Are you recovering from a narcissist?

Ending a narcissistic relationship is very hard as anyone who has ever done so will tell you. However, in some ways, recovering from the abuse caused by the narcissist is just as hard, if not harder. I recently ended what I can only describe as the most important friendship of my entire life, lasting over 25 years. She was my best friend, the bff that I truly thought would be my friend forever, and yet, I walked away. I won’t go into the details. If you have dealt with a narcissist, you will know their behaviors are like a broken record. They all do the same things.  The pain, the broken heart and the struggle to overcome and allow my heart to be healed is what I want to deal with here today. 

We all grieve in different ways, but the stages are similar to all of us; Shock, denial, anger, depression and finally, acceptance. However, I find that when dealing with the left overs of a narcissistic relationship, even acceptance can be painful. How do you trust your gut again? How do you trust people again? I trusted her with my whole heart for many years. I believed she had my back. How do I go on and not allow it to happen again? As a Christian, I find this particularly hard. I have chosen to forgive. Forgiveness is a huge part of the process when it comes to healing. I chose to accept my part in this toxic relationship. I knew she was unhealthy from the beginning. I made the fatal mistake of believing that my love could heal her. I believed, as so many of us do, that if she could encounter unconditional love from just one person, me, she could find the healing she needed and become whole. Again, if you’ve tried this, you probably know it doesn’t work. 

I thought I had put the relationship behind me, I thought I had found acceptance. It’s been over 2 months now since I walked away and in my foolishness, I thought I was ok. But I could tell that things were not right in my heart. I find myself close to tears a lot these days, often for no reason. So I asked the Lord this morning during my prayer time, what I need, since apparently I don’t know. He told me what I guess was obvious, I need healing for my broken heart. He also told me that I have worked too hard over the course of my life for a heart that is whole. I’ve come too far, and honestly, that’s no doubt the reason why I was able to finally see this relationship for what it really was, and walk away. He then told me that I should not allow the enemy to steal from me what I have worked so hard for over these many years. Let me explain.

There is a passage in Matthew 10:16 where Jesus warns His disciples: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” I want to show you what the Lord showed me in this verse, that helped me to understand both the trap that the enemy lays for us, and how the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome. Being wise as a serpent is not hard these days. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:1 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come”. He goes on to tell us in verses 2-7 the terrible attributes that people will have during these last days. 

“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I think his description could easily be summed up as “in the last days, there will be many narcissists”. 

When I look at these characteristics, I have to realize that evil people are everywhere and it will not get better. Scripture warns us that in the latter days, things will get worse. Now here’s where understanding comes in. I have to be wise enough to see how the enemy will bring these kinds of people into my life, over and over. Why does he do that? To make me angry, bitter and offended. If you think about it, that’s the trap he lays for us. It would be easy for me to fall into that trap, I’ve done it before, I can do it again. But if I realize that it is a trap, I can ask the Lord for help to avoid falling into it. How do I do that? Look at the second part of the verse: “innocent as doves”. Who is the Dove? The Holy Spirit! It is the Holy Spirit who is innocent and loves unconditionally. Here’s what I mean. The enemy will bring these types of people into our lives to make us angry, bitter and offended with both people and God. We need to have wisdom to recognize that the enemy’s entire goal is to trip us up and make us walk away from the Lord. However, if we allow the Holy Spirit to heal our hearts, if we put our hearts into His hands He will help us to walk in healing and consequently in love. Again, how do I do that?

It’s always been my understanding that unconditional love is not unconditional if you don’t see the other person in all of their flaws and shortcomings. If I look at someone and all I see is perfection, then I love them conditionally. I will love them only as long as they are perfect, because as soon as they sin, as soon as they fail to be perfect, my love will wane. It is only when I know who they are, when I see their sin, that I can choose to love them unconditionally. Perhaps this is the reason why James 5:16 tells us to “confess our sins, one to another”. If I know your sins and you know mine, and we still choose to love each other, then it becomes unconditional love. That’s the kind of love God has for us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) That is unconditional love! 

Now here’s the tricky part. It’s easy to have the serpent’s wisdom. Sin abounds in our world. There are many, many people who are all too aware of evil people because they have been hurt by them, and they have chosen to be angry and bitter their whole lives. It’s also easy, believe it or not, to have the innocence of doves. There were many years, when I could not, would not, believe that people choose to be evil. I gave people the benefit of the doubt over and over and over. I could not believe that they would deliberately hurt me. That is the innocence of a dove. But, what it really is, is naivety! I was naive. It is only when we have the knowledge or wisdom of who people really are, what people can be, and then pair it with the Holy Spirit’s innocence, that we can love people as Jesus did. He knew people’s hearts. He knew who would betray Him and who would deny Him. (John 2:24-25) Yet, He loved them. 

The Lord showed me that I must do what Peter tells us to in 1 Peter 5:7. I must cast (Greek word to throw) my cares upon Jesus, because I know that He cares about me. Make no mistake, broken hearts, anger, bitterness and offenses are cares of this world. The word cares, used in this passage is the exact same Greek word that Jesus used in the Parable of the Sower. (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:14) It is the “cares” of this world that cause us to walk away from Jesus. 

Finally, knowing people’s hearts and realizing that people will hurt us even deliberately, but at the same time, choosing to love unconditionally is like walking a tightrope. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are able to walk it. I am not suggesting that we stay in toxic relationships. As a matter of fact, when I struggled with whether or not to walk away from mine, it really helped me that Paul told Timothy (and us), while describing people in these last days, “And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5) I have turned away from her, but I must choose to allow the Holy Spirit to heal my heart and love others through me, again. 

Why did Jesus command us to wash other people’s feet?

When Jesus died on the cross, one of the last things He said was “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. I always took what He said for granted, somehow thinking that it was all part of His dying for our sins, and indeed, it was. However, in Acts 7:56-60 we are told the story of Stephen being martyred by the Jewish leaders, and interestingly enough, Stephen uttered almost the same words.  “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep”. 

As I pondered on these two scenarios, I began to wonder if perhaps they had a deeper significance than just words spoken at the end of a life. I would like to suggest that Jesus gives us a strong clue of their importance in John 13, when He washes the disciples feet at the last supper. 

As I meditated on what took place during that last evening before the crucifixion and the things that both Jesus and Peter said, it became clear to me that what Jesus was doing was not just a physical act of washing their feet. If it had been, then Peter’s refusing to have his feet washed by Jesus would have made more sense, since only slaves washed the feet of others, and Jesus was clearly not a slave. However, Jesus actually tells them that what he was doing was not about the physical: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter then responds to this statement in verse 9 with: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter is still not sure what is going on, but Jesus quickly corrects him in verse 10 with this: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you. He is of course referring to Judas in this statement.

It is here, with this last phrase that I began to gain a better understanding of what Jesus was doing. In Numbers 19, the Lord gave the priests a ritual of cleansing commonly called ablution. The word “wash” that both Peter and Jesus use in the above scene is the word ablution in the original Greek language. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “Ablution must not be confused with washing for the sake of cleanliness. This is evident from the requirement that the body be entirely clean before ablution.” In other words, you have to take a bath first to wash off the dirt and dust. They go on to tell us that “In the Jewish tradition there are three types of ablution according to the type of impurity involved: complete immersion, immersion of hands and feet, and immersion of hands only.” 

John the Baptist taught complete immersion when he called Israel to repent and be baptized in the Jordan River. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time taught that you cannot eat without ceremonial washing of the hands. Yet here was Jesus, washing only the feet of the disciples. No wonder they were confused. And on top of that, Jesus told them that they were ceremonially clean because they had already bathed. He tells them in John chapter 15:3 that the reason why they were clean was because of the word that He had spoken to them. In other words, the reason they were clean is because they believed Jesus! Their faith in Him had cleansed their “whole body” spiritually. 

However, even with their faith in Him, even while they were “spiritually clean” they needed to have their feet washed. The feet represented the “dirt and dust” of each day. Every day we encounter situations or attitudes that might cause us to sin. Hence, we must keep what is commonly called a “short account” with God. We must come to Him on a regular basis, whenever we feel convicted of sin, and allow Him to wash our feet, or cleanse us from our sin. 

Repentance is not a one time activity that occurs when we first came to faith in Jesus by saying a prayer of salvation. Repentance is an ongoing lifestyle that we must practice regularly.

Jesus makes that very clear both to the disciples and to us during this scene. 

But what about washing the feet of other people? What does it represent when we wash the feet of others? How do we even do such a thing, if it is not about the physical? And how does this whole foot washing scene at the last supper have anything to do with what both Jesus said on the cross and Stephen cried out, right before they died? Remember what Jesus told the disciples after He had washed their feet? He told them to go do it to others. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) 

It is my opinion that both Jesus and Stephen were giving us an example of what to do when people sin against us: we must “wash their feet” by forgiving them.  In John 20:33, Jesus told the disciples “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” This verse just seems so powerful to me because it suggests that I have the power to forgive sin and I have the power to hold onto other people’s sins. Not only does it appear powerful to me, but even more, it seems to come with a lot of responsibility.  1 Peter 2:5,9 tells us that we are a royal priesthood, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. If I am considered a priest, then my number one job it would seem to me, is to intercede for others. The priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. They interceded on their behalf. I am not suggesting that I have the power to save people. I don’t! Only Jesus saves. But I do believe that when I intercede on behalf of others and forgive them their sins, I can release something in the supernatural that will allow them to come to faith in Jesus. 

Although I cannot prove my theory, I do believe there are examples of this in Scripture. I think that perhaps one of the reasons why Paul the apostle repented and came to a knowledge of the truth is directly related to Stephen’s last words. Why? Because Paul was there watching him die. “Then they cast him (Stephen) out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58)

I believe that we have the power to release people from sin, not for salvation, but for them to come to Jesus for salvation. In other words, I think that because Stephen forgave his killers and asked the Lord to as well, that that sin was not held against Saul and somehow allowed him to eventually be apprehended on the road to Damascus.  

Do I understand all of this? Absolutely not. I think there is a mystery here! But I do believe that we are called to do what Jesus did and sometimes that involves washing the dirty feet of others by forgiving them. If you think about it, is that not the ultimate example of loving others? Forgiveness is never easy. Especially not when the person has sinned against us personally.  But that’s also the beauty and the power of forgiveness. It involves sacrifice, which is exactly what Peter told us to do in 1 Peter 2:5: we are to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 

I would add just one thing more here. We all fall short, we all have sinned. We all have dirty feet.  If we want to be forgiven for our sin, we must forgive others their sin. Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

If you are struggling to forgive others, ask the Lord to help you. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a choice. It also does not mean that you have to allow that person back into your life so they can hurt you again. But commands it.  If you need to understand how forgiveness benefits you personally, read my blog post called “The hidden benefits of forgiveness” from October 2018. May you find peace for your soul as you forgive others. 

You Don’t Have To Be Nice

Such wisdom is sadly lacking in our society.

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You don’t have to be nice. To be nice means to be agreeable. The nice person doesn’t cause grief for others. The nice person doesn’t make others feel bad. The nice person doesn’t say mean things. The nice person lets others get by with things. The nice person lets herself be used. The nice person watches others get promoted. The nice person doesn’t speak up.

No, you don’t have to be nice. In earlier days, being nice meant being simple, even stupid. The nice person just nodded in polite agreement, no matter what was being said. The nice person didn’t have an opinion of value and wouldn’t take a stand. The nice person just wanted to get along.

You don’t have to be nice.

You should be kind, that’s different. You should be honest and generous and respectful. These are all good things. The Bible never calls…

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