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Forgiveness and Giving Credit to Whom Credit is Due

blood of jesus

Those raised in Evangelical churches are taught that they should ALWAYS give God/Jesus the credit/praise for EVERYTHING. Well . . . not everything. Just the “good” things that happen in your life. The “bad” stuff that happens is attributed to Satan, demonic influence, sin, the flesh, God tempting/testing you, or “hell if we know.” And when things turn around for you? Praise Jesus! Look what HE has done! Lesson to be learned? God must be praised, honored, and given credit for EVERY good thing that happens in your life and absolved of any culpability for anything bad. God is like a man who beats the shit out of his wife while telling her, “I love you.” Every Friday he comes home from his work at the local automobile plant and dutifully hands his wife his check, providing for his wife’s and children’s every need. This violent man expects to be praised for all the “good” he does for his family and expects his wife to ignore the pain, physical harm, and psychological terror he has inflicted upon her.

My wife, Polly, and I love to take day road trips. We plan to take one tomorrow. While our travel distance has been curtailed due to my health, there are still places in northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and southern Michigan we have not explored. We set a maximum travel distance: two-and-a-half hours, make sure I have extra narcotic pain medication and muscle relaxers, check the weather report, and off we go. Sometimes, we have a specific destination in mind, and other times we drive to the north, south, east, or west. And occasionally, we turn our trips into a game (i.e., making all left turns). Fun times. We have been taking such trips for thirty-five years. Our children have many “fond” memories of Mom’s and Dad’s day trips to Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, and all over Ohio. And then there was that trip to Charlotte, North Carolina and BACK in one day (sixteen hours). That’s a story for another day. 🙂

Now to the point of the above paragraph. 🙂 We have explored some communities that have smartly developed, clean downtown areas. If you judged such cities and villages by how their downtowns looked, you would conclude that these communities are exciting, vibrant places to live. Yet, if you drive a few blocks in any direction from downtown, you find rundown houses and urban decay. I won’t mention any communities by name where we found this to be true. Years ago, I mentioned that Columbus, Indiana had a wonderful downtown area, but not far from downtown? No so nice . . . Based on the emails I received from residents of Columbus, you would have thought I said their town was a war zone. (That would be the blocks surrounding downtown Detroit, by the way.) Columbus, Indiana is a wonderful community to live in, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a huge difference between downtown and the blocks surrounding it.

Okay, now I will get to the point of my geography and urban planning stories. I am like the old preacher I heard say when talking about the length of his sermon. “I’m like a plane circling the airport. I could land at any time.” 🙂

Jesus and his relationship with those who follow him are like the clean, smartly developed downtowns mentioned above. Ain’t Jesus awesome! Praised Jesus! All honor, praise, and glory to Jesus! Yet, just blocks away are rundown homes, blight, and poverty; people struggling to make it to another day. All Christians want to talk about is their downtowns, while just out of view are lives and circumstances that belie the “victory in Jesus” notion of life.

I grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) home. After my parents were saved in the 1960s, we started attending church every time the doors were open. Dad was a deacon, Mom played the piano (until she had an epic mental breakdown in front of the congregation), and the Gerencser children obediently sat next to their parents (no sitting with friends for them). Our family sang hymns, prayed prayers, read the Bible, and praised Jesus for his grace, mercy, kindness, and love. Yet, life at home was very different. Mental illness, affairs, and neglect. Oh, the Gerencsers praised Jesus, but behind the scenes he was nowhere to be found.

After my parents divorced and quickly remarried other people: a recent Texas penal system parolee for my mother and a nineteen-year-old girl with a toddler for my father, they stopped attending church. My siblings had no interest in church (ages fourteen and eleven), but I got saved, baptized, and called to preach. Church became my family, my safety net. From that time forward, I was a true-blue Christian. I attended every church service, conference, and revival. I skipped school so I could attend preacher’s meetings. I worked on a bus route and went on visitation. I actively participated in youth group. My family may have abandoned Jesus, but not I. I was all in. I didn’t swear, listen to rock music, smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs, or engage in premarital sex. I even eschewed masturbation, though, to be honest, I often failed. Raging hormones, no sex; well, that sexual energy had to go somewhere. It was the 1970s, but you wouldn’t have known it looking at my life.

Off to college in the 1970s, and on to pastoring seven churches in three states. Outwardly, I was a wonderful Christian and pastor, yet I was quite human behind the scenes. I was temperamental, exacting in my expectations of others. I hid my “sins,” and when deep, dark periods of depression plagued me, I hid them from everyone except those closest to me. But, of course, you can’t hide the “truth” from your spouse and children.

In public, I effusively praised the name of Jesus, giving God credit for my preaching and ministerial successes. No matter how hard I worked, Jesus always got credit for what I did. When congregants complimented me on sermons I had spent hours constructing, I deflected their praise, giving God all the praise, honor, and glory. When the one church I pastored grew from sixteen people to two hundred, God was the reason for the attendance growth. When “good” things happened in my life, I always genuflected to Jesus. When I was “blessed” by someone else, I thanked Jesus for answering my prayers and meeting my needs. The person helping me was just a means to an end, used by God to bless me. And when “bad” things happened in my life? I was to blame. Or Satan. Or the flesh. Or sin. Or me failing a test from God. Or perhaps it was God purifying my life. Regardless, God got the praise for everything good that happened in life, and I was to blame for everything bad.

In 2008, I left Christianity. I am now an atheist and a humanist. Embracing the humanist ideal has forced me to reevaluate how I view and treat others; how I view my own life. Taking God out of the equation changes everything. Rejecting the religious concept of “sin” and atonement forced me to take a hard look at my moral values and ethics. As an Evangelical Christian, I had it drilled into my head that I had to forgive everyone. And I mean everyone. My grandfather’s wife sexually molested my brother and me. Forgive her, my former Evangelical beliefs say. My grandfather and his wife outwardly loved Jesus. Everyone thought they were supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Christians. Yet, behind closed doors, they were nasty, judgmental, hateful, manipulative people. (Please see Dear Ann and John.) Forgive them, my former Evangelical beliefs say. My uncle raped my mother (please see Barbara), yet John MacFarlane, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, preached him into Heaven at his funeral (please see Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?) Forgive him, my former Evangelical beliefs say. I recently wrote about my non-relationship with my father. (Please see Questions: Bruce, How Was Your Relationship with Your Father? and Questions: Bruce Did Your Bad Relationship with Your Father Lead to You Leaving Christianity?) Forgive him, my former Evangelical beliefs say.

I have had an acrimonious relationship with my mother-in-law for forty-five years (and I still love her). She did everything in her power to keep her oldest daughter from marrying me. No matter what successes I have had over the years, Mom has never let me forget that I am “less than.” Mom believes that Polly could have done “better. Though left unstated, I am sure she thinks that if Polly had married someone else, she would still be a Christian; that everything “bad” that has happened in our married life is my fault.

We had it out with Mom and Dad sixteen years ago. (A story I will tell another day. So many stories, so little time — literally.) Polly’s parents had come up to Bryan for Thanksgiving. One thing turned into another, and they left our home in a huff. Mom and Dad later called to “apologize” for their behavior. During our conversation, Mom told me two things I have never forgotten: “Bruce, we always knew you were ‘different'” and “Bruce, you never forget.”

Setting aside the “different” accusation (I plead guilty), I want to focus on the claim that I “never forget.” First, that’s not true. Trust me, at my age, I forget things all the time — frustratingly so. But, I do have a long memory. Second, people see me as a writer, but what I am is a storyteller. I have shared countless stories with the readers of this blog, with many more, Loki-willing, to come. (My favorite David Foster Wallace quote? Don’t let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.) Sunday, I will be giving a speech for the Atheists of Florida (please see Your Invitation to Hear My Speech for Atheists of Florida This Sunday). I don’t plan to deliver a lecture or defense of atheism. That’s not my calling in life. I am, at heart, a storyteller.

Over the years, I have had Evangelicals get upset with me over how I have portrayed them in a post; particularly pastors and churches from my past. I typically tell them that if they don’t like what I am saying about them, they should have treated me better. Don’t want to be portrayed as an asshole, don’t act like an asshole. Or, don’t piss in a writer’s corn flakes. He might serve them up to you the next day.

As a follower of Christ, I had to give God credit for the good that happened in my life and forgive everyone who hurt me or treated me like shit. As a humanist, I have a far different view of life and people. With no God to concern myself with, I no longer have to give a deity credit for the good in my life or accept blame for everything bad that happens in my life. Instead, I give credit to whom credit is due. When Polly cooks an awesome meal, I praise her, not God. When my grandchildren make the honor roll, I congratulate them for their diligence and hard work, not God. When my children do well at work, I don’t praise Jesus. They did the work, and they, alone, deserve credit for their success. When my physicians successfully treat me, I thank them, not a fictional deity. When cashiers/servers/repairmen take care of me, I typically call them by their names and say, thank you! I want them to know that I am giving them credit for their work and service.

The same goes for forgiving people. My Evangelical upbringing demanded that I forgive people no matter what they did to me. Generally, I am a loving, kind, and forgiving person. Doubt this? Ask Polly or my children. Even when it comes to my one son who stole my pain medications three times, I still love and forgive him. Imagine taking a drug away from your parent that he needs to live. Imagine letting your parent needlessly suffer from horrible pain. That’s exactly what my son did to me. Yet, I forgive him (and put my meds somewhere else when he is at our home).

That said, I have no obligation to forgive everyone who has harmed me. Take my grandparents. I booted them out of my life and that of my family twenty-plus years ago (my younger children and grandchildren have never met them — their loss). They were bad people. Everyone around them may have thought they were wonderful Christians, but I knew better. John and Ann were abusers, experts in gaslighting and passive-aggressive behavior. Worse, John was violent. He repeated sexually molested my mother as a child. When called to account for his crimes, John refused to apologize, saying his “sins were under the blood [of Jesus].” Should I “forgive” them for their bad behavior, regardless of whether they atone for their “sins”? Nope. John died from cancer years ago, and Ann is suffering in a nursing home. Do I care? Nope. I might have been there for them had they not been pieces of shit. But, they reaped what they sowed.

Want me to love and forgive you? Do better. Be a decent human being. Treat me with respect. If you can’t do that, don’t expect me to treat you well. Evangelicals often attack me, saying awful things. I mean a-w-f-u-l things. Yet, when I give them the Bruce Gerencser Treatment®, they are outraged that I didn’t treat them better. Sorry, but in my worldview, assholes are given the comeuppance they so richly deserve.

What say ye, dear readers? How do you handle forgiving people now that you are not a Christian? Do you still praise Jesus for the “good” in your life? Or do you give credit to whom credit is due? Please leave your pithy comments and psychological analyses in the comment section. Thanks for commenting!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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26 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    I tend to forgive people, but honestly, I’ve never experienced the abuse you had to live with. So I don’t know for sure if I would let someone go completely out of my life. I have one relationship that I believe is pretty tenuous on my side, but since the person is a couple thousand miles away and hardly calls me, I can maintain that relationship ok. (It’s possible that she will never accuse me again of wanting her to be executed due to me voting Democratic, but hell, I cut her off for awhile when she did that. Maybe she will learn.)

  2. Avatar
    William

    Hi Bruce, long time no see 🙂

    Perhaps it might be worthwhile to elaborate on your understanding of what is meant by and/or what is entailed by forgiveness. From reading your article, my impression is your understanding of it (or the evangelical understanding that you were taught) is possibly a little black and white.

    Keep in mind that Luke tells us, in 17:4, ‘Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent’, you must forgive them.’

    Jesus is saying that we should not forgive someone unless they have repented.

    The bible has much to say about anger, and justice. Sometimes for someone to truly repent they have to own up and take responsibility, for some that is jail time. At the same time life is built around us letting little things slide. Someone may let me down at work, they may wish me to no longer be annoyed with them, so I let it slide, but it might be a while before I may have the same trust in them (although I have forgiven them for the good of their soul even for my own).

    I could write a lot more, but, like I said, forgiveness even from a biblical perspective is many times more nuanced than to be one who would be expected perhaps at all times to roll over.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I only care what the Bible says as it applies to explaining my past/story. Biblical perspective? I-don’t-care. I preached from Luke 17:4 (assuming you got the reference correct, I didn’t look it up) numerous times. 70×7 (490 times a day) is meant to say that we should always forgive. Jesus demonstrated that on the cross and in his daily life. (Not that I necessarily believe the accounts surrounding Jesus are true.)

      I’m trying hard not to read between the lines of your comment. I believe that the things I won’t forgive are few, and as mentioned in this post are warranted. Sexual molestation, violence, neglect, rape, theft of essential drugs — not gossiping about me, stiffing me on a car purchase, stealing money from my office, or telling vicious lies about me (all of which fine Christians have done over the years). I’ve forgiven all of these people, and others, unasked. Life is too short for grudges. If I have given you a different impression of me, I apologize. 😂😂

      I reject your statement that my view of forgiveness is black and white. Actually, it is quite nuanced. Unless you think I should forgive child molesters, rapists, and child abusers? Not going to happen — ever.

      For the most part, I don’t think people do things they need forgiveness for. I’m a big believer is restitution. Shit happens, move on. I have spent countless hours post-Jesus making restitution for past behavior. Sure, forgiveness is a part of that, but more important is setting things aright (which I try to do through my writing and telling my story). Works matter, not words.

      • Avatar
        William

        To me you give the impression that at least the Christian teaching of forgiveness is to automatically forgive, it isn’t, like the verse in Luke says, we should forgive if the person repents (acknowledges their wrongs and asks for absolution). So forgiveness is not automatic, as John the Baptist says to the Pharisees, to do works ‘meet for repentance’. Some of that works meet for repentance is jail time.

        I’m not saying or telling anyone what to do, I just thought for what it’s worth for the interest of fairness to present a fuller biblical explanation of the conditions of forgiveness, as it seems you represented it as just to forgive even if the person does not repent, and regardless of what they have done or continue to do.

        Which is to say, automatic forgiveness may be the evangelical teaching you had, but it is not necessarily the correct biblical teaching.

        Have a good day mate.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Evidently, you didn’t read my comment (or at the very least bother to understand my explanation).

          This is my blog. I’m not interested in you giving a “fuller Biblical explanation” (Greek for personal opinion/interpretation). Nor am I interested in hearing the “correct Biblical teaching” on anything — as if such a thing even exists. Hint, it doesn’t. This blog is just me telling my story, trying to be as open and honest as possible. It is not a blog about theology or Bible exegesis. I can on occasion write about those things, but shoot me in the head now if I had to do it every day. Same goes for defending atheism or debating theists. I can do these things, but they don’t interest me. As I mentioned in this post, I’m a storyteller. Even as a pastor, I was a storyteller. When I share my life with the readers of this blog, I hope they will embrace the messiness and complexity of my story. Those who choose, instead, to look for flaws in my story or interpretative inaccuracies, typically don’t last long on this site. I’m an introspective person, my biggest critic. That said, I prefer to be the one peering into the darkness, not others.

          You grossly misunderstand my view of forgiveness. I explained this in my response to you. Yet, you continue to suggest I have a black and white, transactional view of forgiveness— I don’t. Let me say that again — I don’t.

          • Avatar
            Craig

            Yes you are an incredibly angry man. Perhaps you should shut down comments or specificy only post those that support you. All the best mate.

  3. Avatar
    GeoffT

    I’d say that the ‘God speaks/Satan speaks’ issue is perhaps the most fundamentally challenging one for all believers. I remember that when the great scientist and atheist Stephen Hawking died, having defied so many statistical obstacles, I commented somewhere, facetiously of course, that perhaps God was sending a message through Hawking’s astonishing life, and I was told that it ‘was Satan keeping him alive’. What’s clear is that believers don’t actually think that there’s any way of distinguishing the method of messaging from either source, and that the only way of knowing who is speaking is according to the message, and your personal view on the matter. The problem becomes then, how can God communicate a message that is uncomfortably at odds with your personal views. It’s all part of the inconsistency of religious belief generally, but especially one that brings Satan into the equation.

    Incidentally, if you keep turning left don’t you just find yourself where you started? 😂

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Turning left: yes, you eventually end up back home, but not before you’ve gone miles between turns. That was a fun trip, as most are. 😄

      You are right about distinguishing between the voices of God and Satan. I would add one more voice: my own. I always had a hard time figuring out who was “talking” to me. In retrospect, I learned that the only voice in my head was my own; that God’s leading closely tracked with my own wants, needs, and desires; that “God” really fucked up sometimes😂😂 Our once-in-a-lifetime move to Texas comes to mind. When the church in Texas came a calling, I originally said no. My gut instinct — which I took as God’s leading — said, “don’t do this Bruce. I should have listened. 😢😢

      • Avatar
        Benny S

        Re: distinguishing between the voices of God and Satan.

        I was listening to a theist vs. atheist Youtube debate last week and one of the topics was about hearing the voice of God. The atheist asked the theist how he (the theist) was able to discern that the voice he was hearing was actually coming from God. The theist said something to the effect of (after having heard God’s message) having to first thoughtfully examine whether he currently had any overriding sin present in his life, then compare what he was “hearing” to a multitude of scriptures, then also do this, that and the other thing, and then top it all off with one or two other matters to help confirm that “Yep, it was God’s voice.” All I could think was: “Jesus Christ, if you have to do so much after-the-fact heavy lifting, doesn’t it suggest to you that your God, who you have such a personal relationship with, is a piss poor communicator? Or, the more likely fact that the voice is coming from inside your own head, but you are incapable of determining that?”

  4. Avatar
    Obstaclechick

    I have always had trouble understanding what forgiveness is or should be. As an evangelical Christian, I thought we were supposed to forgive everyone for everything because that’s what God does if someone asks. When I left evangelicalism, one of the things I ditched with that religion was the concept of forgiveness because I have never determined what constitutes forgiveness, or if I even agree with it.

    A few years ago, my mom told me that one of her uncles molested her when she was 5 or 6 years old. She followed that up with a statement that she had forgiven him. Inwardly that pissed me off – he was a mean, selfish, arrogant man who would not have apologized for much of anything, and he never apologized to her. I don’t forgive him. I recently found out another of her uncles molested at least one of his children. I don’t think child molestation deserves forgiveness – it’s a line no adult should ever cross.

    So, yes, I struggle with the concept of forgiveness.

  5. Avatar
    JOYCE SMITH

    Native Texan here. I just found you as I am searching for help in dealing with my son-in-law and his mom. I found myself where you are so very many years ago. I, too, try to be a forgiving person, but I believe there are lines ones does not cross. Thank you for your help in my continuing struggle.

  6. Avatar
    Mike Smith

    I can’t wait to hear the day travel stories! You have given me the inspiriation to do that with my wife. That sounds like a lot of fun – except going east in my situation. That is going into Canada and the border is closed at this point! Can any good thing come out of Cleveland??
    I have learned that forgiveness isn’t what everyone thinks. Like you I have inlaws who was a pastor and my ex mother in law is close to 90. I have come to the conclusion that forgiveness is not an entitlement to fellowship. I have forgiven alot of people in my life I want absolutely zero fellowship with. Once a snake always a snake right?? I don’t know if that works for you but it sure works for me.

    I got alot out of this piece. And I love your stories. Especially the war stories of Bible College and your pastorates. It gives me perspective. Please give my best to your family.

  7. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Bruce and Polly. I’m glad to hear that you’ll be taking a road trip this summer. Spring,summer,fall– the best times for those. Have you ever visited Mackinac ,MI., to see their famous cherry crops, and Island fudge yet ? One day, I hope to do that. I must say, the subject of forgiveness is intriguing, because from that Fundie perspective, one always had to both forgive AND reconcile, no boundaries allowed ! That’s what those hick churches up in Northern California taught. As I look back, those people had so much to answer for, they HAD to preach giving free passes to abusers. Or they’d lose big time, financially and legally. Accountability was for the survivors only ! I know John Teiken never saw the inside of a prison cell because of this ” doctrine” so enthusiastically bellowed from pews all over the country. John Piper comes to mind, Jimmy Swaggart,et. al. When someone comments on a blog about their struggles with forgiving an abuser, especially one that won’t stop, I tell them they are free to set boundaries,and go no- contact,if it will help them. Had someone done that in time,for my mother and half- brother, our lives would have been so much better,and we’d have missed a lot of the calamities and traumas that came our way. And Bruce, I’m shocked to hear that one of your grandfather’s wives actually molested you, on top of everything else !! Justice can’t come fast enough for such people.😬

  8. Avatar
    BJW

    I guess I’m naïve, as the horror of what abuse parents and trusted adults can do to helpless children shocks me every time. I know and believe it exists, as there are too many horror stories, even among readers of this blog. And the courage of you, Bruce, and every person who attests to these horrors is striking.

  9. Avatar
    Dennis Russell

    Hey Bruce. On one of your trips to Michigan, make sure you visit Hell. Yes you probably heard of it but when I went there many years ago it was a nice town. And of course get a I’ve been to Hell T-shirt. Best Always!

  10. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Forgiveness is a process for me. First of all, I have to make sure that the slight was intentional, since I live with two people on the spectrum (high functioning) and that makes for odd communication sometimes. So I have to be open about hey, I heard X, and that hurt. It’s hard to say that, and say it in such a way that the other person doesn’t automatically get defensive. I’m getting better. Open communication usually resolves the problem and relieves the need for forgiveness.

    People who hurt me casually get forgiven quickly. The woman in the grocery store who says something rude about my mask decoration, the friend who used to be close but is now too busy to get together, and so forth, induce anger that fades quickly. We humans are all flawed. I hope that people forgive my flaws, and I try to do the same.

    Then there is the emotional abuse from my childhood, that came from people who were only trying to be the best parents they could be, based on the flawed parenting that they, themselves, received. My parents are long dead, but it is healing for me to be able to forgive them. Some stuff I’ve forgiven. Some, I haven’t, especially the thoughtless cruelty that would never be inflicted on someone who wasn’t immediate family. I don’t believe I or anyone else get to be rude to my household, as though they’ve exempt from the basic civility and respect due any random person. If the abuse had been intentional, if it had been done to try to break me or hurt me intentionally, forgiveness would be extremely difficult if not impossible.

    I’m not sure I’m capable of forgiving physical abuse, which I didn’t receive. I’m absolutely certain I’m not capable of forgiving sexual abuse, especially of a minor. The effect on the psyche of that kind of abuse is monstrous. The predator gets X amount of gratification, and inflicts 10 to the X power harm.

    The notion that a perpetrator hurts someone, confesses it to God, is therefore forgiven, and so the victim must forgive, is weaponized theology. Adults of unimpaired cognitive ability who teach/preach immediately become abusers of the victim. Additionally, I really wonder about people who wholeheartedly worship a God who believes that; while I dipped my toe in Evangelicalism, I never had anyone tell me that, and my conception of God was never of an asshole who didn’t care that I was hurt, and didn’t demand at least an apology to me before he’d grant his forgiveness. But then, I was raised Catholic, and in confession I would be told to go apologize to people I hurt, in order to get God’s forgiveness.

    • Avatar
      Ann Lo

      So paradoxical that they who preach morality and accountability every chance they get, rail and wail when they themselves are held accountable. Hypocrites.

  11. Avatar
    Dennis Russell

    I know exactly what you are saying here. I have been estranged from my family since my mother died in early 1987. The entire concept of family means nothing to me now. Especially since my half brother managed to pry $25000 from the will that he was not entitled to even thought we were both told from a young age who was to get what. He manipulated my mother on her death bed to sign the will he wrote and had it notarized on the spot when I wasn’t there. And then lied about it afterwards. My “family” wasn’t there when I was homeless and I fought my way out on my own. I too am crippled by arthritis and live on Social Security. Forgive them? Hell no! I also don’t give praises to invisible entities that I don’t believe exist. I have enough to do just to survive every day. That’s hard enough work.

  12. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Bruce. I was looking at the posts today, it’s been a real crazy time lately, I’m dealing with a ” missing person” situation among the homeless community, and I’m not ready to think the man in question is dead- not yet– but this ties in with a form of what I’ll call ” toxic forgiveness,” the sort most promoted by the
    conservative churches especially, and how THIS relates to narcissism,which doesn’t come up often enough. I’m absolutely convinced that when it comes to forgiving someone, it’s asier to do,if you know you don’t have to deal with them anymore. Otherwise,the anger you’d feel towards them will turn inward. This can make people lean towards suicides. In looking at religious narcissism,a lot comes up, and commenters recounted the excuses that enablers of such behavior defend, like ” you only have one family,” or they can’t help it.” On and on it goes. I read Teed Off’s article on forgiveness. It wasn’t as harsh as expected, though because he blatantly defends abusive people,I don’t trust his assessment of things. Nniedo one should put any stock in what he says, see it as a comical rant on his part. But,what IS creepy, are all these videos out lately, about how mere unforgiveness will keep a Christian out of heaven. Or the new videos out, stating that make-up,or hairstyles, coloring can do that. Lots of fearmongering stuff popped up on my phone,like Lion of Judah’s. Anyone run into that yet ? Which is why it makes sense to put hundreds of miles between you and a former abuser. The hate does fade away in time on it’s own, but with acts of child abuse, one can take legal action. It’s illegal,after all- that’s what I tell anyone wondering about justice denied by churches. They always harp about obeying the laws of the land. So, there you have it !

  13. Avatar
    Astreja

    I see forgiveness as an internal process that is outside one’s conscious control – I believe that it is a spontaneous unconscious process that may or may not happen.

    Demanding that someone say the words “I forgive you” is futile if there is no underlying sentiment of forgiveness; it is mere theatre for the benefit of the unforgiven person and their allies.

    Actively trying to forgive someone is no good, either; and IMO can be psychologically damaging to the person trying to forgive, because it sets them up for cognitive dissonance and other problems. Imagine for a moment that you’re trying to forgive someone who hurt you, and that you’re not emotionally in a position to do it. You now have the added burden of failure compounding the pain.

    Forgiveness isn’t for everyone, and for me, forgiveness without restitution is a non-starter.

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Bruce Gerencser