Daughter of a Narcissist – A Sermon Post
On being the daughter of a Narcissist and a sermon post…This is a somewhat personal post about a close friend’s dad. Many who know her know that there are issues and brokenness there. They have seen many of the struggles, growing up and into adulthood. Friends from her younger years were always sympathetic that her dad was “weird” and an “a**h&%$”. In later life, she just heard things like “messed up” and “not right” regarding the way her dad related and his behavior especially as a father of a grown daughter. What they may not know and what she has now realized is that she is the child of a narcissist. It was during their last painful “break-up” that God led her to some truth on narcissistic personality disorder that brought a lot of freedom to her heart and to her life. She also realized that there are a lot of adults who are in her situation.
Gaining some insight, perspective, and not feeling alone in this situation really helped. I don’t know if it made her hopeful that they would ever have a normal relationship as most of the research and testimony on narcissistic personality disorder is not very hopeful, but it showed her how to pray and how to understand their different roles and approaches in relationship.
Also, the bible teaches that as we grow in knowledge and depth of insight that we also grow or ABOUND in love. I love that word abound. I think about just spilling over, or busting at the seems (like a big can of biscuits my friend Bekah would say). As she gains insight on her dad’s brokenness, she can meet him there and love him. They might not have a relationship, but she can hold him in love in her heart…meaning she can think loving thoughts when she thinks of him, speak of him, pray for him. She feels this is her duty to honor him because he is the father that Go chose for her. Also, there is only joy found in love and freedom from resentment or bitterness. It’s hard to be bitter when you enter into their brokenness through the eyes of the Father.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, Philippians 1:9
This sermon was one of the first resources she found that led her on this journey of revelation and freedom. I wanted to share along with a couple other resources for anyone going through the same type of struggle. I’ve also included a lot of material on a narcissistic personality disorder parent.
Transcript excerpt below:
A year or two ago I told you this story, but I need to retell it because of its relevance to my sermon. There was a man who went to his pastor and said, “You know, my wife is trying to poison me.” The pastor said, “No, wait! I know your wife. She’s a nice woman. There’s no way she’d try to poison you.” He said, “Pastor, she’s trying to poison me. I can even see the poison next to my plate.” He said, “There’s a part of my wife that you don’t understand. I suggest you talk to her.” Well later on that afternoon the pastor came back and said to the man, “You know, I spent three and a half hours speaking with your wife this afternoon. I have a suggestion for you.” He said, “What is it?” The pastor said, “Just take the poison.” (laughter)
Now the reason I’m preaching this message today is so that you don’t have to take the poison. You know, of course, that the theme of this series of messages is found in 1 Timothy 1:5. I hope it’s a verse that you memorize. Paul says this: “The aim of our instruction is love that flows from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” And I’d like to suggest to you today that those three words are related – to be able to have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith, because if you don’t have a good conscience, you have no confidence toward God.
Now today we’re going to talk about the conscience in a negative sense, that is to say that the Bible has much to say about people who have a hardened conscience, and we’re going to be talking about them. For example, the Scripture is very clear. It says in 1 Timothy 2 that there will be teachers who are liars, whose consciences are seared. The King James says: “as with a hot iron.” We’re talking about those whose consciences are cauterized. That’s the word that is used there. They are without feeling.
And then also the Bible says in the book of Timothy that there are those who have a defiled conscience. And there’s a whole list of sins that they commit because their conscience is defiled, and they no longer know the difference between right and wrong, and they are blind to their own huge need.
There’s another passage that doesn’t mention the word conscience but my, is it ever relevant to what I am speaking about today. This is 2 Timothy 3:1 and following. I’m going to read the first five verses. You’ll notice it says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self (That’s what I’m going to speak on today – lovers of self. Notice that the Apostle Paul put it at the head of all of the other sins that he lists.), lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless and (Wow!) unappeasable.” You know, I don’t know how other translations have that word, but this week I was thinking of unappeasable. What a description of some people! And then you’ll notice it says, “slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” “From such people,” Paul says, “turn away. Avoid them if you can.”
Well, that’s quite a list of sins, and what we would like to do today is to take a tour of the human heart. It’s going to be a very painful tour because I’m going to speak to you about narcissism, which is self-love, which stands at the head of all of these other sins. One way to deal with this would be for me to go through and explain what every one of these words means. In a sense I’m going to be doing that but I’m going to be doing it from a different perspective.
So as we speak, I want you to know that to some extent, and I’ll define narcissism in a moment, all of us are narcissists. All of us love ourselves. But there are some people – about 10% of the population – who are actually diagnosed as narcissistic. And these people exist in churches. They are in Christian leadership oftentimes. They can be involved in every one of the vocations. Whether they are attorneys or doctors or factory workers, narcissism – love of self – can be at the bottom of it. One other word, and that is that I am often going to be speaking about he, but it could equally apply to she because whether or not it’s men or women, both can be very narcissistic, as we’ll explain in a moment.
Well this is a topical message actually. I mention that this morning because there are some guests present who are theologians, and so I want them to simply know that I know that this is a topical message. Next week I’m going to speak on the topic why Lady Macbeth didn’t have to commit suicide and why you don’t have to either, and at that point we’re going to be in the book of Hebrews. But today a topical message on self-love!
Narcissism comes to us from Greek mythology. Narcissus was the son of a god supposedly, and he was in love with himself, and he was greatly admired by people. And the story goes that he looked into a pool and saw his image and fell in love with himself so that he couldn’t even eat. He became almost anorexic because he was so enamored with how beautiful he looked, and so we have narcissism.
The other day as I was meditating, it dawned on me that when Satan said to Adam and Eve, “You shall be like God,” that, of course, was fulfilled in some sense that now man is his own god, and I asked myself this question: What is it that God does that the narcissist does? Well, first of all, whatever God does is right. The Bible says our God is in the heavens. He has done whatever He has pleased. By definition, whatever God does is right. The narcissist believes that he’s always right. You can’t teach him anything. He doesn’t learn anything. Because he has this air of superiority, he knows it all. He already has a better perspective than anyone else.
Another characteristic of God is that everything exists for Him. The Bible says in the book of Revelation that all things were created for God, and for His pleasure they were created. Now let me describe a narcissist. He is someone who processes all information through two important questions. How does this make me look? How does this make me feel? Feeling good about himself is incredibly important, and if you mention that someone else is successful he will become very, very envious and even angry that he is not recognized, because everyone else exists for what could be called narcissistic supply, namely to feed their ego. So they have a sense of entitlement. They really believe that the world owes them, and when the world doesn’t stand up and give them what they believe they deserve, what you’ll find is a great deal of anger, disappointment and depression because people aren’t just recognizing who they really are.
A Daughter’s Journey with a Narcissistic Dad
Honestly, Rachelle’s dad was not around very much. He was in a specialized unit in the military that left him gone a lot. She sees now that even his decision to be in this unit put his needs before his children or family. She has watched her brother make a different choice in his military career to put his children and family first. This made her heart very proud and happy for him. This specialized unit also served to fuel his ego, and this fuel is something that the narcissist seriously needs. So she is able to look back on that decision that seems hurtful and unloving to her or at least to set a low value on her importance to her dad and see that it had nothing to do with her or her value.
Later in life, she began to relate to my dad as an adult. At this point, he had divorced her mom after having multiple affairs. Even this, she is able to see that her mom held her dad on a high pedestal most of their marriage and needed him to a codependent, unhealthy level. When he was no longer the center of her worship, he lost his need for her and began looking for admiration from other women.
It’s not until many years later that the life experiences of the child of the narcissist start to make a little more sense. Friends often catch glimpses of the kind of ‘crazy’ parenting these individuals received, so he or she starts to get a healthy reality check like this: “Your mom is insane,” or “Your Dad is seriously messed up.” -Psychology Today
Anyway, from the very beginning she was sent into this whirl wind of insanity. As this pastor says in his sermon, narcissist have their version of reality and truth. They sometimes present it very convincingly. Especially if they have been your dad for so many years, the narcissist sort of sucks you in to this other reality, and those close to them start to feel a little…actually a lot… crazy. When she didn’t go along with his reality or tried to break from it, her dad was quick to end the relationship altogether. His world, his future, and his needs were what mattered, and anything that she might do to interfere with his happiness or any of this was not worth the risk. Never mind, this is your daughter. Again, this was mind-boggling to everyone around her, and mostly the only explanation was that her dad was “messed up”.
It was at this point that he began using manipulation to cause family separation, confusion, and contention. Narcissism is straight from the devil who wants no part of a peaceful, happy, loving family. This has continued to this day…10 years later. Her family is constantly splintered, partially reconciled, splintered again cycled around his deception and manipulation. The narcissist views family members, even his own mother or children as objects. There is a disconnect where he cannot feel what normal people feel about their family. Understanding this lack of this ability of empathy has helped her so much.
Recently, her dad attempted to sue her over something that he knows is untrue as he was the one that emailed them copies of all the check receipts involved. But honestly even though he sent her the physical evidence, if he has convinced himself that the lie is reality then I’m not sure if evidence will matter. I’ve learned from researching NPD that this amazing fact is true…
If a narcissist tells himself the sky is purple long enough, then a purple sky becomes a very concrete reality in his mind.
It’s not something I can speak very openly about since it is ongoing…But the heartbreaking part of his maliciousness was that even though they have not spoken, he knows she is very pregnant. Not only is this inconsiderate of her welfare but of the welfare of his grand-daughter also.
A normal dad would want the best for his daughter and his grandchildren. A normal dad would put her needs above his own. I cannot imagine pursuing something like this with my daughter in the future no matter what she had done or even if she actually owed me anything. But when these thoughts come to her, that’s when she has to remind herself that he is not a normal dad. He is sick…broken, and it does not reflect her value.
Hope for the child of a narcissist
I’m sad that most of what I have read online says that adult children of narcissist have only the option for an estranged relationship or one so limited by boundaries that it can hardly be considered a relationship. Even when they were on speaking terms in the middle of estrangements, the conversations were very superficial (mostly pleasantries) which I’ve also read is VERY common in children’s adult relationships with NPD parents. But I believe there is hope for a couple of reasons.
- Remember that you have had and will always have a dad in heaven that loves you, who wants the best for you, and holds such a powerful love for you that he would die for you.
- This relationship with God, Father can become very intimate as it may the only true father relationship you know. God has been there for her when her biological father was not. God has held her and comforted her when her biological father caused her pain. God has been a very real father figure in her life, and she’s blessed by this.
- With God, all things are possible. Through prayer, I believe the narcissist’s heart can be softened and mind transformed. Not that these people can’t pose a significant challenge for the LORD, but I believe he is up for the challenge. So there is hope that through prayer her father and their relationship CAN be restored.
- God is your defense and shelter. David was attacked by his father-in-law. It’s hard when someone who is supposed to love you and seek your best, seeks to harm you. But God is protective of his children even against your own family. He will guard you and bring justice. Run to him in the midst of attack.
Number 5: This may not seem so…but it IS hopeful. I wanted to give you another sermon link that you may need for the loved one or parent struggling with narcissism. This is not advice that I give, receive , or apply lightly. The sermon is In Defense of Imprecatory Prayers. I listed this sermon in my favorite sermons list not long ago because it is on a topic that is not discussed a lot, but chances are most Christians have had a question about these strange prayers of David that seem like curses. This sermon answers a lot of those questions.
My advice is that if God leads you, consider praying the imprecatory psalms over the life of your narcissistic loved one. Many times the npd person will not seek help until they have reached the “end of himself”. The imprecatory prayers are a last measure to remove the protection of God from their lives. It may be the most merciful prayer you can pray for your parent although I’ll tell you right now these psalms are heartbreaking and you will probably weep as the words come out of your mouth.
“My heart was ripped apart the night I prayed the imprecatory psalm over my dad, but I felt deeply that it might be his only chance at freedom and felt God’s clear leadership in taking this step.” -Rachelle
“One thing I’ve learned is that the narcissist is not free. He is God’s son and God wants him to be free. But instead the enemy keeps him in bondage of fear, resentment, bitterness, paranoia, hate, isolation, disappointment, feeling worthless, perfectionism, … Narcissism is a prison. The worst narcissist of all longs to pull others into his same type of prison. But understand that whoever he is, the narcissist is a very beloved child of God. God wants connection with this son and for this son to walk in the freedom that Christ paid for. This is the greatest hope that we can cling to.” -Rachelle, on her dad
Resources on Narcissism, NPD, and the Narcissistic Parent Relationship
The long material below was very helpful in understanding why Rachelle’s dad did a lot of the things that he did. It’s a lot, but if you have struggled with this and continue to struggle as an adult, I would recommend taking it all in. Also…
The symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include the following:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
- Is obsessed with him- or herself.
- Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
- Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
- Becomes furious if criticized.
- Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
- Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
- Requires extreme admiration for everything.
- Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
- Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
- Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
- May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
- Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.
Children of a Narcissist parent…When their children grow to become more independent, the narcissistic parent may feel jealous or envious of the child. Children of Narcissistic Parents must adhere to the agenda of the Narcissistic Parent for their lives to be stable. Asserting their feelings, their rights, or their thoughts can lead to much bigger problems.
Here are some terms that I found especially helpful in understanding many aspects of their relationship:
Triangulation: a tactic used by narcissistic parents to change the balance of power in a family system. For example, rather than allowing two siblings to work together, the Narcissistic Parent insists that he or she be the go-between. This controls the way the information flows, the way it is interpreted, and adds nuances to the conversation. It’s also a way to feed Narcissistic Supply.
Narcissistic Supply: is a term used to designate the manner in which narcissists require, feed on attention. The best sorts of attention are approval, adoration, and admiration, but other sources of attention – like fear – are acceptable to a Narcissist. Children, small children, of narcissists are used as an ongoing source of this attention.
Gaslighting: a way in which Narcissistic Parents (and other abusers) use lies – intentional or not – to make their child question his or her own reality. A child may end up feeling as though he or she is crazy. An example would be, insisting that the sky is actually green, until the child believes it. Gaslighting is one of the most insidious forms of emotional and psychological abuse.
Traits of Narcissistic Parents:
While these traits may not match all Narcissistic Parents, what follows are some common traits of Narcissistic Parents:
1) A Narcissistic Parent has difficulty understanding the emotions of empathy and how to create meaningful connections. As the personal needs of Narcissistic Parents dominate, these parents have little room for the needs of anyone else. It makes it almost impossible for these Narcissistic Parents to relate to the feelings and meet the physical and emotional needs of their children.
2) A Narcissistic Parent owns the successes of his or her children. In a Narcissistic Parents mind, he or she has been sacrificing everything for his or her child – the child must retaliate by performing at or above expectations. These childhood achievements are then owned by the Narcissistic Parent as their own, “he’s a great soccer player – it’s my genetics. I was always athletic, too.”
3) Narcissistic Parents must be in control. No matter what. A Narcissistic Parent controls his or her children by dictating how these children should feel, should act, and the decisions to be made. This can lead to adult children of Narcissistic Parents being unsure of what they, themselves, like and want out of life. These Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents never learn to be autonomous and make his or her own decisions.
4) Narcissistic Parents emotionally blackmail their children. A Narcissistic Parent often is indulgent, kind, and sweet if a child is behaving in the way their Narcissistic Parent wants. However, the moment a child is disobedient, a Narcissistic Parent becomes enraged and cruel. This show of “I love you, go away,” creates insecurity and dependency among children of Narcissistic Parents.
She had issues with her dad attempting to control her (and others in his family) in these ways:
Guilt-Driven Control: “I’ve given my life for you. I’ve sacrificed it all.” This method of control creates a feeling of obligation in children; that they “owe” their Narcissistic Parents and must behave in a certain way to make their parents happy.
Love Withdrawal Control: “You’re worthy of my love ONLY BECAUSE you behave the way I expect you to.” So long as their children are behaving properly, a Narcissistic Parent will be loving. That love disappears the moment a child doesn’t meet expectations.
There are other ways explained here.
How Do Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children?
Narcissistic Parents have many subtle – and some not-so-subtle- ways in which they abuse their children. I have struggled with many of these (if not all) with my dad.
- Compulsively lying to children
- Ignores and/or overwhelms the children
- Neglects needs of the child
- Makes child feel as though he/she does not matter
- Puts parental needs far above those of the children
- Distorts the concept of “love”
- Manipulation for pleasure
- Says one thing one day, something else the next
- Uses the child’s vulnerabilities to exploit the child
- Subtly and not-subtly insults children
- Ignores personal boundaries
- Treats others as objects, not people
- Makes child feel as though he or she is insane
Growing up with all emotional needs unmet, becoming a “mini-adult,” being the product of so much emotional abuse takes a tremendous toll on a child of a Narcissistic Parent. If the Narcissistic Parent does not stop the abuse or the child does not receive adequate help, one of two scenarios happens to adult children of Narcissistic Parents.
1) The child grows to have narcissistic traits, and becomes a Narcissistic Parent to his/her own children. This perpetuates the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse.
2) The child becomes a “covert” or “inverted” narcissist who remains codependent and may actually seek out abusive relationships with other narcissists.
I’m The Adult Child of A Narcissistic Parent…What Now?
Healing from such a traumatic childhood is absolutely a daunting task. Having your own emotional needs unmet for so long may make the notion of recovery seemingly impossible. It’s not. Here are some guidelines for recovery for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents.
This article gives some great advice on the “what now” issue from a psychological standpoint. I would definitely recommend reading these, but put them back in the framework of a godly Christian perspective.
Do I Stay In Contact With My Narcissistic Parent?
Separating yourself from the sort of codependency that’s common from Narcissistic Parents may seem daunting. Sure, they were emotionally (or physically)(or both) abusive, but your Narcissistic Parent is STILL your parent.
As an Adult Child of a Narcissistic Parent, you have two options:
1) Total Estrangement – no contact, nothing, with your Narcissistic Parent.
2) Measured Contact – contact, but limited interaction with Narcissistic Parent.
If you choose to keep measured contact with your Narcissistic Parent, be very sure to follow some strict, clear guidelines:
- Create very clear boundaries. Don’t reward your parent for crossing them. Be clear, but firm. If they show up unannounced, explain nicely that you are too busy to visit with them.
- Shield your own children from their Narcissistic Grandparent. They do not need to be exposed to their toxic behaviors.
- Rather than explain that you do not want to hear their advice, echo and mirror whatever the Narcissistic Parent says. Do whatever you’d planned to do anyway.
- Go through a third party as your Narcissistic Parent ages – do not allow them to rely upon you and you alone as they need care.
- Provide information on a “need to know” basis only. Just because your Narcissistic Parent tells you everything doesn’t mean you must reciprocate.
More Resources on Narcissism