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Second chances - pivotal or pointless?


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Being hurt by people we love, especially family or loved ones, cuts deep. Very deep.

It’s hard to forgive when the pain is caused by people we expect better from. The same people we share intimate parts of ourselves with and for whom we care deeply. This kind of deception is generous in its exposure to vulnerability.

This kind of deception makes us prone to distrust and to exercise additional caution in any future interaction.

A friend recently asked me: “what would it take before you gave someone a second chance?”

My friend's moral dilemma stemmed from a strained relationship with a step-child that had brought much heartache and many tears.

"Should you ever let someone back into your circle of trust once they’ve broken that trust?" my friend questioned, amid much soul searching.

I would once have steered towards the moral high ground of "forgiveness-is-vital" and "love-is-key" to a unified existence with our fellow humans.

This philosophical viewpoint makes us all feel warm and fuzzy. Granted it may make us emotionally better equipped to live together in a world where as mere mortals we are likely to f*** up every day of the week.

Everyone makes mistakes - some more than others.

But is extending the olive branch the sensible option? Is acting in good faith and trusting a guilty party simply putting our vulnerable selves back in the firing line for a little more target practice?

Upon reflection, and having engaged in the art of loyalty to one's friends, family and lovers without hesitation, I'm not so sure that steadfast allegiance amid repetitive deception is such a good thing.

The very nature of deception is the deceiver's ability to fool or mislead the other party. Deception is born of a greater evil – an intention to betray. A mistake is a lapse in judgement.

Forgiveness may be vital, but only in so much that it is necessary in order to move on. Allowing a loved one to take you for a fool is not healthy for either party involved.

It is important for strangers, as well as those we are intimate with, to know there is a difference between being loyal and being naive.  

Forgiving someone for the hurt they caused is part of one's ability to let go. And letting go of this hurt does not necessarily mean the aggrieved needs to be best friends with the aggriever, especially if the aggriever is still the same arsehole they were when they committed the aggrieving act.

My friend is understandably very protective of his heart and his family, having allowed the step-child to penetrate that inner-sanctum previously only to have that trust betrayed with lies and deception.

"Three strikes and you're out" only applies to baseball. My motto is – one and you're done.

Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much. - Oscar Wilde.


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6 comments so far

  • Are you serious when you apply your "one-strike-and-execute-mercilessly" rule on a child? Am I reading this right when you label a step child an areshole?

    To be fair, your article doesn't specify the nature of the childs actions that promoted such feelings of deep angst. I note some children in the news that have done terrible things for which redemption in this life will be virtually impossible. But this isn't the case with most other children. Generally speaking, children must be permitted the chance to commit their errors and be offered the chance to regain trust without others imposing one-and-you're-done eternal damnation. I have to believe that children - no matter how bad they are - are not irredeemable. That you cannot simply abandon them because they wronged, or even if they continue to do so.

    You are the adult. It's your responsibility to deal with an issue related to children in a rational adult way. Even if the child is not yours, but you are involved in the relationship, you are an adult with a direct impact on that child's life. Refusing to teach trust, calling a child an arsehole, inability to forgive; these are not the qualities of a loving grown-up parent.

    Date and time
    May 22, 2012, 10:28AM
    • Depends of the nature of the offence. That said, there is no such thing as low-cost forgiveness. Just ask any born-again Christian.

      Take the affair, for example. A drunken one-night stand can be forgiven, whereas a clandestine affair with elaborate deception cannot.

      When it comes to children, particularly step children - the standards are the same, just that they need, deeply - to be taught ethics.

      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 2:12PM
      • Good afternoon Heidi,

        This is a topic close to my heart and I have had a lot of practice in applying the principle of forgiveness over the years. As far as my kids and family go, the love I have for them is unconditional. That does not mean that I trust my kids at all times (one of them is a teenager) and I believe to do so would show poor parenting skills on my part. So the boys have unlimited strikes but I have unlimited lectures to give and they will avoid a lecture at all costs.

        As far as "significant others" are concerned, I am really at a loss. I know I have the propensity to forgive too easily, think that the other person just needs more time or that they have had a bad run in the past and that somehow that justifies poor behaviour towards me now. So, I have made a few rules for myself that I really do not know if they help or not. They have not helped all that much to date.

        1) Never lie for someone else
        2) If they try to put themselves between my family and me, they go.
        3) If they are unfaithful they go.
        4) If they lie to others about their relationship to me they go.
        5) If they act differently around others, it is time to move on.

        Naturally I have the same expectations of myself. Giving second chances has always been in my nature, so it does make it difficult to stick to these rules at times. What keeps me to them is that I believe in parenting by example and I want me kids to grow up being able to forgive but to stand up for themselves.

        Date and time
        May 22, 2012, 4:14PM
        • I assume your offender is an adolescent or adult.

          There is no 'should' or 'should not' in this matter. Once someone has lost your trust, then the repair must come from that direction, not yours. A friendship driven by an obligation for connection ain't a genuine one and not really worth the trouble.

          Date and time
          May 24, 2012, 12:03PM
          • Sometimes this blog comes across as bitter. No wonder why.

            In relation to forgiveness, I have one test - did they act in this manner to purely hurt me, or did they act in this manner because they thought they were doing the right thing for themselves.
            Regardless of outcome, good, bad, or otherwise - I measure on the intention. I cannot be mad or angry with a person who tried to make the best decision and failed. I can forgive anyone but a person with malicious intent will be unlikely to gain trust back ever again.
            We get far too caught up on our own emotions when a lot of cases it was never about us - betrayal or deception can often come out of far bigger problems that yes - may be our fault.

            Date and time
            May 24, 2012, 12:45PM
            • I can't believe this article. Seriously. You sound like you're talking about a husband that cheated on you, but are using some story about a step child to illustrate your feelings. I say no matter what, with family, you always forgive. Family is family. People are people. Always doing stupid things. Hardly ever are they about us.
              Where would we be if we didn't forgive? Well I can tell you my family would be all over the place. I'd be divorced. I'd be fighting with my ex. I'd be feuding with my mum and my dad and my in laws.
              I like to teach my children that people are idiots and do stupid things and that we forgive them and move on. That doesn't mean acting like a doormat.
              But it means that now, my children from my first partner can see me going on holidays with their father and getting on well with their step mother and being civil and friendly humans. Everyone does stupid things at some stage. When that happens, it is wise to look at them and what they're going through.It is rare that a person does something to intentionally hurt someone else. More likely it is just 'collateral' damage. My husband had an affair on me. Not just a one night stand, a proper affair over months and months. It was torture. But really, had nothing what so ever to do with me.
              I'm so glad I took the effort to forgive. I made the decision to do it and it took a lot of time but it worked. Now our marriage is better than it ever was. (weird I know, but I swear it's true). He deeply appreciates this and feels lucky to have a second chance. Forgiveness is worth it.

              Date and time
              May 28, 2012, 9:35AM

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