Elevation or Compassion?
“Healing from narcissistic abuse doesn’t start with elevating yourself above everything and everyone.”
I quickly jotted down this statement back in April as I listened to Dr. Alison Cook’s podcast, “The Best of You.” Contemplating the quote, I looked it over, closed my notebook, and soon forgot about it until recently.
As I looked over this statement again, I thought, Well this is obvious, right? When we elevate ourselves above others, we are being prideful- thinking we “know it all” or “have it all together.” In pride, we forget about God’s grace and mercy in our own lives.
While the statement may seem obvious, I know I have been guilty of this sin. In my pride, I have talked poorly of others who are stuck in destructive cycles. There’s a difference between talking about someone’s destructive habits in order to learn, heal, and grow and talking about someone’s destructive habits in order to condemn or shame that person. Healing and growing start with humility not pride.
In regards to a narcissist, much of that person’s behavior is a coping mechanism for past pain and hurt. While it’s wise not to put oneself in a close relationship with a narcissist, we can understand that that person is responding out of a place of pain- needing to control and manipulate to feel valued. By understanding why that person behaves the way he or she does, we can have compassion on the person while still recognizing the behavior is toxic. We can also acknowledge there are consequences for those who continue in destructive cycles. There are both worldly consequences and eternal consequences for those who turn away from Jesus and choose not to follow Him.
Recently, I was talking with my sister-in-law about a difficult person in my life. While I wouldn’t classify this person as a narcissist, the relationship itself is very draining. I must limit my interactions with this individual. This person continually turns to distractions- projects, events, and vacations to numb the pain of her past until those distractions no longer work. She always crashes in an emotional roller coaster of pain until she looks for solace in those distractions all over again. It’s a tiresome, toxic cycle as she turns to worldly things instead of our Lord for healing.
Talking with my sister-in-law, I voiced my frustration that this difficult person failed to see what I thought was “obvious”- she needed to come back to church, seek God for healing, and start therapy.
My interactions with this individual had grown cold. I was often bitter and frustrated by this person’s lack of self-awareness and willingness to seek out help. My patience weaned, as I let condemning judgment seep into my heart.
“I don’t know how to interact with this person anymore,” I frustratedly shared over the phone with my sister-in-law.
As she patiently listened to me, she made a simple but profound statement,
“Maybe you need to view her with compassion.”
The statement hung in the air for a while as I let it sink in. It humbled me.
Did I view this person with compassion?
I had grown so bitter and frustrated with this person’s behavior that I had failed to see her through the lens of someone in need. She needed Jesus for healing, just like I need Jesus every day. I would not be in a healthy place emotionally or relationally without the Lord. And it is only by His grace and mercy that I have healed from past toxic cycles.
Growing tired of this difficult person, I stopped praying for her and praying during our interactions. In my pride, I had grown angry and bitter instead of compassionate. While it was wise for me to limit my interactions with this person, I failed to rely on the Lord in the relationship.
Jesus showed deep compassion and patience toward me in my weaknesses, and He desired for me to do the same toward this person in my life. By showing compassion toward someone (even someone we may not physically be able to be around), we are valuing that individual as a human being, made in the image of God.
With that slow realization, I knew it didn’t mean I needed to call this person and start hanging out with her more. I didn’t need to “save-the-day” by putting myself in a vulnerable situation, but I could pray. I could ask God to give me a heart of compassion for her. She was lost, and she was hurting. And with prayer, God in His infinite wisdom and mercy could change this person’s heart. He could turn her heart back to Him.
And the Lord could also change my heart to have compassion on the people made in His image.
Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 NIV
Summer is always a step back and time of rest time for me. I spend more time in God’s Word and choose to carve out quality time with my family. We read, explore the outdoors, travel, and try new activities. With that said, you probably won’t see me posting as many articles on my website until the fall. Yes, I’m writing here and there, but God has brought me to a place of acceptance- there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. And this time is limited with my writing. Have a blessed summer!
Photo by Anna Shvets: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-people-holding-each-other-s-hands-4672720/