Thursday, June 4, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

What would you suggest to someone who had misinterpreted the seriousness of a romantic relationship and when it ceased therefore felt betrayed and lied to by the other person, and now the other person is married, but this someone can’t reconcile with or be in the presence of this other person? Both are Christians.


Cassie-andra said...

Yet again, something I've been relating to a lot recently. Although the romantic situation wasn't the same, the lack of reconciliation was very much a facet of the messy end of this relationship. And that is something that must cease (unforgiveness) for the kingdom of God to thrive. Jesus calls us to be one, after all. Just hours before he was crucified, wasn't this the very prayer on his lips? My pastor wrote a book years ago titled "With a Church Like This, Who Needs Satan?"

I ended up visiting some friends in Cape Town just two weeks ago where this other part resides with the intentions of avoiding him at all costs. I would shudder at the sound of his name and was ecstatic when he moved so I would never have to be in the same room with him again. We had a messy end to a messy relationship where I was brought into a lot of guilt and pain. When speaking to one of my friends I began debating whether or not to call him. I thought I had forgiven him and thought it was okay that I didn't want to be near him at all. But I was soon convicted of my unforgiving heart and met him for a drink to yell at him, be honest, confess my own crimes in the matter, and finally reconcile to a point where I can say I am free of my past hurts, harbor no malice in my heart, and can live at peace knowing there are no rifts in my relationships, thus keeping the kingdom whole and unified (at least in my little pocket of life).

So that's my suggestion. There's freedom in forgiveness. No matter what the previous circumstance and misunderstandings there were, true forgiveness brings shalom.

Greg said...

Thanks. Helpful comments. So true and so glad that in the midst of the messiness you moved in this direction. Wonderful.

Broken relationships bring much pain. Forgiveness, which we are called to, can thankfully often lead to reconciliation and unity, but sometimes the latter will not be achieveable because trust cannot be re-established. I believe that in some cases like this, sadly the cross will not be able to mediate beyond forgiveness and structural mediation (separation to allow for renewed trust) will, at least temporarily, be the only way forward.

Susan Barnes said...

My experience has been that as Christians we sometimes rush into forgiving someone before we have honestly acknowledged exactly what it is we are forgiving them for. Sometimes the pain is so great we don’t want to think about it so we don’t genuinely forgive the person because we haven’t really acknowledged how much they have hurt us.

In the situation you describe I think the person needs to sit down with a counselor/pastor/mature Christian and work out how or why they misinterpreted the seriousness of the romantic relationship. It maybe that they didn’t misinterpret the other person but rather that the other person subconsciously gave the wrong messages, or even that they deliberately misled the person, or they were naïve about the messages they were giving.

Once the person knows how the problem happened they know whether to forgive the other person because they really did lie to them or whether they need to forgive themselves for being self-deceived and if they were self-deceived what were the issues that led to this.

When someone is deeply hurt I don’t think a process like this can be rushed. It may take months to work through why the person is feeling so hurt. It may be quite some time before they can cope with being in the presence of the other person which is acceptable as long as they are making some progress towards eventually being able to forgive the person.

I didn't mean to be so long winded but I think there are a lot of issues involved here.

Greg said...

Thanks for these perceptive thoughts. Very helpful.

I believe that imagination got way ahead of reality here and that was a good deal of what brought about the misinterpretation. Yet, the other person's reasons for the eventual split did not end up being entirely accurate either (though they may have been prior to meeting someone else).

Yes, time to heal is essential. Rejection attempts to empty the soul and harden the heart and time, under God's grace, can fill the former and soften the latter.

John said...

This hits dangerously close to home today.

Let's not forget, Susan, that forgiveness is a process. One day we make a choice to forgive, and then the next we have to make that choice again, sometimes multiple times a day, and eventually hopefully we arrive at a place of full forgiveness.

Interesting what you say, Greg, about "Rejection attempts to empty the soul and harden the heart and time, under God's grace, can fill the former and soften the latter." I'm definitely there, with the hardened heart and empty-ish soul. Not a fun place to be, and sometimes healing takes a lot longer than we hope it will.


Greg said...

Thanks. Loving and caring can take us far out of our comfort zone. So be it, as that zone is following in the footsteps of Christ. Hope that high doses of God's grace, embedded with mercy, will begin to encode your time and that this encoding will bring healing into the recesses of your life.

reneamac said...

This conversation caught my particular interest. I'm currently working on publishing a review of Laura Smit's Loves Me, Loves Me Not for the radio; so the topic of unrequited love is very near my thoughts right now.

I recommend the book, on lots of levels, but what I want to say here is that I appreciate what's been said thusfar by everyone; I'm impressed by the honesty, sensitivity, nuance, and grace with which this conversation have been seasoned.

What first jumped out to me was Greg's initial observation, "someone who had misinterpreted." I know that when I misinterpret situations, romantic or otherwise, there's no moving forward (toward shalom) until I'm able to see I was wrong. In this case, that requires reconciling one's alternate reality of the imagination with actual reality by first repenting of being imaginatively vicious. (I know a lot about this: writers' curse.)

So Susan's advice about trusted counsel and forgiving ourselves our self-deception, I think, is spot-on: empathetic, loving correction. Susan's also right about time, as John is about process.

What would I suggest? The truth in love, I hope: It's wrong to impose our imagination on others; we can't love someone seriously and do so. And it's wrong, as Cassie stated, not to move toward reconciliation. But moving toward true charity (love) is so difficult when we've been hurt. Especially since disciplining a vicious imagination is not an over-night affair. It helps, for me, having the lie that I'm alone in fighting my imagination-addiction dispelled.

Greg said...

Thanks so much for joining in the conversation with these wise words.

I agree with what you wrote about the problem of misinterpretation and its effects, as well as misimagination, if I can say it that way, and its power to create self deception. I'm so glad you picked up on these two key problematics and included them in your comment.

Coming back to reality can be a harsh awakening as interpretation and imagination have to reconnect with that which is real, although perhaps not to our benefit. The truth in love, however, opens us up to the O(o)ther and frees us lives our lives according to the economy of gift.

harry coe maynard said...


Charles Wesley had this problem, he was a minister in America. He was to marry a woman but she got tired of waiting and married someone else. He refused her Communion because he thought she was a hippocrite (she loved me and married someone else).

Her husband swore a warrant for his arrest on defamassion, Wesley hopped a horse and didn't stop till he got to England. Fortunately, for porterity, he met a Moravian on the boat who taught he Faith and grace and the Holy Spirit. The results was history.


Greg said...

Thanks for this Harry coe.