What forgiving is and isn’t, part 4

Forgiving and boundaries

Get ready to read an interesting and unusual dinner menu and much more.

First, let’s review what we’ve learned about What Forgiving Is and Isn’t so far.

Point #1: Forgiving is not condoning.
Point #2: Forgiving can be done with or without any acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
Point #3: Forgiving is essential for me and my relationships.
Point #4: Forgiving doesn’t mean reconciling.
Point #5: Forgiving is not a transaction.
Point #6: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring wrongdoing.

Point #7: Forgiving doesn’t mean rejecting or sabotaging natural consequences.
Remember Point #3: Forgiving is essential for me and my relationships.

Our relationships need forgiving and natural consequences to be healthy.

God’s way
When I think of forgiving, I think of words like love, mercy, kindness and compassion. When I think about natural consequences, I think of words like wisdom, discernment, problem-solving and courage. When I think of these two things together—forgiving and natural consequences—I think of these concepts: untangled, freedom and walking in the right direction. Thanks be to God for forgiveness and for natural consequences. In the Song for Healing at the end of this post, we’ll celebrate and glorify the Lord.

Our way
When I forgive but fail to consider and follow through on the appropriate next steps—the natural consequences, the “What now?”—I’m basically saying, “You’re forgiven. And, by the way, go right ahead and do the same thing again tomorrow.” Now I know that’s not what we consciously think. But when we refuse to think about and react reasonably to what just happened, that “Go ahead and do it again,” ridiculous-sounding statement is the reality of what we’ve communicated—loud and clear.

Failing to communicate says a lot.
Failing to have a positive impact reinforces negative behavior.
Failing to make a choice is—in itself—making a choice.

Today we’re going to dig into some of the reasons why we forgive and then choose to reject natural consequences. We’ll also continue exploring Point #7 in the next post.

Dysfunctional families
I’ll be the first to say that seeing and responding appropriately to problems is much easier said than done for many of us. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you were trained to ignore and tolerate bad behavior. You were taught that bad behavior was normal or perhaps even praise-worthy. My parents trained me to be polite, to say what other people wanted to hear and to ignore problems. Truth and wisdom were irrelevant. It was my job to be liked by other people, regardless of who they were or whether they were decent or evil. That is pathetic. And dangerous.

Why we reject natural consequences
Seemingly-healthy adults reject natural consequences for a variety of reasons.

1. Laziness
Sometimes we’re just plain lazy and we don’t want to deal with the problem at hand. We hope, naïvely, that the problem will magically go away. Not likely.

2. Fear of rejection
Other times, we don’t want to feel the discomfort of being disliked or disapproved of by someone else. This is really our fear of rejection. It’s hard to let go of being a People Pleaser. Here’s my favorite go-to verse on that subject: Galatians 1:10.

3. Training as children/familiarity of bad behavior
Some of us were trained by our parents to sit down, shut up and ignore the elephant in the room; I mean, the control freak with the personality disorder—or some other abusive/neglectful behavior. When we encounter someone similar to the people we grew up with, we don’t think anything of their atrocious behavior. We’ve seen it all before. We figure it’s normal. Yikes.

4. Lack of guidance about identifying and/or solving problems
For some of us, while we were growing up, no one showed us how to identify or solve real problems. We just stay on auto pilot, loping along, not having a clue. We feel like HSWBs—High-Schoolers With Bills—still making the same mistakes, still wondering when life will start to make sense.

5. Fear of anger
Depending on the type of abuse or neglect we encountered, either while we were growing up or in our adult lives, we can be fearful of other people’s anger, retaliation, etc. That fear can keep us silent for a long time. A very long time.

Different flavors
There are many different flavors of dysfunctional families. Let’s take a field trip and order some dinner at The Dysfunctional Family Diner.

The Dysfunctional Family Diner
Dinner Menu

Explosive Anger Mushroom Cloud (I mean Mushroom Caps)
PTSD Pizza Rolls
Addiction Alley Artichoke Dip
Sniper Attack Cheeseburger Sliders

I’m-So-Smart Salad Wedge
I’m-So-Rich Waldorf Salad
I’m-So-Talented Taco Salad
I’m-So-Special Caesar Salad

Anxiety Asparagus Soup
Depressed Tomato Bisque

Cool-As-A-Cucumber Cola
Drunk-As-A-Skunk Drink Bar with Free Refills

Main Courses
Troublemaking T-Bone
Chaotic, Complaining Crab Legs
Safety-In-Silence Steak
Drama Queen Deep-Dish Pizza
Codependent Chicken Fried Chicken
Look-At-Me! Look-At-Me! Lobster

Side Dishes
Gossip-Extraordinaire Spicy Soufflé
Control Freak Corn-On-The-Cob

Frozen Fruit Pops ~ Various Flavors
Violent Chocolate Volcano Cake with Strawberry Lava & Melted Vanilla Victims (I mean Ice Cream)

Disclaimer: The Dysfunctional Family Diner is not responsible for explosions, burns, injuries, food poisoning, trauma, amnesia, hospitalizations or death. We do not carry insurance. Eat at your own risk.

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. Do some of those menu items sound familiar? Yes, sirree.

Many different scenarios create the same difficulties:
Inability to see and identify problems,
and lack of skills to deal with them.

Today we looked briefly at these five common reasons why we forgive and then reject natural consequences.

1. Laziness
2. Fear of rejection
3. Training as children/familiarity of bad behavior
4. Lack of guidance about identifying and/or solving problems
5. Fear of anger

Have you had difficulty with any of these? I sure have. We’ll dig into the third reason in a later post.

Loving vs. enabling
Sometimes parenting wakes us up in many ways and helps our brains to start thinking in a Natural Consequences Way.

When our son Logan left a homework assignment at home and asked me to bring it to him at school, I had a decision to make. Taking it to him would reinforce his forgetfulness. Turning in the assignment late and getting the “ding” (i.e., lower grade) would teach him something—something he needed to learn. Now I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I never took something to him at school. I did. A homework assignment, a lunch, etc. I tried to take into account the person and the situation. Were there other issues in his life contributing to his forgetfulness or lack of organization? Unusual stresses? Unusual circumstances, like his grandma being close to death? These things matter. There are times to give grace. There are also times when we’re enabling problems.

We need to ask ourselves, “What is the most loving thing I can do right now?” In other words, “What will be best for the other person in the long run?” There came a point when I told our son, “Logan, this is the last time.” I meant it, he knew it, and he took care of business thereafter. I forgave him for his forgetfulness and he lived with natural consequences—Terrific Teaching Tools. When he forgot something, he took the ding and moved on.

Today’s key issue, Point #7, says Forgiving doesn’t mean rejecting or sabotaging natural consequences. This truth is closely related to Point #6: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring wrongdoing. When I fail to respond reasonably to what just happened (Point #7), I’m basically pretending that it didn’t happen (Point #6). Just because I forgive someone doesn’t mean I will turn my brain off and ignore what’s been going on.

The still, small voice
Here’s an example. A close friend of mine that I call Isobel drastically tapered off her contacts with me and then disappeared. About a year after the last time we saw each other, she sent me the most bizarre birthday card/note. Every word in it was a lie and I knew it. When I read it, I shook my head—completely disgusted. I felt like she’d just puked all over me. The glib remarks, the clichés, the excuses. Happy Birthday to me. I was planning to shred the card; but the still, small voice inside my mind said, “Oh, no. You’re going to respond.” I was like, Seriously? My son turns 16 next week. That’s a big birthday. Really? “Yes.”

So I did. I wrote the letter and I mailed it. The key point was this: To have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. Problem-solving mattered more than “polite,” socially-acceptable silence. God asked me, clearly, not to ignore the wrongdoing or reject natural consequences. He was right.

Problem ignoring vs. problem solving
Point #6, Point #7 and the situation with Isobel demonstrate boundary issues.

Ignoring wrongdoing and rejecting natural consequences
are choices that perpetuate problems.

Translation: Problem ignoring is a serious problem. If you haven’t read the masterpiece book, Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend, I highly recommend it. That book really helped me.

What do I mean when I say boundaries? Here are the basics from the first series.

Boundaries are where you draw the line between yourself and other people, including what is and isn’t acceptable behavior and what is and isn’t your responsibility. You are not responsible for another capable adult’s happiness. You are not responsible for maintaining the status quo.

What Isobel did to me was unacceptable and the Lord asked me to communicate that directly with her, so I did. I forgave her and I know God is working in her life.

Communicating vs. stewing
Last week I got my first-ever, really high-quality stainless-steel pan. My husband Brandon found it online, we talked about it, and he bought it for me. What a sweetie. The old, scratched-up Walmart pan needed to go bye-bye. Big time. The morning after my shiny new pan arrived, Brandon seasoned it. I didn’t want it seasoned. I wanted it to be shiny. When I looked at my brand new, best-ever pan and it was brown on the inside, I was extremely unhappy about it, to say the least.

First step
Brandon thought he was helping me. Clearly, he misunderstood what I meant when I said I wanted a shiny, stainless-steel pan. After I had successfully scrubbed all the brown garbage off the bottom, I attempted to communicate my unhappiness without totally wigging out. Since we were both working from home during this COVID-19 season, I emailed him a screen print of a strong recommendation from Dr. Google—so it had to be true, right? “You never season stainless steel.” That was my first step. I didn’t want to totally go off. I knew he thought he was helping me. It was kind of like when your preschooler paints something cute on something that wasn’t supposed to be painted on, and says, “Mommy! Look what I made for you!” You know what I mean.

Comparing cookware to guns
Later that day, I communicated, relatively calmly, that the pan was mine, not ours. Brandon was surprised by that part. I also said, “If I wanted a brown pan, I would’ve gotten a brown pan.” I mentioned that when he gets a new gun, I don’t get up the next morning and start modifying or “improving” it. That would be majorly uncool. I thought the gun thing would make sense to him. It did. He understood and apologized very sincerely. More than once. I liked that. I forgave him and I said somberly, “Don’t touch my new pan.” Maybe that was a little too strong. I can admit that. I also said, “Don’t ever season any stainless-steel pots or pans in this kitchen. Ever.” He agreed not to. Obviously, Brandon knew that my “Don’t touch my new pan” remark wasn’t really what I meant. A couple days later, he handwashed it and I thanked him for that. Whew. Two problems solved—his “helping” and my overreacting.

Silent stew
If I had forgiven Brandon without telling him what had upset me, I may have been left eating Silent Stew—never tasty, and the daily leftovers get really old. Stewing and rehashing the offense in my own mind would definitely stress me out. Then when Brandon seasoned the pan again—to help me out—I may have launched a ballistic missile (or a frying pan) at him, if you know what I mean. Gathering my own composure, for the most part, and taking care of things in a timely manner—right person, right place, right time—worked really well. Happy sigh.

Many years
Have I always handled things in this mature, timely, grown-up kind of way? Uhhh…, no. I grew up in The We-Don’t-Talk-About-It Family, so speaking up, saying what someone else might not want to hear, confronting problems, etcetera and so forth, did not come naturally or easily for me. It took me years to become truthful and courageous. Many, many years.

Same page
You’re probably thinking, Frankie Ann, you totally blew it on the natural consequences when you scrubbed the pan! Touché. You’re absolutely right and I’m guilty as charged. But here’s the thing. Knowing my Brandon—the farm kid who’s a little rough around the edges and re-engineers things—he might have attacked the pan with a blow torch or a grinder and totally ruined it. For the protection of my pan and my sanity, I opted to clean the mess. Please don’t hold that against me. Sometimes the best natural consequence to a misunderstanding is good ol‘ effective communication. Brandon truly meant well when he seasoned my new pan. We just weren’t on the same page. Now we are.

A wonderful combo
Forgiving and natural consequences are a wonderful combination, kind of like a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That makes me think about my pal Charlene. Her birthday was coming up and I said, basically: “Hey, our favorite restaurant is reopening on Friday. Where would you like to go for your birthday? We can go to our usual place; I can bring us PBJs and we can meet at a park; or whatever sounds good to you.” She opted for the PBJs at the park. I love that. Happy Birthday, Charlene!

Coming next: We’ll dig more into Point #7: Forgiving doesn’t mean rejecting or sabotaging natural consequences. Come back for The Crazy Game 3.0, a boomerang and more. Thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace. 

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Psalm 34

Song for Healing: Celebrate the goodness of the Lord with Shane & Shane as they sing “Psalm 34 – Taste and See.”

Experience “Psalm 34” along with The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Glorious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *