Narcissism and Forgiveness: 4 Considerations for You

It now is well known that narcissism consists of a host of related symptoms, which can vary in both intensity and duration, consisting, at least in part, of: a) an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance; b) an exaggerated sense of entitlement; c) a lack of empathy toward others as the person is more self-absorbed; and d) a sense of superiority with an exaggerated sense of one’s own potential for success or actual success.

In the context of forgiveness, in which a person either is trying to forgive or trying to seek forgiveness for an offensive behavior, you might want to keep in mind the following four points:

1)  If the one who is forgiving shows narcissism, then there likely will be a tendency, at least in some cases, to exaggerate the offense and the degree of hurt experienced.  You might have sworn, in a rare moment of exasperation.  The other now exaggerates the event, calling you a foul-mouth who is always angry.  While you may see what you did as relatively harmless, for the other, it is an unforgivable offense that will require much time.  Try to avoid being confused by the accusation and try to see it for what it is—-part of the symptoms of someone with narcissistic tendencies.

2)  If the one who acted unfairly is the one showing narcissistic behaviors, then there is the tendency, at least in some cases, for the person to flatly deny any wrongdoing: “What do you mean?  I did nothing wrong!  You are being overly sensitive.”  In such cases, you now have a second issue toward which to forgive the person: the denial of the wrongdoing and the, perhaps, harsh criticism toward you for even bringing it up.

3)  If the one who offended you has a narcissistic personality disorder, then an issue is this: Can I actually forgive this person if there is such a disorder?  After all, forgiveness is in the context of injustice and if the person simply cannot help being narcissistic, then there is no true injustice and therefore nothing to forgive.  This can leave you with a sense of frustration and inaction and therefore no release from resentment.  I would recommend this: Even if the person struggles with this disorder, there are a host of different options in front of this person.  The narcissistic personality disorder does not automatically lead to particular kinds of behavior.  In other words, the person still has a free will and in that free will the person has chosen to hurt you.  You should feel free to go ahead and forgive so you can be free of resentment that could, in the long run, hurt you.

4)  If you have friends who show narcissistic tendencies, this can complicate your forgiveness process because their judgements may confuse you.  For example, they may tell you that you should be offended by the slightest error from others.  “Why are you not forgiving that person for that??”  You may start to doubt yourself if you do not see that the advice is coming from a place of narcissism.

Narcissism can complicate the forgiveness process and lead to self-doubts and harsh self-judgements against yourself if you are not careful.  The above checklist may help you to move forward in a healthy way.

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