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.