Just because a woman’s relationship with a narcissistic abuser ends, does not mean the abuse itself will stop. In fact, a separation or divorce may give an abuser the impression he does not have to “play nice” to keep his target attached to him, and he may continue to abuse with less restraint than before.
When a woman begins to distance herself from her abuser, she limits the supply of attention he once received from her. He may go looking for validation elsewhere, and begin to discredit and defame his target to “win” others to his 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: he can garner the attention he so desperately craves from new targets while bullying his original target at the same time (see our post on a narcissist’s attention addiction to understand why this happens).
In a carefully curated smear campaign, the abuser quietly works to turn the tide of opinion against his original target until it can no longer be hidden. Then, he will sit back and watch as she reacts to the fallout, her upset feeding his craving for feelings of superiority and control.
The most frustrating thing is that you may have been close with those the abuser is turning against you. You may have had the impression that they were neutral parties, or at least discerning enough not to believe the abuser without getting your side of the story.
You may be left feeling like you want to be heard. But we’ve got 3 tips to help you 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. 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.
2. 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.
3. War Through Worship
Abuse is spiritual warfare, designed to stop you from growing into the woman God made you to be. But God uses these situations to 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. 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. Give God the glory for all He is and all He has done. 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.
That’s the source of real strength.
Just remember, when it comes to a smear campaign, your praise will raise you above it.
If you have a story you’d be willing to share with us about your response to a smear campaign, we’d be honored to hear it. In all things, peace to you, sister.
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