Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

Jesus said turn the other cheek. He didn’t say I had to stand within smack radius.

“so, have you spoken to them about their behavior?”

That was the question I was asked after publishing my post entitled “you see the big hat too . . . right?

(For those who don’t have time to read that post, here’s the twitter version: “passive-aggressive narcissist. boundaries, distance & prayer. attempted normal relationship. failed. back to boundaries, distance & prayer.”)

Back to the question – Have I spoken to this person about their behavior?

The person asking me the question is someone I respect. They deserve an answer with a reason. So here goes.

As Christians, we tend to think God wants us to reek of Ephesians 4 and live in “Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ.” My concern, the reason I’m still writing about my response to passive-aggressive behavior, is that some Christians interpret “unity in Christ” to mean we should get along with everybody God has placed and/or allowed in our lives. Some Christians believe that “unity in Christ” means that anger is a sin and most importantly, that we should strive to resolve differences when we encounter conflict.

Have I spoken to this person about their behavior? It’s a reasonable question – from a reasonable person. And therein lies the problem. The assumption we want to make is that everyone is, at least for a few minutes of every day, reasonable.

What a beautiful theory.

In reality, it’s more like this:

(oh, chill out. It’s just a cartoon. God loves jerks too.)

To answer the question, Yes. I tried confrontation. I was a communication major. I have a conflict resolution model memorized and am ready to use it at a moment’s notice. So, yes. I did speak with them about their behavior – Before I figured out their standard MO (with everyone, not just me) was passive-aggressive behavior. Specific behaviors were openly addressed and were discontinued, at least temporarily, only to be replaced with a different manifestation of the same root issue. See, passive-aggressive behavior is like a flu strain. It subtly morphs, but is never eradicated. Since the behaviors never stop, the need for attention never ends.

I have years of experience with narcissism and its key characteristic – passive-aggressive behavior. I spent months saturated in research on it. Once I recognized it in this person, I knew exactly what to do. Over and over and over again, the books and documentation suggest that boundaries and distance are the only long lasting solution.

really. I’m not just making this stuff up to avoid confrontation. Remember, I tried confrontation. Confrontation produced temporary results:

“Realize that the narcissist may agree to change the dynamics of the relationship for a short time, to get you off his back,” but will usually revert to what he or she considers “normal.” In the end, the only healthy way to live with a narcissist is to become more of “your own person” and to create a space between you and the narcissist from which you both can live . . .

Minimize direct confrontation with the narcissist’s unhealthy behavior. Most narcissists are simply unable to receive criticism, even if it is meant constructively and spoken in a soft and respectful manner . . .

Maintain good personal boundaries between you and the narcissist. In response to your setting a boundary, the narcissist may attempt to rewrite history or even try to convince you that what you thought (or saw) just happened didn’t, and thus, there is no need for setting a boundary in the first place. Do not back down. . . ” (emphasis added)

(Understanding Narcissism, Paul M. Floyd, M.Div., J.D. and Bruce Narramore, Ph.D.)

My recent problem stemmed from the fact that I intentionally made the decision to take down the boundaries I had set and I attempted to bridge the distance I had established. (To find out WHY I would do such a thing, CLICK HERE to read my post Dear PinkGirl: don’t copy me.

(For those who don’t have time to read that post, here’s the twitter version: “a friend witnessed a passive-aggressive attack that didn’t bother me, but upset her. I explored the possibility that my boundaries were not God’s will.”)

Someone I respected – also a Christian and a reasonable person – witnessed a passive-aggressive attack. Because I had mental and emotional boundaries firmly in place, I bounced back like a quarter on a tightly made bed. My friend, however, was surprised and upset by this person’s behavior. It was new to them and seemed out of character. From my perspective, the behavior was fairly typical. But out of respect for my friend, because it upset her, I decided to prayerfully consider whether I was ignoring any promptings from the Holy Spirit to reach out to the narcissist God was allowing in my life.

Armed with daily prayer and all the research on narcissism and passive-aggressive behavior I could devour, I spent the last few weeks attempting to engage in a positive interpersonal relationship with this person I had previously (and successfully) blocked out for 2 years.

It depleted me. It sapped my energy and stole my peace. It interfered with my work. I became so discouraged I even stopped eating and exercising. I slowly lost my patience and my ability to respond appropriately and began to resent this person and react with frustration when I witnessed continued attempts at manipulation, whereas I had previously felt nothing toward them and had been immune to the manipulation for 2 years. I had experienced 2 years of sincere calm indifference when they behaved badly and now? I wanted to smack ‘em every time they acted out. That ain’t good. CLICK HERE to read “step away from the puppy” to read what I wrote about that.”

(For those who don’t have time to read that post, here’s the twitter version: “emotional bullies wear puppy suits. wounded puppy suits. feeding the puppy just makes him hungrier and wipes you out.”)

After relentlessly praying about this situation and this person and relentlessly asking God what he would have me do, I’m grateful and confident that Christ isn’t calling me to extend compassion by making myself available for continuous attack. (again, with another backstory – CLICK HERE to read “I’m going to stop being discouraged and be awesome instead. True Story.“)

(For those who don’t have time to read that post, here’s the twitter version: “I can’t be discouraged anymore. It doesn’t work for me. It’s like breathing through a pillow.”)

My favorite verse in Ephesians 4? Verse 26a: “Be angry but do not sin.”

And I’m very grateful to Dr. Paul Meier for his interpretation of scripture:

David’s response to Saul offers a three-step process for us to follow today:
1. Remember that you aren’t the issue! David knew the problem was with Saul, not with himself.
2. Recognize you can’t cure the other person. David couldn’t straighten Saul out. If you want peace of mind, you must realize you cannot change a crazymaker’s internal workings.
3. We can only change ourselves. Instead of responding to Saul in a like manner, David refused to become Saul’s enemy. David supported the king even as he hid from Saul’s vicious attacks.
Crazymakers by Paul Meier M.D.

I’ve gone back to a place of peace through the re-establishment of boundaries, distance and prayer – I literally pray for this person multiple times per week. If anything will change them, it will be God. Because, unlike me, HE can do ANYthing.


CLICK HERE to see other posts I’ve written about dealing with emotional bullies, narcissists and passive-aggressive people.

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April 24, 2012 - Posted by | books, christian living, crazymakers, intentional living, laugh!, learning curve, poor me some whine, pragmatic communication, pragmatic communion, what I've learned | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. Love your writing! I glean constantly!

    Like

    Comment by arr564 | April 24, 2012 | Reply

  2. (I LOVE LOVE LOVE the comic strip and completely laughed at it)

    I appreciate the “smacking distance” thing and the necessary boundaries. I have them as well, and only asked if you talked to her b/c of two things: 1) I assume she is a Christian and that your communication ability would enable you to approach her with your concerns. Not that she would accept them, although there was hope. 2) Your friend bringing up her concerns and your willingness to see if the boundaries were, in fact, not appropriate.

    I have a cousin. I’m not sure what her personality type it, other than “needy” and “pathological liar”. My sister and I both have come to a point where we deal with this cousin on an as-needed basis (i.e. holidays). She is our FB friend, although I have hidden her posts. The other day I got a FB message “Are you mad at me?” out of the blue. “No, should I be?” was my response. “I feel like you are ignoring me” was her response. We have NO relationship except what she has made up in her head, so that was a ridiculous statement. I’m thankful for my boundaries with her. Boundaries are GOOD.

    I know school makes it difficult, but is PinkGirl able to put up the necessary boundaries with TheBully?

    Like

    Comment by multiplemom | April 24, 2012 | Reply

    • MultipleMom – sweet! I met your two criteria without even knowing what they were! And you are SPOT ON with responding to a “difficult person” with a question. You can also deflect risky conversation by asking them about themselves. I call it waiving shiny things.

      I’ve been coaching PinkGirl about boundaries and distance and I can proudly say that TheBully has moved on! (and has been sent to the principle’s office multiple times because the other kids she’s bullying now haven’t been as gracious/a pushover that PinkGirl was.) PinkGirl actually came home yesterday and said, “TheBully was nice to me today, but I’m not falling for it. It’s a trick.” That’s my girl! (by JSM)

      Like

      Comment by Julie Stiles Mills | April 24, 2012 | Reply

  3. Oh Oh I LOVE IT! WTG PinkGirl!!

    Like

    Comment by multiplemom | April 24, 2012 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the update, Jules. I most admire your willingness to “try again” with this person on the off-chance that you were missing something or had formed a wrong conclusion. I think there was nothing wrong with trying again and DEFINITELY nothing wrong – or at all un-Christian-like – with keeping those boundaries FIRMLY in place. I’m so relieved that PinkGirl’s bully has moved on. (That’s what they do. N one wants to work hard where there are, sadly, much easier targets available.) Finally must say, I absolutely LOVE the title of this post!

    Like

    Comment by Debbie S. | April 25, 2012 | Reply

  5. I’m married to a person like you described. We’re Christians and sought counseling. My husband was diagnosed a narcissist. He never does anything wrong (in his eyes); he’s always pleasant and never has a tone (in his eyes) and If there’s a problem, he’s never to blame. Unfortunately, I can’t walk away, but I’m not sure If I can stay married once the kids are raised. Any advice?

    Like

    Comment by L. | December 16, 2012 | Reply

    • L. – First, I’ve been praying for you. For wisdom and endurance and motivation and determination. And for compassion. I believe in the power of prayer and I strongly encourage you to spend a few minutes of every day asking the Lord to equip you and bless you with all the things I’ve been praying for you. Praying for him will help you too. It will help you see him as God sees him: a hurting child.

      Second, you’ve inspired another blog post (probably more than one) about how to cope with a narcissist in everyday life. The first one will come in January, so I’m praying you catch it and it helps you.

      Third, you MUST equip yourself. Learn as much as you can about this disorder – how he became a narcissist will provide you with both empathy and compassion and allow you to eliminate disappointment and “the fallacy of should” by helping you to adjust your expectations of his behavior and understand his limitations. The liberating moment – a literal pivot point in my life – was the moment I realized the narcissist in my life was completely incapable of meeting my expectations. What she gave was the best she could give. Viewing the narcissist in my life as handicapped and damaged provided me with the ability to be consistently compassionate – and IN CONTROL. Understanding that I was stronger than her strengthened me even more.

      In addition to learning how he became this way, you CAN learn and adopt practices in responding to his behavior that free you from emotional upheaval. I promise you. It IS possible. Not easy. Not overnight. Possible.

      If you do this, you are deciding to be the best wife you can be no matter what kind of husband he is. That is the ultimate in human unconditional love. Remind yourself often that you love him. You may not like him, but someone you love deserves this effort.

      I HIGHLY recommend the book I mentioned in this post Boundaries. (Amazon promo excerpt: ” Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others”) and in addition, the books Why Is It Always About You? and Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed and The Object of My Affection Is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists.

      You’ve just been prayed for again.

      Like

      Comment by Julie Stiles Mills | December 22, 2012 | Reply

  6. Thank you for your blog comments as it has helped my understanding about living with a hurt child husband and learning all I can about this condtion so I have realistic expectations…

    Like

    Comment by Barb Wheeler | January 27, 2013 | Reply

  7. Your article is insightful, but it doesn’t address the critically important issue of exactly how to pray for a narcissistic passive-aggressive person. There are cases when healing and deliverance simply cannot be given up on.

    In my situation, the passive-aggressor is my 40-year-old daughter. She has caused me pain for 20 years. Only in the last 7 years have I realized that “I am not the problem.” I am the victim of brutal emotional attacks. My daughter is skilled at setting up a situation, then blindsiding me with verbal abuse. Now, two wonderful grandchildren (ages 5 1/2 and 3 1/2) are in the mix. I adore these children, but now my daughter has begun to abuse me in their presence.

    My daughter lives in California, and I live in Georgia, so I only see them twice a year. I dread the visits, but my daughter makes me feel welcome, even buying the plane tickets. During the week-long visits, the attacks begin on day 3 or 4. The last one was absolutely “over the top.”

    I love my daughter very much, even though I don’t “like her.” I adore my grandchildren. “Distance and boundaries” are NOT ENOUGH. I will NOT accept the situation. God is still the God of miracles. Prayer is the answer, and knowing specific ways to pray for this would be helpful.

    I am convinced that demons have set up the mental/emotional strongholds of passive-aggressive behavior in my daughter, and it is demons that man the fort. I pray against these powers and principalities. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12.

    I pray every day that God will convict my daughter of her sin. I ask God to shine His light and truth into her heart and mind. I pray whatever the Spirit puts on my heart.

    Sadly, most articles about deliverance and about praying against strongholds only address the need for the sinner (the passive-aggressive person) to repent, to want deliverance and to pray for themselves. There is very little written about how a spouse or a parent can pray for their loved one to be set free.

    Like

    Comment by Susan | October 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Susan – Beautifully expressed. In the last few sentences of my post, I did say that continue to pray for this person, but you are correct. I wasn’t specific about those prayers:

      “I’ve gone back to a place of peace through the re-establishment of boundaries, distance and prayer – I literally pray for this person multiple times per week. If anything will change them, it will be God. Because, unlike me, HE can do ANYthing.”

      When I pray for this person, I am VERY specific. I have recognized some common underlying issues with the narcissists in my life, which I specifically address in my prayers. I start by praying for healing. Narcissists are broken people and they deserve our compassion. With every narcissist I’ve met, the root of every crazy-making behavior is a deep insecurity and a desperate need for affirmation. They need affirmation like they need AIR. And affirmation is different than attention. The more attention you provide, the more they seem to demand and the more exhausting and depleting it is for the giver. The more (specific and sincere) affirmation you provide, the easier it is to intentionally steer interpersonal interactions in the direction YOU want them to go. I’ve found that the narcissists in my life instinctively gravitate and respond positively to those who publicly affirm them. I believe if they truly understood the depth of Christ’s stubborn love for them because of WHO THEY ARE, not anything they do, that would be huge step toward healing. The biggest obstacle is the human tendency to allow their behavior to negatively impact me. I’ve written a series on crazy-making, some of which addresses that delicate balance between compassion and boundaries. I haven’t written on narcissism in a while. I need to write up what has worked in my relationships. It could help others. The relationships are hard, but not impossible.

      You and your daughter – and her children – have just been prayed for.

      Like

      Comment by Julie Stiles Mills | October 7, 2013 | Reply

      • Thanks for your response, and thanks for praying. After reading your email, I decided to Google “narcissism.” In years past I’ve considered the possibility of my daughter being narcissistic, but then I would set that aside because she didn’t display all the symptoms. But now I have to say…………

        OMGosh!!!!!

        I see the narcissistic games quite clearly now.

        I’ve been thinking that my daughter had problems with angerboth passive-aggressive and outward anger. But now I see that these behaviors are only symptoms of something larger.

        I’ve always suspected that “Amy” (not her real name) puts real effort into hurting me. Her passive-aggressiveness is obvious to me, but not often discerned by others. There has always been a waxing and waning of her attention to me, but in the past couple years, the bad times have been extremely bad (way over the line) and exceedingly cruel.

        Because Amy is in California and I’m in Georgia, much of our interaction is over the phone. Amy is a pro at being “charming and in control” on the phone, but quite often her charming words are hollow, and her heart is cold. She can be very sweet and seem genuinely interested in me, but the next conversation might be hollow, insulting and extremely short.

        I’m still in shock from this morning’s discovery.

        I’ve found a few good sites about narcissism:

        Here’s a REALLY GOOD Christian site that categorizes narcissism as one of the “fruits of Jezebel.” http://www.deconstructingjezebel.com/

        Here’s a site that lists (in detail) all the head games narcissists play: http://thenarcissisticlife.com/games-narcissists-play/

        Here’s a site discussing the dynamics of narcissism in a marriage: http://www.narcissismfree.com/art-narcissistic-bubble.php

        Somewhere, on one of the above sites, I read that narcissists really hate themselves. (I’ve suspected this.)

        I still don’t understand where Amy’s anger comes from. I don’t know if it’s real anger, or if it’s trumped-up anger to make me appear inferior.

        I’m also wondering if I’m the only target/victim, or if Amy treats others like this. ??? ** BOTTOM LINE: What does God say about this?… For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places – Ephesians 6:12.

        About a year ago, God revealed to me that Amy is under the influence of Jezebel. It seems that now He is giving me a closer look at the problem. Stumbling upon your site (and Googling to learn more about narcissism) is actually an answer to prayer. I’ve been asking God to show me more about how to pray for Amy.

        (By the way…our sovereign God has put Christians in charge of planet Earth. He will act, but first we have to pray for Him to act. This world is our training ground. Christians are being conformed to the image of Christ, and this happens best when we’re faced with adversity.)

        I have to consider narcissism as a “stronghold”…

        For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. *For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds*, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

        God is very good. I will pray until my daughter is set free from this trap.

        Like

        Comment by intothedeeeeep | October 8, 2013 | Reply


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