to her Facebook page will give you a constant stream of truth — all aimed at a hopeful outcome for those affected.

I want to conclude this post with a word of caution. Be very careful about those you see for counseling on these issues.  If a counselor does not have a handle on how these moral monsters work (malignant narcissists), you will not only NOT find help, you will also end up with additional burdens of false guilt that you in no way should carry.

We are told in Scripture to “understand the enemy’s devices” so as not to be outwitted.  (II Corinthians 2:11) Biblical counselors who want to apportion equal blame to those in these horrendous situations further victimize the target.  Malignant narcs who end up in counseling with targets (a rare thing) are skilled at pointing to reactions they have provoked by their extreme lies to prove to the counselor that they are not the problem. Foolish and incompetent counselors, particularly those of the “biblical counseling” variety, fall for this way too often. Snakes in the grass are known to provoke wild reactions with their venomous bites not witnessed by others. When the reaction of the snake bite victim becomes the focus of outrage and concern, the snake and its poison have succeeded. It really is that simple.

A few helpful points in these memes below.

 

 

The Devastating Long-Term Fallout of Narcissistic Abuse

The topic of abuse from malignant narcissists has been addressed repeatedly on this blog in the last few years. The posts are still up, and a simple search on the home page of this blog will bring them up. I heard again today from someone who was greatly helped by reading basic info on how these abusive people operate and what they do to their targets. Understanding what is going on is crucial to survival.

The spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical fall-out of living in an environment where you are either targeted and/or are the scapegoat in a family or ministry  setting is so devastating, it is difficult to write about at all.

Today, however, a friend posted an article that summarizes the destruction left by these people—people who are shells of human beings. They look whole, normal and even admirable on the outside, but they poison the lives of those they target to such a degree that recovery can seem almost impossible even years later. A quote from the article:

Victims of Narcissistic abuse often appear uncertain of themselves, constantly seeking clarification that they haven’t made a mistake or misheard something. Their confidence becomes so low that they have trouble making simple decisions, questioning and re-questioning things. This is a direct result of the emotional and psychological abuse used by the Narcissist to erode their self-esteem as well as instill confusion and anxiety into the victim to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. This is skillfully guided by the Narcissist and it clouds reality with leading statements like “I never said that”, “You are crazy”, or “you are imagining things.” The Narcissist will even step up the game by reinforcing what they say by backing it up with statements from friends, co-workers, or relatives that supposedly agree and ARE very concerned about the target/victim (and probably just more lies). (See full article here, A Narcissist’s Damage)

I will never forget the night I received a call from a pastor I had worked with for many years in Christian radio. He had first been introduced to listeners for his work in our city with troubled youth.   He had moved out of state, and I hadn’t heard from him in some time.  I was in bed and reached for the phone on the nightstand,  bleary-eyed.

I sat up suddenly in shock at what he was telling me, a blatant lie so slanderous that it took my breath away had been disseminated by the narcissist who was trying to destroy me. I had lost my mind, the pastor had been told. I was nuts. That was a polite way to put it.  He had inquired about me, and the response by the narc was a complete, vicious  lie to cover up my departure from the station.

This had followed the crafting of a false letter that the narc had shown around, claiming similar things. It was a desperate attempt to cover up sin and ugliness on the part of the narc, to protect his own reputation at the expense of the one he had grotesquely harmed.

Hate mail sent to our home, false posts about my mental health on a friend’s blog, lies to whomever would listen, some of them half truths without the other half that explained fully the situation, manipulation of others willing to be used, all of it was just the start of something that went on for years.  Appeals for help went unanswered.

Worst of all was the turning of minds, once respectful, loving, to mistrust and blame.  If the narc  cannot succeed in controlling  you, they will control  how others see you. They will take everything you have or thought you had.

So you learn to question yourself. The strongest of minds are infected with self-doubt. You walk on unstable ground. Ground that you once thought was firm under your feet now cracks in places with every step. Those who once respected you now turn away. You’re too toxic to handle. Not worth it. Probably some truth in what was said, others think. Such a shame.

The poison then drips into your spiritual life. A good God who values truth and goodness and righteousness allows a monster to do this for years? God builds his Kingdom on the whited bones of sincere people crushed in the gears? He allows other professing Christians to kick others (that they’ve known for decades and worked with successfully) under the bus because the narcissist said they were bad all of a sudden? (Decades of personal honor flushed overnight based on false testimony of one?)

The simple faith in God that you had is undermined. You are shaken to the core. There is no reconciliation with anybody. Total silence. Years of it. You were trash and you didn’t realize it. The sense that you were serving Christ faithfully with other Christians is demolished. You feel used and foolish for having been so naive that you could have believed in those around you  or thought they respected you.

Your body takes the hit of years of stress. You can’t handle the slightest stress anymore. The massive adrenaline that helped you function has done great damage.  You blame yourself for anything that has gone wrong. You can’t go forward, because your body won’t let you. People think it is way past time you got over it. Except you’re locked in a cycle of grief. You valued people. You valued your family. You loved people. But they didn’t love you. They didn’t believe in you. The narcissist destroyed their belief in you and your character.

I write these things to give others a sense of how pervasive and hellish the abuse of these demons with skin on really is. Those claiming to be Christians need to be much smarter about how narcs operate, especially those in leadership.

Covert narcs are the most damaging kind. A braggart, a chest-beating malignant narcissist isn’t hard to spot. The ones who slither rather than strut are the ones to watch for. They present a flawless, righteous image to the public, while, undetected, their fangs and poison sink deep into the skin of their target.

If you are discerning, if you ask God to show you what is going on in these situations, you are wise. For blind enabling of these soul-murderers is to participate in their evil.  Those who looked the other way, who were cowards and who discarded innocent people are complicit.  Years and years and years can go by, and it doesn’t change that reality.

So, all of this is true. What now? Ultimately, rejecting God is not the answer, friends. Why such violence to souls is allowed in this life by those supposedly “serving” Him, we will never know. But if there is any antivenin to the poison, if there is any healing possible, it won’t come from repentant enablers, graciously seeking forgiveness for their help of an evil person and the harm done to you. (I dream of this all the time.)  It has to come from God alone. Some damage is too deep, too all-encompassing, to have any human cure.   And waiting for someone with a conscience to step forward and do the right thing is a waste of your life on this earth. Given the state of “Christians” today, they can run over you with their tanks while fighting the culture wars and “winning souls” and never look back.  There is no love.

I’ve watched as those harmed by the church or Christian families have turned into fountainheads of blasphemy, non-stop sources of hatred for God and all that is good. That’s no answer to anything. You just end up adding to the darkness, and what is the point of that? We believe in love. We believe in kindness, Tom and I both. We’ve seen pure evil put on quite a show for years now. We’re walking in love anyway, because without God, there is no love. The times are bad everywhere. But the fact that we can discern good and evil at all takes us back to God’s existence. Out of the depths, those injured must continue to cry to the Lord for his mercy in all areas of life. I still believe what Scripture says. Weeping endures for a time, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Snakes have an extremely effective venom delivery system.

Don’t Feed the Beast – Understanding Fuel and Malignant Narcissists

Hope comes with understanding in bad situations. Deep confusion leads to despair. I have received many messages of appreciation for the series I have published in the last few years on the topic of narcissistic abuse and toxic people/relationships. A search on my home page (search window is just under comments in the right hand column)  under those terms will locate them. It is eye-opening and tragic  to hear from so many dealing with these issues.

Holidays can bring up a great deal of turmoil, both for those living in the midst of a malignant narcissist’s emotional, spiritual  (or other) abuse or, those who are attempting to recover from it, even years later. The grief over a shattered ideal of a love that never was, wasted time, and often, failure to properly see things earlier is real. A time of year rife with sentiment and memories can open these wounds afresh.

One of the most painful things to watch are the enablers of malignant narcissists. These people serve to provide  fuel for the perpetrator in harming a target. Their intentions, however pious, and their (willful) ignorance are beside the point. No malignant narc can operate without gas in his or her tank to run the engine of emotional and spiritual abuse.  It’s important to understand the fuel and who is providing it in these situations. This is the subject of my latest article, linked here.

Additionally, a good  article by another (and the comments below it) linked here, describes the difference between unconditional love and the toxic variety in these situations. It is crucial to understand this.  It is easy to miss it when your heart and soul are involved with someone.

The latest article I have written  is relevant to all, because even if you have not faced this situation personally, others around you have and are. You don’t want to be one of those operating the fuel pump for evil.  Nobody should want to be a tool in the destruction of others.

apollyon

A Little Note for Readers

In July, I passed the nine year mark for my small Hope Blog. Before that, I had a Blogger.com site called Front Porch Chats (long deleted.) After moving from South Carolina back to Wisconsin 10 years ago, I changed the name and started over. Somehow having chats on a front porch in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin seemed unlikely!

As noted before, I never started this blog to be a success by blogging standards. It was a simple antidote to writing about the toxic state of the evangelical church and American culture that I nearly killed myself doing on the once busy news and comment site  I published as an adjunct to the talk radio show I co-hosted and produced. My heart has always been first at home anyway, and so I have enjoyed writing about my family and the good things there are in this world—good things that are often obscured by the ugly.

I haven’t written on here for a while. After getting really sick in June of this year, I ended up in the hospital where they diagnosed diabetes. The summer has been spent adjusting to an entirely new eating plan and medications. Because I did not fit the typical Type II profile of being overweight, it was somehow missed. It would be an entirely separate post to write about how crucial it is to protect your health as much as possible and be vigilant about it. No emotional stress, no other  person or their agenda can be allowed to dominate you and take your health away. We are not here to be the emotional punching bags for others.  Walk away and stay away.  Lesson learned. Stress, over time, kills. It’s that simple.

emilysecondgradeOur little girl, our surprise baby (was it just yesterday she was born?), just started second grade today. I debated once again about killing the Hope Blog once and for all. I have other outlets on social media that are more gratifying for sharing ideas and thoughts and allow me to have a little tighter control over who can contact me. There are some sad people in this world who enjoy drive-by insults and inflicting pain for the joy of…inflicting pain. But there are a whole lot of others through the years who have contacted me with appreciation for covering some subjects that have helped them. Spiritual abuse, family emotional abuse and the destructive effects of narcissism are just a couple of those topics. It is a sadly high number I have heard from who are living in near despair in family systems or churches where  these emotional and spiritual vampires are destroying them, and they are at a loss as to understand how to deal with the situation.

My own and my family’s horrific experiences in the last few years in particular have given me a lot of painful insight, and all I can do is share what I have learned in hopes that somebody else may benefit. It is tempting to see God as having abandoned you in these situations. That is the worst effect toxic people can have on others – the sense of God also having turned his back. But in spite of damage done, we need to trust that His hand is there, guiding us in the dark, leading us and sending encouragement through others to help us through.  And then, we can be a light to others.

So, in my small way here, I am back, Lord willing. I have always loved to write, and I hope that if God allows me strength, that I can share here in some way that encourages others. All topics are not good, but what is good in them is when we can point to hope in God, our refuge and strength in this life. No matter how much hatred is leveled at us, sometimes inexplicably.

Fall is around the corner. Like it is for many, it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to leaves falling and making pumpkin pie. I can’t enjoy it anymore thanks to my new low carb diet, but Emmy and Tom still can!

I hope anyone reading this has a beautiful day. God made it, so it’s good!

 

quote

 

 

Needed: Clarity on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

reconciliationThere is probably no teaching so messed up among Christians as the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. Some subjects may come close , but this one has to be at the top. Rather than clarity and sound counsel, Christians often get mixed messages on the subject from pastors, counselors and articles, making difficult situations worse.

Related to the subject of forgiveness is the issue of reconciling with those who have injured us. Separate issues, but sometimes not treated as such. I will give you just one example of why sorting this out, particularly as Christians who are commanded to forgive others, is so important.

Years ago, a relative in my extended family targeted me for harassment and extreme emotional abuse.  I was barely out of my teen years when he decided specifically that I would make a handy weapon to get back at my father for some long held grievance.  It wasn’t hard to see why I was targeted. With the advantage of age,  I completely get why I was the one, and not one of my siblings. I was sensitive and easily hurt, quick to react and eager to please. I was also too inexperienced and young to know what was really going on behind it all. The extent to which the relative meddled in my private life would shock. He even involved my two little boys.  It went on for eleven years at its worst.

Finally, deciding that the self-created drama and excitement of provoking and harming someone who had never done anything to him was getting old, the perpetrator gave a lukewarm, “Sorry we (he had his wife and son participate as well) got involved.”  Not, “I’m sorry I targeted you in the most vicious fashion possible with  ongoing lies, gossip, slander and meddling. We behaved in an evil fashion and harmed you terribly. I am sorry, will you forgive me?” Just, “Sorry we got involved.”

Young and eager to do the right thing, I reached out, invited the perp and his family to our home, fed them from our table, and tried to let the emotional harm stay behind in the dust. But the story did not end there. It was not long when the trust and attempts at involving these people back in my life were met with further betrayal. This happened several  times in the next few years. Needless hurt once again occurred, trust shattered, emotional pain inflicted. A familiar set of dynamics surfaced,  distracting me from my primary calling as wife and mother and causing old wounds to reopen.

So what had happened?  Hadn’t I rushed to forgive like Jesus? Hadn’t I spent years trying to show that I had put the past in the past and moved on in love?  I recently came upon an article that was tremendously helpful in understanding what had happened in this particular situation.  It also shed a clear and helpful light on other situations I have struggled with as a Christian who wants to live in the light of forgiveness, and, yes, see reconciliation. ( I have seen precious little of the latter in my  life. I can count the time on a couple fingers of  one hand where I have seen real, true healing of relationships. Hatred and pride are the default settings for most professing believers today.)

The excellent article I have linked to below points out something very basic. Letting go of the wrongs that people have done to us is one issue. We are called to do this. We also have to do it or become sick with anger and grudge holding. But reconciliation is something else entirely. THAT is predicated on repentance by the offending party. Real repentance. Not a pragmatic, fake “sorry.” Going back to the so-called apology by the person who targeted me, with the advantage of years gone by, I see now what the problem was. The entire “apology” was a non-apology. The only thing the person was sorry for was that poking me with pins like an insect on a display board was no longer entertaining and had actually screwed up any hope of having family gatherings, something he decided he wanted after all. It served his purposes to say a quick sorry. And I was naive enough to buy it

We must forgive people, but one thing we cannot do is force reconciliation, no matter how much we yearn for it. Those who refuse to see the harm their behavior is doing when confronted with it and instead chose to marinate in the raw sewage  of hate cannot be allowed back into our lives. When those involved claim to be “Christians”, they make an ugly mockery of the Savior they claim to follow. We reward those who mock Jesus when we rush to embrace those who aren’t in the least sorry for what they have done. In fact, many don’t even see that they’ve done anything wrong at all.

Something else happens when we try to force reconciliation.  We bring on ourselves the time- wasting, unprofitable distraction of endless relational drama and emotional chaos. Narcissists, bullies, sociopaths who are in our lives can literally serve as human wrecking balls. They produce false guilt in those who long for reconciliation and healing. Their projection of their sin onto their victims is one of the hallmarks of this kind of person. They are divisive, and they enjoy what destroys a normal person. These people need to be removed from our lives permanently if at all possible. Satan lives in the tumult they create. We are called to peace as believers.

I know there are those reading this blog who are struggling with this in their lives. The article I referenced by April Kelsey is excellent and gives biblical examples. I would also warn, as a side note,  that some things that comes out of the “biblical counseling” movement need to be taken cautiously. Much of it is simply not biblical at all and strengthens abusers rather than get to the core of these situations that can destroy lives—lives intended to bring glory to God, not Satan.

A quote from Kelsey’s article:

When Joseph’s brothers show up at the palace where Joseph is governor, Joseph doesn’t even reveal to them who he is. Instead, he sets his brother Benjamin up as a thief and threatens to enslave him to see how his brothers react. Only when Judah, the one who sold Joseph into slavery, offers to take Benjamin’s place for the sake of their father does Joseph reveal his identity, extend forgiveness, and invite his brothers to be reconciled (see Genesis 44).

Here is what Joseph didn’t do:

– Joseph didn’t hop the first chariot down to Canaan when he became governor.

– He didn’t show up at his brothers’ house and request a private audience with his abusers.

– He didn’t say, “Forgive me for being angry all these years over my enslavement. It was wrong.”

– He didn’t say, “Despite how you might feel about me now, I want us to have a good relationship.”

Joseph didn’t even allow himself to be alone in the same room with his brothers until he saw that they were fully repentant.

The same scenario plays out in many other Bible stories. Reconciliation is only offered when the offending party demonstrates true repentance.

Those who do not repent are not entitled to reconciliation…

Read the whole article here.

And, I would add, trying to force reconciliation, because you want it so much, will ultimately  end up in failure and further spiritual damage.

 

 

 

 

Malignant Narcissistic Abuse – Understanding the Enemy’s Devices

narcguiltOne of the few redemptive things to come out of personal struggle and tragedy is the ability to help others going through similar situations. In the last six years, since I began posting articles on dealing with toxic interpersonal situations, family or otherwise, (there have been over half a million hits on those posts), I have heard from many, primarily Christians, who are bewildered, confused, and in great emotional pain about their own situations. There is hope that comes with understanding. That’s what this post is about.

You don’t need counseling credentials to write about what you have experienced and what you have gleaned in attempting to understand it. In the last few years, similar writing has been a life-saving thing for me. Through Facebook, I have been in touch with various counseling organizations and groups formed to encourage and help others who are losing their minds trying to deal with people who present themselves to others with such greatness and virtue,  but who are systematically destroying those closest to them. For those who are Christians, the toxic combination of “Christianity” , mixed with a behind-the-scenes reality that is at complete odds with the claims, it is especially damaging, because faith itself comes under attack. Why does God allow this lie to continue? Why does God allow families to be destroyed by those claiming to know Jesus? Why are so many fooled by this fraud and refuse to believe those who are being targeted? It can be soul destroying if you let it.

These memes are part of a collection I have that express with laser-like clarity what narcissistic abuse looks like, both in family systems, and elsewhere.  Damage is done not only by the perpetrator, but by his enablers who surround him and prevent accountability or isolation of the abuser from ever taking place. A malignant narcissist is not just a “difficult person.” They do not just cause “tiffs and disagreements.” They are human relationship destruction machines, empty shells without consciences.  They are skilled at manipulation and lie as easily as they breathe, making their targets appear crazy or unbalanced. They are image specialists, knowing how to preserve a squeaky clean appearance, as their enablers (known as flying monkeys – see Wizard of Oz) do their bidding without ever questioning the situation. These are useful tools, unwitting or otherwise, who help in the destruction of innocent people.

As a side note, I would like to add that no amount of public good done can justify the destruction of those closest to you. Many malignant narcissists in ministry (the self-deprecating kind described by Jack Watts) build their public works on the backs of those in their families. If you create a family, that is already your first calling, to nurture, instruct and love them. As parents, we are not accountable for the well-being of strangers’ children or strangers first. Ignoring this fact results in untold personal destruction from those who are often voiceless and helpless, the ones left by the side of the road in the rush to help strangers.

Christians are told to be aware of the enemy’s (Satan’s) devices – to understand his playbook in the destruction of lives and souls.  Well, here is just a glimpse. (Hit the pause button in the middle if you want more time to read.) There are numerous resources online for more information.  I highly recommend this short, seven-minute video, that will further explain. (Also posted below.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Understanding How it Works

narcissism33I came across an article today linked on Facebook on the subject of narcissistic abuse and how enablers are not innocent. It is truly the best piece of writing on this angle of the subject that I’ve read yet.  I have said this before, but I will repeat it: Understanding how malignant narcissists and their weak-willed enablers operate is essential to protecting yourself and your loved ones from their harm. Failure to understand their methods and behaviors can cost you years of your life in pointless grief, headbanging and self-blame.

The fact that this happens in supposedly Christian settings is not surprising. Of all people, Christians are the ones least equipped to deal with this kind of evil. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Fear of “harming the cause of Christ” creates an extra layer of reticence to speak out when narcissistic abusers are on a rampage. Fear of being a “gossip” becomes the excuse many times for saying nothing at all as innocent people are chewed up and spit out. Wrong-headed thinking about taking abuse from others is also a frequent problem among Christians. A lot of cowardice hides in pietistic thinking. (“We’ll just pray about it and God will change things in his time,” said even as they watch others ground into hamburger.)

There is nothing so vile as those who stand back and watch others destroyed. This article underscores the fact that there is no neutrality when evil is being done right in front of you. Those who cower are useful tools in the hand of the narcissist abuser when a direct hit is launched. Here’s the article that nails it all down. Quote from the article:

The narcissist depends upon these weak-willed comrades. Abusing someone isn’t nearly as much fun if it’s only a party of two. With a crowd, there’s unlimited potential for drama. The narcissist gets to pull a lot more strings that way.

If it were just the abuser, and her target, it would hardly be worth it to carry out a full-fledged hate campaign.

That’s because the narcissist labors to get others to turn on the target. The collective betrayal that comes from the camp of these enablers is even more devastating than the primary source of abuse.

Targets, especially if this plays out at work, or in a social setting, watch as, one by one, the people they thought were their friends, slink away when the battle intensifies.

Not taking a stand to stop someone from being hurt doesn’t absolve you of guilt. In fact, when you do this, you become an active participant, whether you consider yourself one or not.

The next post at the Hope Blog is a story sent to me by a woman who was married to a malignant narcissist for a number of years until he divorced her and married another, all the while, lying about his original marriage and keeping his ministry speaking credentials impeccable. Reading her story, shared anonymously, we find a very clear example of how it all works. Creating a false narrative against a target is one of the chief strategies found in the narc playbook.

Helpful Links for Those Struggling to Understand

Given the surprising recent number of hits on articles I have posted in previous years about toxic relationships, I’m going to post some further article links here that will hopefully give additional insight. Each year at this time, there is an uptick in online searches on topics related to dysfunctional family systems. The holidays have a way of resurrecting issues many thought they had buried. These are just listed FYI, and may be of some help on the subject.

Verbal and Emotional Abuse – this is a helpful list of behaviors that, once understood, can be better avoided. Take special note of the term “gaslighting.” No other toxic behavior of destructive people (the ones I call the Human Wrecking Balls) is as effective at destroying others as this one. When you toy with someone’s mind and perception of reality for specific ends, it is evil on steroids. Narcissists create the instability that they then can falsely finger as the source of the problem. Very clever. Identify this behavior and walk away.

Selfishness and Narcissistic Family Systems

Narcissists Force Co-Dependent Relationships

I have more to share and will add some in coming days. Conservative Christians are often so busy inveighing against the evils of psychology, it’s a little embarrassing to realize that narcissistic sociopaths are explained and defined down to their last method in psychology text books around the world, while those with their Bible raised aloft frequently seem to know only how to further enable the perpetrators. This explains why people in the corporate world are frequently seen on the front pages of newspapers for losing their platforms and jobs for destructive behavior, while pastors and other Christian leaders can continue on for decades untouched by consequences. They are surrounded by those who claim to believe in God and his Word, and yet they enable the most unspeakable evil done in Christ’s name. Those injured are shunned and discarded.

If people can identify these behaviors for what they are, whether in churches or in families, it’s step one in ensuring that more lives are not destroyed by this kind of thing. If many people, Christians in particular, were aware of what this grotesque, malignant pride does and how it manifests in relationships, there would be a great deal more hope for salvaging lives before untold damage is done to health and to faith. Yes, it is all sin, but seeing the enemy of soul’s devices is a first step toward resisting.

Faith. The greatest damage, beyond the emotional and psychological, is done to faith. The question asked by the “little people” when they see God “using” these “great workers for God” is this: If this, God, is what you have to use to advance your kingdom, what exactly is being advanced when it’s built on the bones of victims? It becomes very difficult for those injured, sometimes horribly crippled, by soul-destroying people, to understand what exactly they are following when God seems to put his own stamp of endorsement on “Bible-believing”, conservative leaders who grind those closest to them under their cloven hooves – behind the scenes, where nobody can see it or hear the cries for help. Or, should I say, where nobody will listen to the cries for help.

It is not godly to be silent on these issues, contrary to the pietistic thought of many in churches or families. One of the greatest tools of the enemy is to convince those injured in Christ’s name that they are “suffering for Jesus” by saying nothing and not sharing what they have learned. Persecution by the world and declared enemies of Christ is bad enough, and we are told to expect it. Abuse wielded under cover of a Christian banner and churches and ministries is quite another. All silence does in cases like that is lengthen the victim list. And that is a terrible thing.

Toxic Families and Adult Children Part 1

Here at the Hope Blog, I have talked about things like counting our blessings, looking to Christ instead of the ugly realities we sometimes face in this world, and how the truest creeds are those said in the dark.

For those who face years of unrelenting, grinding discouragement in their lives, I know a lot of this sounds like saccharine fantasy. I will agree that there are some situations in life that are so bad, so difficult and so protracted, that doing the above is very difficult. One such area I hear talked about a lot by women is toxic relationships within their family of origin. That can be a never ending source of discouragement.

As adults, we know we should mature past some of the unhealthy dynamics in our families. It doesn’t always happen. I have often thought of the roles we play in our families as being like a dance on a stage. I could easily choreograph the dynamics in the family where I originated. You probably could as well. For some, it might look like a beautiful scene from Swan Lake. For others, it would look more like the sword fight between the Montagues and the Capulets in the ballet, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe some  contortionist modern dance would be a better adaptation of what your family dynamics look like.

While minor disagreements and misunderstandings can happen in any healthy family, a truly toxic family is where a poisonous undercurrent of resentment brought about by years of unresolved issues is the major influence. It always, of course, begins in the marriage and in a parent/parents who have a messed up relationship. When the leaders of a family don’t provide a healthy environment, everything else follows. Children develop compensatory ways of dealing with the emotional burden given them by their parents. A lot of it depends on their personalities as to which role they take.

Some children just escape and avoid. Others confront and challenge and play family therapist. Some become co-dependents and spend the rest of their lives trying to get their needs met by equally dysfunctional people. Family members can triangulate, trying to get support for their viewpoint from sympathetic members. Backs are stabbed at times. Petty things become big things. Angry phone calls are made. Feelings are hurt. And the beat goes on.

Someone posed a question to me recently about how to function as a Christian in the middle of a family like this…when the family involved is supposedly Christian. That’s the amazing thing about ugly family dynamics. They exist in families where the individuals would all identify as Christian people, yet the relationships are completely shattered. The Christ they trust for eternal salvation is somehow incapable of fixing what’s wrong in their families.

I don’t claim to have a lot of answers, but when contact with your family of origin, whatever religion they claim, means a constant stream of emotional toxins coming your way, it’s time to stop adding to it. If family members have demonstrated a complete unwillingness to handle things in an adult manner by open communication, forgiveness and love, then you need to stay as far removed from it all as possible. Sometimes conflict can be traced to too much contact in the first place. While it would be nice if Walton-esque families could be the norm for Christians, it isn’t always that way. Space and distance can be a great sanitizer. Granting each other more space may be viewed as “cutting off” people, but Scripture tells us we are called to peace. To participate in ongoing warring is simply sinful.

When elderly parents need care, some of the toxic undercurrents can flare up, big time. In those situations, it takes a lot of prayer and diplomacy to work these situations out. Sometimes, all you can do in a situation is survive the best you can with the Lord’s help. You can only be responsible for your own attitude and conduct, but it is not wrong to remove yourself as chief punching bag if that is what you have become in your family situation.

Probably nothing short of a difficult marriage has the potential to be a source of constant discouragement like negative extended family relationships. I would be interested to hear how readers deal with that sort of thing in their own lives. It seems to effect so many.