Forgiveness doesn't mean surrender
November 19, 2007
I find myself tied to two of the most hateful and manipulative people I have ever known. If I forgive them as my faith requires, does that mean I should trust them?
Reply: Robert, last week we printed your letter about your in-laws. Your wife's parents are wealthy people who bought and sold restaurants, drove luxury automobiles and owned ocean-front properties. Though they gave you and your wife small gifts, you struggled to put yourselves through college, one of you working as the other one studied.
Each week they called to brag about how much money they were making. At length, ready to retire, they offered to sell you their last restaurant. They insisted you sell your home for the down payment, and they structured the deal to make themselves a large profit. Then they welched on the agreement, devastating you emotionally and financially.
Now retired, they expect to visit your two young children all the time.
So let us start with forgiveness. Forgiveness is about three things. First, we have been wronged. Second, we are angry about the wrong. And third — and this is the point some people do not understand — forgiveness is about ourselves.
What do we mean? Negative emotions destroy us. Until we get past anger and resentment we can never be at peace. That's why we must forgive.
Some people, however, promote a perverse notion of forgiveness. They think forgiveness means we have to welcome back into our lives the people who have wronged us, as if nothing happened.
If that is what they mean by forgiveness, then they would have a woman remain in contact with the man who assaulted her. That is not forgiveness. That is a rule which says bad people get to win.
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