Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
In a previous essay you addressed antisocial behavior within one’s own family. I have struggled for years with this type of behavior in two family members. What has further complicated the situation is that other family members tell me that I must forgive them because I am a Christian. The selfishness and absolute disrespect that emanates from these two men has made me choose to keep myself and my children away from them. There is no remorse in them unless it serves their needs. How can you keep a family together when common sense is blurred by religion? I don’t believe god wants me to serve up my children or myself to be hurt and abused. ???
“Common sense always applies.” The safety and stability of your immediate family overrides anyone else’s opinions. That being said, how do you reconcile with your family’s notion of forgiveness?
I believe forgiveness means letting go of negative emotions within yourself. You are choosing not to harbor hate, revenge or anger, knowing that in doing so you would be only hurting yourself. This has nothing whatsoever to do with condoning, forgetting or ignoring the other parties’ behaviors.
The number one predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
While it may be Christian to forgive, it’s not really useful to the person being forgiven. In fact that might just enable them and make things worse. Instead I prefer how forgiveness works in a program such as AA. One learns forgiveness is a process that starts from within. You get it from others via earning trust, respect, being consistent and becoming aware of the effect you have on others. There is even a step on making amends. These things are not based solely on feeling but instead on behaviors; they are real and might actually help all involved to heal.
Returning to the issue of your family I would tell them, “I am choosing not to hate this individual for his behavior but I am also choosing not to ignore it or passively condone it. I will not risk ever exposing myself or my family to it. His behavior was unacceptable.”
This sets the bar with the whole lot of them.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: family politics usually involve a great deal of indulgence along with a great deal of judgment. Your family seems excel at both.
You didn’t give any details on this behavior that has you up in arms, so it’s difficult to comment. For all I know you are an incredibly intolerant person and your idea of unacceptable behavior is something that nobody would even blink at. If you aren’t going to explain what happened, I’m sorry, but I can’t jump on your bandwagon and tell you to chastise anyone.
However, I can tell you that you are not going to change anyone’s beliefs or habits of a lifetime. So- if you are upset by certain family members’ behavior, just avoid them. What I would also avoid doing is making speeches and acting self-righteous. Until someone dies and makes you God, you are just another flawed human with your own opinion