Dear Abby: Forgiveness doesn't always mean reconciliation

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 6 2009 12:04 a.m. MST

Dear Abby: I'm writing regarding "Perplexed in South Dakota" (Oct. 15), who said "terrible things" to her friend in anger. The friend forgave her, but did not wish to continue the friendship.

I have been in that position, but my situation went beyond hurtful words. At the time, I was in a great deal of emotional pain and was devastated because I trusted the people involved. I struggled with forgiving them, and I am happy to say that I recently did.

Through the process, I learned two important lessons: First, forgiveness has everything to do with me and very little to do with the offender. By letting go of the hurt, I freed myself from the emotional bondage I was in.

The second lesson I learned was that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. When you lose trust in someone, it takes time to regain it. Sometimes the damage can never fully be repaired. — Been There In Springfield, Mass.

Dear Been There: Thank you for sharing what you learned. I told "Perplexed" that even though her friend no longer holds a grudge, she may consider "Perplexed" too dangerous to allow back in her life. Readers agreed with my advice that "Perplexed" watch what she says in anger in the future and cited their own experiences. Read on:

Dear Abby: One of my best friends and I had a falling-out some time ago due to a misunderstanding (I'll spare you the details). It was very painful for both of us.

She cut off contact with me first, and it was devastating. Despite my efforts, she apparently needed time to gather her thoughts and feelings. After a year and a half she called me, apologized and said she hoped we could pick up where we had left off. The problem is: I can't. I was hurt to the core.

I still stay in touch with her, but my heart is no longer where it was. Although I miss her, I still resent her misjudgment of my loyalty. Forgiveness has many levels, and one level may be that of closure. — Not The Same In The East

Dear Abby: It is interesting that after saying terrible things to her friend, "Perplexed" did not apologize for several weeks, waited for her ex-friend to contact her, and apologized only after being informed by the friend that she was ending the friendship. The apology was self-serving, given only to convince her friend not to dump her. Why didn't she call immediately after realizing that what she said was awful?

In addition, her apology was in writing, instead of on the phone or in person, to avoid the discomfort of facing her friend. The message this reluctant apology sends is that she was never going to apologize unless and until she stood to lose something.

I see no true remorse — only indignation that her friend is not "forgiving" her correctly. Some people need to learn what a proper apology is. — Seen It All Before In Upstate N.Y.

Dear Abby: Perhaps this example will help "Perplexed" better understand why the friend to whom she said hurtful words couldn't forgive and forget: Take a jar of nails and hammer them into a wooden fence. Imagine that each and every nail is a cruel or unkind word. Now remove each nail one by one, apologizing each time you do. When you are done, stand back and look at the fence. The nails are gone, but the holes remain. Cruel words can leave wounds that no amount of apology can fully erase. — Living by That Example in Calif.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069 © Universal Press Syndicate

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