Forgiveness vs common sense:

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. ???


Dear MM,

“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


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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9 Responses to Forgiveness vs common sense:

  1. moogarosen says:

    Wise advice Dr. B. C. Cutting ties is difficult, especially when children are involved. Learning to forgive yet not continue to enable is not easy but necessary. I appreciate your positive, encouraging advice.

    Granny Dr.- I’ve come to expect a more thought out response from you. You are right. You have very few details regarding the situation. I am neither “up in arms” or claiming to be anything close to God. This flawed-human commented on your last blog on “social cancer” which was thought provoking. You did not ask for any further detail on my situation which I would have gladly given yet you have come to the conclusion that my family excels at both self-indulgence and
    Judgement. I’m not sure what your intentions were when you penned this response but it has come off as assumptive and unhelpful. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

  2. Granny says: you seem to be taking my comments very personally. I understand that when a subject is emotional we are generally more sensitive to criticism. I was pointing out that Dr. Brilliant’s assumptions of guilt and a need to make amends were a bit extreme, considering that the crime was unknown. It’s very true that some people consider behavior intolerable that others wouldn’t give a second thought to. If you feel you may fall into that category, I apologize for seeming to criticize your intolerance.
    When I consider behavior intolerable, I make my feelings known and walk away to more favorable climes. Sitting as judge and jury of another’s behavior is a different kettle of fish.

  3. moogarosen says:

    D. Granny, Yes. I did take your comments personally. I have the really bad habit of thinking that we all process information in the same way. In my opinion, intolerant people are self-serving and hard hearted. My question was about wanting to balance my desire to keep my children safe, continue to have family unity and honor my God. I assumed that you would understand that this question came from someone who truly desired balance for her family simply from its lack of any self serving theme. I was wrong.
    I have been ridiculously long suffering in regard to the two above mentioned men and I believe that my children have been hurt by my inaction. One of these men is a diagnosed narcissist and the prognosis is bleak. Unfortunately, he’s my father and other man my younger brother. So you see the details make all the difference. I only have an older sister and my husband has no siblings or involved parents. This decision although it’s easily the lesser of two evils, is not taken lightly as I am cutting ties with 2 of my 3 remaining relatives.
    Although this is not a place to get therapy, it has become a place where I have gleaned some useful advice and I look forward to both of your perspectives.
    Thank you for your response!

    • You are right- not knowing the details, I was reacting only to Dr. Brilliants response.
      Dealing with relatives is very difficult because you can’t just cut them off as you would a stranger. However, I maintain that the best idea is always to walk away from people you can’t change. World wars are started by people who won’t! You deserve peace. Stay away from the undesireables!

  4. C.B. wrote in:
    Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past – lily Tomlin.
    I really like that.

    Dr. B.C.

  5. Ken Bryant says:

    I think these comments have all been about falling into traps of unhelpfulness. I couldn’t agree more. I call it the “feeling good” box. Like in therapy when your primary concern is feeling good about yourself. Maybe its ego about being a therapist or maybe its ego about what you’re saying to the patient. Then you have this hope once in a while that maybe this will rub off on the patient. Nothing could be further from therapy! Get out of the “feel good box” and listen to the patient’s thoughts and feelings. Take action on what the patient thinks and feels no matter what it feels like to you. Be truthful about the patient’s thoughts and feelings whether it makes you feel good or not.

  6. Dear Ken,

    WHAT ???

    Dr. Brilliant Cliché

  7. I wish I could understand what Mr. Bryant is talking about because it’s somewhat intriguing, but I can’t figure out who all his references are directed to since no specific targets are indicated.

  8. moogarosen says:

    cathren- If you don’t get the comment and you really are intrigued, just ask Ken to explain and be specific about what you want to know. I too, feel that the topic of last week’s blog became muddy because your response was to Dr. B.C. ‘S Response not the original question. Details make all the difference right? I’m going to assume We all here to learn and be challenged, lets not view one another as targets as it will make this venue an unsafe one.

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