If you've withheld forgiveness from the narcissists in your life then I am sure you have experienced some particular accusations. These come from the narcissist and their sympathizers. They accuse you of "refusing to forget the past", "holding a grudge", "being resentful", "not letting go". One of my and my family's favs is "a heart full of hate". We erupt in gales of laughter when we conjure up that particular memory of my father's accusation in defense of my mother.
Narcissists have a very limited range of emotions. While being able to fake having a wider range of emotions, they really operate on an emotional level of an animal with the two primary motivating emotions of fear and anger (jealousy is a close third, but is really a combination of the other two). This is one reason they impute one of these two emotions to you when you are not behaving properly. They project their own emotional state or reactions to you. Which is why, when you calmly and firmly withhold absolution for their misdeeds, they immediately assume a negative.
Is it true? Is it inevitable that your decision to wait for someone to show true signs of confession, contrition, restitution and a firm resolve to not repeat the offense can only mean that you are a resentful, grudge-filled, vengeful, nasty person? Is it possible to withhold a gift of forgiveness while simultaneously living your own life with productiveness, happiness, and a clear conscience without bitterness?
Indeed, the assumption of the narcissists, sympathizers and Holy Joes is that you can't be a spiritual person with a clean conscience and a focus on the good things in life while withholding forgiveness. They are screwed up in the head so you can put their opinion on this in the trash. Lets look at it from healthy person's perspective.
Emotionally healthy people are realists. They are people who want to see reality, accept reality and live in reality. The realist has seen that the narcissist is not wanting a real gift of forgiveness, therefore the realist has accepted that truth and proceeded to live their life based on that truth. The realist doesn't have to be upset or angry about this reality because it never does any good to get pissed and stay pissed at reality for any length of time. Reality is. If you refuse to accept what is, you end up fighting truth. Not a good situation since, in the end, truth wins. The person I'm describing is able to depersonalize the behaviors and accusations of the narcissist because they've come to understand that the narcissist is not truth-based. Because an emotionally healthy person is only interested in truth-based reality, they don't take a lying narcissist at their word. When the narcissist starts hurling accusations the realist doesn't take them to heart once they've figured out that the narcissist is an inveterate liar.
In fact, this person is able to completely depersonalize the narcissist too. The realist thinks of the narcissist as a Force of Nature. Realists do not get angry at a force of nature. It would be senseless to do so. The force of nature is just what it is and it can't help what it is. It does what it does, wreaks its destruction, and moves on. The energy and effort of the realist is used to stay out of the way of the force of nature until it passes. When the hurricane threatens, the wise realist does all they can to protect them self and their family from the coming storm. They hammer boards over the windows and hunker down in the relative safety of their basement. When the hurricane comes knocking you don't run up and open the door to it. You don't invite the hurricane to dinner. You don't throw your kids out on the front porch to appease the hurricane in order to save yourself. Or, like the natives of certain tribes, throw your virgins into the volcano to stave off its rage and rampage. No, you simply do all you can to protect yourself and stay out of the path of a force of nature. Where is the resentment? Where is the grudge-holding? It doesn't even apply. You have simply come to recognize the truth about the narcissist; they are destructive forces and unsafe for humans. You do not try to reason with a force of nature. You don't try to placate it. You don't waste time hoping the force of nature will grow a heart. You get out of its way and stay out of its way. That is all you can do.
In one significant way the narcissist differs from a tornado, hurricane, tidal wave, volcano, etc...a force of nature is not predatory. The narcissist is. And, unlike most predators in nature, narcissists are predators of their own kind. This reality only underlines the need to get out of the way of the narcissist's storm.
Let us say for a moment that you've misjudged the narcissist, or perhaps a non-narcissist person who has become a detrimental force in your life. If you have misjudged them, your withdrawing doesn't prevent them from proving they are good people. Your withdrawal doesn't hurt someone in an irreparable way. Yes, maybe their feelings get hurt, but normal people are able to function in spite of some hurt feelings and eventually their feelings will resolve. What I'm saying is that withdrawing is the kindest and least damaging of any other action you can take. The other person, if misjudged by you, will lead their lives in such a way that will prove they are something other than what you thought they were. You may or may not be aware of how they are leading their lives, nevertheless, your withdrawal does not damage anyone's ability to carry on their lives successfully. You are no one's savior. Staying in the narcissist's life is not going to someday save them. Leaving them will not destroy them (no matter what they tell you). If you decide you must withdraw, do so without apology or shame. If you happen to be wrong, your withdrawal is not going to damage the other person's life. If you didn't misjudge, you've taken an action that has protected your self without taking retaliatory actions against the other party. Narcissists would like to pretend your withdrawal is retaliatory, but that is a lie. It is the kindest, gentlest way of dealing with their toxicity. It acknowledges that you are not willing to be hurt anymore, and that you've abdicated the idea that the narcissist's salvation somehow is dependent on you. While they characterize "no contact" by you as cruel, the opposite is true. It is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for them. They are deprived of using you and you are not responsible for increasing their evil by letting them hone it on you.
Refusing to forget the past is thrown in your face like it is a bad thing, but if you don't have any recollection of the terrible damage a tidal wave can do, then you won't know enough to get off the beach when the water draws back. Remembering the past is essential for survival. It is not a fault of character. An operational memory is what helps keep us safe! Don't let someone shame you with that.
The narcissist should be asking us for our forgiveness. Instead, they demand us to forget. There is a very large difference between the two. They don't want forgiveness, they want us to wipe our memories into blanks. Why? Because they want carte blanche to recommit their crimes against us at their whim. This is why I refuse to let the bad guys make the rules for my life anymore. The criminals want to make the rules. Their demands always boil down to the same thing--that I continue on as before and allow the narcissist the right to abuse me as they see fit. Well, I have a good enough memory, and enough sense, to know that I have been dealing with a force of nature. My desire for it to be different won't change it. When the blizzard threatens, I'm locking the doors and not stepping a toe outdoors until it has moved on. While the storm rages, I'll be quietly and contentedly reading a book or taking a nap. No, my heart isn't full of hate. I'm very happily and realistically leading a life out of the path of the storm.
"A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished." Prov 22:3 (NKJV)