Dealing With Narcissists – The Narcissistic Adult Mother

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I have been a little “stuck” on how to move forward with this study on Biblical perspectives on narcissism.  There are subjects which I have started and not finished, and several more subjects to yet work through.  Several people have written to me asking for more practical advice on how to deal with specific situations.  Until now, I have avoided this, partly due to the fact that without finishing the foundational understanding of God’s plan of love, and His using evil for good as part of that plan, some practical solutions will not make sense to many readers.  In addition, it is very difficult to provide counsel remotely, as it is difficult to understand the true situation.

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However, I recently received the following comment from “M” (in Africa, I think), which prompted me to get a bit more into the practical side of things even while I continue to work through the framework:

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“I really appreciate your explanation on this topic and I some how feel helped but will be grateful if you could just explain more and may be quote the bible verses on how to deal with a narcissist parent (pastor)”


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To partially address this I will use my own personal case study.

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My mother, who died 5 weeks ago, was what I would consider a moderate “N” – maybe a 6 or 7 on a scale of 10.  My father died 10 months ago.  While I did not know my grandmother (my mom’s mother) well, I have heard a few comments that indicate that she was an N as well.  As I have been working through this study, I have increasingly become aware that I personally have had some of my mom’s N traits in the past.  I also have seen some of those traits in siblings and grandchildren.

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When I left home for college, and later to take on the world, I felt that a cloud of “bad feeling” had lifted.  I did not even know the cloud was there until it had lifted, and did not realize that the source was my mom.   A few years later, in my later 20’s, I came to realize that I could not please my mom, and that she would find something to criticize, no matter what what I did – so I came to the logical conclusion that it was a waste of time and effort trying to please her.  The decision to stop created some emotional space for me, and actually caused her to back off a bit.  It also meant that I basically started ignoring her negative and critical comments, as well as her expectation that I live my life according to her wishes.   The fact that we lived in different cities and that I was busily engaged in life and career also created healthy space.

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In the meantime, I was personally experiencing the difficulties of life arising from my own narcissistic tendencies, but I was rather blind to see it in myself.  But God was gracious through it all, in many ways.

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My mom was very harsh with my dad, constantly and publicly berating him.  It was difficult to watch, as he was a gentle, kind person – especially to my mom.  He did have his ways of subtly staying his own man.   The rest of the family tended to deal with my mom by “walking on egsshells”, being careful to avoid setting her off.  There was no pleasure in seeing her, just a sense of fulfilling an obligation.  My mom was constantly trying to bend life to her will.  Of course, she had no awareness of anything being wrong with her – if anything was wrong it was always someone else’s fault.

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At one point a few years ago, in a moment of self-awareness my mom commented that she had not really done anything with her life.  Unfortunately, that moment did not translate into any change.  As my mom was approaching death this year, I frequently thought about the fact that she had lived her life almost exclusively for herself.  And I wondered what her perspective on her earthly life would be from her new vantage point of Heaven (she was a genuine believer) – likely deeply regretting her selfishness and harshness when she saw the love of Jesus firsthand.

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My dad died at the end of last year.  In the late spring of this year, my 95 year old  mom had a series of infections that landed her in the hospital, and it became very obvious to my siblings and me that she was no longer able to live on her own.  It was my turn to take the lead for her care, so we moved her a thousand miles to an assisted living apartment in our city, where we visited her 3+ times a day for 6+ hours a day.  We did everything possible to help her, in every way possible.  Even though my mom did not “deserve” the special attention and care she was getting, we believed that it was our responsibility and the right thing to do.  We have wondered why the Lord was extra gracious to my mom during that time.  Maybe He will reveal that to us in Heaven.

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At my mom’s small memorial graveside memorial service, there was not a lot of good to say, and some of my siblings did not want to speak at all.  My mom had a poor earthly legacy, but at the end of the day she was responsible for how she had lived her life – as am I, including how I treated my mom even with her narcissistic tendencies.

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I did not handle the situation with my mom perfectly – far from it.  But as I have reflected about how the Lord used that particular narcissist in my life, and how I handled the situation, some of the Biblical guideposts and principles which I partially applied came to mind:


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My being born to a narcissistic mother was out of my control, but part of His design for me

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

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I had a responsibility to honor her, whether or not it was “deserved”.

Proverbs 23:22

22 Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.

Deuteronomy 5:16

16 ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you.

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But as an adult, I did not have to live according to her (arbitrary) wishes, even if it displeased her

Ephesians 5:31

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

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In the end, it did not matter what my mom thought of me – what mattered is what God thinks

1 Corinthians 4:5

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

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I was not to turn my independence from my mom into being confrontational, but rather to seek to live at peace

Romans 12:18

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

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Being at peace included not responding to her critical attacks in a “tit for tat” or reproving manner……….

Proverbs 26:4-5

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.

and

Proverbs 9:7-8

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

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But did include silently leaving my case in God’s hands

1 Peter 2:23

23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

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I needed to be actively willing to be kind to my mom, when she had a need….

Romans 12:19-20

19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

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But, I also needed to retreat to a “corner of the roof” when she was in attack mode

Proverbs 21:9

It is better to live in a corner of a roof
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

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I realized that God was using my mom to develop and refine my character…….

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

and

Romans 5:3-4

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

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I also embraced God’s opinion of me, instead of my mom’s opinion of me

Galatians 1:10

10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? …..

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…….. And finally understood that ultimately she would have to answer to God for how she treated people around her

Romans 14:12

12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

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In the end, it was possible to have some measure of peace with my mom, and avoid being damaged by her sharp criticisms.  She did not experience many consequences in this life for her behavior, other than friends and family not wanting to be around her.  Her Christian family partially shielded her from the earthly consequences – God was very gracious to her on earth through that.  But, God always has the final say, and her eternal standing in Heaven and rewards will be much lower because of her desire to exalt and live for herself on this earth.

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

 

 

 

10 responses

  1. This is a powerful post as I am walking nearly the same story. I am confused by the;
    “And I wondered what her perspective on her earthly life would be from her new vantage point of Heaven (she was a genuine believer) – likely deeply regretting her selfishness and harshness when she saw the love of Jesus firsthand.”

    Was she a genuine believer? A narcissist foundation is built upon creating a false image. I believe this a continued choice no matter what the consequences. This image is worshipped above all else.

    Otherwise it is a gentle reminder of the sovereignty of my Savior and the responsibility I have to the One who saved me in my time here on this earth. I will make my choices in accordance to His Word and let Him attend to the things of which He has placed before me.

    • Thanks for your comment, Laurie. While ultimately only God really knows, I am quite sure that my mom was a believer, based on evidences that she displayed. And, I know that she reaffirmed her salvation some time in her late 50’s early 60’s. I am looking forward to seeing her in a Heaven in a state where area both less disagreeable people! If you like, you can see the blog posts on “Can A Narcissist Be A Christian?” for additional thoughts.

      • Thanks, my mom attends church regularly but has never submitted her life to God and His truths. My prayers continue that she will before she departs this life so that we can have an eternity based upon His love, grace and mercy. I know that He has heard my prayers and I am beginning to understand that He has put this in my life for my personal growth and dependence on Him.
        For His glory forevermore, Amen

  2. Thank you so much for your post and your vulnerability in posting it. Your story could be mine, except that my mother is still alive. I also have no doubt that my mother is a true believer. One of my questions that I’ve struggled with is something I feel you answered in your post. I have tried to figure out if she is a full-blown NM or on a scale of 0 to 10 … where did she fall? Is there hope for change or do I just let go and move on? I would speculate that she is very similar to what your mother was.

    My father, also a kind, gentle heart, died a little over a year ago. I stepped up, thinking I was supposed to become her emotional support. Although I live 700 miles away, I called her every day, trying to get her through her dark times. I made several trips to her home to encourage her, help her navigate social security and etc.

    After a dismal trip to Alaska in August, 2016 with my Mom, I came home with my head reeling and my heart sick and began the long arduous journey trying figure out what was wrong with me. We had fought most of the time on the trip and of course, I was told it was my fault. Imagine my shock as I discovered in my search that my mother was Narcissistic, My Mom fit it all to a tee!! I am sad that it took me over 60 years to figure this out, but am grateful that I finally did.

    I next contacted my estranged sister and together we began rebuilding our relationship. My role has always been the ‘hero’ and hers was the ‘scapegoat’. Consequently, she had detached several years ago, but I never understood why. I have a much different take on our NM and her motives than my non-Christian sister’s views, which can be pretty harsh at times … although, as I said … she’s been hurt in very different ways than what my experience has been.

    I asked my Mom for space as I tried to figure things out – which she has honored. I kept seeking websites that are truly Christian, as I knew that eventually I wanted to forgive and move forward in a new relationship with her. I found your post along with the others at first, but at the time, it didn’t seem to address things I struggled with in practical ways … yet I kept coming back because so many of the other sites were so harsh and filled with anger and advocating no contact and (really, in my opinion) no true forgiveness.

    I won’t bore you with more, but I just wanted to thank you for your vulnerable post. It was most helpful to me. I forwarded it on to my sister, with whom I just spent 4 days with. It was a first and it was a wonderfully healing time.

    Thank you.

  3. Thank you for this post! It was a very helpful read.

    I’ve been trying to navigate these tricky waters, being the daughter of a mother, who unfortunately is a narcissist. I grew up as the Scapegoat child, and lived up to every bit of the “role”. I am a born-again follower of Christ, and am trying to learn how to deal with this. For the longest time, the Scripture “Honor thy father and mother” was used abusively against me. It was license to treat me wrongly, manipulate, and control my life/thoughts/actions. However, I too am finding that The Lord seems to be working on my own heart the more I honestly take it to Him.

    The home I grew up in was single-parent, with my younger sister (who was the “golden child”). The amount of dysfunction, control, and manipulation that this household held, with the outward appearance of being very religious and “Christian”… Looking back, it was a highly legalistic upbringing, rooted in pride and rejection.

    I have grown and am still growing to get to know The Lord for myself, on this journey of discovering His unconditional love and grace.

    In my childhood home, everything was “God told me to tell you…”, “God told me that you….”, even down to “God told me to read your diary”! lol.

    I’ve come to realize that God’s character is much different than what I was taught or even could imagine. Now it’s a journey of getting to know HIm through Christ, for myself. Now, I’ve noticed His Spirit will lead me in directions that I may not have chosen myself. Directions that are guided by His love and peace and truth. This has ruffled some feathers in my family and upset the balance of control. However, I’m encouraged (in the face of nervousness, hehe) that His Word says that He came to bring a sword between family members, and that your enemies may be them of your own household. Following His lead will not always bring greater harmony, but in fact, division.

    It’s also humbling, as He constantly checks me about my own heart and narcissism. He will always humble you so that you do not think you are better than anyone else, no matter their station. Learning His Grace.

    Thank you for being used by Him to write these articles. Please continue to do so in His grace and peace.

    Best regards

  4. My ex-fiance is a Narcissist. I was having a hard time seeing it, but I finally allowed myself to and gave him his ring back. While discovering that has helped, it also hurts because my heart is broken for him. I know that with God, all things are possible. What is the likeliness that he will humble himself and allow God to change him? I want God’s best for him.

    • Not trying to be trite, Renee, but really only God knows the likeliness that any individual will humble himself before the Lord. For your sake, please be watchful against him saying “I’ve changed” in order to win you back….

  5. Thank you so much for your vulnerability. I’m slowly coming to the understanding that my childhood was not balanced or normal, and this has helped me process the emotions and questions that accompany this journey. I’m still learning to find middle ground between boundaries, respect, and loving her as a mother & fellow Christian.

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