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How far is it reasonable to go in seeking forgiveness from someone?


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#1 Nemanja

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 07:04 PM

I am facing a problem due to my hot temper. There is a person who I insulted heavily, and now she won't forgive me. While the teaching of the Church requires us to do all that is "up to us" to make peace with someone, I find it hard to recognize the proper measure - how far do I need to go to do all that is "up to me"? I would say there is a border beyond which one would become a stalker. Having obsessive-compulsive disorder I find it extremely hard to recognize it - there is always a lingering doubt - did I REALLY do all I could?


I need to give you an example, as this is the worst conflict I have. I'll try to make it as short as possible. The story is with made up names. This is like a confession. Yes, I confessed this to my priest, and he told me I did everything I reasonably could, but I don't have peace. I thank every person who'll have enough patience to read this post, and give me their best advice. This is a LONG one.


My parents had a best man and a bridesmaid who were also a married couple. We'll call them the Smiths. It may be of importance to mention that it wasn't a Church wedding, and the Smiths aren't practicing Christians (neither are my parents). Anyway, they had been friends since about 1970. The Smiths have two daughters. The older one, we'll call her Sandy, is five years older than me, while the younger one, we'll call her Elena, is my age. Elena and I had been friends for almost our entire life, while I haven't been friends with Sandy, due to our age difference and very different characters.


It is safe to say that Sandy has been raised as a spoiled child, her parents' favorite, and fruits of this can be noticed to this day, even though we are all grown ups and she is over 40. My parents tolerated quite a few disparities in their friendship with the Smiths, but they always used to say: "They are not bad, they are just like that." Now, the spirit of this post is not to gossip, so I'll cut this part short. However, there was an important event 15 years ago and I have to mention it. Sandy got married in 1999, and while my parents were invited to the wedding, I wasn't.


Here's why that is important. Last year, I got married, and I insisted that we don't invite Sandy. It is clear that I don't like her very much and that I think that she wants a special treatment in everything. And I thought: why should I invite her when she barely says "hi" to me and she didn't invite me to her wedding? So, we invited the rest of the Smith family: my parents' best man and bridesmaid from 40 years ago (the elderly Smiths), and their younger daughter, my friend Elena, with her boyfriend.


It turned out that it was a big deal for them - elderly Mrs. Smith left my wedding very early, because she was insulted that Sandy wasn't invited. I didn't think much about it until about two days after the wedding when I spoke to my parents. They told me that the Smiths have broken friendship of over 40 years with them, because their Sandy wasn't invited. Also, that Mr. Smith has ended all business cooperation with my father. When I heard that, I began to boil with rage. "The insolence! They and their precious Sandy! They have the nerve to be mad over us not inviting her, and have a completely peaceful conscience about not inviting me earlier!"


So, in that frame of mind, I immediately called Elena and asked her about it. She told me she thought the whole thing was stupid, and that, as far as she was concerned, our mutual relationship could stay intact. Well, I succumbed to the temptation and I had to "vent". I told her that I won't even say "Good day" to her parents when I see them on the street. I told her that her sister, Sandy, was the most egoistical person that I, or my parents, have ever met, and that we had been commenting about it for the past 20 years. I told her that I would have never invited Sandy to my wedding, and that I would have rather invited - can't remember what I said here, whom I would rather invite, I think it was "a gypsy from the street", or "some random person from the street", and I hope I didn't say I'd rather invite some fool from the street. It was something like that. Yes, I sinned.


A few days later, when my anger disappeared, I realized that I was wrong to react like that, but I only sent a message to Elena saying that I was out of line, that I would, obviously, greet her parents and that I didn't really think so bad about Sandy. She accepted it, but our friendship was over.


A year went by. Only about a month ago I realized that I sinned, heavily, and that one SMS can't make it right. I realized that, even though the Smith family wronged us, it was a very sinful and completely unnecessary thing to do for me to say what I said. After speaking to my mother, I found out that not everything happened like I first thought. It wasn't simply that the elderly Smiths "ditched" my parents, but when Mrs. Smith told my mother she was hurt over us not inviting Sandy, my mum spoke her mind to Mrs. Smith for the first time (as she was fed up with them and their attitude). However, that was enough for me to realize that this story wasn't simply black and white, and I felt that I must ask forgiveness from both Sandy and her parents. Not for not inviting her, but for saying what I said later.


I had to start with Elena, as I didn't know for sure if she told her parents and sister what I told her about them. It's important to say that Mrs. Smith and Elena run a small pediatric clinic. It is entered straight from the street, and there is always only one nurse and one doctor there, so it's not difficult at all to reach them. I drove and found Elena there. That was the first time we saw each other in over a year. She confirmed that she told them what I said. I said that it was horrible what I said, that I want to ask their forgiveness and that I don't care if they'll laugh at me, or throw me out, that I have to try as my conscience won't give me peace. I told her: "You know me, you know that I am hot tempered and that I don't really mean what I say in a situation like that, don't you?" She confirmed. I asked for Sandy's phone number. She told me she was away for summer vacation, so she didn't give me the number. I understood that she also had to check with Sandy if she could give me her number. As for their mother (and I had to apologize for saying I wouldn't greet her on the street), she was back a week later. So I came again to their clinic, to see her. We spoke, I told her how sorry I was, etc. And that I wanted to apologize to Sandy as well. She claimed that Sandy didn't know about the whole thing (it's a lie, we can only guess why she said it). She told me: "Nemanja, you know that I am not a believer, I am more an agnostic, but I forgive you. But I don't forget. As far as I am concerned, your conscience can be at peace." Oh, and she also had an explanation for why I wasn't invited to Sandy's wedding 15 years ago. "Nemanja, it wasn't a classical wedding. Bride and groom weren't even with us in the same hotel, etc." So, that was it.


I called Elena to ask for Sandy's number again, but she avoided my calls. For days. She ignored my SMSs, all except one in which she told me she would ask Sandy when she comes home from vacation. Elena saw me and heard me being sorry for it. I couldn't pretend that I thought Sandy was, suddenly, the coolest person I knew, but I conveyed I was sorry. I waited for three weeks. Yesterday, I sent a message to Elena, again, asking what happened. She told me that she told Sandy about it, and that Sandy didn't even want to hear about a reconciliation.


So, Sandy hates me. Before I went in my "campaign" of asking forgiveness a month ago, I saw Sandy in the city. Not only she ignored me, but her face conveyed clear enmity. It's clear that she doesn't want to talk to me. There is nothing else in the realm of reasonable (at least, what I see), that I could do. My priest thinks I did all I could. My wife thinks the same. And what could I do? The least aggressive thing would be to try to reach Sandy by phone in her office, but it's almost certain I wouldn't accomplish anything except being humiliated, and both my priest and my wife think it would be too much to do something like that. Any other action would be a way of stalking. What do you think?



#2 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 07:41 PM

Dear Nemanja,

 

To be honest, yes you did something it would have been best not to have done, and you have spoken and asked forgiveness of those involved, Sandy has been told that you are sorry she has not replied nor I suspect does she care, you have done what you can do the rest is up to her. Even if you hadn't said what you said it would likely make little difference to the way you and her interact, it is wrong to say things to upset people or insulting things about people but that does not mean we have to get on with everyone or reconcile with those who refuse to reconcile.  You have been to confession, so listen to your priest he is your guide before God.

 

In Christ.

Daniel,



#3 Gregorik

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 09:44 AM

Nemanja, 

I believe this is a case of false guilt, also known as Satan-induced conscience.

The Scripture makes it clear that demons often masquerade as the Spirit, in order to torment the faithful with moral half-truths. This is a touchy area, and I'm not even sure about the official Orthodox perspective on it. But I do know that in (German and American) Protestantism there's much talk about the issue, always has been. The consensus seems to be that both parties are obliged to be open to reconciliation. However, when one party is non-Christian, chances are that they won't be open to it at all, as is often the case. I believe that you must not allow your spiritual/psychological equilibrium to be dependent on the ego and pride of possibly immature non-Christians. When you confess and pray to God, He is "loyal and just" to forgive you. Further spikes of guilt do not come from the Spirit, but the enemy.



#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 10:24 AM

The Holy Fathers say that anger is an aspect of pride. They say the antidote to anger is humility which may be found through prayer and reading psalms. Then the anger will subside and peace return.



#5 Nemanja

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Posted 05 September 2014 - 11:25 AM

Daniel and Gregorik, thank you for your input. Andreas, I don't understand how what you wrote relates to my problem.



#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 September 2014 - 08:47 PM

You wrote of your hot temper as the cause of your problem, and of your anger. You have confessed your sin. If others will not respond to you, leave it, and keep them in your prayers. Do not allow relations with others to disturb you. This is what the Holy Fathers advise.



#7 Ben Johnson

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Posted 06 September 2014 - 03:15 PM

You confessed your sin, so now it is time to let the LORD forgive you.  You may want to speak with your priest a little more about your hot temper.  He may have some advice.  May the LORD be with you.



#8 Teresa

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Posted 06 September 2014 - 04:07 PM

I agree with Ben. I think a priest would have the best advice regarding this. I will be praying for you.

#9 Keith Cheesman

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 01:09 AM

If you have confessed and received absolution you are forgiven. Your priest has already told you that you have done all that you could. Now, you just have to forgive yourself and refuse to listen to those nagging doubts about doing more.



#10 Phoebe K.

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Posted 07 September 2014 - 08:59 PM

I will agree with what the others say, you have clearly repented and asked forgiveness of those who you hurt, if they do not want to forgive that is their problem not yours, you have done as much as is required of you, you have also dealt with it in confession and received the Lord's forgiveness (though he will have given it as soon as you relised that you had sinned, we just need help excepting it).

 

As the others have said the Enamy of our salvation wants to keep us trapped in our guilt as this can lead to us moving away from the Lord which is what he wants, this is not the Lord's will for us as he freely forgives us.  There is a saying which I find especially helpful in this, that when we repent and confess the Lord takes our sin and puts it in to the sea of his forgetfulness then erects a sign saying no fishing.

 

From my own life I know how hard it is to forgive when you have been badly hurt and when you want to seek reconciliation with someone, I faced a this earlier in the year and was told by my Spiritual father that it was forgiven through my confession and that it needed to be left.  In my experience the best thing to do is to pray for those who you have hurt and who have hurt you, and should you meet them teat them with cuertacey, the friendship dose not need to be renewed but we must try as for as it is in our strength to be Christlike towards them.  Christ himself said 'do go to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you', this I have found is hard but bares far more fruit in life than holding on to things our Lord has put from his mind.

 

This suggestion might sound a little odd but you may find it helps to confess you strugle with the situation, as this can help put it into perspective and then leave it with God.  which is why the Priest says at the end of confession 'have no more care for what you have said' since it is now in our Lord's hands and he will deal with it as is right.

 

I hope this helps you, Phoebe



#11 Nemanja

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Posted 09 September 2014 - 06:08 PM

Thank you, everyone. You have been helpful in helping me deal with my sense of guilt. Also, I am aware of my short temper problem and I am dealing with it.

However, my obsessive personality, probably with the help of the devil, keeps finding things to induce worry.

Gregorik introduced an interesting point, and that is:

 

The consensus seems to be that both parties are obliged to be open to reconciliation. However, when one party is non-Christian, chances are that they won't be open to it at all, as is often the case.

 

I have noticed that, if another party is non-Christian, they tend to have an attitude of self-righteousness. Being sure that they are 100% right, they don't even want to look at me when I see them on the street. If I follow the advice of our Orthodox elders and try to understand my responsibility, a new problem arises. I understand that I am partly to blame, but usually consider the other side to be "more wrong". That wouldn't be a problem IF they were open to, at least, exchange a "hello" when we encounter each other. Since they are not, if I were to approach them (and it would include a VERY high level of my anxiety), it would seem as if I was begging them to forgive me (and I consider them to bear more than enough fault for the conflict). And that would just give them an opportunity to humiliate me, and/or to be even more satisfied in their self-righteousness. I am not really willing to do that, to offer such an opportunity to someone who has already behaved unfairly towards me, unless it's absolutely necessary. Besides, even if I decide to forgive the person, upon seeing him old feeling of enmity often reappears, especially if he holds that self-righteous attitude (as shown in the fact that he won't look at me).

I can provide an example, if needed.



#12 Gregorik

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Posted 09 September 2014 - 06:30 PM

However, my obsessive personality, probably with the help of the devil, keeps finding things to induce worry.

 

Your obsessive personality is like a WELCOME sign for Satan. Jesus tells us not to "throw pearls before swine", which sounds a little harsh, but in cases like this it's a golden advice.

I'd urge you to mingle with less and less non-Christians, many of whom are unresponsive and unwitting almost by definition. Don't throw your pearls of Christian love before them, at least not until you get spiritually stronger and are able to cope with their coldness.

If any of them acts unresponsive for whatever reason (mostly pride and as you say, self-righteousness), the Bible urges us to cut them off.


Edited by Gregorik, 09 September 2014 - 06:32 PM.


#13 Mark Harris

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Posted 09 September 2014 - 06:47 PM

With confession must come repentance . Love be humble and keep Praying.

#14 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 03:43 PM

Nemanja,

 

Beware the spiritual guidance of the internet forums.  You can certainly ask questions and get responses here - but you should not guide your life according to what the internet tells you.  Go to your priest, he is your only true guide in spiritual matters - confess you sins - fulfill his instructions - tell him your doubts and worries and concerns - do what he tells you.  Above all pray pray pray.

 

Fr David Moser



#15 Nemanja

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 04:25 PM

Dear Fr. David,

 

the spiritual life in my diocese is at such a low level, that I don't trust any priest enough to be fully confident that his words convey God's will for me. (Actually, there might be one, but chances are he would turn out to be similar to others). In the Serbian Church there is no special institution of confessor like in the Greek Church (so that only a few priests can hear confessions). No, in our Church every priest can hear confessions. Which, in turn, usually means you can't expect a very good answer for any problem which isn't a typical textbook problem. I remember reading in your earlier answers that a priest is open to Grace when hearing confession, so that the answer shouldn't simply be "his" answer, but I haven't really noticed that attitude among the priests who heard my confessions.

I have chosen my current confessor (who has been my confessor for the past two years) only because I trust that he is honest, with an honest faith and friendly, willing to listen to longer than usual confessions.

I remember reading that there are people who are lost due to bad advice from their priests. So, how can I be sure that it won't be the same case with me?



#16 Phoebe K.

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 05:02 PM

Nemanja,

 

I get how difficult it can be to trust and really let our struggles out to God, for it is to him we are confessing, the Priest is the witness to this.  It took me time, however two passages from the writings of St Silouan put me on the right path consening how I relate to my Spiritual father, I will relate them as I feel they may speak to your situation also.

 

Both Quotes are taken from St Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophony

 

"if A man dose not open his heart to his confessor, his will be a crooked path that leads not to salvation; whereas he who keeps nothing back will go straightway to the kingdom of Heaven" (p405)

 

"Whoever would pray without ceasing must have fortitude and be wise, and in all things consult his confessor. And if your father-confessor has not himself trodden the path of prayer, nevertheless seek counsel of him, and because of your humility the Lord will have mercy on you, and keep you from all wrong.  But if you think to yourself, 'my confessor lacks experience and is occupied with vain things, I will be my own guide with the help of books,' your foot is set on a perilous path and you are not far from being beguiled and going astray.  I know many such who reasoned thus and so deceived themselves, and they did not thrive because they despised their confessors.  They forgot that the saving grace of the Holy Spirit is at work in the sacrament of confession.  In such wise does the enemy delude those who fight the good fight - the enemy would have no men of prayer - while the Holy Spirit gives good counsel to the soul when we hearken to the advice of our pastors." (p405-6)

 

Phoebe



#17 Gregorik

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 05:36 PM

you can't expect a very good answer for any problem which isn't a typical textbook problem

 

Same here. In my experience, at least in Hungary, priests/pastors tend to be way too emotionally distant and concerned with saving face, rendering them ill-equipped to provide truly personal and heartfelt spiritual advice. They also don't strike me as infallible at all. In addition, the more renowned and trusted a priest/monk is, the more spiritual children will flock to him -- which results in much less personal a relationship with him, which defeats the purpose. If a priest/monk doesn't take the time to get to know his spiritual children, then his advices can be generic at best.

 

Personally, I won't give up my "quest" to find a wise spiritual father, but it's difficult for multiple reasons.


Edited by Gregorik, 10 September 2014 - 05:41 PM.


#18 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 05:52 PM

'if there be no experienced guide and he turns to any confessor he finds, the Lord will watch over him for his humility.' - St Silouan the Athonite.

 

Nemanja, you said in post #15 that you have a confessor you trust - so what's the problem?  

 

More generally, one way of finding a spiritual father is to ask someone, a spiritual person or a monastic, to whom to go. That's how my wife found her spiritual father.



#19 Father David Moser

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 01:40 PM

A few responses here

1. what makes you think that a bunch of unseen e-strangers on a computer forum are any more reliable in spiritual matters than your priest who knows you?

2. although you may want (or may think you want) a wise spiritual elder who will tell you what to do - very few people are given such a person by God as their spiritual father.  And even then, during their lives such spiritual guides (elders, startsi, gerondas, whatever) very infrequently are recognized as having such spiritual stature.  In then end it is still necessary to trust God that the person (priest, confessor, spiritual father) that He has provided is who you need to guide you best.

3. you may be confusing the role of spiritual elder and confessor.  Not all effective confessors are great spirit bearing elders (indeed most of us aren't) and not all spirit-bearing elders are effective confessors. God gives to us one or both depending on what He sees as our spiritual condition and need.

 

Fr David



#20 Nemanja

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Posted 18 September 2014 - 11:56 AM

I apologize to all of you for replying so late. All of your answers have been helpful, especially yours, Fr. David.

I have thought about the main idea in your answer even before - that God gives a person such a priest who is suited to the faithful person's disposition. While I hope for that to be the case, it doesn't directly answer my issue raised before, and that is reading somewhere that there are people who are lost due to bad advice from their priests. Also, about two years ago, I've mentioned in a private message to you a warning from a Russian elder Schema-Archimandrite Eli (Nozdrin) who said in an interview:

 

It is also important, in entrusting oneself to someone, that one evaluate the situation independently. It is essential that one correlate the words of one’s spiritual father with the words of the Gospel, with the teaching of the Church Fathers, and with the Church’s conciliar decisions, which are important to study and to understand. No spiritual father has the authority to override them.

 

Therefore, in the end, the burden seems to be on me - what do I think about an advice received. Or, am I misunderstanding the elder's words?

That is why I tend to check an advice I receive. In the issue which prompted me to open this topic, all advices from "e-strangers" are the same as my priest's advice, so that has some value in my mind and has helped me put this particular issue to rest.






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