Children Shouldn’t Be Expected to Forgive a Narcissistic Parent

Walter Rhein

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People often discuss the importance of forgiveness. Some people seem to think forgiveness is an obligation rather than a choice. Ideas like forgiveness and family are sacred ideas. Sometimes the way we think about these ideas is unhelpful to victims of abuse.

Narcissistic parents are individuals who make their children’s lives miserable. Children of narcissistic parents have to take on a parental role. These children are often robbed of a childhood. Their parents, however, are permitted to live in perpetual infancy.

As the child of a narcissistic parent, I’ve encountered a huge amount of judgment over the years. When I’ve tried to have an honest discussion about the issue, random strangers assume that my father must be right.

“You should get over it,” they say.

“You only have one father,” is another common comment.

People assume that children should respect and honor their parents. If you respond that you were in an abusive relationship, you encounter resistance.

“That was in the past. You should just forget about it.”

I find it difficult to understand that comment. Everything is in the past. I could punch a person in the face and say, “You should forget about that, it’s in the past.”

There are a lot of people in our society who recognize that they were raised by narcissistic parents. Many people don’t want you to even discuss the issue.

It’s painful to have people assume you are wrong when you're processing your experience. You have to remember that these people are ignorant of your reality. They’re making an assumption based on the belief that parents occupy a sacred position.

Parents occupy a sacred position, but so do children.

Narcissistic parents are individuals who insist on perpetuating a big lie. They believe that they were perfect parents. They see the suffering of their children as an insult.

Narcissists become angry at any fact that contradicts their delusional self-image. Instead of showing compassion for a child who is suffering, they yell at that child for “embarrassing” them.

The selfish attitude of a narcissistic parent is a constant assault. My father takes every opportunity he can to undermine and sabotage my achievements.

Today, I am a happily married man with a wonderful wife and two children. My father has never met my wife and my daughters. People hear that and think it’s a shame. But those people don’t know anything about my father.

I know that if I allowed my father to meet my wife and children I would risk my happiness. He would smile and act charming around them. But he would also say and do things to undermine my relationship with them.

A grandparent is an authority figure. I will not have any authority figure undermining my relationship with my children.

Twenty years ago, I tried to have these kinds of discussions with my father. He denied that he does anything of the sort.

As an adult, I’ve learned that the opinions of ignorant people do not matter. I am the one who grew up with my father. I know what he is like. I’m not going to risk my happiness in service to some absurd social assumption.

Our society would be better if we had more open communication about abusive parents. People want to believe the lie that all families are loving and caring. The reality is that narcissistic parents torment their children their whole lives. Your only option is to protect yourself from them by breaking contact.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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