It feels like part two is the hardest part for me to tell. I'll see how it goes. Part of the difficulty is that I've lost some details. But the main point and general effects are clear to me so I proceed. The other part is that it isn't a memory I enjoy delving into. Narcissists suck...and so do the moonbats who won't oppose them.
I will start by reiterating the point that I'm illustrating with this story. This two part story as well as the story about my sister's last successful hit at my heart are being told to help illustrate some of the principles Kathy Krajco laid out in her post "Self-Preservation Under Narcissistic Abuse". The two incidents that I have and am outlining for you are to show some of the devastation that occurs when someone is told by others they do not have the right to defend themselves or fight back against abuse:
So, for the sake of the victim's mental health, you must NEVER deny him or her the right to put up a fight...It violates the laws of nature and the innate instinct for self-preservation. If the victim knuckles under to psuedo-moralistic pressure to not lift hand or voice in self defense, he or she will hate themselves and become a suicide risk. That is forcing people to commit the worst breech of faith there is - with one's very self...Never, never, never preach prime-time morality at the victim making it a sin for him or her to yell right back at the abuser. Though yelling back may not be wise in all cases, it IS the victim's right. It at least lets him or her preserve self-respect through showing a backbone.
Although I was overwhelmed in the midst of the unfair attack against my honor, integrity and good deeds I did show an unbending resistance to the attacker. Even though V had reduced me to tears, even though I begged her to show me a shred of mercy during her attack of words and cruel indifference, I would not capitulate to her twisted reality. I clung with fierceness to what I knew to be true about the events and about myself.
There was something of a victory in that for me. I had been raised by an evil narcissist mother to always question myself and my perceptions when I was confronted by her self-righteous and unfair accusations. She could often persuade me to see myself as being fully in the wrong when I wasn't wrong at all or when I was only somewhat wrong. I did not hand over this kind of victory to V. I did not break faith with myself. This was not a small victory considering I knew nothing about narcissism; by that I mean, I didn't have a name for what was happening. But I knew I'd met this kind of evil before and the biggest part of myself rose up in resistance to it. I did not capitulate.
I was already well on my way to being the terror against evil doers that I am today. *big grin*
Nevertheless, the bystanders made a difficult situation much more difficult for me. The "prime-time moralizers" were at the ready to assume that there must have been something I did to provoke V's attack. The basic assumption most people have, that it "takes two to tango", is often used to whack a victim on the head after they've already been unfairly abused by the narcissist. Most people are utterly and blissfully unaware that there are predators in the pack. The predators lay in wait while they look for the person who has the virtues they don't have...and then pick their moment to smear that person's reputation with the very opposite of what they are. They always attack when there are no witnesses. They rely on the dip shits who believe it always "takes two to tango" to ensure that their victim gets to carry most, if not all, the blame.
This blame rests easily upon the victim because the victim is OUTRAGED at the injustice. They may be very emotional, angry, and demanding for justice. This only tends to convince the coconuts who believe in "prime-time morality" that the victim is the problem. By now the predator is sitting back looking innocent and calm. Their calmness, contrasted with the open distress and accusations of the victim, are all it takes to convince most people that the trouble-maker is the victim.
V was quick to contact the pastor. I think she was concerned that she might have exposed herself by her attack on me. I was obviously not going to go down quietly or easily. I had immediately tried to confront her in front of my friend, Mrs. Bishop. V rightly assumed that Mrs. Bishop was going to believe my side of the story. The Bishops were highly respected not just in our church but all the area churches. So knowing that this respected family would not be supporting her claims against me, I'm sure that V wanted to get the first "crack" at the pastor to try to convince the primary authority figure that she had been victimized.
The next thing I remember is getting a visit from the pastor. He had made himself the go-between for me and V. He had already heard V's version and had come to me with that. Of course, I refuted it adamantly. He left my house to go to V equipped with my report of what had happened. He was trying to get a reconciliation in place because of the possible consequences to our little church if one was not reached.
A little more background on our church. About six months earlier my husband had been laid off of his contract job. When news of this got to our church, people started to quietly plot their desertion of the church. Why? Because at this point my husband was the primary leader of our church. The pastor we had was in charge of three churches and so, most of the time, it was up to us to make sure that services had a speaker and classes were being taught. My husband was doing most of that kind of leadership. It wasn't because he wanted to. It was because it defaulted to him. Most of the people who had joined our little church thought they were doing enough just by showing up. In a church as small as this one warming a pew was really not a luxury so many should have afforded themselves. So my husband and myself ended up with most of the responsibilities. We were reluctant leaders, but being responsible people we took up our tasks without complaint. After my husband was laid off of work it became absolutely clear that people were not thinking about filling in for us. We were assuming at the time that we would have to move away for my husband to regain employment, therefore it was generally assumed by all that we were not going to be around long. Some of the members were already attending other area churches most of the time starting shortly after my husband announced his unemployment.
After our friends' home burned down the church people seemed even more anxious to leave our little church. We were a small church family, and most people didn't want the responsibility of having to help the Bishops as much as they saw the Bishops would need help in the months to come. A small church doesn't allow for much of the luxury of assuming that someone else will pick up the slack. The fire was an added incentive for some of our members to disappear. V was the first to make herself scarce.
The member who assumed no responsibilities and whose attendance was the least dependable was, you guessed it, V. I think part of V's attack on me was an attempt to make it someone else's fault that they no longer were attending our church. They couldn't just leave. No, they had to make it someone's fault for their leaving. I am convinced this was a factor. V never stepped foot in our church again after she attacked me. Her husband only appeared once during the week for the final board meeting. One reason they needed to make it someone else's fault they were leaving was because L was the treasurer of the church. That was an important responsibility, and it was one he knew no one else in our church was going to take from him. So if they resigned in a huff because of purported injustices he could absolve his own conscience for ditching his responsibility. No such silly tactics were needed. As it was, the conference took our financial books and assumed that responsibility after L's defection.
The pastor was probably seeing the likelihood that our church was on its last legs. I think his efforts to smooth the waters between me and V were motivated by his desire to keep this church functional. What he hadn't accepted...and what I and my husband could clearly see by now...was that this church was kaput. All that remained was for someone to be willing to pronounce it dead. By now, nobody other than my husband, myself and my daughter were willing to do the heavy lifting. Well, the Bishops were willing but were completely unable to do anything. They had been rendered unable to really support the church except with their attendance once they'd adopted the four new kids. That had been the first big blow months earlier to the church's chances at getting off the ground. Now with their personal disaster they were actually in need of church energy...an very finite amount of which existed.
The pastor was a man in his 50s. He was a very kind man with a fair amount of wisdom. I had come to respect him a considerable amount. I thought that in the year we'd known each other that my character had been amply demonstrated. So when he sat there in my living room and told me V's version of events and heard my refutations I was distressed to find out he thought I bore at least some responsibility for the "hard feelings" that now existed between myself and V. He never blamed me directly for being unfairly accused by V in the kitchen, though he did try to gently assert that my emotional reaction to what V did was my contribution to "wrongdoing". Yes, my tears in that kitchen, the fact that I tried to defend myself with reason against V's unfair accusations, my continued unbending attitude that V was completely in the wrong were signs to the pastor that I needed to admit to my own faults of character.
I was shocked and horrified to find out that V had accused me of threatening violence toward her. She claimed to the pastor to have been scared of me in that kitchen because she thought her physical person was in danger! That accusation did nothing to mollify me as the pastor tried to get me to soften my position. I showed complete mystification at how she could possibly accuse me of such a thing. As I thought about what happened I remembered my one large arm gesture that I described in my last post. I remembered abruptly throwing my hands up into the air to form the shape of a big sign. I remembered her taking half a step back even though my arms went nowhere near her. I remembered that "gotcha" look. That was the only action I did which could have possibly been construed as incipient violence.
When I found out about this blatant lie and twisting of the facts I was even more unbending in my refusal to "make nice". I could now see that V would stoop to any lie whatsoever to get her ass out of the sling. There was no room for reconciliation in my mind. She was upping the ante! She was sorry for nothing. She never even pretended to be sorry.
Meanwhile I was having to deal with the disapproval of a man whom I respected and whose good opinion I valued. He told me that Christians who are close with the Lord cannot find themselves upset even when unfairly attacked. My emotional reaction was a sign that I needed to submit more to Christ. V could not have hurt my feelings if I was "dead in Christ". This hurt the most. Of all that happened, this hurt the most. This meant that I would forever live under the cloud of his disapproval because I had not reacted in a "Christlike" manner. There was no redemption from that unless I would admit such was the case and ask V to forgive my unChristlike response.
That wasn't going to happen. I hadn't done or said anything to V that could be construed as being immoral, wrong or even unkind. Even though I knew I would be going forward under the cloud of being a "less-than" Christian I was still not willing to bend over for what happened to me. Not even this respected pastor could force me to do it. Thank God. Obviously, after this event my trust in the pastor suffered considerably.
How was my demeanor during my conversations with the pastor? I was not raging. I didn't hurl invectives or expletives. I was rational and probably somewhat heroically calm considering the circumstances. Yes, I am sure I showed my strong emotions against what had happened, but certainly not in any way that could be rightly described as being unreasonable or indecorous.
It was doubly distressing to me that this pastor was giving any credence whatsoever to V's version of events. That was hard to take. I had done nothing wrong. It was an unprovoked attack, yet the pastor was obviously assuming that no one would attack completely unprovoked. I got the clear impression he believed there was something I wasn't admitting to. I had to live with the fact that V had successfully smeared some of herself off onto me. I was dirty. I couldn't wipe the smear completely off myself because the pastor wouldn't allow it. He made it clear that, if nothing else, my reaction was wrong. In that way I had contributed to the problem, in his mind.
The happy part of this story, and likely the source for my strength of will against the double assault, was that I had a husband and daughter who believed me utterly. They, too, were outraged. It was enough for me. They were not willing to throw out everything they knew about me in order to believe some twisted bitch's version of me! They LIVE with me. They know me better than anybody else. Knowing me, they knew I was telling the complete truth. I also felt that the Bishops believed me. Mr. Bishop actually demonstrated some outrage. Mrs. Bishop believed me but she is not constituted to show outrage in any circumstance. Even against gross injustice to herself, so I don't remember receiving the moral support of her outrage. It would have been nice, but I knew she was giving me what she could. A sympathetic ear and a belief that I did no wrong even in my responses to the injustices. It helped. The two people whose opinions I valued most in our church (other than my own family, obviously) were the Bishops. They, too, were not willing to throw out everything they knew about me from their own experiences in order to believe a demonstrably selfish woman's version of me.
To imagine someone being as unfairly attacked as I was by V and not having the support of family and a couple of church members is an imagination of a nightmare. Even with the support I had it was a very emotionally difficult pass for me. If any of you have endured this type of thing in your church you have my deepest sympathies. If you have had to endure it with no earthly support...my heart breaks for you. It would require a superhuman strength to get through something like this with only yourself believing your story. That superhuman strength would have to come from God Himself.
I used the plural in describing the "moralizers". That is somewhat of an exaggeration that I'll correct now. It was only the pastor who said anything to me directly. Other members of our church just gave me a wide berth. They seemed uncomfortable around me. It was like they were desperate to not have to take sides. I didn't force that on them. I didn't rail to anyone about what happened. I decided people were going to believe whatever they wanted to. I was not going to try to gain support that wasn't going to come to me unsolicited. I'm sure part of their discomfort was their desertion of our little church endeavor which means it wasn't really about me or what happened with V. Whatever. It felt like disapproval at the time given the circumstances.
By the way, neither V or her husband started attending any of the other area churches. They disappeared into the ether. Another bit of info on these two. We (i.e. our church) found out at some point that V & L started attending church after a many decades long absence a few months after L had found out he had cancer of the colon. They both started a very strict diet regime that they were assured was "God's diet". (Hence, V's focus on her cookie temptations I mentioned last post. She made it clear many times that she looked down on the rest of us who weren't following "God's diet". We were less progressed Christians. She said as much.) They were both sure L would be cured because they were following all the rules.
I believe now that their church attendance was part of their plan to obligate God to cure L. "See God? We're doing everything right!" A month or so before V's attack on me her husband had been checked to see if the cancer was gone. It wasn't. The shift in V and L's attitude was immediate and apparent to all. They were very obviously angry. Angry and bitter at God. He wasn't doing His side of the arrangement!! Rather than focusing on the good news which was that the cancer was still small (a real blessing considering L had foregone medical treatment for a whole year), they were angry that L was going to have to have surgery after all.
I am convinced this was at the root of what started their disaffection with going to church and why they were looking for a way out. Fair weather Christians. They actually believed they could obligate God to heal L because he was strictly following the "Eden diet". Well, guess what. God can't be bribed. Or fooled. You can't obligate God to do things your way just because you think you've figured out all the rules. Our following God's commands does not put us in a position to start boxing God into a corner so He HAS to give us our way. Such hubris and selfish motivations God doesn't reward.
Two months after V's attack on me six people assembled in a small room of our church: my husband and me, both Bishops, L, and the pastor. It was a final board meeting. We voted to officially shut the doors of this church forever. The conference would be putting the property up for sale. The last services were held on the last weekend of October 2002. We were now no longer members of a local church. Our memberships were now being held by the conference. They sit there to this day.
We lived for a year on our savings after my husband had lost his contract job. Much to everyone's surprise my husband landed another well-paying non-contract job with the same company. They allowed him to telecommute. This meant we were not forced to move away from the area. All those who had feared we would be leaving them holding the bag of responsibility for church duties had feared for naught. We lived for another year in the area after my husband started his new job.
The church that was nearest us after the closure of our church was the main congregation of the area. It is where the pastor was most of the time. We attended there a few times in the ensuing year, but our attendance was spotty in the beginning and non-existent after that. We weren't held to account for our non-attendance by the pastor because he took a church in another state and moved away.
We were exhausted. I was now dealing with the fall-out from my mother's behavior in my home on Thanksgiving 2002 that occurred only about three weeks after the closure of our church. With all the drama in my own family I stayed away from church. I didn't have the emotional energy for dealing with all that was going on in my personal life and the potential problems that going to church always invites. We are only now, six years later, getting back into church attendance.
In January following the above events, Mrs. Bishop found out she had stage four breast cancer. Another crisis. I helped in every way I could until we moved away. She is still alive today, though it looks like the cancer is back.
The extreme emotional pain I had to endure because I was denied the right to defend myself cannot be overstated. First, I was denied the right to self-defense by V as she rejected my every attempt to explain the truth of the matter. It was excruciating. Then, when the pastor downgraded my Christian experience simply because I was hurt by the injustice of Vs attack and tried to stand up for myself -- that was the most painful aspect of the whole experience.
I did not lash out in kind to V. I kept myself to the truth. I didn't use her abuse of me to justify me abusing her. I simply clung to the truth about myself and the circumstances and would not be swerved. There is no way to make my reaction into a sin without being utterly perverse. Like Kathy has said so very well, when someone has been abused by a narcissist do not tell the victim they are wrong for resisting. Ever. If you are the one thus abused, do not allow someone to tell you you're wrong for simply defending yourself. Even if that someone is a person you had thought well of before. Giving your approval to others to abuse you is an act that will cause you to loathe yourself utterly. Nobody's "esteem" of you is worth that very high price.
The question was raised in the comments on the last post...what would I do differently today?
First of all, I really, really doubt someone could knock me completely off my emotional pins by a similar unfair and unprovoked attack. I would instantly see through what was happening. I would immediately know this person was not interested in reality, only in their agenda. I would have no problem recognizing the predator in front of me.
If the exact same scenario happened to me today here is what I picture happening. I would still assent to hearing V state her complaint against me since there would be the possibility that I could be at fault even if I didn't know what I'd done. I would want to apologize if it could be shown to me that I'd done something wrong against her, or anyone. So, yes, I would listen to V lay out her case against me. The moment where my compliance would stop would be at the juncture of explaining what really happened in opposition to the fiction she was believing about me and my actions and her obvious unwillingness to believe anything good about my behavior and motivations.
When I explained to V that she was misunderstanding what was going on and she utterly rejected my explanation and essentially called me a liar, that would be the end of it now. I would at that point hold up my hand and say, "I see you are not willing to be reasonable. Take your complaint up the chain of command." I would walk away. Even if her lips were still moving she would be talking to my butt.
She would not have gotten the satisfaction of my tears. She would not have gotten to feel powerful at my expense. Now she would be forced to try to explain to someone in authority her naked claims against me. There is likely no way her claims could have found support. As it was, she only gained some support for her claims because she was able to get a negative reaction from me. Sans that, she would have been hard pressed to get someone to agree I was in the wrong.
Let's say she succeeded in getting the pastor to believe she had been "sinned against" by me even if I acted as just described. What would I do then? Again, the moment I saw that the authority figure was not willing to believe me he'd be talking to my backside. I would not sit still for it. I would walk away. Like I have said to both my father and my sister: they can all be right...I'll just be gone.
That is my attitude toward those who want to pin unmerited blame on me. I'm just gone. I don't give a flying frak what these kind of people think of me. I do not desire the esteem of evil people or their accomplices. If they want to believe I'm evil when I'm demonstrably not evil then they are impervious to reason and truth. There is no point in dealing with people like that. I cannot be guilted into compliance when that compliance would come at the expense of my self-respect and truth. I am a decent person. When I do something wrong I will apologize thoroughly, without sparing myself. I will not blame shift. I will do all in my power to make it right. But I'll be damned if I'll apologize for something I didn't do. I'm not going to offer myself up for the satisfaction of those who want me to willingly sacrifice myself to a lie about me. If I am physically able to walk away, I will walk away. Pastor or not, I do not have to consent to lies about me to "keep the peace". Peace at any cost always costs way too much in the end. And in the end there is no peace.
Once you know you're dealing with reality revisionists don't grant them further audience. The longer you stand there, the more they will be able to pretend you did something you didn't do. Oh, and leave the willing idiots with the predators. They deserve each other. With any luck, at some point, the predator will make dinner out of one of their willing village idiots.