Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not Again! (Read to the end before you comment)

Just a minute.... ****AHHHHHHH!!!!!!**** (primal scream)

Okay, I feel better, but only a little bit.

Let's go back in time, shall we? Let's stop right here.

As I mentioned in this post, this is a recurring theme in my life. It is one of my many tests, and OHHHHH, am I failing right now.

Z told me after all the incidents that happened, "Wait for Christmas. She'll show up again." Sure enough!

She called me, out of the blue, about a month ago, from her mom's church building. She apologized for the grief she had caused me. I accepted her apology and really, I did. I didn't have any bad feelings. Before the conversation was over, she was saying how she wanted to get together and do all these things. I said, "Mm hmm" a lot, but in my heart, I'm thinking, "No way, woman!"

Last night was our ward Christmas party. We got seated, and I looked toward the back of the cultural hall, and there she was. Ugh! She had contacted another woman in the ward and got herself invited. She came over to chat with me. It was nice and friendly. Honestly, I have forgiven her long ago.

Later, during the program portion, it all started. Could I keep her daughter on Tuesday? Could they come over some time? How about Family Home Evening? Ugh! With all the stuff that happened those months ago, I don't want to get involved with her. I REALLY don't! But, the truth of the matter is, this woman has no one. If I were in her shoes, I'd want help. I wouldn't want to be pushed away. But darn it!!!

Maybe I haven't really forgiven her. Maybe I really am still holding a grudge. What do I do? I'm thinking "seventy times seven." That's what keeps pounding in my head. I've been up this morning praying about it, but I wonder if my heart is getting so hard that I can't (or won't) hear the answer. Thus, I am drawn to the ol' blog. Working it out in words, so I can find what I need.

So, I come to you who read this madness....What would you do?

As I went back and read the post I referred to at the beginning of this post, I realize that there is a large portion of my relationship with this woman that I didn't bring up back then, so you might not understand the "forgiveness" parts of what I'm writing here. I will elaborate just a little, so you know what that's all about....

At one point during my relationship with this woman, she was feeling threatened by some of her neighbors. She was quite nervous and gave me her most prized possession to hold onto for her. It was a ring in a box. I brought it to my house and hid it. I never even opened the box. As our relationship went south, I knew I needed to get the ring back to her, but she had no phone and no car and lived just far enough away that I didn't want to run back and forth to her place looking for her to be home to return it, so I contacted her Relief Society president, who I had spoken with a number of times about this woman and her needs. I asked her if I could bring the ring to her and have her return it when she saw her on Sunday. She said she hadn't seen her at church since Christmas (so this woman had been lying to me all this time), but she'd be happy to drop it by.

I thought, if nothing else, this'd get her back in touch with someone who could help her. I emailed her and told her what I'd done thinking she'd get it when she went to class.

Well, as weeks went by, I'd get answering maching messages from this woman asking for her ring, so I knew something was wrong. I contacted the R.S. president. She told me she hadn't had a chance to get it to ger yet, but she would.

Finally after months, I arrived home from running errands and found the last answering maching messages. One from this woman, and one from her mother. They were threatening messages telling me they were right then calling the police and submitting a report that I'd stolen the ring.

I immediately called the R.S. president. She sent her husband with the ring, but the woman wasn't there. He sat and waited until she returned.

So, good intentions gone wrong. This is frequently the case with me. Can you see why I don't want to get involved? Am I wrong to feel this way?

Okay, so back to my question....

What would you do?


Unknown said...

I think you need to do the hard thing. The easy thing is to let her back into her life, accept her as she is, and put up with her. That sounds like the hard thing, right? But no. The hard thing is to sit down with her and explain the difference between forgiveness and acceptance.

I have a similar friend who I have known for 25 years. Her mom was a very dear person to me, her daughter is a very dear person to me, and others in her family are very dear to me. I love her like a sister, but I know that she is extremely needy and capable of destroying a relationship to get what she needs in that moment. I have done things "for her" that I would not do for other people because I love not only her but all those others in her family, and really I did them for those other people, not for her. Does that make sense?

However, there are limits. I know that I have to draw a very severe line up front and say no as soon as she attempts to cross it. And I know that she will attempt to cross it. I also know that she knows there are invisible limits and even if it makes her upset in that moment, she ultimately understands that I have to set them. I don't worry about offending her anymore. If she is offended, it's her problem. I love her and am willing to help her. If she is offended by limits that are necessary to protect me, my family, and ultimately our relationship, then the relationship is not worth keeping.

Now, one final point. I believe that there is a huge difference between forgiveness and acceptance. Forgiveness is for things that have happened in the past. Forgiveness can even be for character faults as long as I am willing to accept the fact that those faults are going to lead to future mistakes/offenses that will once again require forgiveness.

Here's a good explanation:
"Forgiveness is not saying that things are okay now, and then going back into a negative situation. It is not letting someone off the hook by saying, 'You didn’t do anything wrong.' Some people think that forgiveness is unconditional love with no boundaries or accountability. It is not. Forgiveness is not denial that a hurtful situation exists, and it isn’t denying the fact that your feelings are hurt. And forgiveness does not mean you accept the person’s behavior."

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I would say that she needs to be able to do the work in her own life--to show you that she can be a trustworthy friend. It is important to forgive and love like Christ did, but it is also like you said in your last post--there are no handouts in the church welfare system, so why should there be in our relationships.

You can continue to be kind and support her by occasionaly giving words of encouragement, but you can't feel like you are the one that needs to do the saving. We have to take charge or our own life and include the Lord in our plans. This woman is clearly abusing the kindness of those around her.

When Noah was building the boat like he was told by the Lord, he wasn't told to stick around and let the other peoples wickedness cause harm to him and his family. He built his boat, trioed to tell them how they needed to act, or what the ramifications would be. They chose to mock and laugh, and in turn--they drowned. We can only try and save people so much, before they have to use their own agency to decide.

Set a line ahead of time of what is acceptable to you and your family and let her know so that she knows what is expected of her--much like children. They come into this world with no rules, and we have to set rules and boundaries for their growth and improvement. Pray, the Lord will direct you the best.

Alyson said...

I think you're getting fantastic advice! I will say this: I've been in a similar situation. It was actually an immediate family member, and we had to make some very difficult choices sometimes with major family events.

That final part of the temple liturgy, where they say, "If any bad feelings exist..." really caused me to ponder. Over and over. Even if that person wasn't in the temple with me, I knew there were bad feelings. I knew I had to forgive. The forgiveness had everything to do with me: I wanted to change my own thoughts, to release the negative energy I'd devoted to this person. I didn't want them to have any power over my feelings or my reactions. I had to let it all go.

Forgiveness had nothing to do with the person. They didn't change their behaviors at all, only I did. I have no idea how they felt about me at the time, but it didn't matter; all I could control was myself.

And forgiveness had nothing to do with letting them back in. They were still as toxic as ever; I merely chose not to hate them for the toxicity, nor to immerse myself in it in any way. I let it all go, and then I could interact with them cordially without giving them any power over me or my children. I sincerely wanted the best for them—prayed for them, even, knowing they were a beloved child of God. But I did not give them any influence over me, my children, my choices, or my feelings. That was the best I could come up with. And I felt pretty darn good about that, every time I stood in the temple listening to that line.

Rachel said...

I wish I didn't have any experience with this! I don't think that I have always handled the situations the right way, but I do know that I am finally at peace with it all now. Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to let them walk all over you-- toxic is toxic and it isn't good for you or your family. You can't help someone who isn't willing to help themselves. You have shown over and over again that you have a wonderful, giving, loving heart. You are beautiful inside and out Julie! Let the guilt go and find yourself a happy medium (if one exists) or let it go altogether! love you!

Unknown said...

Ugh- I hate this kind of situation. You are not wrong to not want to get involved again- and likely you shouldn't.

I remember having a falling out with a "friend" like this(And I quote friend because she really wasn't, but I did appreciate her and what she had to offer) and it was a major releif to not have her in my life anymore. But, she came back and I am stuck again- but am trying to be careful to not to get too involved. That is hard. Not only because that isn't my nature, but those hurts from before did come back even though I know I had let it all go. But, what is comes down to is not letting it affect me or my family like it did before. I need to protect my children from her craziness. I don't mind carving out time to spend with her one on one, but that is only when it will be OK for me to leave the little ones-which isn't often at all.

Go with the spirit Julie. The Lord will let you know what is right for you. And what is right for you will be right for her. Hang in there Friend. :o)

Emily Alder said...

This bit about the ring is interesting because it shows a different aspect of the relationship, which I suspect may have been perhaps the biggest issue for you, which is why you chose not to reveal it. It shows this woman not only in a bad light, but in a somewhat threatening one, which may have been the crux of your dilemma all along.

My question is: Why does this woman want to be friends with you? If she felt the need to threaten police action at one point, which was clearly a misunderstanding but she probably felt justified at the time, but now wants to have FHE with you and drop her daughter off at your house, there seems to be some mixed signals in your friendship. It seems like, and this is just based on my own experiences with friendships, you are confused about the role you have in her life. Are you someone she goes to only when she wants some "free" service provided by friends (ie childcare)? Or is she reaching out to you because she genuinely needs a friend in the church? This seems like an issue you need to clarify before you can feel comfortable with her (and it is by no means strange that you would feel uncomfortable with someone who left messages saying she was going to call the police because you failed to return something of hers, which seems like another thing you need to clarify with her before a friendship can resume). It is perfectly okay to tell someone that you feel uncomfortable because of things that have happened in the past, and she may not even realize that this is an issue for you. I think that to be upfront about that would be helpful, even though it's an awfully hard thing to do.

And now you know another one of the boundaries you need to set with her. You know that if she wants to give you something for safekeeping, it's probably not a good idea. I think every interaction with people is defined by the boundaries you set, whether consciously or unconsciously. Just because there are limits to set doesn't mean you can't be friends, but if there is all of this stuff between you that you don't even address, it will get in the way of any genuine affections. Because until you address it, it will always be an issue, whether or not you feel that you have forgiven her.

And if, upon telling this woman that you feel uncomfortable about all of the things that have transpired between you, she decides she can't be your friend, then that's her choice. You would have already chosen to be as honest and forthright as you can be, and I think that by then your conscience will be clear.

It has been my experience that if she has this pattern of a relationship with you then she likely has it with other people, but may have absolutely no idea because people often choose to be nice rather than honest (and subverting your own feelings to maintain the status quo seems to have been helpful only in making you feel uncomfortable around this woman while she may be completely oblivious that you feel that way).

I'm sure that there are plenty of other things about this relationship that an outside blog reader would never understand, but it seems like this woman has no idea you feel uncomfortable with her, and until you are explicit about you feelings she will remain to be oblivious and continue to treat you the way that she has. Being explicit with your feelings does not equal being mean, and it doesn't mean that you're not being Christlike (I suppose, unless it's accompanied with a lot of accusations and some punching). All you have to say is, "I feel this way, and I thought I should be honest about that." No one can argue you out of your own feelings. (I'll tell you what a professor told me, which is that feelings are like the need to use the bathroom-- someone can tell you as much as they want that you don't need to go, but for you that urge is still there and even if you don't use the restroom, you will still eventually need to relieve yourself).

Rory Baxter said...

I guess I have had a rougher time with this specific topic. We had fall out happen with immediate family members. We ended up having to cut off all contact with those family members. This came after much heartache, much hurt, much inflicted pain over the dilema of "do I or dont I" - we still have limited contact with other family that was also involved and have had no contact with the family directly involved.
I am still working on the forgiveness part, even after so many years. It has been very hard for me, and I am still learning what exactly forgiveness is. I am just now learning how to care for me, and my family, and how forgiveness is for me, not for others. What they have done,and continue to do will never change. That contact may never be re-established because of that. By me learning to forgive, I am releasing myself to move forward, and for me that forgiveness does not include renewing those relationships.
Anyway - maybe this is maybe the wrong approach, but for me it is the right choice.
Really the only thing you can do is to determine your levels of trust and safety - for yourself and your family. If they are not in the bounds the Lord would have you be - then maybe more aggressive measures really do need to be taken with this person....

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