Still Crazy After All These Years

Since the mass exodus from our CLB over a year ago, my husband and I have experienced the reconciliation of many of our relationships that were severed during our years of isolation. For the most part, this has been really positive.

However, in recent months, I have been aware of emotions stirred up that I thought were put to rest. In the process of walking with people who have just entered detox, we have encountered bits and pieces of the stories that have been told about us. No really big surprises, just details that make sense and cause us to say, “no wonder.”

One of the things which has come up repeatedly is the extent to which my former best friend went to to imply scandal concerning my husband. Hearing these stories has required that I step back into the cycle of forgiveness and letting go of offense and judgment.

The other thing that I struggle with is that in spite of the fact that some of the falseness at the church has been exposed, we personally were not automatically vindicated. While people feel free to talk to us now, many have not reconsidered what they were told about us for several years. Many still believe there was some sort of tawdry scandal in our lives. The tarnish still remains.

It was in this frame of mind that I recently encountered my former best friend at the coffee shop. It was like entering the Twilight Zone. No one shuns me anymore, so I wasn’t really prepared for this encounter.

She was there with another former close friend of mine, and I was with ex-CLBers who are mutual friends. During the 5-10 minutes we stood at their table visiting, she completely ignored my presence in spite of the fact that I was less than 3 feet from her. Apparently I was the only one of the group deserving of this special treatment.

Shunning is a group game that requires a target, who is being punished for deviating from established norms.

The Emotional Payoff: “We feel more powerful because we can punish people.”

Exposing the Game: Shunning can be difficult to expose, because denial of the game’s existence is an integral part of the game itself. Attempts to get shunning players to admit their tactics make the target appear needy and pathetic.

(from Secrets to Winning at Office Politics)

In the moment, I was struggling with my inner dialogue. This conversation from Barb’s blog was reverberating in my mind as I struggled with how to respond.

Barb: I will not slink around them though as if I have done something wrong any more though. I will not play the game any longer as if I deserve to be shunned. If someone is uncomfortable talking to me I am apt to ask them why all the discomfort. If they ignore me, I am apt to ask why they do that. If they pretend that everything is just fine, I may ask why they are pretending with me when I know they have huge problems with me.

My response: I do believe that for the people specifically responsible for the abuse, the public facade of niceness is an extension of the abuse forcing you to once again participate in covering up their falseness.

You see, I know her well enough to know exactly what she was doing and why she was doing it. I also know that I am not deserving of that kind of treatment and that it is part of the dysfunctional game that has been played for so many years. I don’t want to play the game anymore.

Somewhere between calling out the elephant in the room and refusing to play the nice game, I became mute. I walked away thinking, “that was really bizarre.” I was frustrated and disappointed with my response and lack of engagement.

Ever since then, I have been wrestling with the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Shack says, “Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.”

I can and have forgiven. The responsibility for this broken relationship is not mine. It wasn’t my choice, and my friend has not expressed any interest in reconciliation. Good, I’m off the hook. Or am I?

What is my degree of responsibility for reconciliation? It seems everywhere I turn, people are writing about forgiveness.

From the book Ain’t Too Proud to Beg:

The forgiveness that Jesus’ subjects show to each other and to every neighbor, stranger, and enemy extends the fruit of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth, actualizes the atonement, and renews creation. We who receive forgiveness are newly created and newly restored, and we who offer it are co-creators and co-redeemers, deputies of the King.

Prayer for persecutors and love of enemies presupposes forgiveness of debtors. Jesus has prefaced his prayer with the command to go to any brother or sister or accuser who has something against us and be reconciled.

Peggy’s post, When Enemy Wears the Mask of Friend contains these wise thoughts:

Most of the people who are at the center of wounds in my memory are supposed to be my friends, not my enemies. It is an important thing to bring “enemy” closer to home, just as it is an important thing to bring “sin” down to not choosing to love…As we look at the faces of those who have wounded us, we must recognize the image — the cracked Eikon — of God.

May I have the courage, first, to call the name “enemy” where, in truth, it lies … and then to ask the Holy Spirit to do a work in my heart and memory that results in power for forgiveness of and love for and restoration of the name Eikon where Enemy once sat.

Alan Knox addressed reconciliation in his recent series on Matthew 18:

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Peter understood that if his brother sinned against him and then reconciled, sinned against him and then reconciled, sinned against him and then reconciled…he may have to continue to humble himself and go to his brother and seek reconciliation… how many times? Surely seven times would be enough. Surely, Jesus, if I do this seven times, doesn’t this show that my brother really isn’t concerned about me and that I shouldn’t forgive him any longer?

Larry Chouinard’s thoughts on Matthew 18:

In the Kingdom the offended pursues the offender so that together they can experience the transforming power of reconciliation. There are no cold wars in the Kingdom, either you are working for peace and restored relationships, or you are part of a dysfunctional body. It is in this pursuit of peace that Jesus promises to be in our midst.

Too often the values of the Kingdom are gutted and muted by the hypothetical and the failure to imagine the possibilities. If you are counting how many times you’ve forgiven someone, you’re not really forgiven them, only postponing revenge.

I don’t know what reconciliation would look like in this situation. I am not really interested in a restored friendship. Whatever reconciliation might look like, it would start with me letting go of my right to truth and justice and being friendly in the face of ongoing rejection and arrogance. I am willing to be humiliated by this person who wants to punish me, if I can remember that there is a bigger picture than what I am experiencing in the moment.

When a friend who witnessed this encounter invited me to coffee recently, she asked if I might prefer to go somewhere where an encounter would be less likely.

I said, “No, I would welcome a do-over. Perhaps I will do better next time.”

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25 thoughts on “Still Crazy After All These Years

  1. Barb,
    It would probably look like me taking the lead to sincerely greet her and inquire about her life. It would mean that I would have to overlook her exaggerated efforts to avoid eye contact and interrupt the conversation she busily engaged in to avoid “seeing” me.

    To be honest, I’d rather not go there. But I am convicted enough to think that is perhaps exactly where I need to go. At first, I wondered if I should actually initiate a meeting with her, but I don’t feel like I’m supposed to do that, at least not yet.

    Also, I almost added a disclaimer to this post, because I don’t believe this applies to every situation and relationship that results from spiritual abuse. In fact, in many situations, the timing and circumstances are not right for pursuing reconciliation. I would be most likely to advise against it.

    However, for me, at this time, in this relationship, this is how I feel led to respond.

  2. Grace, the sad thing is that your friend is living with voluntary barriers between relationship. If she’s doing it to you, she’s probably doing in in other parts of her life. In cutting off her relationships, she cutting off her ability to see God’s reflection in those people. That’s sad.

    Chances are she’s blind and depressed and sees no way out of her bind. If she embraces relationship with you she’s putting her other relationships at risk.

    I’m not excusing her. I just think its more restorative to find compassion for those who are lost and hurting.

    One thing to consider in what to do is what would you want her to do if the shoes were switched. What would love invite you to do to draw her out of her oppression. The thing about love is that is bugs people. They hate when we’re love, when they are not. That was the brilliance of non-violent resistance. It makes aggression look silly.

  3. Grace, I once had a similar situation. It was so awkward to stand there and talk with others in the group, and realize that for all purposes I was invisible to this person. A very strange feeling.

    One day I spotted this person across a crowded room. This person looked at me and then looked away as though I’d not been seen. Something wonderfully crazy just rose up in me right then: I LOUDLY called out this person’s name, threw my arms wide open, and raced toward the person, and when I reached the person, hugged them close in an embrace and said, “It’s so good to see you!” I did this every single time I saw this person. There was no escape for them and they could not pretend I was invisible :-). We never had any deep talks or anything like that, but at least now it’s very comfortable to see them.

    I’m not recommending this to you or anyone else. I just thought I’d share what crazy things can happen when love rises up in our heart toward someone so broken. It broke down the wall, even though no deep friendship will probably ever be established there.

  4. Can I just say, man that sucks! I had a best friend once who did the same and became a major source of gossip. That kind of broken trust and betrayal really sucks. It’s so lame that this kind of immature stuff goes on among people who are identifying themselves as Christ followers.

    I am so looking forward to a day when we actually follow Jesus instead of just call ourselves Jesus followers, and we actually are known by our love for one another. This kind of behavior just shows how political and territorial the church can be – living in little kingdoms of men rather than living the kingdom of God.

    I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, because only God truly sees the whole picture. But I wonder about those verses that talk about hidden reefs in our love feasts, and wolves among the sheep. I don’t have that all sorted out…

  5. jonathan and tracy,
    Exactly! The problem with the first encounter was that I had truth at the forefront of my mind. I think the difference with another encounter would be that I would choose love in spite of the potential for a rude response.

    sarah,
    I think for reconciliation at a deeper level, truth would have to be addressed.

    For anyone reading this,
    This is what I am dealing with 4 years after the initial abuse. As a factor of time and God’s grace, my feelings about all of this are mostly healed of the pain of this experience.

    I want to be really careful not to suggest that a victim of abuse who is raw and vulnerable should have to pursue reconciliation with their abusers. Initially, forgiving and healing is the most important task, and interaction with the abusers is not likely to facilitate healing.

  6. Where did you find that picture? LOL!!! It pretty much says it all.

    Is it possible, that under the snobby exterior lies someone who feels guilty and shameful and needs to know she is forgiven?

    It’s tricky though. It can be kind of presumptuous of us to go up to someone and say “Just so you know, I forgive you for all the crappy stuff you did to me”. Somehow I don’t think that would work.

    So how do we let someone know we forgive them with us without actually bringing up the past offences in case the other person doesn’t really know what they did wrong and we don’t want to hash it out with them? But we suspect they know and feel guilty about it.

    This is a hypothetical question that I am asking for a friend…….okay it’s really for me. :)

    By the way – I love Tracey’s response. That was really courageous and selfless. Not that it would work in my case because there is good communication with my offender. There is just this underlying residue from the past.

  7. Wow…I just had the strangest dream 2 nights ago about this very thing…

    It was my former pastor’s wife that was the one that appeared to generally want to greet me during a unplanned encounter, but I was picking something off my head & was slightly distracted & surprised by the gesture…

    Anyway, the setting of the dream sequence an odd mix of dreamy stuff, but it was a worship team thing that I was walking away from & the scene changed to a larger gathering…

    I avoided the hug, but thought the whole thing very strange & as I turned to look back she was doing some strange incantation over a big bowl or container that was smoking or steaming…like she was praying or in a trance or whatever…

    Anyway, it had the same themes being discussed here & it contained the one person that was the cause of my greatest church abuse experience…

    Eerie…

  8. Grace, Would it be wrong to just say to her, “It is good to see you. I have a question though. I just talked to _______ recently and they have said that you inferred that there was a scandal regarding our leaving. Could we sit down and have a conversation about this someday soon?”

    I think it would especially be good done in the very setting that you mentioned. These people need to be addressed in public and I’m think that actually pulling the elephant out from the closet would be the best for everyone involved. Maybe if these people understand that there are consequences for thier actions they will rethink doing it to the next person.

    This does not mean we walk in unforgiveness. I have forgiven. (I think) I am not wanting them to “pay” for what they have done. But I feel that to say nothing does not open any form of reconciliation with them and allows them to think they can continue their behaviors with no consequences.

    Just still thinking.

  9. Great thoughts Barb. My heart rate shot up 100 beats at your example. I am sure there would be dropped jaws all around.

    It is definitely an interesting thought. ;)

  10. ruth,
    For the picture, I googled “snob”. LOL.

    Imagining your scenario, I would try to create a time to bring it up. Rather than telling her you forgive her, I would tell her that you feel like there’s an underlying awkwardness about the situation. Then tell her that because you value your relationship with her, you would really like to just get everything on the table and put it to rest for good so that neither of you have to feel uncomfortable about it.

    Hypothetically. ;)

    joseph,
    I’m humming the Twilight Zone theme for you.

  11. hey grace, it is weird that you posted this today because just last night at our house of refuge the topic was forgiveness. it was a continuation of last week & the person facilitating brought up the idea of how damaging the message “forgive & forget” has been for so many & just how tricky and ongoing true forgiveness really is. we listened to a brief and powerful piece by dan allender that talks about this issue and he says a few very important things. that forgiving doesn’t mean we will never still feel anger, hurt, or a desire for justice in the future. that is the good part of our humanness, it means we are human enough to feel instead of cut ourselves off from it. i think it was freeing to a lot of us to be reminded of that because some of us have been taught that our hurt/anger/etc that still exists means we haven’t fully forgiven and we always have more work to do to achieve forgiveness perfection. forgiveness doesn’t mean never feeling anything related to it ever again. the other thing that i thought was really good was the idea that love changes people. if we show up with “strength” and “mercy” (two distinguishing characteristics of God that can be reflected in us) people are changed. they either harden or soften, but they don’t stay the same. the question then becomes, what does it mean to love the person who hurt me and to what point? sometimes the loving thing to do is to break relationship, sometimes forever, sometimes for a while, and sometimes we are confronted, like you were, with the reality of the pain again in some weird way like a chance encounter in a coffee shop with someone you don’t want to be in relationship with but you also don’t want to have power over you in any way, shape or form that is damaging to your spirit. so i wonder what it then means to possibly to love her, to show up with strength & mercy in that relationship? oh no answers or advice here, just a lot to ponder….

  12. ps: forgot to add just yesterday i went into a coffee shop that was right across from my old church with a friend who lived nearby. i had maybe been there once or twice since i left at the most. i prayed “please God, let me not see anyone i know here…i really, really can’t do that today.” still crazy, over two years later.

  13. Grace,

    WOW! What a trip, indeed. I will pray for you, sister, that the Holy Spirit will guide you concerning both the timing and the approach.

    I think the point isn’t to confront in public, but to be gracious in public — with a simple greeting like, “Hello ___, I am happy to see you and hope that you are well.”

    No dig, no barb … but the affection you know is owed to her as your sister in Christ — out of respect for Christ — not as an act of reciprocity, either positive or negative.

    Papa is especially fond of her, I’ve heard … and perhaps, just perhaps, he is hoping that you will be part of the work She and Sophia are trying to get at in her heart! …if you’re following me out of the Twilight Zone and into that cave under the waterfall….

    Hard…very hard. Only possible by Sarayu’s power animating the encounter. I know because I’m three years into this situation myself…

    Shalom, truly … when the “do-over” presents itself.

  14. You know Grace – I hate to be the total rebel and make light of all of this (not really) ….. but ……. I think

    you should invite your ex-best friends over for one of those Guinness dark brews … or maybe a little closer to home – a Killian’s Irish Red…

    oh – sorry – maybe that would be adding insult to injury…. (I’d like to see the looks on their faces though)

  15. Here’s the thing … and I’m going to be going against the stream here. And before I say anymore about this, I have to say I’m of two minds about what I’m about to write. Part of me thinks it’s a wimpy, super-avoidant thing to do. Another part of me … well … here it is.

    Forgiveness is a one-way street. When you forgive someone (to use language from The Shack) you take your hands from around their neck. You release them from the judgment they deserve. But it’s an action that takes place between you and God. And, as kathy says, it’s ongoing … sometimes a forever thing.

    Reconciliation is a two-way street and implies that there was a previous relationship that was broken and can be repaired. It also implies that both parties understand the brokenness and understand the wrongs done. AND … this is key … both parties must desire restoration of the relationship.

    Forgiveness you can do by yourself. Reconciliation requires that the other person/party be involved. And here’s the deal … what if they don’t want to be involved again? There comes a point where our (the victim’s) desire to bring up the truth, even in pursuit of reconciliation and restoration, can become an act that turns vengeful. IOW … when is the pursuit of truth just a simple journey to clarity and restoration and when is it an act seeking judgment?

    The former friend may be ready to face her part in your shunning. But she may not be. She may not want to invest in reconciliation and restoration … the price may be too high. Those are hard things to look at … and I’m sure you have.

    Because unlike a quilt block, she can’t be taken apart and resewn to fit in nicely with the rest of the quilt. So the quilt is going to look a bit wonky until (or maybe never) she decides to face this. But it’s her choice … and that’s the really, really hard thing to give away.

  16. Interesting discussion everyone.

    kathy,
    The encounter revealed to me that I have work to do in my heart in regard to what it means for me to love her at this point. Like I said in the post, I would like to think that I am off the hook with just forgiving, but I don’t know.

    Peggy,
    Your words reflect what I am feeling, a grace extended beyond what I want to give and what I feel she deserves from a sincere love for her rooted in Christ’s love. (still working on that part)

    jerry,
    I actually considered an invitation, but if I did that I would have to have a 3rd party along. I’m not willing to put myself in a situation for additional unsubstantiated gossip to be started again. I was thinking coffee. ;)

    sonja,
    You bring up some great points about reconciliation and restoration.

    As I think about our particular situation, there are 3 main players – my former friend, my husband’s former friend (the apostle), and the pastor who instigated everything (nobody’s friend).

    I feel no responsibility beyond forgiveness toward the other two. So why is this different? I don’t know.

    I agree that reconciliation is a two way street and that I am not responsible for her response. Full reconciliation would require truth and open hearts on both sides and cannot be imposed from one side.

    What I am feeling is that it is my responsibility to open the door to reconciliation on my side of the street. Not as an act of aggression or revenge, but rather as an act of extending love and mercy.

    At this time, this simply looks like kindness in the face of rejection.

    Do I expect that any of them would step through that door of reconciliation? Not really. There is still work required in my heart because I don’t really want them to.

    That’s just where I’m at today. And it’s all a bit wonky. ;)

  17. Sonja, wise words. Great stuff. I’m glad you went with the side of you that said to post it ;)

    Grace, I definitely hear you on all of this. I have wrestled with this for a long time (4 years, to be exact) in our own situations.

    At this time, this simply looks like kindness in the face of rejection.

    Exactly. I think you are right on about this. My prayers are with you, my sister.

  18. I always seem to jump in last…*sigh*. Wow great feedback here. I would like to add that Grace I too would like to think that forgiveness gets me off the hook. But forgiveness is a life long journey. It has to be worked out daily. When I am offended/hurt/slandered/my charactor assasinated I am cut deep. The wounds are there in spite of the forgiveness. Only Jesus can heal them when we present them to Him. Perhaps He is letting you know that it is time to take that next step in the healing?
    I agree fully with the reconciliation dialog. To be reconciled speaks to me of the reconciliation of the heart. YOUR heart. The friendship is broken. Severed. She is still your sister in Christ but to what degree do you HAVE to have a relationship with her? You don’t. She is not trustworthy. Therefore you would be casting God’s pearls (you) before swine. Tough language but true. We have to be good stewards with US too.

  19. I have a tremendous number of “wonky” pieces in my patchwork quilt, Sonja! LOL! More along the lines my grandma would call a “Crazy Quilt”. ;)

    I’m right with you, Grace. Being willing to open the door is not the same as projecting that everything is restored. It is an offer to begin. Maybe an offer to turn the other cheek. It is a fine line between this and casting pearls … and only the Holy Spirit can show you what and when and how.

    Shalom….

  20. joseph,
    I’m humming the Twilight Zone theme for you.

    Yeah, or else arrange an exorcism… :)

    Might of just been the pizza…

  21. ok, i read part of this at work earlier today and the rest just now…lots of great comments and perspectives. grace, i do pray that God will show you what to do whether that involves initiating something or simply responding differently when you get your “do over.” also, i appreciate your disclaimer because i think that there needs to be caution used when spiritual abuse has taken place. also, i think there are times when people do not even realize they have abused. a month or so ago, i was talking with a new friend of mine and telling her about some of my situation (note: i was very vague and did not go into details about what went on)…anyway, i did mention there were issue/difficulties with people involved and she asked if i had sent them a letter about it (they live quite far away). i hadn’t really thought about that, but was not very excited at the idea nor motivated to write such a letter. ok…then last week was talking to someone who was in the situation with me…it was a very good conversation and i mentioned the letter writing thing. however, we realized that (at this point) it would do no good and not be well received. that is, unless i wrote the letter and never sent it…only as a way of processing for me. the offending parties most likely do not even realize what they did because their behaviour was what they had seen modeled. sending such a letter would not be helpful at all because it would only stir things up and in their minds only prove how i am in the wrong. it is kinda nice that i live in a new place and away from my old church. no worries about running into people. :-) yet it also makes me sad because so much of my life had been related to the people their and now i have nothing to do with 99% of the people there. more so because i moved away then because i am being shunned. honestly, if i had not been part of the team that was sent out (church plant), i do not think i would have had the strenght/courage/ability to leave my church. indeed, i see God’s gracious hand leading me through the place of pain that leads to freedom.

    anyway, thanks again for a place to help process and find conversation that is helpful.

  22. Forgiveness is as important for the person forgiving as the one forgiven, perhaps more so. I like the thoughts here that forgiveness, at least at times, is a process not a one time event.

    Is reconciliation important? Yes, but as has been pointed out it takes more than one person for reconciliation to occur. People arrive at a willingness/ability to reconcile at different points in time. Both must be ready for reconciliation. So, it would seem that once a party is ready to reconcile it is important for the mto discern whether the other party is ready. If not, maybe nothing more than a statement that when the time is right reconciliation is being sought. This may have to be conveyed more than once.

    Once reconciliation occurs it certainly may not mean a return to the old relational status. For one thing the old relationship may have been built on an unstable foundation and there is no basis for a new, intimate relationship. So, reconciliation and a renewed intimate relationship are not necessarily the same thing, in my view. But it does seem a part of living at peace with ourselves is to be at peace with others, perhaps particularly those, with whom we have a broken relationship.

    Grace, as usual, a thought provoking post.

  23. I would really love to add to the debate here. Since Friday when I read the post, I thought there must be a book, a Dvd, some glibe remark to offer – I can’t find any – we’re off to our fellowship in an hour, this is what we will do – we will lift you up in our prayers –

    thing about reconciling is, we often assume all others around us think and act and respond much like us, they desire to heal fractured relationships – they don’t, not because I think they don’t want to but because in their life journey they happen to be at a different place, their pain is different to ours, their desires, their dreams, – so much different to ours.

    My son when he was 4 hurt him self badly, he screamed, he yelled, he cried – in my arms that night he slept, all forgotton the events of that day, the tears that fell on his cheeks that night were mine as I remembered his pain, my helplessness and my love for Him. We all deal with pain and hurt differently.

    No answers, no solutions but my prayers of peace this morning shall be for you.

    Peace.

  24. tara,
    Yes, I can only deal with the issues of my heart and whether I am willing for there to be peace in this relationship.

    davida,
    I wrote the letters never sent. It seems to me that there has to be repentance and openness before the truth can be spoken in an attempt at full reconciliation.

    traveller,
    Great point. I agree that reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean that an intimate relationship will be restored. But ultimately, we should be able to look at the person and feel at peace with them and love without the barb of offense.

    Thanks Mark,
    Complete reconciliation can only occur at the time when both parties desire it. Maybe as traveller said, indicating an openness to reconciliation is helpful.

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