It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Forgiveness: A Gift you give Yourself?

I had several experiences this last week or so that brought me to revisit my viewpoint on forgiveness, particularly forgiveness of those who show no remorse for…who may even refuse to acknowledge…their wrongs. Back in March I wrote a piece on the subject on my other blog, A View from the Other Side,  which is reproduced in part below:

“Like all others, Western society has a herd of sacred cows. I’ve always been the kind of person to examine those cows, to test the reason for their sanctity. Maybe I am an iconoclast, maybe I am just, as my mother used to call me, a “shit disturber.” Whatever the reason, I find it very difficult sometimes to not dismember a sacred cow with the sharp blade of critical thought—and when I do that, it seems impossible to put the poor cow back together when I am done.

“My subject matter is eclectic. I didn’t like Hemingway despite my sophomore English professor’s adoration of him and his writing—I found his writing juvenile in the sense that it was choppy and lacking in flow. I take issue with modern interpretations of Christianity. I am not on board with the child-centred lifestyle so many parents indulge in today. I detest pop-cultural icons like Kim and Paris and the vapid, self-indulgent consumerism they inspire. But most of all, I despise “popular wisdom,” especially when it may be popular, but is anything but wise.

“One of my favourite straw men is the silly notion that, in order to heal from some traumatic event, you have to forgive the person who hurt you. What unmitigated bullshit! Gail Meyers, in her article When Your Mother Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, addresses the topic very wisely. This “forgiveness imperative” that is plaguing our society right now is, of course, based in the Christian notion of being forgiven by God for our sins. If someone as powerful and omnipotent as God can forgive us for terrible sins, who are we, puny little mortals that we are, to withhold forgiveness from each other?

“Not only is this unnecessarily guilt-inducing for victims, it is wholly inaccurate. To quote Meyers: ‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ (Col. 3:13) How did the Lord forgive you? Did He just ‘forgive and forget’ your sin as you refused to repent or even acknowledge it as abusers often do? No, you confessed your sins to Him, acknowledged your sin, repented and He forgave you. God does not forgive a person denying they have done wrong and continuing in their sin. Quite the opposite. In Luke 17:3 it says, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.’ In the Greek, ‘rebuke’ is epitimao, which in this case means to honestly, frankly, politely speak as you tell a person how you feel that he has wronged you. It does not say a thing about stuffing your normal human response of anger, pretending you forgave, ‘forgetting’ and returning for more abuse as some would have you believe.’

“Dr. Susan Forward, in her book “Toxic Parents” also addresses the subject of forgiveness: [on] page 189…:
— “The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this absolution [forgiveness] was really another form of denial: ‘If I forgive you, we can pretend that what happened wasn't so terrible.’ I came to realize that this aspect of forgiveness was actually preventing a lot of people from getting on with their lives.
— “Responsibility can go only one of two places: outward, onto the people who have hurt you, or inward, into yourself. So you may forgive your parents but end up hating yourself all the more in exchange.
— “Clients all too often discovered that the empty promise of forgiveness had merely set them up for bitter disappointment. Some of them experienced a rush of well-being, but it didn't last because nothing had really changed in the way they felt or in their family interactions.”

“If you are guessing that I am not a big fan of forgiveness, you are correct. I think the pressure on victims to forgive those who have harmed them is reprehensible. It is revictimizing the person, demanding that they, in essence, disavow their right to experience their own feelings and instead, invalidate themselves in favour of the person who hurt them!

“This is just not acceptable! One of the unhealthiest things we do to ourselves is to ‘stuff’ our feelings. This repression and refusal to acknowledge reality leads to a host of new personal difficulties from drinking problems and eating disorders to being unable to trust or even love others, and more. Women who stay with abusive partners are people who have learned to stuff their feelings. People who blame themselves for the behaviour of others—like a man who was brutalized as a child saying ‘I deserved it…I was a handful as a kid,’—are people who have learned to stuff their feelings. Anorexics, people who cut themselves, the perpetually but inexplicably angry or anxious, even the promiscuous, are people who have learned to stuff—to disassociate from—their feelings.

“Don’t get me wrong…I am not saying we should never forgive. I am simply saying that we should not forgive indiscriminately—or prematurely—or because others say we should or that forgiveness will somehow heal our hurts, because none of that is true. I think forgiveness has its place, but it is not a healing tool. In fact, if you expect to get something out of forgiving someone who has hurt you, you really are viewing it all wrong. Forgiveness, to be genuine, has to be a selfless act, selflessly given, with no conditions or expectations attached.

“There are a number of people in my life who need forgiveness—but I’m not handing it out. I am also not bitter or “withholding” or any of the other epithets others cast at those who refuse (or are unable) to forgive. I am rational, I am intelligent, and I am good at critical thinking. Refusal to forgive is directly related to those people refusing to acknowledge their sins, apologize, and trying to make amends of some kind. It is Biblical, as it were, in that before I will forgive another’s trespass, that other has to own up to his transgressions and be truly remorseful for them. Absent that, there is no forgiveness.

“No—it is not harsh—it is eminently pragmatic and protective. Normal people, when they learn they have hurt you, actually feel bad about it. Their internal processes generate a feeling of guilt which they expiate with an apology. It is the people who refuse to acknowledge they have done wrong, who rationalize or justify or blame their victims, who feel no remorse, no guilt, who should not be forgiven. They do not understand selfless acts given selflessly. They see life through their own set of warped filters and perceive forgiveness as consent on the part of their victim, an assent to continue the assaults that generated the need for forgiveness in the first place.

“For some transgressors, the knowledge you are forgiving them can be enraging. How dare you take it upon yourself to imply they are wrong in anything they do? Because, after all, you only give forgiveness to those who have done something wrong. Others use forgiveness sanctimoniously—just see how big, how magnanimous, how humble (and wonderful) they are to forgive you for your sins against them. They may even tell you, in supercilious tones, that they forgive you, that they know you don’t hurt them on purpose, that you are living your life as you choose and they forgive you for the pain those choices have inflicted on them. That isn’t real forgiveness, for all that they might believe it is. It leaves them feeling pure and good and self-righteously superior. It isn’t real forgiveness, it is a game they play with your feelings and your self-esteem, your mind and your soul. It makes them your judge, with a perceived right to forgive or punish what they perceive as your sins—it allows them to think they have a right to control your life and that your behaviours (and even beliefs and values) must align with their own. It takes away your power—in their minds—and give it to them.

“So, is forgiveness a bad thing? No. Not if it is appropriately and judiciously dispensed. Given too freely, it has no value. Withheld parsimoniously, it loses its purity, it becomes a cudgel with which to beat those who would have forgiveness into submission.

“If you ascribe to the Christian model, forgiveness cannot be dispensed until and unless the transgressor acknowledges and repents his sins because that’s how the Christian god does it and no mere mortal can be smarter, better or more righteous than God. If you ascribe to something a bit more terrestrial, logic dictates that forgiveness still cannot be dispensed until and unless the transgressor acknowledges and repents his sins, otherwise all the forgiveness represents is permission to continue committing the acts that required forgiveness in the first place.

“Forgiveness absent repentance is nothing more than permission to carry on as before.”

OK, so I reread that blog entry and I ruminated on it. I went back to Dr. Forward’s book and reread the section on it. I discussed it on line with some DoNM friends of mine. And in the end, I came back to the same conclusions expressed above, but a bit extrapolated. You see, I came up nose to nose with a purported DoNM who either had a really bad case of fleas or she was an N in disguise. Her very strident contention was that forgiveness of your NM was a gift you gave yourself. One of the women in the forum disagreed and the only response to her well-explained dissent was a rather snippy “Well, nobody says you have to!”

So, I weighed in with my objections to the idea that in order to heal, you have to forgive those who have wronged you and was met with a similarly snippy response. I elaborated on my thoughts and the OP (original poster) came back with a sulky, pouty, whiny “I’ll never try to help people again if this is how they act,” or something to that effect. This galvanized the OP’s pals into a bulwark of spitting cats, one of whom actually branded me as an “angry person” and characterized my posts as “attacks.”

I had to leave the forum for a few hours to do some things and when I returned, the entire thread had been deleted! (Otherwise I would have excerpted a few salient quotes here). That was when the penny dropped: who else behaves this way? Petulant, snotty when disagreed with, projection, attacking, and then, finally invaliding through silencing? Sounds pretty N to me, although I will acknowledge that a person with an especially bad case of fleas might behave in much the same manner.

And so I began cogitating again on the subject, considering what kinds of benefits I might derive from forgiving my NM (I had never really looked at it that way, having always thought that forgiveness was essentially a selfless act done to ease the pain of guilt and remorse that others feel after having committed a wrong). Would it make me happier? No—I’m pretty happy with myself and my life as it is right now, and my explorations into my life with NM are more intellectual exercises than emotional ones. I did the painful emotional work years ago and now it is more like a puzzle than anything else…to re-examine my life with her and try to dispassionately figure it out.

Would forgiving my NM bring me any kind of peace? I live a peaceful life inside and out. I don’t fight with my husband, I get along well with my in-laws, I have a quiet, satisfying life with just the right mix of activity and rest to satisfy me. I don’t feel restless or that anything nags at me or feel uneasy in any way. I feel peaceful—in fact, if I was any more peaceful, my husband would have to start hunting for a casket for me!

Perhaps forgiving my NM would make me less bitter? Well, maybe if I was bitter, that might help—but I’m not. I am honest and forthright about my experiences with her, and I learned a lot of hard-won lessons as a result of them. But I don’t feel any kind of burning in my breast, no desire to seize her by the throat and throttle her until her eyes bug out (favourite images in my mind many years ago when I would have done her bodily harm if I could have put my hand on her).

So perhaps I would lose my desire for revenge, for compensation of some kind, for reparation? Well, that would be hard to do since I have long since given up any expectation—even desire—for such things. I am a pragmatist—what good could they possibly do? Even if I was able to exact retribution, would it turn back the clock and give me back those years she stole from me and my children? Would the sweetest revenge compensate me in any way for the years of being rejected and reviled by my own mother, turned into an unpaid housemaid and whipping post for any- and everything that provoked her temper? Nope—it wouldn’t change or fix a thing, nor would it give me anything of value—which is why I long ago put such thoughts and desires away.

The only possible value I could see in it would be that it would provoke her to a temper. My act of forgiveness would enrage her which, if she was still around, might be amusing simply to be able to turn the tables on her and manipulate her the way she manipulated me and the rest of the family. She would be outraged that I would set myself above her (for that is surely how she would see it) and then judge her—and then have the temerity (or to used one of her favourite phrases “unmitigated gall”) to “forgive” her. But then, that wouldn’t really be forgiveness, given from the heart, would it?

No, as I review forgiveness again, I still see no value in it unless the abuser acknowledges wrong-doing and sincerely apologizes to the abused. And even then, I don’t think the abused is under any obligation to forgive, no matter how great the remorse shown by the abuser. Forgiveness is a gift, and because it is a gift, like all gifts it must be freely given with an open heart…and no strings attached, including the invisible expectation of receiving some benefit yourself from your act of forgiveness.

As for me, I don’t care any more. And that is probably the healthiest place to be. I just do not care. As an atheist I don’t think she roasts in Hell, I don’t think she will be reincarnated (whew! imagine her being released on some innocent kids again!), I don’t think her spirit hangs around and knows what I think or feel or am doing. Her evil went with her, dissipating with her life force and now she is gone. And I’m glad.

And I don’t need forgiveness for that.


Next: Ten Commandments of Dysfunctional Families:
1. Thou shalt reinterpret reality to preserve the perfect fantasy.



29 comments:

  1. BRAVO! This is a perfect, sensible, reality-based, down-to-earth, brilliant piece of writing.

    I would love to see this post go viral. I don't know if blog posts ever do go viral, the way youtube videos and social media postings do. If not, well, there someone has to be first.

    In my lifetime I have been beaten to a near bloody pulp by rabid Bible-thumpers over this forgiveness issue. Lest I be understood by your readers, I am a Christian believer, converted fairly late in life after decades as an agnostic. But when I go to church, I do not check my critical thinking at the door.

    I'm going to print out a hard copy of this post, that's how much I like it. If I were rich I would ask your permission to make this into a brochure and drop it by the thousands out of airplanes.

    Those flea-bitten DoNMs or N's in disguise, whichever shoe fits, are the reason I don't do forums. Been there, done that, got triangulated and gaslighted for daring to think outside the sacred cow pasture... which then triggered in me flashbacks of NM's black-and-white know-it-all cliche-ridden thinking. So I got the heck OUT, before I caught the dis-ease.

    ~Say, your NM must have gone to the same U of N as mine, one of my momster's favorite expressions is "unmitigated gall," with "Who Do You Think You Are?" a close runner-up.

    Charity

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    1. Hello, Charity and thank you for writing.

      I don't know if a blog's ever gone viral or not--I suppose you could share the link to this page ( http://narcissistschild.blogspot.com/2012/09/forgiveness-gift-you-give-yourself.html )on Facebook or Twitter or some other social media site and see what happens, though.

      Your last sentence made me laugh. Mine used to say "Just WHO in the HELL do you think you are..."

      As noted at the beginning of this blog entry, I'm not a big herd follower. If I am following a herd it is because I have thought it out and find I am in agreement, not because it "sounds good" or because everybody I know is doing it. This gets me in trouble because when I say "I disagree" or "I don't believe that" or "there's more than one view on that subject" SOMEBODY gets their nose out of joint because I am not being a good little sheep and following along and agreeing with them. I think one of the problems with some these forums is that the members are so accustomed to dealing with conditioned DoNMs who wait until they see which way the wind is blowing before committing to something (in agreement with everybody else) that when one of us speaks up with an opposing view, they are taken aback. They EXPECT agreement get bent when it is not forthcoming.

      Too bad...I am not a very good "yes" woman unless I actually DO agree and this current pop cultural "forgiveness imperative" just rubs me the wrong way. So I wrote about it, first in my general blog, then here, where the audience has a vested interested in the subject.

      I think if forgiveness works for you, you should do it...but you shouldn't condemn others for not taking the same road. And I also think that if you are going to forgive someone, it should be because you WANT to...because YOU want to...not because somebody else planted the idea, not because you think you will feel better afterwards, but only because you wish to ease the pain of remorse and guilt the person is carrying as a result of wronging you. I truly cannot think of a single other valid reason for doing so!

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    2. I agree. While I know from experience that bitterness (and in my case, a desire for revenge) can be toxic, on the other hand, I've always felt that simply "forgiving" someone with no repentence on their part, leaves one open and vulnerable for more abuse. I know in my own life, I've had it hurled at me that if I was a true Christian, I ought to unconditionally forgive NM for her ongoing wrongs, turn the other cheek, etc. I've struggled with this for years. But what do you do when the person slaps the other cheek, then you turn the first to them again, and they slap that, and it goes on, and on, and on...?

      We can "forgive" a dog for viciously biting us, in the sense that we don't seek his demise, but, ought we to walk back up to him with extended hand, as though he'd done nothing? To me, some people's idea of forgiveness, means we are to do such that. I hope to someday come to a point that I can forgive my own NM, but, I can't say I have any intention of wanting to try to have a relationship with her, unless, and only if, she acknowledges her wrong. Just a rant...

      "Poohbear"

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    3. If someone feeds you that nonsense about "unconditionally forgiving" or you're not a true Christian, remind them that even God doesn't forgive unconditionally: if he did, we would all he headed for heaven, no matter what we did.

      Would they have you set yourself above God, demanding that you go one better by forgiving people who have neither confessed their sins nor asked forgiveness, which God demands before HIS forgiveness is given? Quote Scripture if you have to: ‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ (Col. 3:13) Luke 17:3 says, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.’

      Forgiveness is YOURS to give or withhold as you see fit, like any other gift.

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    4. I love your post, and it really hits right at my heart. I have been told to forgive and be the magnanimous person. I tried it and is still in emotional pain for the past 6 years. You are so right in forgiveness is a gift, and I only give to those who deserve it. I am so glad to have read your post, as I am so sick of people (the ones who hurt me without sincere apologies, & hurt me again n again despite forgiving them, and also those who think forgiveness is the only way to heal without the perpetrator apologizing n changing their toxic behaviour) telling me to forgive. It is as good as telling me to treat nothing has happened.

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  2. WOO HOO! Go SV!
    Obviously, I couldn't agree more. Not only are the "Forgiveness Perpetrators" (yes, I view them as such) typically presenting themselves as having secured the moral high ground, the rest of us (the unwashed masses) must clean up our acts and follow their belief system-least we get banned from some Narc's site. My oh my, I'd consider that an honor, personally.
    While I do believe this whole Forgiveness Myth is rooted in a particular religious orientation (which, from what I can ascertain is completely off the mark anyway) it has somehow morphed into an AC Urban Myth. Anyone who is promoting themselves as "The Way, The Truth and the Light" is likely an N masquerading as a "Helper." Uh Uh. More likely, they're creating a cyber cult for their daily dose of N Supply and absolutely will NOT broker any dissension among the ranks. Yes, you absolutely will be labeled as a "Bitter, Angry, Hostile" etc. AND etc. person-and then dumped after you've been thoroughly cyber-spanked by a bunch of middle school tweens. "IMO and FWIW" ;)
    This is a HUGE reason why I avoid Forums like the plague. I have no clue who is runnin' the show, what the REAL Agenda is (despite the stated one) and if I have to be "Invited" to join, that's scarier yet. The give and take, different POVs on Blogs are refreshing. Additionally, you can take your time, start from the beginning of the Blog and have a good sense of who and what the Blogger is about: Are they consistent? Are they reliable-by that what I mean is, are they who they say they are? Do they share their own experiences as well as bring in different resources? Do they ban simply because someone has a different POV and set up a feeding frenzy on the hapless poster who politely said, "OTOH, " thereby terrorizing the rest of the True Believers into submission? (Forums are notorious for this tactic, IMO.) Yes, I read yours from the beginning, have absolutely enjoyed your honesty and integrity-and then somehow lost you.
    I am really sorry your experience with that other place was so awful but it sounds so typical, so consistent with what I've observed particularly with Forums. I hope it was not your first experience in cyberspace in terms of being an AC: IMO, these kinds of sites re-victimize the victim/re-traumatize the already traumatized all over again and there's NO "excuse" for that other than the reality it's more than likely sponsored by a N trolling for Supply in the cyber sphere. And creating a Cult of Clueless, Mindless, Cretins who lack the ability to think critically or logically-the easier/better to manipulate the True Believers and discredit those who can and actually DO. "Tell us, oh fearless know-it-all leader, what to DO!" because it's just so much easier to have someone else do the thinking FOR you. Not only have you been well "trained" by your NP, you've re-created the same world all over again at the click of a mouse. Nice and comfy, huh? Familiar always is: I thought the goal was to get OUT of the "Familiar" and re-possess your life, but what do I know.
    Excellent Post (as usual!) and I'm gonna catch up with what I've missed since I cyber-farted (excuse me, please) and lost my "favorites" along with my mind trying to "un do" what I apparently did and I'm still not at all certain what that was? Anyway, I'm doing my one-footed/Yetti-foot Happy Dance, "That which has been lost has been found." (and Bookmarked-again!)
    TW

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    1. Hello TW and welcome back! (You wouldn't happen to know what happened to Lisette at HoM would you? Can't get on her blog anymore!)

      Actually, about 2.5 years ago I got kicked off a site called Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers without warning or explanation at a particularly vulnerable time. I've checked out a lot of sites, groups and forums since then and the brouhaha over forgiveness was in a FBGroup that I was added to (as opposed to actively joined). As soon as it became apparent that this unmoderated group had a self-appointed leader who was not going to brook any dissent, I excused myself. There is no way to win with people like that and the last thing I want is to embroiled in a polarizing dispute with someone on a forum I have nothing invested in.

      The forgiveness meme is toxic, I think, in that so many people do not bother to THINK about it--they just expect to forgive and magically feel better as a result. When it doesn't happen, it makes them feel worse. It is NOT a healing tool because forgiveness is never for the one doing the forgiving--it is a gift to alleviate the pain of the person who wronged you and is now suffering pangs of guilt. It DOESN'T make you a better person to forgive, I don't think there is any obligation to forgive in in the face of a sincere apology, and I don't think forgiveness is a necessary part of healing. Others may find it helps them, for me to do it, I would simply be lying to myself.

      I like Dr. Forward's comment that responsibility can only go two places: outward to those who wronged you, or inward, where you blame yourself for their actions. I will take the former, thank you. And forgiveness is not on the menu!!

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  3. Oh Violet - I was banned on DoNM also, and for me it was also an extremely vulnerable time. This was approx. 2 weeks after I had learned that my N-momster had sent a 62 page hate letter full of lies and twisted half-truths about me to the whole family, and even more horrible than that - 5 days after I learned about my momster's latest hate campaign, my precious cousin drowned. She and I had talked for an hour on the phone the night before her death. We were talking, among other things, about my NM and her evil letter. My cousin, who was an RN and also had a BA in psychology, told me during our last-ever conversation that "it would explain everything" if my mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Coming from someone who had known my mother/her aunt all her life, and with a psychology degree no less, I felt so VALIDATED and AFFIRMED. Finally, someone else in my family saw through my momster's facade. I felt so close to my cousin then, closer than ever before. She was my only blood relative living in this state, we had so many things in common. We made plans to get together in 3 weeks for what would have been her 39th birthday - although she was my first cousin, she was young enough to be my daughter. My baby cousin. The next morning after our last phone call she sent text messages saying YAY! and she made a smiley face, because she and her friend were going to the natural hot springs in Montezuma, New Mexico, to spend the day and she was excited.

    I was writing a long email to her full of plans for a future that will never be, when she drowned. I have never been so devastated by a death. I still miss her terribly, and it has been over a year now.

    A few days after her service, when I was in so much pain I can't even describe it. I went online to see what information I could find about mothers with NPD, and found the DoNM site. I read through the pages and felt hope that here was a community of understanding, caring, kindhearted women. OH how I needed that right then. I joined the site, I read through all the rules, and thought I understood them - but maybe I missed something vital, I don't know, I was half out of my mind with GRIEF. As soon as I joined I wrote my first ever post, in which I described my mother, by sharing some of the worst unbelievably abusive things she has done, including her 62-page hate letter full of lies sent to my siblings and my aunt (the mother of the cousin who drowned). In my post to DoNM, which I wrote and rewrote so carefully, I asked if anyone else could relate, if others had a mother like mine?

    First thing the next morning I logged onto the internet and clicked over to the DoNM site to see what, if any, replies I might have gotten... only, I couldn't log on. When I tried to access the site I got a terse, authoritative message stating that I had been permanently banned because it had been determined by the administrator that I was not a good fit. The decision was permanent and final, stated the message, and not up for debate.

    I sent the admin an email and in the subject line I wrote "Please Have Mercy & Tell Me WHY I'm Banned?" There was never a reply.

    I can't even tell you how crushed I felt.

    I'm sorry you went through that awful pain too, and even worse, after you had made friends there, how horrible for you. At least I didn't have that loss.

    Thank you for being here and sharing about your problem with DoNM. I only just found your site, and am now reading everything you've written.

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    1. Read the tab on this blog entitled "Beware These Sites." The whole story of my banning is there. Suffice it to say, I was laid up in bed with a broken foot in South Africa, my beloved father was on his deathbed in Oregon, the whole DoNM forum was aware of this and, when I wrote a post in "My Story" about some of my NM's abuses, I was banned. No warning, no explanation, just dumped.

      This just set off the alarm bells in my head. No true, compassionate DoNM would do this--this is N behaviour. And so I embarked upon a campaign to investigate the DoNM site and "Danu" and "Light" and MAN!! did I ever learn a lot!

      The "Beware" tab will tell you all about it.

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  4. PS: I apologize that my initial comment here was so sloppily written, I wrote it when the dog woke me, needing to go potty, after I had only gotten 3 hours of sleep for the second night in a row,. We we were in a motel after having been on the road for 2 days, traveling 10 hours per day to see my daughter and deliver a car to her, plus I have an infected dry socket from recent dental surgery and with all the pain meds I'm on, my brain isn't working too well of late. Obviously I meant to say "Lest I be misunderstood by your readers, I am a Christian believer..." rather than "Lest I be understood" - sheesh. There were many other typos, too, so embarrassing.

    I hope this post makes more sense. We finally got back home a little while ago and I'm a little more awake than I was when I wrote my first post, although I'm still very tired.

    It is very exciting to me to find someone else with a malignant NM who isn't afraid to say OTOH and think outside of the sacred cow pasture! Do you know how rare you are?

    Some time when I'm not so whacked out with dental pain and pain meds I want to tell you a true story I witnessed firsthand about “forgiveness” that even after more than 30 years, the memory of it still makes me shudder.

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  5. Sweet Violet, start a cult and I'd consider joining!
    It is so refreshing to hear a perspective based on human awareness, emotional intellegence and honesty. Along with having a vice-like grasp on logic and reality myself, I also believe energy is a tangible thing that we can 'manipulate' into drawing positive energy(or negative). That's about the extent of my religious belief. I think when someone says, "the forgiveness is for you blah blah blah..." they really mean to say that holding on to rage and fantasy revenge is harming yourself/attracting negative energy, so find a way to let go of that crap. Unfortunately, they are conditioned by Oprah and bible-think and use the inaccurate word 'forgiveness'. I've recently emerged from the part of healing where there's a 'desire to kidnap the family, tie them up and make them hear the truth.' or my fav, 'revamp the legal system and take mommie-dearest to court and watch her squirm under the scrutiny of all those judging eyes.' That is a frustrating phase. Thankfully I've now entered the part of healing where I am suppose to forgive-for-myself and move on. Like you described in your wonderfully validating blog, forgiving a malignant, scapegoating, narcissistic mommie dearest is totally irrational. I mean, it's not only a wrong concept, it's even the wrong word. What is helpful for me, is learning how to let go of the (justified) rage and the quest to find revenge/fairness. That is what kept me looping, thinking about the unfairness over and over again, feeling hurt and anger and finding no relief. What provides some relief is in understanding and accepting the reality I lived, and realizing I wasn't a bad seed but had an emotionally ill, crazy, mean-spirited mother. Discovering that there are so many daughters who have lived/survived through this hell has been helpful in my healing, though very sad as well.

    P.S. A couple years ago I uncovered that my mother was a malignant narcissist and had scapegoated me. It was like a dark hood had been removed from my head and I could finally see, really see, exactly what happened to me. I had just had a dramatic ending with my foo and decided to finally nurture myself and go no contact. Sadly that included my neice and nephew too. Having no kids of my own, I was very close to them. The Point =====> I had isolated myself over the last couple years and had almost no support once I left the foo...so when I found a website DONM's I was comforted beyond anything I could imagine. The timing was purrfect! As I explored the webiste I cried several times, I was reading my story from other daughters mouths. I was validated for the first time ever,and for a scapegoated kid, that is like air or water. After being a member for a short while I decided to give a brief introduction and check out chat. I said hello to the only person in the room and there was no response. I thought perhaps she was away from the computer etc...but I had an uneasy feeling...weird but true. When I returned the next day, aching for more validation and acceptance I had been Permanently Banned from the website! Zero explanation. I felt kicked in the chest and contacted them asking what happened...no response. I emailed the owner, and explained how as a scapegoated daughter this felt harsh and unfair etc...no response..nothing ever...ever! Mommy are you here? lol It felt so abusive and lacking empathy to the max! I was shocked.
    About a year and a half later I randomly find a site(yours) that shares that DONM's does this sort of crazy banning thing a lot. Finally, some validation! What a relief, thank you!


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    1. Hah! Trisha, I am old and lazy and starting up and managing a cult is a bit more work that I want to do these days! Keeping up with this blog can be a challenge (I raise Yorkshire Terriers and THAT is a consuming "hobby"!)

      I know the feeling of having finally found the place where you fit--and the feeling of being kicked to the kerb without warning or explanation, especially during a very vulnerable time. If you will read the tab "Beware these sites 1" you'll get my whole story. And yes--their lack of empathy to do that to dozens, if not hundreds, of women and not so much as be moved by the anguish of rejection they inflict--who but a narcissist could do such a thing?

      Just so I am clear--I have NOTHING against forgiveness if it is freely and purely given. But I don't believe it is a healing tool nor do I think it is necessary to forgive to heal. You can get over the vengeance and fairness issues (oh--fairness--a BIG deal for me!) without forgiving. My NM is dead and can never apologize (not that she ever would, no matter how long she lived). I have no interest in lying to myself or anyone else by saying "all is forgiven" because that simply means that I have made what she did OK, and it's not. It never was and it never will be.

      If, by some miracle, your NM ever sees the light and genuinely apologizes to you and you truly WANT to forgive her, I think you should...because it WILL make you feel better. But under any other circumstances? Well, it is up to you but I don't recommend it.

      Feel free to join the blog if you haven't already done so, and thank you for writing. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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  6. FWIW, I have read so many consistently horrible accounts about this particular site I can only conclude it's not a safe place at all for any thinking/hurting human being. This observation is actually from all OVER the cyber sphere-obviously, these people don't "know" one another, have any kind of relationship what so ever or appear to have any kind of vendetta-just shocked by the way they were treated. If they were "permitted" to join at all it appears the second they didn't fall in line with the "mindset" or they were (as others have mentioned) particularly vulnerable that was it-banned, generally after being D&D'd with no opportunity for explanation by the "Forum Owner/Administrator." Wow, OUCH!
    For what ever reason "Forgiveness" has never been on the menu of "stuff" I've felt compelled to deal with as an AC: It's actually a non-issue in that it's just never come up for me personally-but that doesn't mean it may not for others and I get that. Despite the commonality of the themes of our experiences we're all still unique human beings and the challenge IMO is to find our own paths with input from others. However, input/shared experiences are exactly that and for each one of us, that path is going to be something a bit different. Anyone who's promoting "This is THE Way" ("My Way or the Highway") makes it quite clear their agenda is Power and Control/Domination and we've sure had enough of THAT and its rather familiar implications.
    So please sign me up for the "HUH???" cohort re: "Forgiveness" and thanks to all of you/V for sharing your experiences re: that site. I'm truly sorry-I can imagine how horribly hurtful that must have felt.
    TW
    (PS: HOM is likely frantically working and no doubt has an in-box of nasty grams to hit "Delete" when she has some extra time.)

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    1. I couldn't find an email address for HOM...I have had emails asking what happened to her. If you have a way to contact her, could you ask her if she is going to put the blog public again? Because if she's not, I need to take it off my list of recommended sites.

      The DoNM site is a snake pit. The individual members, in the main, are nice, vulnerable, hurting women who take comfort in the company of each other...which is why being banned can be so devastating. Thinking they are safe in a site run by and for DoNMs, people let their guard down and nobody takes precautions, like exchanging private email addresses. Because of this, members "disappear" but nobody knows they have been banned because site management doesn't announce it and the banned women don't have a way to contact their friends on the forum. When they email site management with a plea for an explanation, they are not acknowledged. Some of these women are in crisis when they find themselves inexplicably banned...and they fall apart. Their only support is torn from them with no explanation, no recourse, no appeal.

      Anybody who can do this to another human being, especially when fully aware of that person's vulnerability and sensitivity to rejection, is a monster who lacks even the most elemental compassion. And that is exactly what Tracy Culleton and Michelle Ede ("Danu" and "Light") have been doing to these women for at least 2.5 years (which is when I was booted, while my father was on his deathbed halfway around the world from me, just two days before he died). And these harpies run a site for DoNMs...

      My thoughts on forgiveness are pretty well known at this juncture. It has its place in the emotional lives of some of us and it has no place in the emotional lives of others. I don't think either person is right or either one is wrong...what I think is wrong is that "my way or the highway" approach that so many who advocate forgiveness take on, as if those who disagree are somehow flawed, poor things. That really bites my butt.

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  7. I am also a pragmatist, and my take on forgiveness is: Do not have any contact with your NM, ever again, no matter what, because she will not improve and she will not stop, and you will keep getting hurt. Allowing her to victimize you and prey on you is bad for you and for her. So don't do it.

    Everything else is semantics or philosophy or manipulations. If forgiveness works for you, however you define forgiveness, that's great as long as it doesn't lead you to give your NM another opportunity to sit at the dinner table that is you. I have not "forgiven" my NM in any way, because I don't think it's smart to let down my guard that much with someone who is so extremely manipulative and who has put so much effort into getting at me. I also see no reason to forgive someone who so clearly knew what she was doing when she abused me, and who equally clearly does not want to be forgiven. When she dies, I hope to be able to forget about her, and that will be the extent of my "forgiveness."

    The Harpy's Child

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I have to admit I am quite a fan of your incisive, insightful, pull-no-punches writing and am honoured to have you visit and comment!

      I agree that NC is the only rational course of action but, unfortunately, it is not always possible. Some people have other dynamics at work that make it impossible, others have situations crop up that interaction with an NM...even through a third party or from a great distance...becomes necessary. It then becomes necessary to keep the guard up, to get the necessary done in the shortest possible amount of time, and retreat to safety as soon as possible.

      Your comment "clearly does nor want to be forgiven" is interesting and insightful. There are those NMs who seek forgiveness as part of their manipulativeness, but there are also those who clearly do not want it. Mine, for example, would have been outraged at the very suggestion! What had she done to be forgiven for and who the hell am I to have the temerity to forgive her when she'd done nothing wrong.

      Mine has died--because there are no more on-going predations and her heir to the NCrown, my daughter, has chosen to ostracise me from her life as my NM did (except when she wanted something from me), the luxury of unstressed time for reflection is mine. Even after your NM dies, you may be left with unresolved issues that will eventually need sorting out. I am sorting mine out this way, with this blog, trying to help others as others helped me and gaining new and valuable insights and "light bulb moments" along the way.

      Please feel free to join the blog or to return at any time. Your input is always welcome.

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  8. I really liked the post Violet. My take on forgiveness is along the same lines. Your point about forgiveness having nothing to do with healing is really good. I think sometimes people throw too many concepts in the same bag: forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, but really they are separate issues.
    Like you said, some things you just can't get back. I can only imagine how painful it must have been to have your children taken away. I'm sorry that you had to go through that.
    Hugs,
    Kara

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    1. Thanks, Kara. You make a good point about putting too many concepts into the same bag...they really are separate issues. For me, however, it is the idea of forgiveness being something we do for ourselves that I find most objectionable: it turns what should be a selfless act, that of giving absolution to someone who hurt you, into a selfish one--forgive whether warranted or not, to get something for yourself. The whole idea seems ethically bankrupt to me, and perhap a little too close to something an N might do for comfort.

      But to each his/her own. If it works for someone and doesn't hurt anyone else, then I can't object--we each are different and we each have to find what works for us.

      Thanks for your comment,

      Hugs

      V

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  9. Bang-on post as usual, Violet! Wow! And I agree with Charity - this is a post that needs to be spread far and wide. You've absolutely nailed it and verbalized my thoughts and frustrations with this issue! I had to cut off my siblings (the Golden Children) after going no contact with my N-parents because they only ever seemed to get in touch as messengers on behalf of the N-parents, to criticize and attack me for 'not being the bigger person' and being 'bitter' and 'unable to forgive.' First of all, anyone who is that sanctimonious and holier-than-thou can get stuffed, whatever the situation, but anyone who feels it's acceptable to lecture and browbeat the victim of serious psychological and physical abuse on 'forgiving' the monsters who brutalized them at their most vulnerable is just an effing degenerate.

    I remember telling my GC brother that I didn't want compensation, revenge, or anything like that. I just wanted them to LEAVE ME ALONE. I'm also not a bitter person, and actually I'm a lot more content and balanced than a lot of people I know who create dramas so they can have a starring role in them.

    I will NEVER forgive those monsters for robbing me of a childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and for nearly killing me either through physical assaults or serious neglect (like the time I nearly suffocated to death when I had anaphylactic shock due to severe allergy and my N-monster berated me for 'exaggerating'while taking her sweet time to apply make-up so she could make a dramatic and glamorous entrance at the hospital emergency room) etc. I just want absolutely nothing to do with them, and I want nothing to do with anyone who defends them or presses me to 'forgive' them either.

    Eagerly awaiting the 'No Contact' entry, Violet! I love this blog and the comments too. I'm really sorry there seem to be so many of us, but really glad you're there and speaking up, ladies!

    :)

    Lola

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    1. I love the comments, too, Lola. Each one of us has a unique set of experiences and as a result, a unique view. Sharing that view gives a much bigger, rounder, fuller picture than I could ever provide on my own.

      I don't think forgiveness is something to be taken lightly as a "quick fix" for something that really needs deep reflection and personal change. Such an approach cheapens something of great value. I think it does not behoove us to become unforgiving as that bespeaks a hardness of the heart, but to forgive too easily purges the act of forgiveness of its value: anything that exists in abundance and it easy to obtain lacks value.

      Still working on the No Contact entry--will publish as soon as it is finished!

      Hugs and thank you for writing

      Violet

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  10. Hello Violet,

    I am enjoying your discussion on this topic, as well as other postings on your blog. You reference my article, When Your Mother Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, in this post. I just want to let you know it has moved to http://echorecovery.blogspot.com/2013/08/tactics-narcissistic-personality-disorder-mother.html.

    I think it is great you are helping get the word out to other adult children of narcissists! There are so many people dealing with this.

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  11. I second the "bravo". Narcissists really want you to forget, not so much forgive. They never ask for forgiveness; they demand it. They have no clue that asking for forgiveness means repentance (a genuine effort to change their ways now and in the future). They conveniently forget that forgiveness is optional, not compulsory. A lot of the forgiveness doctrine today came from a TV talk show host. There is no law that says we must forgive. Each person finds their own way to healing. People who are actively committing sins against others, and will continue to do so as long as they live, should not be forgiven. Does anyone forgive war criminals in the midst of their crimes? I think not.

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    1. Interesting post. I think as others have mentioned, people may have different interpretations of the word forgiveness. To me forgiving my mother and other toxic family members (which I do/did hope to at some point in the future) doesn't involve telling them so, it is about letting go of all the bitterness. I think it has to come at the end of a process, like you say, if you just 'forgive' you deny your feelings, for me forgiveness comes after you have acknowledged all those feelings, felt hurt, realised you are worth more and won't be treated that way and then decided to let go of it all. It is about healing in my mind because it ensures that we don't cling onto the bitterness, it considers the reasons behind our perpetrator's actions.

      It is internal, to me, it isn't about approaching a NM and saying 'I forgive you' but the gentle act of letting it all go. That's not so say forgetting, or opening our lives back upto our NM's, we can still exercise caution. I wouldn't expect my mum to change because I have forgiven her. It is upto the perpetrators (I use this word as I am not talking exclusively about NM's) to forgive themselves, mot for us to do it for them. They have their own journey's to make, if they don't that's their business. Maybe they need to address their own pasts, learn to love themselves etc but 'receiving' our forgiveness won't help them. I agree on that point.

      Maybe I am just coming at it with a different understanding of the word forgiveness nut to me it just means leaving all the baggage behind and freeing yourself of it. It isn't necessary to continue to feel hate/bitterness etc in order to remember that an NM. Is a danger or threat to us. Softening doesn't make us weaker in that respect.
      We can know that a Lion is dangerous without hating it or feeling enraged at the possible harm it could cause us.

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    2. Cont.... Pt2 I want to be able to think about my mother without feeling angry and tight chested or without feeling responsible for her and all her shit. I swing at the moe t between feeling slightly furious (though probably not furious enough) at how she treated me and feeling genuine sympathy for her, 'it must feel horrible and lonely and shameful to feel like you want to kill your daughter' those sorts of sentiments. I want to be able to think clearly about it all, no swinging but to maintain a fairly constant and clear view on it all, to distance myself emotionally and no longer feel obligated towards her but also to not feel anger. I don't wish her any harm. That's one thing but I do feel intense frustration which I want to move away from. To me forgiving her represents completing the cycle of healing.

      She once asked me to forgive her, she was tearful, I was just turned 18, in fact I think it was the day or day after my birthday, I said yes, I said I always forgave her because back then I did daily.I did in the way violet said in that I forgave her and that meant I allowed her to continue to behave the way she did towards me. When she hurt me I overcame my own feelings in order to keep a relationship with her because I wasn't allowed to be hurt or I would just be twisting things to make her feel bad. Anyway, when she asked for my forgiveness I said I forgave her and words to effect of she didn't need to ask, I always forgave her. I just still wanted things to get better, I thought they might, they had started to in some ways with my becoming an adult in end eyes around aged 15, she was much more interested in me and treated me like her 'best friend', someone she could tell everything and go drinking with and who wouldn't judge her but it was a very one sided relationship (although I think she did try a little at this time). Anyway at 18 after her asking forgiveness I thought I might mean a better future for us both but it didn't, things pretty much started going downhill again form there. Not straight away but gradually, she struggled as I became more of a a cult and started having my own thoughts and opinions which didn't agree with hers etc she then went I to cause almost as much shit in my adulthood as she did in my childhood (as much as she could get away with anyway). Because of this, because of her not changing, continuing to be a crap mother I have more to forgive her for. I also am now a parent and becoming a mother has highlighted so much more of what was wrong with y own childhood. It was damaging in one way for me to grant her forgiveness when I was so young because it meant I was putting her feelings first again, she needed me to say that so I said it. She knew I would too, I didn't know how she would have reacted if I had said I couldn't or it might take time. I decided just to out the last behind me and move on, if things had gone better this would have worked for a while but the scars of my childhood were still with me and would have caught up one day. As it is now I realise I have to acknowledge the pain I felt, I have to allow myself to feel anger towards her to let myself know that I am worth more, that it's not ok but I still struggle not to want to forgive her because I know she didn't have the best childhood either.

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    3. Cont.... Pt2 I want to be able to think about my mother without feeling angry and tight chested or without feeling responsible for her and all her shit. I swing at the moe t between feeling slightly furious (though probably not furious enough) at how she treated me and feeling genuine sympathy for her, 'it must feel horrible and lonely and shameful to feel like you want to kill your daughter' those sorts of sentiments. I want to be able to think clearly about it all, no swinging but to maintain a fairly constant and clear view on it all, to distance myself emotionally and no longer feel obligated towards her but also to not feel anger. I don't wish her any harm. That's one thing but I do feel intense frustration which I want to move away from. To me forgiving her represents completing the cycle of healing.

      She once asked me to forgive her, she was tearful, I was just turned 18, in fact I think it was the day or day after my birthday, I said yes, I said I always forgave her because back then I did daily.I did in the way violet said in that I forgave her and that meant I allowed her to continue to behave the way she did towards me. When she hurt me I overcame my own feelings in order to keep a relationship with her because I wasn't allowed to be hurt or I would just be twisting things to make her feel bad. Anyway, when she asked for my forgiveness I said I forgave her and words to effect of she didn't need to ask, I always forgave her. I just still wanted things to get better, I thought they might, they had started to in some ways with my becoming an adult in end eyes around aged 15, she was much more interested in me and treated me like her 'best friend', someone she could tell everything and go drinking with and who wouldn't judge her but it was a very one sided relationship (although I think she did try a little at this time). Anyway at 18 after her asking forgiveness I thought I might mean a better future for us both but it didn't, things pretty much started going downhill again form there. Not straight away but gradually, she struggled as I became more of a a cult and started having my own thoughts and opinions which didn't agree with hers etc she then went I to cause almost as much shit in my adulthood as she did in my childhood (as much as she could get away with anyway). Because of this, because of her not changing, continuing to be a crap mother I have more to forgive her for. I also am now a parent and becoming a mother has highlighted so much more of what was wrong with y own childhood. It was damaging in one way for me to grant her forgiveness when I was so young because it meant I was putting her feelings first again, she needed me to say that so I said it. She knew I would too, I didn't know how she would have reacted if I had said I couldn't or it might take time. I decided just to out the last behind me and move on, if things had gone better this would have worked for a while but the scars of my childhood were still with me and would have caught up one day. As it is now I realise I have to acknowledge the pain I felt, I have to allow myself to feel anger towards her to let myself know that I am worth more, that it's not ok but I still struggle not to want to forgive her because I know she didn't have the best childhood either.

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    4. Hmmm it's hard. Like I say I might just be using the using word but 'letting go' and not feeling like I am carrying all this crap around with me all the time is essential for my healing or I think it is and to me this is forgiveness, wishing her well and hoping she does well and finds her own peace and her own forgiveness is forgiving her (thinking about it I already feel like this towards her). I don't need to tell her again that I have forgiven her and I don't think it would help her if I did. As a narcissist she looks for every excuse under the sun to not have to do her own emotional work, even in a rare instance of acknowledging her past behaviour she looks to others to absolve her and it hasn't improved her any. I hope to very much limit contact soon, we are moving away but if she ever asks me again for forgiveness I think I will actually say sitting like 'it's upto you to forgive yourself, I can't take away what you feel for you anymore'.
      If I do manage to forgive her it will be silently. The same with others in my life who I might need to forgive (aka unburden myself of negative feelings associated with them).

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    5. At its most fundamental, to forgive someone is to pardon them, to absolve them. You do not need to pardon someone, to absolve them, in order for you to stop feeling angry or bitter...they are two completely separate issues.

      As long as you believe you have to absolve another of his behaviour (even if only in your own mind) in order for you to stop feeling angry, you are tied to that person emotionally. It is entirely possible to continue to hold another person responsible for their behavior, to not absolve them of their wrong-doing, and not respond to their behaviour with anger.

      But why are you so set against anger? It can be a productive emotion, a protective one. The issue is not whether or not you are angry--as you have every right to be when someone wrongs you--but whether you control the anger or it controls you.

      As long as you react, your NM is in control of your emotions. Whether your reaction is to rage with anger at her treatment or it is to convince yourself that you have to forgive her in order to release your anger, you are still being emotionally controlled by her and her behaviour.

      I knew it was all over, emotionally, with respect to my mother when I no longer cared. I didn't care enough to even get angry. But I haven't forgiven her and never will because she went to her grave--indeed, struck from beyond the grave with an amazingly cruel will--without ever acknowledging her wrongdoing.

      This current trendy mindset that you can fix yourself by forgiving those who hurt you is, in my opinion, ass backwards. First of all, real forgiveness is a selfless act: if you expect to get something out of it, then it isn't forgiveness, it is a transaction. Secondly, it doesn't work the way people think it will: they forgive and expect some kind of inner peace to overwhelm them but a year down the road they still feel all that inner turmoil because they used "forgiveness" as a bandaid rather than actually to do the hard and painful work necessary to fix what was wrong with them in the first place.

      And not telling a person you have forgiven that s/he is forgiven--doesn't that make the forgiveness a purely selfish act? Forgiveness, to be real, has to be a selfless act selflessly given. Forgiveness is NOT for the forgiver, it is for the person who did something wrong, feels bad about it, and wants to make it better. You give forgiveness as a gift to absolve the person who wronged you, to wipe away his guilt and do better in the future. The forgiver is not supposed to get anything back for it except, perhaps, to be treated better by the transgressor. Expect anything more and it is no longer forgiveness, it is a business deal.

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  12. You are the first person I have seen comment Biblically in context the true meaning of forgiveness and the Conditional Forgiveness from God for our sins. It is IF they repent, forgive them. I have learned this through decades of listening and studying. I have been told to forgive and forget, when I tried to get help for abuse and needed some counsel. Thanks for sharing this and I will share it also so others can hear the real truth and not be abused by the cult of "Forgiveness is for you" and "You cannot heal without Forgiving them." Even when the abuser is not repentant. Great blog.

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  13. Here is an email I wrote, but did not send, to my mother. She has a few ways that she thinks, and others agree, are good enough for talking her way out of anything. Because of that, I wanted to be as blunt and brief as possible. Any comments, advise, thoughts, etc?

    Dear Mom,
    Here's an aspect of scapegoating. Your anger is directed at me. You apologize, so I am supposed to forgive you. That way, I get your anger and forgive you too. You get to direct your anger at me, and you get to be forgiven for that. That makes it okay for you to direct your anger at me because you are forgiven.
    Love,
    (name)

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I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: http://narcissistschild.blogspot.com/2015/07/real-life-exchange-with-narcissist.html#comment-form