The Narcissistic Mother: Sex, Lies, and Misinformation

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I had to heal from Stockholm Syndrome before I realized that my narcissistic mother’s lies and omissions were harmful.  For a long time, I thought my mom was simply uneducated, had no time to discuss important topics, and was even just a little endearingly daft.

It took me a long time to realize that these lies were yet another facet of narcissistic abuse.

The Red Cross defines “child abuse” as any action that results in physical or emotional damage.  Check.  This can happen through neglect (check), lack of proper hygiene (check), and lack of appropriate education (check).

Remember too, that narcissists lie.  They tell lies of commission (telling misinformation) as well as lies of omission (leaving out important information).

Rewind to my childhood:

I thought it was normal that my mom didn’t have conversations with me about my changing body.  When I started sprouting breasts, it was my oldest brother’s girlfriend who admonished my mom to purchase me some bras to conceal my overly-obvious nipples.  When I started experiencing body odour, it was again my brother’s girlfriend who told my mom to buy me some deoderant so I wouldn’t stink.  I often cringe thinking about little girl Sarah, going to school with nipples showing and reeking of body odour.

I thought it was normal that we never used proper body terms.  When I was around age 7, I recall seeing our dog’s penis sticking out one day, and asking what it was.  My mom replied, “Oh, was his little red wagon sticking out?”  We used colloquialisms for anything related to genitals; I learned that there was something inherently shameful about those particular body parts if we weren’t even supposed to say those words.  I didn’t know until I was an adult how much that one detail increased my risk of being sexually abused as a child, and how much it would help me talk about it properly (and have a proper testimony) if it had ever happened.  Never mind to have a healthy body image and proper view of sex and reproduction.

I thought it was normal that I didn’t know about the menstrual cycle until I explored the plastic-wrapped packages I’d see in the garbage every so often.  I was alarmed to see that someone had been bleeding, and was old enough to have already been in the know about changes my own body would undergo in not too long.  Years into having my period, I had to explore tampons on my own, as my mom had never offered them as a more comfortable and discrete option.

I thought it was normal that my parents never taught me about sex.  I vividly remember figuring out what the sex act was, when I overheard a rape victim describe her rape in detail on the evening news.  I recall the shock I felt as I heard her describe her perpetrator forcing his penis inside of her.  I remember being frozen in time, hearing this information, and in this manner.  My heart beat and the words rang in my ears as I processed what I had just heard.  I should never had had my first knowledge of sex come in the context of rape.

I thought it was normal that my mom told me misinformation about topics she didn’t want to discuss.  I’ll never forget the time I was in grade 6 and inquired about how a person contracted AIDS.  With her own agenda in mind, as always, she flipped off a quick reply to my query: “By having sex with more than one person”.   I knew not to press, but held that information inside of me and wrongly trusted that my mom was telling the truth.  I also remember when my good friend told me later that year that her mom was pregnant; I knew her mom was with someone other than my friend’s dad, so I replied in concern: “But now your mom has AIDS!”  She laughed at me, and told me how ridiculous that statement was.  My cheeks burned in embarrassment, and felt such anger at my mom for setting me up like that.  I should have known the truth.

I thought it was normal for my mom to tell me I needed to wash better because she had seen the slightest amount of vaginal discharge in my underwear as a teenager.  I showered daily, but figured I wasn’t doing a good enough job.  I remember washing obsessively, thinking I was dirty and gross, and feeling ashamed for my body doing something that was, in fact, perfectly normal.  I felt shame over a bodily function that God designed us to have, because my mom had again given me misinformation.  It wasn’t until my adult years, when I began exploring natural birth control methods, that I realized that cervical mucus was normal and a sign of a healthy body; it was part of how God designed women.  Instead, I lived for years in shame with the lie that I was dirty and abnormal.

I thought it was normal for my mom to include nothing more in my sex education than “don’t have it”.   (And at this point she still hadn’t officially discussed anything about human reproduction with me).  She was adamant that I just don’t have sex until married, but never expanded more on it.  I was never given a healthy view on what sex was, how to enjoy it safely, how wonderful it is in the context of marriage, and that it was a good thing.

I thought this was all normal.

I thought it was just mom being mom.  Haha, she’s so funny and clueless.  Oh, mom.

As a younger adult, I laughed about these stories with my siblings, and about their own similar stories.

It’s just mom.

But the I realized that no, it’s not.  It’s abuse.

It’s abuse to fail to provide proper hygiene from a child.

It’s abuse to lie, omit information, or give false information.

It’s abuse deny proper sexual education for a child.

It’s abuse to set up a child for embarrassment and shame, and to go into adolescence and adulthood not knowing basic information about our bodies and reproduction.

So no, it wasn’t just mom being cute.  It wasn’t just mom being embarrassed.

It was mom being selfish.  It was mom neglecting.  It was mom breaching trust.  It was mom doing damage.  It was my mom emotionally abusing.

And it was not okay.

It has taken years to reshape those topics in my mind.  Years of seeking truth to replace the lies.  Years to realize that this was yet another facet of the dysfunction and abuse.

But I’ve also discovered I am not alone.  Recently, in a Facebook support group, the topic came up on the absurd lies that narcissistic mothers have told.  I was shocked to see that that VAST majority of them were related to sex and reproduction.  What I experienced was very common, and there is extreme comfort in that.

So if that was also you, I want to affirm you by saying that it was wrong that you were not taught properly.  It was wrong that you were lied to, that you were given misinformation or no information, and that you went into your teen and adult years ill-equipped.  It was wrong that you started your adult life with so much wounding in this area, and so much falsehood to undo.  It was wrong.

We needed our moms to teach and guide us.  We needed our moms to tell us the truth, to be open and honest, and to be the source of information that we could trust.  We needed our moms to be the safe place we could go to talk to about sex and puberty.  We needed to have a healthy view of sex, not a distorted one based on lies.  We needed so much more.

Thankfully, God is in the business of redemption, and He can redeem this too.  You are not alone.  I am not alone.

 

Spiritual Abuse – When someone uses the Bible to justify their poor behaviour and to convince you to endure it.

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Spiritual abuse is a common – and particularly twisted – form of mistreatment found within the narcissistic family dynamic.

Many articles out there focus on spiritual abuse within the context of the church, but it happens within the family just as (or more?) often.  It can be hard to notice, because these narcissists are upstanding Christians who we shouldn’t question, right?  So I thought I would share my experiences with spiritual abuse in the context of the narcissistic family dynamic (but please know this happens in families in the absence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder too).  I hope this helps others be able to pinpoint, and then stop, any spiritual abuse in their life.

The definition of the word “abuse” is as follows:

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“Spiritual abuse” is the act of misusing Biblical principles for one’s own agenda, and as a means to continue maltreatment of another.  Spiritual abusers will use Bible verses and faith concepts to justify their abuse and harm of another person; they will also use the Bible as a means to avoid changing their behaviour or taking responsibility for their poor choices.

Sounds like the perfect tool for the narcissist’s tool box.  A narcissist is not interested in ever taking responsibility for how they affect others, nevermind change their behaviour to stop the hurt.  On top of it, a narcissist will turn it on you and make sure you know that you are the problem.  Never them.  And spiritual abuse is just another facet of how they do this.

Here are some examples of what spiritual abuse looks like:

1. You are told you should continue bearing the abuse of someone, because Jesus was also abused and walked on.

Let’s get this one straight.  Jesus was persecuted for his faith, and He was walked on and eventually crucified to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.  The abuse and death he endured was for the salvation of mankind, not for the justification of an abuser’s actions.  The suffering you endure at the hands of a narcissist or other unhealthy person does not serve a greater purpose; in fact, the only purpose it will serve is to enable the abuser and keep them in their sin longer.  And that is not a purpose that God is on board with.  The Bible does not tell us to bear the sinful actions of others; in fact, we are told in several places to have nothing to do with evil actions.  Persecution for the sake of our faith (which we are told will happen if we are truly following Jesus) is an entirely different thing than being persecuted by another person’s sin.  It is pure evil, in my opinion, to use the name of Jesus or anything written in God’s Word to even suggest that someone’s abusive behaviour is justified or should be tolerated.  He came to make us free, not to put us in bondage to another person’s dysfunction.

2. When you question or call out an abuser for their behaviour, you are told you need to have more grace, or be more gracious,.

Grace is defined as the “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”  Grace is God’s gift to us, to empower us to be what the Bible says we are; grace is not for enabling sin.  When an abuser (or an abuser’s enabler) uses the grace card on you, it is not really grace they are asking for; they are asking for you to tolerate their abuse and to quit speaking up.  They are expecting you to enable them in their poor behaviour the way that others in their world do.  Are we to give grace and allow someone to continue to mistreat us?  No.  In fact, Paul said that we are not to continue in our sin so that God’s grace will abound (Romans 6:1).  God himself placed boundaries around His grace to prevent it from being misused.  And narcissists are experts on misusing grace.  The very nature of a narcissist (never seeing their flaws or their responsibility in anything, never mind doing their part to repair and reconcile) make them a prime suspect of this manipulative use of grace.

Are we to extend grace to others?  Of course.  But using God’s own word as a guideline, we are not to use grace simply so that sin – our own or others’ – can abound.  And that is exactly what a narcissist does: their sin abounds, and they do not want to own or change their behaviour.  Giving grace to a narcissist can be very dangerous ground.  If someone in your world is telling you that you need to be more gracious, or expects you to extend more grace to them BUT IS NOT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR BEHAVIOUR OR MAKING CHANGES, they are misusing the concept of grace to continue to abuse.

3. When you try to speak to someone about how their actions affect you, and they use Bible verses to justify their poor behaviour.

This is a common one I have encountered; a verse about “loving one another” or “bearing one another’s burdens” is slipped into a conversation where the abuser’s behaviour is being called out, and they don’t want to take responsibility.  A Bible verse is a sick tactic used to shift the focus of the conversation and to implore the victim to be more “loving” or “patient”.  This twisted use of Scripture holds some irony in it – an abuser uses God’s Word about love and patience, yet themselves show none of it.  Spiritual abusers do not think the rules apply to them, only to you, and only to shut you up and stop you from questioning them.

It is wrong for anyone to use God’s Word to justify any ongoing behaviour that wounds another person; God’s Word is meant to bring freedom, not to bind people further. Quoting Bible verses to others should serve to encourage another person, not to abuse.  Not to silence.  Not to shame.  Not to justify sin.  Period.

4. You are told to be more forgiving and let it go, because that is what the Bible says to do.

Yes, the Bible absolutely says to forgive.  However, to forgive does not mean to continue to be a doormat for someone’s abuse.  Here is the definition of “forgive”:

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Nowhere in that definition does it say “to continue to be abused and bear it silently”.  To forgive is to cease feeling angry, and to cancel someone’s debt; but it doesn’t mean we keep lending to them.  I once heard someone say, “Forgiveness is mandatory.  Trust is earned.”  When we forgive, it doesn’t mean we continue to make ourselves vulnerable and open to ongoing hurt and abuse.

When someone implores you to forgive but they don’t change their behaviour, count it as a red flag.  They are using the concept of forgiveness to control and to avoid changing.  Most spiritual abusers I’ve encountered want “forgiveness” so they don’t have to change, but have no intention of achieving true reconciliation (a process which involves both parties owning, acknowledging, forgiving, and changing future behaviour).  Remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things: you can forgive someone on your own, but reconciliation involves the efforts of both sides (something you will not get from a narcissist).

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Spiritual abuse is a common tactic for the narcissists out there who call themselves Christians.  It is just another way that they do what they know: To hurt people, and then to find any way to avoid responsibility or change, and to make everyone else the problem.  Unfortunately, spiritual abuse spins God and His Word in a negative light, and perpetuates lies about Him that keep people from wanting to know Him.

I feel grieved to think of the countless sons and daughters out there who have been turned away from their Heavenly Father because of how their narcissist parent twisted and misused His words and message.  If that is you, please know that God’s heart is the absolute opposite of what you experienced:  He would never damage you, and He wants to heal you and set you free.