Peaceful Readers, I hope you enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful Christmas. We sure did.
The dreams I mentioned at the end of part 3 will be coming later. I realized after Christmas that I needed to unpack something else first. In part 1, I wrote about The Misguided Call to Reconciliation. Why? Because sometimes, “The Call to Reconciliation equals A Call to Dangerous, Chronic Abuse.” And sometimes The Call to Reconciliation equals A Call to Walk Side-by-Side with Evil. No can do on both counts.
The real problem
After my younger sibling—I mean Pam, The Punisher—communicated that I wasn’t allowed in her house anymore, and later, when she terminated all contact with me and my family, my automatic reaction was to see something terribly wrong with that. My natural desire was for reconciliation—“fixing the problem.”
The problem was that I didn’t understand the real problem. I mistakenly thought that Pam’s “overreaction” was the problem or that the way I spoke truth to her during The Showdown was the problem. In reality, her abuse was the problem. More to the point, her evil was the problem. And it took me years to see and really grasp The Real Problem. Many years.
The first step
During the first year of The Exile, I did some reading, put two and two together and realized that Pam is a narcissist. That was the first step. But it wasn’t until after I studied and analyzed sociopaths—my in-laws—that I understood the much deeper subject of evil. My dad was a Garden-Variety Narcissist: Mr. It’s All About Me. Pam is a different variety altogether: The Malignant Narcissist.
I wrote a little about this type of narcissist in this post.
The collection project
…When you’re dealing with this particular flavor of narcissist (i.e., the evil, crush-your-spirit, “I own you,” Gossip Extraordinaire type) and you say “Stop it,” the narcissist becomes The Punisher. (If that description reminds you of my mother-in-law—the sociopath/narcissist combo—you’re absolutely right.)
I finally saw the truth about my younger sibling the spring break before last. Our mom was in the hospital and I saw Pam for the first time in nine years. In reality, I was seeing The Real Pam for the very first time. Pam, The Punisher. Pam, The Collector. Pam, The Liar. I first described this truth-seeing in part 1 of Intrusive Thoughts.
…I woke up, finally—from The Nine-year Reprieve. I saw her tactics. There was no emotion or nostalgia clouding my vision. I saw her show. I saw her lies. I saw her seething hatred. I saw her manipulation. I saw her pompous performance. I saw it all—clearly, for the first time. And I drew a very hard line: That Was The Last Time.
Truth be told, my initial reaction was to slide right back into The Narcissistic Supply role (i.e., “You make a demand; I say yes”). But here’s the thing. When I said to Brandon and myself, “That was the last time,” I actually meant it.
Pam kept trying to jerk the chain that she thought was still tied around my neck, but it didn’t work anymore. She didn’t realize that I took off her chain—better known as “I’m the Narcissist and You’re My Servant”—and I smashed the chain to bits.
Here’s a fun example of Pam trying to jerk The Chain That Was No More. Right after our mom was placed in her memory care facility that summer, Pam went on vacation. Did I mention that Pam’s a social work director for a hospice company? She knows a few things, professionally-speaking, about elder care. Pam didn’t deliver enough clothes for our mom for the week she’d be out of town. What in the world? Also, Pam told the staff not to wash our mom’s clothes. She told them The Family would take care of that. Translation: “I—Pam, The Almighty—will be kicking it to Frankie Ann, my former servant that I exiled from Our Perfect Family.” Pam sent me a text demanding that I go to the memory care facility, collect our mom’s clothes, wash them and return them mid-week. I ignored her. She was just doing her typical Pam, The Almighty—You Will Do What I Say—stuff.
She even tried to leverage Linda, my older sibling, against me on the issue. When I arrived to visit my mom one day that week, Mom was on the phone with Linda, who was obviously asking her about her laundry. Mom told Linda very happily that the staff was taking care of all that. Mom also told Linda that she didn’t know when she’d be “back in the good ol’ USA.” She thought she was on a cruise or something. That was so cute.
Yes indeed, Peaceful Readers. That’s Pam, The Almighty for you. Drama. Chaos. Lies. Manipulation. Craziness. Better known as Control Freak Central.
Was it Pam’s long, nine-year absence that allowed me to finally see her truthfully? Or was it the studying I’d done? Was it the progress I’d made on The Healing Journey? I’m sure all of those things—time, study and progress—had an impact.
But clearly, the biggest factor that gave me new eyes was our departure from The War Zone—the combative, violent space that my sociopathic in-laws created and maintained with gusto. We were gifted with repeated opportunities to practice what we desperately needed to learn. I described it in part 3 of Preparing for The Sneak Attack.
This time period gave us lots of practice in three crucial areas: (1) seeing, receiving and speaking important truths; (2) recognizing sociopathic tactics; and (3) establishing healthy boundaries. And we really needed the practice. We really did.
While I was trying to go to sleep the other night, I was reminded about a very important aspect of The Exile—the No More Contact declaration communicated by Pam, The Almighty through her husband at the time, Doug. When Doug told me that we were officially being kicked out of their lives, it was actually an ultimatum. Unless I took back everything I said during The Showdown, we were being kicked out of their lives.
Translation: “Unless you admit that you’re a liar and that everything you said was a lie, you’re out.” Let’s dig into that a little.
I said a lot during The Showdown. It was basically a No More Abuse declaration. It was about boundaries. It was me saying no to Pam, The Punisher—the mob boss of Our Perfect Family.
Pam—I mean Little Miss Perfect—probably thought I’d respond to her ultimatum like this. How thoughtful and generous of you to offer me such an easy way to fix this mess! Wow. I should bow down at your feet for the goodness you’re bestowing on your lowly servant. How did I get so lucky to have someone like you as my devoted sister? Golly. (I’m shaking my head in disgust.)
Since I spoke the truth in love during The Showdown, I had a choice to make in response to both the spoken and unspoken pressure. There were Why Questions floating around…. “Why can’t you apologize for what you said?” “Why can’t you take back what you said?” “Why won’t you do whatever’s necessary to restore things to status quo in Our Perfect Family?”
Or how about this one: “Why can’t you get along with your sister? You two have been close friends your whole lives.” Where is the trash can? I need to throw up now. For more on the “I thought we were friends” problem, see the section called The Red Flags and The Reality in this post.
Bottom line: There was pressure—from other people and from myself—to “make things right.” And that was another aspect of The Real Problem.
When you’re dealing with an evil person, things can never be right.
But I didn’t understand what I was dealing with at the time.
Thankfully, I was very clear about one thing. I would not lie about what I said during The Showdown. I would not declare truth to be lies. I would not be a liar so Pam, The Almighty would accept me back as her servant. I wouldn’t do it. I finally spoke the truth about her abuse and I wasn’t about to “take it back.” No way.
And I knew that Pam, The Punisher would maintain The Exile permanently. There was no turning back. I didn’t know how things would play out with my mom or my older sibling, Linda. That remained to be seen.
Reconciliation and forgiveness
Years ago, when The Exile began, I mistakenly thought that reconciling was always “the right thing to do.” What about forgiving? Reconciliation and forgiveness are two very different things.
Reconciliation means coming back together—resuming contacts with someone after a time of estrangement or separation. Like I wrote in part 1, there are times when reconciliation is dangerous and unwise.
Don’t get me wrong. I think reconciliation is a wonderful thing—when it doesn’t involve an evil person or an issue of safety or wellness.
Wisdom and discernment are essential.
There will not be a reconciliation between us and Pam or between us and Brandon’s sociopathic parents because The Real Problem in each situation isn’t a misunderstanding, incompatibility, immaturity or some minor inconvenience. The Real Problem on each side of Our Perfect Family is a problem that doesn’t magically go away: The Problem of Evil. If you think you may have been dealing with an evil person, I strongly recommend that you read Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie. The case studies will blow your mind. They may also remind you of someone.
From evil to good
Can an evil person switch teams? Can a person go from being evil to being saved—a child of God? I found one example of this miraculous change in a Google search: David Wood. See the section called The Testimony in this post for more about his story.
With that said, if a miraculous change from Team Evil to Team Good takes place in Pam, my father-in-law or my mother-in-law, we would certainly revisit these issues. Such a change would obviously be accompanied by remorse (i.e., “I’m sincerely sorry for doing/saying…”), repentance (i.e., “I’m turning away from these harmful behaviors and replacing them with…”), consistent truth-speaking, turning in their Control Freaks R Us membership cards and much more.
Is this team switching likely? No. It’s an extremely rare and miraculous thing. Because, really…. People who consider themselves perfect just as they are—The Malignant Narcissists and Sociopaths of America—don’t go looking for personal change, counseling or self-actualization. Scott Peck covers this issue in the book I recommended, People of the Lie.
Using the religious cover
Malignant narcissists and sociopaths also find the concept of truly submitting their egos/wills and their lives to God outside their Control Freak Comfort Zone. Don’t get me wrong. The malignant narcissist and the sociopaths in our extended family are regular church-goers. My father-in-law was a church elder and frequently prays in church. He looks and sounds good when he’s praying. He’s got this public praying thing down pat, like the Pharisees in the Bible.
Why the Christian show? Because it looks good. It looks really good. Besides, wolves like hanging out with sheep. It provides them with steady meals—someone to devour, toy with and/or throw around for entertainment. It also provides them with lots of sympathy and attention when they pour on the lies, chaos and constant complaining—and the dramatic prayer requests. It’s the most perfect cover and audience you could ever imagine, from their point of view.
Plus, as an added bonus, they get to throw out scripture and religious jargon inappropriately—and with ease—as part of their attacks, justifications and harassment of their victims. It’s a very effective strategy. In this post, I wrote about how the devil tries to manipulate people by combining scripture with his lies. Ditto for Delia, my sociopathic mother-in-law.
We are not called in the Bible to try to change wolves into sheep. Wolves—a metaphor for evil people—are dangerous. We are called to avoid evil and to pray. Am I praying for Pam, Andrew and Delia to be saved? To be changed? Occasionally, but not often. I pray much more often about our vindication and their punishment.
Forgiving means this: “Even though you hurt me, you don’t owe me anything. I’m letting go of the past. I’m letting go of my hurt and my need to punish you.” Because, let’s face it, it’s an extremely rare thing to receive a gift-wrapped apology—those perfect words that will supposedly make us feel better. The apology doesn’t come. And even if it does, it doesn’t fix the problems—unforgiveness, bitterness, stewing, replaying the scenes from the bad movie again and again in our minds, etc. Basically, the choice of unforgiveness keeps me chained to the past and it doesn’t hurt The Guilty Party at all. It hurts me.
This saying is true: “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Forgiving is always the right choice because it frees me from past hurts, it frees me from being chained to someone who hurt me and it frees me to experience peace. I will not be peaceful if I’m holding on to unforgiveness. Those two concepts—unforgiveness and peace—are mutually exclusive.
Long story short
Here’s a quick summary.
Reconciling? Maybe. But only if the issues don’t include evil, safety or wellness. Proceed with wisdom, discernment—and most of all—with God.
Forgiving? Yes. Have I forgiven the people who’ve hurt me? Yes, I have. I am Choosing Peace.
I understand that sometimes forgiving is extremely difficult to do. We’ll dig into this issue in the next series.
We were traumatized by The Showdown and everything about that chapter. At the time, my automatic reaction was the desire to “make things right.” I assumed that The Right Thing would be reconciliation with Pam and her family. I was very wrong about that. It took 10 years for me to learn the core truth of this post: When you’re dealing with an evil person, things can never be right.
I viewed our estrangement as a major problem. I was just sure that there was something terribly wrong with it. Aren’t people in your family supposed to love each other, enjoy each other, communicate with each other, get along with each other? Certainly. But when you have abuse, lies and evil involved, that’s a game changer.
The estrangement wasn’t the problem.
The estrangement—fondly called The Exile—
was actually the solution to The Real Problem.
The Problem of Evil.
A problem that I didn’t see or understand for many years.
Once we finally understood the truth of the evil that was around us—on both sides of our extended family—we were ready for the end of this long, ultimately-healing chapter.
Year eight of The Exile
We walked away from my in-laws—the sociopaths—and their evil.
Year nine of The Exile
I saw The Real Pam for the first time and acknowledged her evil.
Year ten of The Exile
We attended my mom’s funeral and saw Pam, The Punisher for the last time.
It is finished.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good….
Genesis 50:20a, New Heart English Bible
Rescued, protected and healed
Something that I initially viewed as a terrible loss—The Exile—was the very thing that the Lord used to rescue us and protect us from evil.
God is The Protector.
He brought the truth into the light. And we were healed.
Coming next: I’m still working on the next part of this post, so we’ll both be surprised about what’s coming. Maybe you’ll read about those interesting dreams. We’ll see. Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: John 16:33
Song for Healing: “O’ Lord” by Lauren Daigle