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A fellow poster on an Elder Care discussion board asked a great question, that bothers all of us who have a narcissistic parent. She saw that I was an ordained minister (though I do not have a church), and wondered how I deal with the Bible verse Exodus 20:12 which says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

An excerpt from her comment says:

“A friend of mine who is very Bible-versed told me that, yes, you should honor your parents, but not at the expense of your own sanity. Technically, I understand that, but still feel that I will burn in hell for establishing boundaries (or trying to) with my “n” father. How do you deal with this? I’ve included my email if you would like to email me. Thank you.”

What an honest and heartfelt question for those of us who are dealing with impossible situations with a narcissist parent. Who has not struggled with this verse? And aren’t there so many lovely people (not) (who have no idea about our situation) eagerly waiting to whip out this verse, to weigh us down with condemnation?

Please forgive me if you have read my story already, but for those who haven’t, I will try to condense it as much as possible, and you can read the details in former blog posts.

In my own situation, my step-dad died 3 1/2 years ago, and I have been the primary caregiver for my mom for those years. As far as “honoring” her, I laid down my life for her. There was a supernatural compassion in me towards her, and I knew that it was more than I was capable of. I helped her in every way possible, and made sure that she was well taken care of, to the detriment of my own health and sanity. I did it because I loved her, even though there have been problems in our relationship, since I was a little girl.  (I have wondered if it was because my dad was someone she badmouthed all my life, and I look like him.) Perhaps her intense hatred of him was such, that every time she looked at me, she saw him. I can’t begin to know her motivations.

On the other hand, my brother, who is 8 years younger, was fathered by the love of her life, and though he rarely does anything to help her, (other than grocery shop, and then go by for lunch most everyday) he can do no wrong. The difference that she shows in her treatment of us, is anything but subtle.

He visited her sporadically, (when she was in the nursing home for rehab for the past 4 1/2 months) on his way fishing. I visited every other day, and sometimes every day. He is the proverbial Golden Boy, and I am the slave.

While I have never been physically abused, I have often been emotionally abused, and I have the unseen scars. When I was around 7, my mother threatened to kill herself if I didn’t get along with (and fully accept) her present boyfriend, who later became my step-dad. She had moved me to Atlanta from my grandparents home, and though it nearly killed me to leave the only place that I’ve ever felt secure, I thought perhaps that she and I would finally have a mother-daughter relationship. My desire to have some time alone with her never really happened. Immediately there were two men in her life, as her stated purpose for going to Atlanta was “to find a husband.” Any attempt I made at crying out for a mother, was labeled jealousy, and I lived with that hurtful label all my life. All I wanted was a mother.

So fast forward to the past 3 1/2 years. I loved my mother, and though it was never easy or simple, I tried to do everything possible to make her life good. I cared for her like my child. I took her to all her doctor appointments, faithfully taking notes, and trying to be a good advocate for her. I took her shopping, lugging in groceries late at night, when I felt that I could not take another step.  I picked up all her prescriptions, took her to her hair appointments, spent many long nights in the ER with her, etc. I ignored my own health concerns (which are many), in order to do all that needed to be done for her. But I did it out of love.

Many times, if you read the past posts in my blog, through this time, I would go home and cry. Nothing was ever enough for her, and at times she would make me feel so pressured that I thought I would lose my mind. I admit everything went fine, as long as I did everything she wanted–the way she wanted. But if I ever stood up for myself, or didn’t completely agree with what she wanted, or how she felt–then she rapidly turned on me. (My disagreeing with her in any way, happened very rarely, because I had been conditioned to comply with her wishes. I would try to avoid making her angry at all costs.) One time years ago, when I was going through hell with my adopted daughter, and I reached out to my mom for some empathy and support, she offered none, saying she “didn’t understand.” She never tried to understand anything that I was going through, and I told her so. That time I checked myself into the mental health unit (feeling suicidal), after standing up to her.

One day recently, I just couldn’t dance anymore. (You can read about it in past blog posts.) We had words over the phone, and the conversation ended with her calling me “Mean, Bitchy, and Jealous.” (Yes, there’s her favorite word again.)

Something changed in me that day. I realized that I had spent the last 3 1/2 years of my life, caring for someone who had a very low opinion of me, and who intended to abuse me emotionally for the rest of her life (or mine) whichever ended first. I immediately responded, “I’m so glad that you said that, because now I am gone from your life.”

She taunted me with, “Oh yeah? Yeah..yeah…yeah…”

I replied, “Just watch me.”

I sincerely knew in that moment that I would physically die, if I kept on in that relationship. And I felt a release from God to end it.

My opinions on the “Honor your father and mother” are that God is a God of Love. He does not expect anyone to stay in a relationship, where they are being abused in any way. Please know that emotional abuse is a very deadly abuse.  I gave and gave to my mother, until she drained the very life out of me. I had no life of my own, and that didn’t bother her in the slightest. It was always all about herher needs, her desires–her happiness.  I feel that God (who is my Heavenly Father) also cares about me.  He requires that I forgive her, and I will, because if I don’t forgive her, I cannot be forgiven. Also it will destroy menot her, if I give in to bitterness. I know that healing will take time, but I do still love her, and I care about her. I just know that she is toxic to my health and spirit. I tried to provide for her, and care for her the best I could, but she has chosen to go another way. So be it. Forgiveness does not mean that you are saying what the person did was okay. No, no, no! Forgiveness is really just choosing to walk in love, instead of bitterness. Bitterness makes us sick, not the person we are holding the grudge against. Think of it as releasing them from your hatred and ill will, and then you can go on and live your life. I truly believe that there are times in our lives that we are to forgive, but not continue on in the relationship. (Paul and Barnabas (in the Bible) are an example of this. And even Abraham and Lot went their separate ways.)

I am married, and have an almost 20 year old daughter. (But until she was 18, she lived at home, and needed my attention.) I watched my house begin to fall down around me, because I was never home. My marriage was also suffering from a lack of time spent together. My health was declining seriously. I am a diabetic, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, etc. I take 9 different drugs. My mother kept me upset all the time, which just aggravated these conditions.

I felt overwhelmed every day of my life.  I could barely live one life, much less two. But I tried to be the “good daughter”, and I was patient, loving, and compassionate.  (More than I ever got from my mom.) I probably would have continued forever, trying to please her and “honor” her, if she had not called me those names. It broke something in my very soul, after all I had done for her. It broke my spirit, and I knew that I could not face myself another day, if I allowed her to continue to abuse me emotionally. I could keep pretending that everything was okay, but deep inside I would know that I was being emotionally manipulated and destroyed. And I was likely to get more and more sick–physically and emotionally. I do not think this was God’s plan for my life.

So while I do not claim to speak for God, I can only tell you what I feel He has spoken to me. And that is that He loves me, and enough is enough. Some people are afraid when they see that verse that says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” But I am glad that God sees my heart in this situation, as I feel it was always pure towards my mom. I honored her to the best of my ability, and I took far more than I should have. I also made sure that she was in a safe, beautiful place now that she needed living assistance-a place where she could maintain some privacy, and receive the needed supervision that her health requires. I had hoped we would spend many happy times there together. But it was not to be.

My brother is taking her out, and he and his teen-aged son are moving in with her. The last time that happened, she nearly lost her mind, because they were basically pigs. But he has now chosen to do this against all medical advice, and without regard to her health situation, and without respect of me, as her primary caregiver–someone who knows her medical situation far better than he does. He was told she would need 24 hour care if she went home, and he does not plan to get any care for her. She told my husband this a couple of nights ago, and she agrees with him. So my hands are tied in that area. I cannot make her stay in the AL, unless she is declared incompetent. I believe that my brother may have ulterior motives (he wants the house-our only inheritance) and having her remain in AL would soon require that the house be sold, as my mother has no other assets. But that is their decision now.

There is also a scripture about children that I cling to. It says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged round his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” God does not take the mistreatment of children lightly. The Bible has to be taken in context, and interpreted in light of other scriptures, to get the complete meaning.

I don’t think anyone would say that a child should remain with a parent who physically abuses them. Why would we think God forces us to remain subject to one who emotionally abuses us? He doesn’t. What He requires is that to the best of our ability we walk in love and forgiveness. He knows that healing takes time, and He will be there to help us, for however long it takes. I still love my mother, and in that way I honor her, but I cannot continue with things as they were. So I have chosen to protect myself, my health, and my marriage. I want to find some peace and happiness in my life, with whatever days that I have left.  (And I sincerely feel that if I had stayed in that situation, I may have died before my mother did.)

 I also contacted my former pastor’s wife about her thoughts on this, as she also has been through something similar with her mother. She counseled me that God does not expect me to put my health, sanity, and marriage at risk, for someone who will not cooperate, or mistreats me.

Only God can heal my spirit, but I know He can, and I know He will.

If you are going through something similar, I believe that what He requires is love and forgiveness, but He does not require you to remain in an abusive situation. So don’t let others bring condemnation on you. God’s heart is always reconciliation, but that requires two people, vowing to change the previous dynamic. If one person refuses, then nothing will change.

God is a loving father, not an abusive one. Being religious, and being spiritual are not the same. Religious people killed Jesus. So many people pretend to know God, but have no concept of His tender love towards us. Know that He will protect you if you submit your life to Him, and He is close to the broken-hearted.  He understands your pain, when no one else does…

Please read other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Sparkle. That was AWESOME! My “ah ha” moment was last year at Christmas time when my father gave a speech about how he “Thanks God every day for his son.” And, no, I’m not his son, I’m his daughter. I was sitting right next to him. I’m a single parent and I run a household, a business and raise a child on my own. Yet, when he had his surgery, I pushed all that aside to stay with him so he could recover in his own home. His golden child who lives 15 minutes away came to visit him one time for 1/2 an hour. The only thanks I got for it was being screamed at and told what a loser I am and how I needed to sell my home and move in with him to take care of him and his house so he can be free to travel. (He failed to mention my son…just ME moving in with him).

    After his nice little speech about how thankful he is for his goldenchild son, I realized no matter how much I do for him, it will never be recognized or appreciated. So, I’m finished. I won’t allow him to ruin my happiness or my son’s happiness because of his selfishness.

  2. Sparkle,
    When I read this post, I thought to myself, “Finally, she will find relief.”
    I am grateful that you recognized that you were slowly killing yourself by trying to please someone who will never be satisfied.

    I, too, struggled with the scripture that says to “Honor thy father and they mother so that your days may be long on this earth.”

    I did honor my parents, but we never agreed on anything and I had to make a choice to forgive, but love from a distance. They rarely respected any boundary regarding my life and so, I had to make the distance to survive.

    You also need to remember the scripture that says for fathers (parents) to not provoke their children to wrath. I believe this is a two way street. Much like our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we have to have the communication that comes from our hearts to His and His to ours. Otherwise, we are enslaved and without free will.

    I hope you are taking care of yourself now and resting. Yes, this hurts, but enough is enough and if your brother wants the inheritance, then let him. He is the one who will suffer and you are not going to be there to clean the “pig stye” this time.

    Sometimes, being the “preferred child” is more torturous than being the one who never finds their parent’s good graces.

    At least, as the “black sheep” I know that I lived my life and I didn’t replicate whatever destiny that my parents wanted. That was important.

    Thinking of you….
    shadowlands

  3. Thanks Shadowlands, and especially for reminding me of the scripture that parents shouldn’t provoke their children. The inheritance of the house means nothing to me. In fact, there is still money owed on it. What IS worrisome is that my brother is going agaist all medical advice in leaving her alone there, while he is at work. She is a far, far different person than she was when she left there 5 or so months ago. But that is where I have to let it go, because I cannot control their decisions. The chips will just have to fall where they may. As you can imagine, it is difficult to walk away from someone that you have cared for like a child for 3 1/2 years. But I have no choice, if I am going to have any life at all. I do believe that it is life or death for me. (I am 56 years old.)

    I hope things are better with you. This is a difficult time of year for those who are grieving, and yet it is a reminder that a Saviour was born into the world, to bring life (eternal) to those who believe in Him. It’s about Him, and He deserves our praise and worship, regardless of our present situations. (You taught me that in your Thanksgiving post.)

    Many hugs-Lonnette (Sparkle)

  4. what a wonderful article, my heart is lighter, my faith intact, peace restored. I have a similar situation and wrestle with no contact with my mother but believe as you do, that God does not want us abused. God bless you and your counsel.

  5. Dear Sparkle,

    It was interesting how God led me to this website today, as I was thinking of what I should do or not do, with my own grown up life (the adult child my narcissistic father). You see your story however different, was oddly very similar. Watching old home movies from when I was little, one would think that I was loved by my father. But when one knows my past, from when I was a teenager, one would know another side of my father. It was during those years that my father was given much prestige in the military, and though I feel he worked hard for it, it came with a large price tag – emotional abuse galor. He first started with me, and then because my Mother spoke up for me, he added her to the list of his “underlings”. The higher he became in the military the more the stress added to his need to treat us poorly, let’s leave it at that. Though I am grown now and can see how I played into things as well, due to my turning from young girl into a woman hormonally and I spoke sometimes disrespectful of him, and demeaning to him as well, I don’t think anyone deserves to live daily in an environment where they are demeaned daily, and occasionally physically abused as well. Life as a teen for me, was much the nightmare with threats, near death expiriences, and putdowns. I guess what I am trying to get at is, we both chose to leave one another alone for 18 years. After 18 years, and my Mother’s death, I went to him and confronted him as a grown adult woman. I felt like I needed to stand up to him and tell him how I wanted to move on and let what he did be given up to God, to allow Him to deal with God on his issues, rather than with me. I thought things would change, but after that visit things continued on another level and still does in the same way. He seems to be (as you said too) the only one who is allowed to have an opinion, and if I were to ever share my honest feelings and thoughts, I know he would shut me out. At every turn, and attempt on my part to be close to him, he either find small things to find fault with me, or even better will make up lies to support his ignoring me. Now it more about neglect of me than physical abuse, but never the less it’s the lies and the shutting me out that hurts. Many times I ask, “Is this what God wants? Should I be SETTING MYSELF UP like this?” Is if fair that only the adult parent have the authority to have a opinion, and not the adult child? I think God wants us to learn from everything that happens to us, and as my Mom once told me “God is not a stupid God. He accepts our appology, but if we aren’t sorry, why should he forgive us?” My father is not sorry for anything he does. He does what he wants, when he wants to and says what he wants to too. He doesn’t see that he only allows this for himself, and everyone else is expected to sit down and shut up. What makes him king? Does he really think that no one else on this earth deserves the same? Why does he think he was chosen for such a blessing and no one else has been awarded such an honor? The sad part is though I have lived an entirely different life from you, I totally get everything you wrote about above and I totally get that these people have been living so long in thier make-beleive world, and never been rebuked enough to startle a change, that they will never change….and what is worse is that the more we adult child allow this to continue, the more reward our parents get from them controling us, even on this higher level (years later and grown ourselves). Sad part is, these people never feel and receive love the same way, and so it must be a lonely world on some level. Will I continue to have contact with my father? I don’t know. I know that it is my duty as a God fearing person, to humble myself for any higher learning to come to me, but on some level we need to not be stupid and protect ourselves from more pain and disrespect. I totally get your post, Sparkle. Your post came at the perfect time, in God’s perfect plan, to me and apparently others as well. Thank you for helping each of us feel that we “ARE GOOD ENOUGH” and even better “WE DESERVE LOVE”. God bless each of you in your live’s. Your post brought tears to my eyes on many levels, and I wish you much peace. You may write me anytime you need to.

  6. I too struggled with that very scripture passage on honoring your parents. My mother was a very unbearable person to live with and my father choose to do everything that she demanded and was convinced upon his death that she was a goodmother and loving person. My whole life she did everything she could to make my father think badly about me. She would even lie and tell him things that were not true and he would refuse to talk to me until my mother would want him too again. My mother never allowed me to have a relationship with my father, I could not even wish him a happy birthday on the phone unless she was on the extension phone controlling the conversation. After years of this I was left to take care of her and her needs were many. She was very spoiled and did very little for herself. She didn’t even cook for my father when he was dying because it would mess her kitchen. She demanded that her needs be taken care of even down to cosmetics to keep her youthful appearence at age 77. I did everything I could for her many times to avoid another conflict and also with hopes that she would grow to love me and we could have a good relationship. My parents constantly found fault with everyone and mocked even how their neighbors lived even to the point of laughing about how their elderly neighbor walked. It was horrible to see them behave this way and it was against everything I believed. Then my father passed away and it was left to me to now meet all my mothers needs as my father had. My mother did not like most of my chldren but one. My middle adult daughter they picked as their favorite since she was little, and they turned her against her family when she would be upset over something rather than guiding her the right way. Unfortunately this worked. To this very day my daughter has decided that she would rather not have a relationship with her brother and sisters or her parents. She has similar traits as my mother in that her love is conditional on how much you do for her but she has no empthy for her family or their needs. It got to the point that I could no longer please my mother because she was trying to divide my husband and I and if I did not agree with her she would do things to make my husband look bad to me by accusing him of stealing from her etc. We were always so good to my parents we did everything that they needed. I took her shopping weekly, to the doctors and out visiting etc. My husband mowed her lawn weekly, put a new roof on her home, gave her our airconditioner so that they would not be too hot in the summer. Coped with her insistance of all my time and affections. He stood by and watched her turn our middle daughter from us to herself, the last issue was over religion. They are catholic and because we are born again believers they feel we are in a cult and beneath them. My daughter to this day has disowned us for leaving the Catholic Church. My mother did not like my son because he was a busy little boy, he was never fresh or disrespectful just busy. He is now 33 and she still feel no interest in him. She did not like my oldest daughter because she did not like it when my mother sopke badly and unfairly about her mother and father. And she didnt like the youngest either because she didnt fall into the habit of catering to her (which was always beyond normal catering). I truly love my mother and would love to have a normal relationship with her but had to go no contact because I too felt that she was a poison to me. She would rather I forsake who I am and all whom I love to make her happy. She tells my brother I am married to a beast and also tells my children and grandchildren he is bad and lies and tells them he threatened to kill her. She calls me and expects me to take sides with her against my husband and children. Since my father has passed I am the one who gets all her wrath and it was making me physically ill and I was not able to see and walk in the joy of the Lord. I have felt so much better since having no contact other than trying to reconcile two times with no resolution. She refuses to stop dividing my family. If I dont do things exactly to meet her expectations she throws a tantrum but then will call weeks later and crys and wants me to agree that she is right and I (we) are wrong. It is so very difficult. I have mourned over not having a mother and father because the only way I could was by conforming to thier ways which I could not. At this very time it has been six weeks since I return her call because she asked me too to only go back to her wanting me to believe that my husband is the one causeing us to not talk. This is untrue and I told her that is was. I also told her we cannot have a relationship because she will not do as I have asked mer many times to not speak badly about my family and to stop trying to cause the division. If she would stop this then things would be better but she gets angry and hangs up. Sorry about the rambling on and on and there is so much more to it as you all know but I am thankful to have found this site. I pray for my mother and daughter but have to leave them in Gods hands as he is the only one who can change them if they are willing to yeild to Him. I am so thankful that He knows my heart.

  7. Wow. You could have been writing my story. I also took care of my own birth mother for 3 years while she was sick at home when I was in my early 20s. Our relationship has also been quite difficult. THis year she called me the day after my birthday to tell me I deserved to be going through a divorce which my husband had initiated after we failed to talk things through his having a one night stand with a co-worker. She said i deserved it because of an email i wrote her after my daughter was born in 2008. I stood up for myself and my husband in the email telling her i loved him whether he had a good education or not and I told her we needed to work through our issues. She had come home when I had my baby and created scenes with my aunts about how I was disrespecting her. In the phone call on the day after my birthday, mother told me she would have disowned me for that email but my saving grace was that I took care of her while she was sick. She took me down in that phone call telling me that I am not the only one who hears from God, that very few men prefer older women ( I am eleven months older than hubby) and that the woman he had a fling with- she is 22- would be more acceptable to his family than me. She told me so many other things and I am still numb 3 months on. I resent her even more now. I dont want anything to do with her anymore and I feel like I’m on strike 2 just becasue i dared to tell her that she hurt me and that she needs to be accountable. Sunday is mother’s day and I am dreading it.Whenever we have differences she will say ” What is commandment number 5?” and I’ll feel like i’m sinning against God. I am COMBING the net looking for what the commandment says to my situation. I cannot for one minute believe that God who sent his only son to die such a brutal death for ME would want the threat of Commandment number 5 hanging over my head! Thanks for creating this space. VERY VERY few people understand issues with narcissistic mothers and I am often made to feel like I am unforgiving and bitter when i share my feelings about this and that my mother is now aging and I should enjoy the few years we have left. What about me? Oh, mother’s remarks made me think twice about the divorce. We are working on our marriage and staying together. I can’t imagine what she is thinking about that.

  8. An Abusive Mother’s hatred for her daughter is overwheming. This is killing the loving and caring Father. Her abusive nature has separated the Father from his Family. What scares me the most is….. that Her abusive nature is showing up in my young son’s personality.


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