Those of us from abusive families struggle so much, the natural love we have for kin, along with the desire to protect ourselves from their vitriol and manipulations can be so very confusing.
Add in being a Christian, and it can become even more difficult. Most advice for dealing with Narcissistic family is to go “No Contact” with them, but when you feel an obligation to care for them because you are a Christian (or really, for any reason, many who aren’t Christians also feel this obligation too) it is impossibly hard to heed this advice. “Limited Contact” even brings guilt!
Over the years people, mostly well meaning, some not so much, have quoted many scriptures at me. They have demanded that I accept that these words from the Bible mean that no matter what my mother has done to us, now or in the past, that as my mother she is entitled to full love and respect, and that I/we should not hold a grudge against her for any reason, nor should we limit the contact our children have with her.
1 Timothy 5:4 – “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first practice godly devotion in their own household and repay their parents and grandparents what is due them, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.”
1 Timothy 5:8 – “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”
Ephesians 6:2 – “‘Honor your father and your mother’ is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may remain a long time on the earth'”
Such boldly written words, put their by God Himself to ensure that loving parents were taken care of and not neglected in their sickness and old age, loving and kind commandments, but I have felt trapped by them!
My mother is not a lovable person, she is cruel and manipulative, deceitful, bitter, she is faithless despite professing to be a believer, she has turned a blind eye to horrific abuse, and she has slandered myself and my husband among our congregations and community. As a child I was expected to be her best friend, protector, and confidant, my own needs were ignored and ridiculed. Her selfishness, and malicious lies have burned my soul in so many ways.
How can I honor her?
How can I practice Godly devotion?
If I do not, am I the worst kind of person there is? A hypocrite who preaches love yet is hateful to my own aged mother!
How can I free myself from the guilt associated with my need to protect myself and my family?
All through the years I have tried, my husband has tried, and many of our friends have tried also, to help her, to look after her, and to care for her needs. We have asked for help, prayed for guidance, we have let her treat us terribly all the while never mentioning what was going on to another soul. But it has been to no avail. Even now, people still judge us for not doing more, but we have expended ourselves to the best of our abilities and been crushed time after time.
Prayerfully I researched, trying to find any information in the Bible to help me to cope with the pain, to help me to understand if I had any options other than killing myself to escape. Yes, I felt that lost and wretched that suicide seemed to be a more tangible option, and one that would free my husband and children from the hold she and my guilt had on us.
Genesis 2:24 – “That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
My first priority when it comes to family is my husband, and my children. After that my parents, and then other family members.
Psalms 27:10 – “Even if my own father and mother abandon me, God Himself will take me in.”
If those words are recorded for us, it shows me that sometimes, no matter how much a person tries, their family will abandon them and God does not blame us. Their actions will be intangible, they will not be reasonable and there will be no way to safely maintain contact with them.
Proverbs 22:24 – “Do not keep company with a hot-tempered man, or get involved with one disposed to rage.”
While nastiness, violent tempers, and tantrum filled rages are the normal for our family member, it is best that we do not spend time with them. We are told to not keep company with people like that, and exposure to that kind of behavior is dangerous to our own mental, physical, and indeed, spiritual health.
Proverbs 29:22 – “A man prone to anger stirs up strife; Anyone disposed to rage commits many transgressions.”
A parent who willingly and purposefully chooses to hurt their own child goes against the basic nature to protect their offspring. As a survivor of that kind of abuse, I can say without doubt that it is almost too much for the soul to bare that your own parent could be so unremorseful, heartless, and toxic.
Job 4:8 – “What I have seen is that those who plow what is harmful, and those who sow trouble will reap the same.”
If a family member is determined to be harmful and troublesome, is unwilling to apply love and kindness in dealings with others, then it is beyond our control. We are not responsible for going behind them sowing fine fruits, while they keep showering us with manure. As adults, we all have a responsibility to be good people, no matter what our faith may be.
And finally, a scripture that I spent a long time committing to heart.
Matthew 10:36, 37 – “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me, and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter is not worthy of me.”
God first. Family second. Others third. Self last. That has always been my personal mantra. While there is some debate as to the order of “others” and “self” at times, the thing that is clear from this scripture is this; Forgiveness and honor are not a permanent submission to parental authority. The bible does indeed command honor, but it does not instruct us to remain a prisoner in a destructive family. Parents who perpetuate a cycle of sin are dangerous to their children, and those children have every right to find safety and love in the arms of God, and the Christian family.
Our loyalty to our parents is important, but not to the exclusion of all others. God loves us and he knows our circumstances, he reads our hearts, and he sees all the effort we have put in to trying to love someone who is determined to be unlovable. He only can judge us, no human has the ability to see everything from that higher perspective.
If our conscience is clear, then there is no need for us to feel guilty. We can feel sad, and should certainly continue to pray for those in our family, but guilt is an emotion that does not belong there when we know we have tried our best to care and honor.