Forgivness....how far?


#1

I have a situation and hubby and I have been discussing it. I say you can forgive someone and really mean it…yet not have anything more to do with that person. He says if you truely forgive them…then you should still be around them.

My Daughters MIL has caused many problems for our family. She lies, backstabs and is just downright ugly if you do not agree with her. She got falling down drunk at the wedding and was very rude and vulgar at the reception. She denied both…yet when faced with the video tape…she apologized to us for the embarassment and I forgave her and tried to have a relationship with her. Well she is back to causing problems and lying and saying things that are totally untrue behind our backs. I can forgive her…but do I still have to have her in my life…or can I forgive her and then forget she exists? I will be cordial at any family events…but do we have to do family vacations and when they are in town go out to dinner with her?
I can not trust her any longer and quite frankly do not want to associate with people who behave as she does. What do I do?


#2

You’re right, forgiveness does not require you to have a relationship with the person who has been forgiven. That is NOT forgiveness, it’s a step beyond which you may or may not choose to take.

Forgiveness has to do with relinquishing your right to revenge against the person who has wronged you. It has to do with you and your mental health, not about you and the other person. Here’s a quote from an interview w/ Archbishop Tutu which touches on this topic. My emphasis added.

MOYERS: We’re talking about genocide, torture. Are genocide and torture forgivable?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: As a Christian, you have to say, ‘Are there things that are unforgivable?’ I’m afraid we follow a lord and master who at the point when they are crucifying him in the most painful way can say, ‘Pray for their forgiveness.’ And we follow the one who says, ‘Forgive one another as God and Christ forgave you.’ That is for us the paradigm. We may not always reach to that ideal, that is the standard.

MOYERS: I saw mothers who’d lost their sons struggling Christian mothers…struggling with this issue. They wanted to forgive and yet there was something there that was so hard to do — and I was thinking, ‘Could they ever be friends?’

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: That is not what you necessarily ask, you know? It could very well be that you say, ‘I have forgiven you, but I’m not going to try and have a relationship with you. I want to walk away.’ That is legitimate. I mean, I have forgiven you. I’m not nursing grudges against you. But I don’t believe I could have a relationship with you that pretended nothing had happened. Because I’m also a psychological being. I can be a spiritual being. But I’m also a psychological being. I don’t control my thoughts and my memories. I can hope that my memories are healed.

MOYERS: This lack of bitterness on your part, is it something you’ve had to struggle for?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I think that we have different temperaments. I have myself been angry, very angry. As I told you, I get very angry at how other people are made to suffer. I get very, very angry. And I remonstrate with God. I get very angry with God, too. I mean, I hope that my relationship is one which is a genuine relationship and I mean, that when you look at the Scriptures you do see that if you have got that relationship or if you’re trying to cultivate that relationship, then all the worst things about you, you spill them out. I’ve been angry with God. But I am fortunate…I have had to struggle, but I haven’t suffered as much as other people. I mean, it’s those mothers you’re talking about who are the incredible ones… who hear for the first time that ‘My child was given a booby-trapped hand grenade and so when he pulled out the pin, he was blown to smithereens.’ Or he — or she hears that they gave him milk — they gave him laced coffee, they shot him in the head and they burned his body. And as they were burning his body, they were having a barbecue on the side. And, I mean, you have to sit and …and… and… it’s those mothers who are an extraordinary bunch of people.

(The interview, both video and transcripts, can be found at www.pbs.org, then search for “Desmond Tutu”.)


#3

[quote="Debbie58, post:1, topic:241148"]
I have a situation and hubby and I have been discussing it. I say you can forgive someone and really mean it...yet not have anything more to do with that person. He says if you truely forgive them...then you should still be around them.

My Daughters MIL has caused many problems for our family. She lies, backstabs and is just downright ugly if you do not agree with her. She got falling down drunk at the wedding and was very rude and vulgar at the reception. She denied both..yet when faced with the video tape...she apologized to us for the embarassment and I forgave her and tried to have a relationship with her. Well she is back to causing problems and lying and saying things that are totally untrue behind our backs. I can forgive her...but do I still have to have her in my life...or can I forgive her and then forget she exists? I will be cordial at any family events...but do we have to do family vacations and when they are in town go out to dinner with her?
I can not trust her any longer and quite frankly do not want to associate with people who behave as she does. What do I do?

[/quote]

No, you can forgive someone without allowing them back into your life to risk further abuse. Forgiveness is the process of turning that person over to God to deal with. IF that person has repented and made amends for the damage caused, then you can decide whether to be in their company, but there is no obligation to do so. If there is no true repentance then how could you forgive what the person himself does not repent? You can give them back to God to deal with, and detach with love.


#4

There's a Muslim saying somewhere about Trusting in God, but tying up your camel....

For some reason, my place on this earth has a lot to do with forgiveness. (but so does everyone, I'm not special) I have been betrayed by a healthy handful of those people you are supposed to trust the most. I will not go into details, as that is unfair to them and it is in the past. But in my journey I have learned a few things about this path of forgiveness and how to avoid being pulled into despair.

One thing goes back to the muslim saying... Sometimes when you are intentionally hurt by someone, and you have no idea whether or not it will happen again... Forgive from your heart, and ask God to help you forgive. Let that thing go, but... Don't put yourself in a dangerous situation where that person can hurt you again. (Keep your camel tied up) If that person is not remorseful, or does not understand the nature of the hurt that they impose, they are incapable of avoiding hurting you. You have to protect yourself. It's more than likely that things in the past will come back to haunt you and you may find yourself angry again. Continue to ask God to forgive.

I remember one grace that I know I received from God. I had a great deal of anger and unforgiveness towards one brother who had hurt my family very much. Even after this, he was coming to us for a favor, and even in helping in this favor, it was likely to hurt more. I felt very vulnerable, as I knew there wasn't really a clear answer, except a Christian one, which he was actually taking advantage of, not being a Christian himself. He was using the idiom that I was either going to be a "Christian" or a "Hypocrite". God showed me through a dream, where he was a very sad and neglected little boy, how he learned how to use manipulation to get the help he needed. It was a very sad dream, and it helped me to understand him more, and forgive him. We are now reconciled.... (But, I do keep the camel tied up)

I hope this helps. What I will do, which is infinitely more helpful, is remember you and your family at Mass this evening.


#5

Debbie 58 I understand your pain, but that being said, you must remember you are dealing with an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease. Pray for her. You do not have to be around caustic relatives. Move on. You just have to let this go. Stand your ground., but don't hate her. I think you are doing the right thing. God bless you!


#6

I agree with you. Only cause that’s what I do. I also pray for them and hold no animosity towards them. And I do stay away from that sort of behavior. God bless

jesus g


#7

I always say there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.

Once you stop expecting repayments for a wrong (by repayment I mean the expectation of an apology, the right to feel superior, the right to be angry, the expectation of reparation, and/or the right to complain) then you have forgiven the other person.

Reconciliation goes a step farther and includes the restoration of the relationship.

While I don’t think we humans can ever completely forgive I do think it is possible to forgive but not reconcile. But sometimes, for the sake of other relationships, we may need to behave as if we are reconciled. But there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries when dealing with someone who is “dangerous”. It sounds as if your daughter’s MIL is dangerous.


#8

No, You don’ have to have a relationship with her unless you want to. We are called to love everyone but we don’t have to like everyone or be friends with them.

Forgiveness is an act of the will. It does not always come from the heart and that is okay because you have chosen to forgive with your intellect.

It is okay too if you cannot forget what they have done to you either. Time can heal you but if the person keeps reoffending you one must keep choosing to forgive every time.

I think it is a good idea to set boundaries and just be cordial if you see her like you are doing.


#9

The definition of “forgiveness” does NOT include the phrase “be a doormat.” You can forgive someone, and at the same time refuse to accept their behavior. The best thing you can do is pray for her.


#10

My parents have very little to do with my in-laws. It just never happened, I guess because they are very different people and have very little in common except that their kids got married.

My MIL sounds very much like your daughter’s - she drinks too much, says horrible things and denies (or forgets) she has done anything. I have trouble forgiving her, and I don’t have the option of shutting her out of my life, because I believe that my kids need their grandparents and she has not done anything to seriously hurt the kids. It’s my personal cross to bear. Doesn’t hurt anyone but me.

I think, though, that forgiveness does not require the other person to repent. I never expect my MIL to apologise for or even acknowledge any offence, because I really think she doesn’t realise what impact she has (any attempt at talking to her about it ends VERY badly). So my struggle is to forgive without apology, and then brace myself for another attack. I wish I did better, but I’ve built up my fair share of resentment over the years.


#11

[quote="admonsta, post:10, topic:241148"]
My parents have very little to do with my in-laws. It just never happened, I guess because they are very different people and have very little in common except that their kids got married.

My MIL sounds very much like your daughter's -** she drinks too much, says horrible things and denies (or forgets) she has done anything. ** I have trouble forgiving her, and I don't have the option of shutting her out of my life, because I believe that my kids need their grandparents and she has not done anything to seriously hurt the kids. It's my personal cross to bear. Doesn't hurt anyone but me.

I think, though, that forgiveness does not require the other person to repent. I never expect my MIL to apologise for or even acknowledge any offence, because I really think she doesn't realise what impact she has (any attempt at talking to her about it ends VERY badly). So my struggle is to forgive without apology, and then brace myself for another attack. I wish I did better, but I've built up my fair share of resentment over the years.

[/quote]

If your MIL is an alcoholic, there's every possibility that she really doesn't remember. Many alcoholics drink until they black out, which does NOT mean that they pass out, only that their brains stop recording what they are doing. They can drive, interact with others, etc. in a black out but they won't remember any of it. It is good to have compassion for alcoholics but not compassion enough to put your own life or those of others in danger by being around that person.


#12

I appreciate the kind words as it was pretty much what I thought. I do want to make a clarification…she is not an alcoholic…she will go for months and months without a drink…but when she does drink on those occasions…she gets drunk. When she gets drunk…she behaves very inappropriately.
I have tired to tell myself that she means well…but she controls everything involving my daughter even introducing her to others as “my precious daughter”…and told a family member that my daughter did not need us any longer as she is “part of their family now”. She convinced my daughter that I had a fit when she had a baby boy instead of a girl and stormed out of the hospital. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I did step outside for a moment to call a few family members to tell them the good news, but there was never any “fit” and I did not “storm” out, I simply stepped away for a few moments to make a phone call in private. When a family member talked to my daughter about it to set the record straight, my daughter said “there are two sides to every story and I heard what Mom did”. THis woman has tried to cause a rift between us and our daughter, and my daughter does not want to see it. Well it seems that if the MIL and I can not make nice and make up, it offends my daughter husband (my SIL) and as a result, he has said she is to have no contact with us or the baby.

What spurred this inquiry is that the woman wrote a letter to my Sister in law telling her how much she misses us and it’s all just a misunderstanding…but I have been through this before with her on too many occasions. She has not asked forgiveness for this latest round, and I do not expect her too or her son for that matter, but I have asked God to forgive them for the hurt and division they have caused for us, but I can not go back to joint family vacations etc with her. She will never change, this is the way she is. Things will be fine for about 6 months then it’s back to the lies and back stabbing. I do not want to put my family through this all the time…but I also miss my relationship with my daughter. It’s just a very heartbreaking situation all around. I do thank God for my husband and my two boys and my DIL. They are all wonderful and have been my rock these last several months as I have had to deal with both my daughters. Thanks again for the answers…I feel as if I have done my best to deal with a very difficult person.


#13

I'm glad I came across this thread. I have a very difficult in law as well, and I am trying to figure out exactly how to express forgiveness and move on, for my sake as much as hers I suppose.

Short back story: This inlaw, her husband and their two children moved in with us. Oldest daughter (adult) moved out after a few months. The other three continued to live with us for seventeen months. Never paid rent. Never paid utilities (with the exception of two months where they drove the electric bill alone over six hundred dollars). We finally told them they had to leave because they were driving us to financial ruin. We gave them a car, which they trashed, and got tickets that we had to pay off... the list goes on.

Once they moved, they quit talking to us within weeks. The only contact we have had is through our oldest niece. Oldest niece came and stayed with us for a while, and I found out she was being charged rent by her mother while she was here...

Flash forward, the SIL contacted my husband via email, and told him that we were acting like martyrs, and that I had given her a wicked look, and smiled at her evilly one night before they left and that I had caused division with her oldest daughter (because I had told her a year and a half after they moved that her parents had not paid rent, even though they charged her.

So. I want to forgive her, I really do. I also never want to see her again. I am fairly sure that I can let all this go, but if I have to actually tell her, "I forgive you", that we will end up in an argument, since she feels she has done nothing to forgive.

So-- can I forgive her without telling her I forgave her? Can I just offer it to God? I am sure over the 17 months they lived here that I did something at some point to offend her (I am human after all), and I would ask her forgiveness in return, but she has also told several flat out lies about me, and I can't ask forgiveness for lies.

Sorry this is so long, but it has been weighing heavily on my heart.


#14

Nope. You don’t need to tell the person to forgive them.

This post has a very good explanation of forgiveness.


#15

Thank you admonsta, this is very helpful. :slight_smile:


#16

[quote="Debbie58, post:12, topic:241148"]
I appreciate the kind words as it was pretty much what I thought. I do want to make a clarification...she is not an alcoholic....she will go for months and months without a drink...but when she does drink on those occasions...she gets drunk. When she gets drunk..she behaves very inappropriately.
I have tired to tell myself that she means well...but she controls everything involving my daughter even introducing her to others as "my precious daughter"...and told a family member that my daughter did not need us any longer as she is "part of their family now". She convinced my daughter that I had a fit when she had a baby boy instead of a girl and stormed out of the hospital. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I did step outside for a moment to call a few family members to tell them the good news, but there was never any "fit" and I did not "storm" out, I simply stepped away for a few moments to make a phone call in private. When a family member talked to my daughter about it to set the record straight, my daughter said "there are two sides to every story and I heard what Mom did". THis woman has tried to cause a rift between us and our daughter, and my daughter does not want to see it. Well it seems that if the MIL and I can not make nice and make up, it offends my daughter husband (my SIL) and as a result, he has said she is to have no contact with us or the baby.

What spurred this inquiry is that the woman wrote a letter to my Sister in law telling her how much she misses us and it's all just a misunderstanding...but I have been through this before with her on too many occasions. She has not asked forgiveness for this latest round, and I do not expect her too or her son for that matter, but I have asked God to forgive them for the hurt and division they have caused for us, but I can not go back to joint family vacations etc with her. She will never change, this is the way she is. Things will be fine for about 6 months then it's back to the lies and back stabbing. I do not want to put my family through this all the time...but I also miss my relationship with my daughter. It's just a very heartbreaking situation all around. I do thank God for my husband and my two boys and my DIL. They are all wonderful and have been my rock these last several months as I have had to deal with both my daughters. Thanks again for the answers....I feel as if I have done my best to deal with a very difficult person.

[/quote]

A lot of people think that an alcoholic is someone who drinks every day. Not so. There are many alcoholics who are binge-drinkers that stop drinking between binges. In fact, the pattern you describe is actually more indicative of alcoholism than some people who can drink every day and yet not be alcoholics. A person who cannot drink without getting drunk IS an alcoholic, no matter what their consumption on a daily basis might be.

Just a point of clarification for others who might read this thread. Never assume that someone is not or is an alcoholic without getting education about it. And if anyone's drinking is bothering you, then Al-Anon can help you, even if you have no idea whether or not he or she is an alcoholic. The alcoholic or problem drinker will need to get his or her own help but Al-Anon is for friends and families.


#17

Julian....

How can you go for almost a year and not have a single drink and be an alcoholic? My Brother is an alcoholic and he NEEDS his daily drinks. I've seen him pour a whole bottle of vodka down his throat in one day. This woman does not drink like that. She drinks at family events...like the wedding and she drinks when we have been on a cruise..(where she announced she walked around "nekkid" if front of her kids).....But I have been around her many times when she does not drink, and she really has no desire for the taste of alcohol. Her sons are the same way. Groom got drunk and ended up spending his wedding night in the bathroom (much to my daughters dismay...claimed he got "sea sick" on the little boat ride from the night club to the hotel. I've been on that boat...even in the worst of situations it's a very nice calm ride. Can you tell I'm not buying his story? LOL) Now this same guy will go for a year without a drink. This family just thinks is a good thing to get drunk when you have a big party. I've seen it many times with younger people today and I think part of the reason this woman gets drunk is to be "cool". She has to be part of the crowd, and she is overly involved in her adult sons lives. When I told her that the kids needed some space and she did not have to keep coming down and staying for 2-3 weeks at a time..she got nasty and said she has always been close to her boys and will never not be involved in all aspects of their lives. I have a married son also and would never think of crashing in on him and his wife for extended stays every month. (this woman lives 7 hours away and is down once a month for 2 weeks at a time) The kids need time to grow as a couple and they can not do that with Momma hanging around all the time. She has issues to be sure. My best bet is to just avoid her at all costs....and hope that in time, my daughter comes to realize how much hurt her and her husband and his mother have caused our family, and try to reconcile with us. I love my daughter, but will not be controlled by her husband or his mother. I will not have lies told about our family and have his mother running our family down. She has essentially pushed us out of our daughters life...so in that respect..she and her son "won".....but it's the baby who will suffer the loss of two wonderful, loving, giving, nurturing Grandparents. For now, I have to concentrate on my two wonderful sons and my wonderful DIL and hopefully soon I'll be looking forward to a Grandbaby I can truly get to know and love.


#18

I think he does not understand the nature of forgiveness, which is unilateral, a decision of the will, not based in emotion, on your part to refuse to allow the actions of another person control your own actions, emotions and reactions, and to refuse to allow them control over your spiritual and mental health. He is speaking of something else, reconciliation, which must be preceded by forgiveness, but cannot happen at all unless it is mutual and whole-hearted on both sides, and includes repentence and turning away from the harmful behavior.


#19

He now understands the difference. He is an all or nothing type person. You either forgive and forget or you have not forgiven as you still hold a grudge so to speak with the other person as you will no longer interact with them. The whole turn the other cheek forgive 70x7000… thing has him hung up. I say I’m not a doormat to be stepped on. I will forgive, but I will also protect myself from further hurt. He is now understanding the difference. :wink:

I also believe that I can forgive a person who is unrepentant and will not offer an apology…and who refuses to see the damage they caused or take any responsibility for their actions. These two people actually 3 if you count my daughters willingness to go along with then…will not apologize. In their minds I am the bad guy…as I refuse to go along with their demands. I am a very loving person who will go way out of my way to help others. My relations with my sons is wonderful as is it will all my extended family and friends. None of these people can understand why my daughter and her husband and his mother are being so nasty to us. Even her boss came under the wrath of this woman for not “allowing” my daughter to have vacation time to go on a cruise with her. (my daughter made the CHOICE not to go…not her boss) but her boss was harassed on the phone from this woman and called all sorts of horrible names. This same boss told me that my son in law reprimanded her for asking my daughter a question(work related) when my daughter came into work to pick up some merchandise on her day off. She was told that my daughter was not “on the clock” and it was in bad taste to expect her to work without pay. (it was a quick question that took only a few seconds to answer ie… By the way, while you’re here…where is the invoice for such and such? Oh…I put it in the file box in the back office. End of work conversation) I could not believe her husband was upset about that. Boss lady confided to me that she had seen a change in my daughter since just before she got married to this guy…a change I put off to wedding stresses. They also warned me about him but again, I guess I was too close to the situation and made some excuses for him and his mothers behavior. It was when I finally started putting my foot down on the wedding stuff that him and his mother got nasty the first time. I’m sorry…adding people to the guest list the day of the wedding and having caterers call me asking for more money to add his ever expanding list of guests was inappropriate. My family was only allowed 30 people at the wedding as his family had to invite 4 and 5th cousins and all their neighbors. (I paid for the wedding) As I said…there were warning signs I should have seen, but wanted my daughter to be happy and I really did believe he was a good guy…right up to two months before the wedding. At that point, all that would have happened is I would have alienated my daughter much sooner, as she would have gone through with the wedding without us. I tried for harmony between the families…but I guess that is not to be.

Please keep me in prayers as I struggle to make sense of all of this.

Peace!


#20

As others have said forgiveness does not mandate that you are in a relationship with someone. Picture a woman who was raped and after much counseling, she comes to forgive her attacker. This can bring her much peace but she is not obligated to call him up and go out for lunch.

You have another issue though which complicates matters. Perhaps your husband is not just clouded by his opinion of what forgiveness means…but perhaps he is distraught over the loss of a relationship with his daughter and grandchild and that is fueling his desire for you to remain cordial to this family. For this reason it might be doubtful that you can simply present your husband a new definition of the word “forgiveness” and that he will cease wanting the relationship.

Keep the door open whatever you do. Prayers this seems so hard I am sorry.


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