Some wisdom has been around for a very, very long time. What is unfortunate is how often the wisdom of ages is lost, ignored or outright rejected. Take the words above by a Christian writer written 124 years ago. How often are Christians today befuddled and kept enslaved to evil because they are told they aren't free to judge the weight of evidence provided by the deeds of someone's life? Far too often.
In my post titled "Is There Good in Everyone" I used the extreme example of Hitler to illustrate how a person's character must be judged on the "tendency of the habitual words and acts"; that an occasional good deed or trait will not mitigate against the weight of evil outcomes of a person's life. In my post "The Mask of Evil" I again talk about Hitler and also Jeff Dahmer in this context. I even loosely use this quote above in my post on the Mask of Evil.
I recognize the general reluctance of many to judge people by the accumulated words and deeds of their lives so I revisit this subject today.
Where do we find the record of someone's deeds?
In their past. History.
No historical record is more important for you to reference than the history you yourself have witnessed. Chances are very good that you've attempted to hold the narcissist to account by not only referring to a behavior in the present but by also pointing out how this behavior has been acted out time and again by them. What is the consistent accusation of the narcissist when you attempt to hold them accountable especially to their past behavior? "You ungrateful, judgmental wretch! How dare you talk about the past. You have only proven how unforgiving you are!" Then the distraction tactics come at you fast and furious. Usually this includes history revisionism along with calumnies of your own character. Perhaps I should note here that the "past" that you are not allowed to reference can include what they did ten minutes ago.
The narcissist reviles, and therefore revises, history. It is obvious as to why. History condemns them. Basic logic is hard to refute, and that logic being that the consistent behaviors we have engaged in are the demonstration of our character. Cumulative history proves who we are. Narcissists must and do reject this logic and demand the same of their victims towards them. We must lose our naivete. I'm talking about the naivete that doesn't understand the wisdom of old as quoted at the top of this post: The character is revealed by the works, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.
It is easy enough to see how effective this rejection of the historical record is in getting the narcissist off the hook of accountability. Without being able to judge them by their past deeds we are left with only this moment. We usually don't feel that it is fair to judge a person by one thing. And, usually, it isn't fair to judge a person on one deed when it falls short of an overt and prosecutable crime. So, there we are. Stripped of an essential truth. The truth of the character of the person in front of us as demonstrated by them over time. When we can only judge one moment in a vacuum then we are rarely allowed to make the right decision.
If you are never allowed to judge a person's character and intent as revealed by history then you are caught in an endless loop. Narcissist does bad act. Narcissist demands forgiveness for bad act. Next time narcissist engages in a bad act you are not allowed to reference the previous bad act of a similar nature because the narcissist demands to be judged by this moment only otherwise you prove that your forgiveness for the same crime in the past was all a sham. Your fear of seeming unfair and judgmental means you offer up another pass to the narcissist.
I say "pass" because you are not offering true forgiveness. As I have said here many times before: you can't forgive a crime in progress. The perpetual do-overs narcissists demand are proof that they are not repentant for their crimes. (A truly sorry person never demands forgiveness, they request forgiveness realizing the request may be rightfully denied.) When you carefully examine the times you thought the narcissist was asking for forgiveness you see they lacked the essential elements of true remorse, repentance as demonstrated by coming clean without blame shifting or excuses, a sincere effort at restitution, and a firm resolve to never repeat the bad act. All of these steps must be present for a true forgiveness transaction to occur. Many if not all of these were missing from that so-called forgiveness transaction with the narcissist. Therefore what you gave them was cheap grace. They happily take your cheap grace and slap you with it in the days and years to come. The only thing you guarantee when giving an unrepentant criminal your cheap grace is that they are emboldened to do more of the same. You only succeed to confirming the creepy criminal in his evil ways. Say 'no' to cheap grace if you truly give a damn about justice and morality.
We are all fallible, and we all have done things to hurt others. What separates you from the narcissist is a willingness to completely own what you did and make it right; being willing to change your behavior when you realize it is hurting others (or yourself). You don't blame the other person for what you yourself chose to do. Knowing that we are not condemned or redeemed by our occasional misdeed or good deed we can take comfort in the quote above. When we can see that the overall habits of our deeds and words are good then we won't be overwhelmed with discouragement when we mess up. We will make it right and move into the future with a firm resolve to be a better person. History is not a fearful reality to the truly good, decent person.
Remember that one of the primary hallmarks of NPD is playing fast and loose with reality. Reality is what the narcissist decides to make it. They revise reality on the fly. The reality of history (i.e. the facts of history) are just as likely to suffer the revisionism of the narcissist as is the present. Don't allow yourself to be talked out of what you know about the truth of history by the narcissist. Good people must recognize their right to judge others by what they do. Good people will not harshly judge the occasional misdeed, but they will correctly judge the overall tendency of a life.
Narcissists demand we disengage our brain's logic centers in order to have a relationship with them. Do you really think you must give yourself a frontal lobotomy in order to be 'fair'? Does it honor God when you allow a narcissist to tinker with your brain like that? God gave you that brain...use it.
Accessing the historical record in order to deal with the narcissist in the here and now is fair play. Do not be baffled with all the B.S. the narcissist will throw at you to shame you into pretending to forget the historical record. You need to be honest with history of their actions. You need to admit what the "the tendency of the habitual words and acts" have been. You need to judge accordingly.
"You can tell what they are by what they do."
Matt. 7:16, Contemporary English Version
Matt. 7:16, Contemporary English Version