DEAR ABBY: Is it possible to “choose” to forgive someone? My 20-year-old nephew recently turned his life around. He has a good job, a nice girlfriend and a baby on the way.
But when he and my sister were living with my late mother a few years ago, he trashed Mom’s basement (where he was living), and it cost her hundreds of dollars to repair the damage. He also stole money from her and once threatened my life. He smoked and drank as a teen, quit school, and did nothing more than play video games.
I’m glad he has changed his ways, but he has never apologized for the way he treated us. It seems I’m expected by everyone to forgive and forget, but I can’t. Please don’t suggest counseling. He wouldn’t go.
I don’t want to be estranged from his girlfriend and my great-nephew, but I have no interest in engaging with him unless he makes amends for his past behavior. My sister always seemed oblivious to his bad behavior. In her eyes, her son can do no wrong. Is there any way to reconcile his particular past with the present? — STILL ANGRY IN MINNESOTA
DEAR STILL ANGRY: Yes, it is possible to choose to forgive. But it doesn’t appear that your nephew has completely turned his life around. Part of growing up is becoming a responsible individual. Making amends for past misdeeds is a part of that process your nephew seems to have skipped.
If you would like to have a relationship with his girlfriend and their child, nothing prevents it. But it doesn’t mean you must have amnesia about the way you and your mother were treated by your nephew. Talk to him about this so you can get the closure you are seeking.
DEAR ABBY: For several years, my husband and I were good friends with “Pam” and “David.” About a year ago, we moved to a new house just a few blocks from theirs. They decided they liked some of the features of our new home and immediately started remodeling theirs to resemble ours.
Pam and David both work and I am retired, so Dave asked if I would go to their home throughout the day, while several workmen did this extensive remodel. I refused, saying I wasn’t comfortable alone in someone else’s house with a bunch of strangers milling about, not to mention the responsibility if something was broken or stolen. (The company wasn’t bonded. They are just random guys doing side jobs.)
Long story short, David was extremely offended that I declined and no longer speaks to us. He has shunned other friends for lesser things since then. I’m still friendly with Pam, but I can’t help feeling that deep down she resents me, too, and thinks I should have done it because we are good friends.
Was I wrong to refuse, Abby? Should I have done it to keep the friendship, even though I wasn’t comfortable? — RESENTFUL IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR RESENTFUL: I not only don’t think you were wrong, I think you made a wise decision, and for the right reason. If anything had gone wrong with the remodel or one of the laborers was less than honest, the blame would have fallen squarely on you. Add to that the fact that Dave drops people he feels let him down for any reason, and you have a recipe for disaster.
If Pam resents you for protecting yourself, she may not be as good a friend as you assume she is. True friends should be able to say no when it’s warranted, and true friends accept a refusal with good grace.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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