Three Things You Can Do to Handle a Narcissist’s Smear Campaign

Just because a relationship with a narcissisticu abuser ends, does not mean the abuse itself will stop. In fact, a separation or divorce may give an abuser the impression they no longer have to “play nice” to keep the victim close, and they may continue to abuse with less restraint than before as they use the children (and the legal system) as leverage.

When you begin to establish boundaries and distance yourself from an abuser, you limit the supply of attention the abuser once received from your relationship. The abuser will often go looking for validation elsewhere, and begin to discredit and defame the you to “win” others to their side (especially friends and family). This is what’s known as a “smear campaign.” 

If this is happening to you, it can be so frustrating and disappointing (I mean, these people were a part of your life too). You may be wondering, “What do I do?”

The Smear Campaign = Abuse x2

To an abuser, a smear campaign is like killing two birds with one stone: they can garner the attention they so desperately crave from new targets while bullying the original target at the same time. They pit two sides against each other, then sit back and watch as everything crumbles under the weight of their lies and gossip. This is called triangulation.

In a carefully curated smear campaign, the abuser quietly works to turn the tide of opinion against you in secret until it can no longer be hidden. As it all plays out, the abuser is watching for your reactions, as your upset responses feed their craving for superiority and control.

You may be left feeling like you want to be heard, like you want to defend yourself. But there are 3 things you can do to handle a narcissist’s smear campaign and come out feeling empowered and strong.

Take the High Road

You know who else was on the receiving end of a smear campaign? King David. He wrote about it a few times, notably in Psalm 109.

In Psalm 109 (ESV), David cried out:

1 Be not silent, O God of my praise!

2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, 

speaking against me with lying tongues.

3 They encircle me with words of hate,

and attack me without cause.

4 In return for my love they accuse me,

but I give myself to prayer.

5 So they reward me evil for good,

and hatred for my love.

Sound familiar? I thought the same thing when I read it. 

In this passage, David mentions that in the initial stages of the conflict, he had given himself to prayer AND loved his enemies.  Stooping to the same level as our enemies does nothing but hurt our relationship with God, and give our enemies power over us. Following David’s example keeps us close to God (in prayer) and away from sins of retaliation.

But David didn’t just sit there like a doormat and let his enemies take over his kingdom. No. He fled to safety, away from his attackers. And then he patiently appealed to the God of Heaven to give him victory.

Don’t Get Defensive

Defending yourself to those who already think negatively of you only provides them with more evidence that you are what they think you are. For example, if they have been led to believe you are manipulative, your efforts to clear your name could be seen as simply another manipulation tactic.

When it comes to a smear campaign, fighting back is a losing strategy. Instead of lashing out, David appealed to God to fight for him:

26 Help me, O Lord my God!

Save me according to your steadfast love!

27 Let them know that this is your hand;

That you, O Lord, have done it!

The Lord goes before us—we follow. When you let go of the need to fight back and believe the Lord will work it out better than you can, you will experience true peace (no matter the outcome). 

God may restore these relationships. Or He may show you that you are not meant to move forward with these individuals. But He knows what’s best for you- you just need to focus on following His lead.

War Through Worship

Abuse is spiritual warfare, designed to stop you from growing into the person God made you to be. But God uses these situations to develop our spiritual strength, to work for our good and make us into who He planned for us to be. 

At the end of Psalm 109, David shows us the importance of praise in spiritual warfare. He declared:

30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;

I will praise him in the midst of the throng.

31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,

to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.

You don’t need to “fix” what’s going on or defend yourself. You don’t need to present your case. That’s just giving attention to an unworthy situation.  

Instead, consider the power of praise as God fights on your behalf. Psalm 149:6 says, “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.” A two-edged sword is an offensive weapon, one that cuts in every direction. But we don’t fight with harsh words or cutting remarks, as the world does. We go to war with our worship.

Worship in your words, worship in your actions, worship in your thoughts. Though you may feel powerless, you can still give God the glory for all He is, all He has done, and all He is doing. He has already claimed victory over sin and death; yet how much more he continues to do in our lives each day to cover us with His protection.

Just remember, when it comes to a smear campaign, your praise will raise you above it, and draw you closer to the Lord, the source of real strength.

Michelle Donnelly

Michelle Donnelly is the President and CEO of PlusONE Parents, a ministry devoted to helping single parents overcome overwhelming situations to rebuild God-empowered lives and raise up a new generation. A mother of three, Michelle is also the host of The Christian Single Moms Podcast and author of Seen: Hope & Healing for Single Moms as well as Safe Haven: A Devotional for the Abused and Abandoned.

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