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"Forgiveness doesn't mean surrender." 
19th-Dec-2007 02:18 pm
I read an advice column lately in which the authors--though coming from a secular perspective--hit the nail on the head when it comes to forgiveness. They also have some choice thoughts on the tactics of manipulative people (read "UBF leaders"):

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?

- Robert

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.

(More in comments...)
19th-Dec-2007 07:26 pm (UTC) - The tactics of manipulative people

Your in-laws loved the idea of drooling urchins pressing their noses against the window. When no urchins were around, they picked up the phone, called an urchin, and described the meal they were eating. You have to be sick in your soul to keep taunting others with what you have.

From strangers we have the right to expect adherence to the explicit rules of society. Our family owes us more. With family, we relinquish our caution. We have a right to expect we are safe. That is why offenses done to us by a family member are worse than offenses perpetrated by strangers.

Your wife's parents betrayed you on both levels. Your in-laws now want a new audience and a new generation to play VIP for. It is up to you and your wife whether you allow that to happen.

If, as you say, you have never recovered financially, then your in-laws owe you financial restitution. Admitting them into the family circle should not even be a consideration until restitution has been made.

The problem is your wife has grown up with these people and probably does not understand how extensively she has been abused. One of the most common reactions to abuse is to deny it ever happened — dissociation — or to excuse it — it really wasn't that bad.

In one way you contributed to what happened. You and your wife should have pursued your own interests with an eye toward where you were going, instead of hoping to get something from her parents.

You didn't realize how strongly their small gifts bound you to them. Small rewards intermittently given are the strongest way of controlling others. [So true in UBF!] That is true whether we are talking about rats, pigeons, chimps or people. Your in-laws elicited in two young people the secret hope "something will be given to us."

In the future you should act as if they will leave whatever money they have to a charity or school, which will name a building after them. And if they ever make you an offer again, you'll need 10 attorneys and a bomb-sniffing dog to check it out. Even then we wouldn't trust them.
22nd-Dec-2007 08:04 pm (UTC) - Re: The tactics of manipulative people
Thanks for sharing this. We need to deepen our understanding of how to deal with these issues - on the one side we don't want to be vengeful and bitter people, and on the other side we cannot tolerate UBF to continue abusing people and never repenting. Even if (after a honest repentance that will never happen) the way is free for forgiveness, we may never forget. Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it
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