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Is it ever right for a Christian to go no contact?

(28 Posts)
CandyKate Wed 26-Mar-14 16:31:57

My cousin is a complicated character. She always seemed jealous of me growing up but was never overtly mean or anything. However, since I got married 5 years ago (she wasn't married then but has since got married and had DCs) she has made up lies about me, spread rumours about me in the family and actually seriously damaged some family reltaionships where people have believed her lies. She has always seemed unhappy in herself and I think she has had a few episodes of depression. I think she finds it hard to see that I am very happy and fulfilled in my life.

I have forgiven her so many times, but each time she makes up more lies about me I kind of have to start the forgiving process all over again. I feel like having any relationship with her is damaging and causes me and my family so much stress. She won't ever admit that she has done/said anything and I find it hard to see her behaviour changing.

Do you think that it would be right in this situation to not have any contact with her wherever possible? I feel like I need to do this to protect myself/my family.

But Jesus said to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile with someone, and to forgive them 70 times 7 etc. To bless those who persecute you and to pray for your enemies.

If I manage to truly forgive her (which I am trying to do with God's help!) Then doesn't that mean treating her as if she had never wronged me? Or would I be right to try to protect myself?

AMumInScotland Wed 26-Mar-14 16:41:31

I think it is always right to protect yourself and your children from people who mean them harm.

I'm not great about quoting scripture, so you'll have to find them for yourself, but I'm thinking about the bits where Jesus told his disciples to be wary as vipers (or something like that grin) when he sent them out to preach without him. And also, if their message wasn't heard, they should 'shake the sand out of their shoes' as they left a place.

I'd take those to mean that you don't have to be a mug, and that it's ok to not keep trying with someone who isn't making any effort to hear you.

You can forgive her - understanding that she's behaving in certain ways because of her own frailties - without letting her keep hurting you.

capsium Wed 26-Mar-14 17:07:54

I think you can forgive someone, but without their Repentance it is difficult to trust them. So going no contact for a while is understandable.

Not looking up the actual scriptures, but thinking off the top of my head there are references to being 'unequally joked' with people and 'darkness' not agreeing with 'light', and having to' leave' people 'to the devil' (ie they might have to come to repentance on their own, they are not listening to what is right, so might have to learn the hard way).

If it is the situation where being with a person seems to do more harm than good I think time apart can be beneficial. Even, Jesus moved on from place where He couldn't do many miracles because the people were too proud.

However do not give up Hope, I like to think we can have Hope that God can bring the person to Repentance, away from you, because God loves you, knows everything about you and will know this situation will upset you, it will upset Him too. So never say never over the possibility that they could turn over a new leaf.

LaurieFairyCake Wed 26-Mar-14 17:10:38

Yes, dropped most of my family 20 years ago. Forgiveness doesn't mean I have to be around them.

capsium Wed 26-Mar-14 17:15:15

^ That should be yoked not joked! Typo.

CandyKate Wed 26-Mar-14 18:01:13

This is interesting. I have come across the "shaking the dust off your feet" passage and I guess I was hoping that it might apply to this situation but wasn't sure. Could you say that was just about evangelising rather than relationships in general?

When we accept God's forgiveness, he treats us as if we had never sinned. Should we not treat others like this? Or only when they have admitted their wrongs or changed their ways?

capsium Wed 26-Mar-14 18:21:27

Candy. I think we have to be aware that we should not become a stumbling block for them, whereby they might fail, because we allow them to carry on.

Think about it in terms of preventing a child from doing something dangerous. You would even if they didn't listen to you. So you might have to put child gates up etc, and give them opportunity to learn only in a controlled way, not give them free reign to put themselves in danger like this.

So you could go no contact in the main but if you saw your cousin at a big family event be courteous and civil but not get too close.

capsium Wed 26-Mar-14 18:30:12

God's forgiveness is amazing though, that he can forget the sin as if we never sinned. This is why I think you have to remain Hopeful over their Repentance. Always be expectant that they could change and look for it, but do not put yourself or others in the way of harm in the process.

mummytime Wed 26-Mar-14 18:46:10

When Jesus was telling people to "turn the other cheek" and "go an extra mile" these were subversive acts.

If you turn the other cheek, the person has to hit you with the palm of their hand as well as the back. That increased your status to that of an equal.

A Roman soldier was entitled to require a civilian to carry his pack for 1 mile. But if they carried it two they could be court-marshalled.

Yes you should forgive your cousin. But that doesn't mean you should give them the opportunity to harm you again. Forgiveness is for your sake, to prevent bitterness; not necessarily for hers. You may have forgiven her, but unless she repents then God is still in judgement on her. Even if she does repent, for some actions it is better if the victim stays away - incase their presence tempts the guilty to repeat their sin.
Eg. If Fred drinks to excess in the presence of George. Then even if Fred has repented he might be better not spending time with George incase he is tempted to drink again.

fizzoclock Wed 26-Mar-14 20:51:44

I don't think shaking the dust of your feet applies here. It's for people who explicitly reject God. Even then it does not preclude forgiveness etc.

I think in the situation you are in you need to make it clear to your cousin (in a letter/email/conversation?) that you love her, will always love her but that her actions keep hurting you. You can say that for your own families sake you need to stop contact now but if she ever wants to begin again you will always be happy to welcome her back/start fresh. You might need to suggest a way in which that would be possible i.e. meeting alone and away from the family home. I don't think the type of NC people talk about on mumsnet is necessarily right for a Christian. If you do it you must do it whilst loving your cousin, not just putting yourself first or trying to punish her. And always leave the door open for forgiveness/reapproach in the future.

If you have never told her how her behaviour affects you that might be a better place to start. 'Speak the truth in love'. You need to be sure you are mentally in the right place first though and are speaking for both of your benefit i.e. not vindictively or just to vent your own frustration.

I think you are already on the right track, questioning your motives and seeking biblical insights etc.!

CandyKate Thu 27-Mar-14 14:19:07

Thanks so much for all your thoughts.

On the "shaking dust off your feet" what do you think this applies to? I'm not sure if my cousin is a Christian. She says she is but never goes to church/Christian things, never mentions God and (trying hard not to judge here but...) I certainly can't identify any fruits of the spirit in her life! And by lying and spreading malicious gossip is this not rejecting God anyway?

I have spoken to her about the hurt she has caused but she point blank denies it all, or tries to justify herself by making up even more lies and rewriting history. I'm not sure if she finds it too hard to admit what she's done or if she genuinely believes the lies that she tells (and if so she has more serious mental health issues than i thought).

If I do decide to go NC, it wouldn't be a dramatic thing, and I would still keep the door open if she were to change, but just try to avoid her whenever possible and not rude.

But what i am struggling with, is whether i should keep trying with her, keep making an effort, and try to make things better with her even though it is so difficult and opens me and my family up to more hurt/damage to relationships. On the other hand, if i don't see her it might be harder for her to make stuff up about me! Who knows...

capsium Thu 27-Mar-14 14:32:07

Why not just a gentle tailing off of contact? Send birthday and Christmas cards etc but do not make arrangements to meet up.

I think the 'shaking dust off your feet' refers to Christ's message no being received at all by unbelievers, so the disciple decides to move on.

But you would be leaving the door open, from what you have said. I think it sounds like a break will do you both good.

Try not to over-think things. Part of being a Christian is 'stepping out in Faith", you will not know all the answers but I believe God honours your Faith.

CandyKate Thu 27-Mar-14 14:41:02

Thanks, I guess I feel guilty that I'm not doing more to try to smooth things over, and am more concerned with protecting myself and my reputation.

I'm also getting a lot of family pressure to make things right with her, but then my family doesn't know the whole story and haven't believed me when I've mentioned some of the things she's done/said in the past.

Argh! I wish I could stop thinking about it, you're right I'm definitely overthinking! I have to see her tonight at a family party and already feel nervous about it.

capsium Thu 27-Mar-14 14:55:59

I would just be pleasant but not be drawn in to anything more in depth. I would not discuss this any further with family, personally. Change the subject if it comes up. Just let the whole drama die.

Contemplates Sat 29-Mar-14 08:38:08

Yes of course Jesus was pro-peace in one sense, but don't forget he was outspoken and wasn't afraid to create havoc in the temple when he turned over tables!

Historians speak of cheek-slapping as being undertaken with the cultural one-hand-is-clean rule �� This apparently meant the first slap was a backhander, signifying superiority to the person being slapped. However turning the cheek for a second slap always meant the slap would have to be a palm-slap, signifying that of an equal. People didn't usually like to slap the face of an equal so that would halt them in their tracks.

John 18:22 Jesus was slapped but questioned why, rather than turned the other cheek silently.

It doesn't mean to be a doormat. The bible of packed full of accounts where slaves helped by God set free. If they were supposed to stay in slavery and accept poor treatment by 'turning the other cheek', why then set them free to escape from bondage and slavery?

If you are able to rise above it with God's help, then by all means stay put. But if it's negatively affecting you, which it sounds like it is, and you have a gracious way of escape, then I'd say go for it. You can always change your mind later.

But bear in mind that you've hidden the whole truth from the family, and that's not biblical. The bible speaks of taking an offending brother to the elders when talking to them alone has failed, with a view to sorting it out in open.

It will also potentially make you look the baddie and while I agree it shouldn't matter what other people think, I think you shouldn't have to hide the truth to protect your cousin especially if it will incriminate your good name.

Contemplates Sat 29-Mar-14 08:40:22

The elders involvement thing is specifically for other believers, but I mentioned it to demonstrate the biblical expectation of being open about the problem that exists.

Contemplates Sat 29-Mar-14 08:56:55

Oh and one last p.s.... It might be with you looking further into the passage about turning the other cheek. It's often quoted in isolation, but in context it comes part one of a three-part point.

Part 2 is about walking the extra mile, which the Romans had a rule for; you can force a person to walk one mile but not two. For two miles you get disciplined. So if you're concerned that by forcing someone to walk one mile they might walk two (and get you into trouble with your superiors) then you might think twice about it in the first place.

Finally, the third point is about someone taking your coat. Again, it was seen to be poor practice to take all of a person's clothes (still is, thankfully!) and so if someone is afraid you'll strip further than they demeans, they don't want to look bad and are likely to spare themselves the bother and leave you alone. If they don't, your "peaceful protest" of stripping further than the demand, is a public display of how you are being wronged.

Wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove wink

None of this is telling you to be a doormat!

Having said that, without knowing any of the details, I like the idea someone posted about drastically cutting down contact to the safety of just sending a card at birthday and Christmas.

Dutchoma Sat 29-Mar-14 11:07:56

Something I heard R.T. Kendall say a couple of weeks ago: you may forgive a pedophile for what he did, but you don't put him in charge of a Sunday school class.

Contemplates Sat 29-Mar-14 12:42:22

I agree with that too! There is a certain rational common sense about it all smile

Italiangreyhound Sat 29-Mar-14 17:33:06

Yes, * CandyKate* I think it is OK for you to choose not to have contact with her, whether you quietly excuse yourself from contact or tell her how you feel by email, letter or face to face is up to you. Ultimately, she is not your responsibility and unless her behaviour changes she is damaging to you so I think you have every right not to be in contact with her.

Lesleythegiraffe Sat 29-Mar-14 17:36:37

Candykate This is a problem I have struggled with recently. I go to church most weeks and would consider myself a christian.

However over the past few years a few family members have been nasty to me - listening and believing untrue tales about me.

Why should I forgive them and turn the other cheek. This seems to me just an excuse for people to do and say what they they like and for me to be a mug and just accept it all.

I'm beginning to think I am not a very good christian and am seriously considering my church-going future.

Italiangreyhound Sat 29-Mar-14 19:41:31

Lesleythegiraffe forgiving other people is about freeing you from the allowing their harsh activities to hurt you. If you are having trouble with this, I suggest you try and speak to a sympathetic and understanding person at your church. This is not the same as allowing someone to walk all over you or continue to hurt you. I don't think God wants that for us.

Lesleythegiraffe Sun 30-Mar-14 12:50:18

Thanks Italiangreyhound that exactly describes the dilemma I'm having

CandyKate Mon 31-Mar-14 21:10:13

Thank you everyone for your replies. I am finding this very interesting and also theologically confusing!

contemplates thank you for explaining the context to those passages. It puts them in a very different light to how i had always seen them.

FaceDirectionOfTravel Mon 31-Mar-14 22:42:05

I have struggled with this in my life. I have come to accept that it is not healthy to be a doormat, Jesus was not a doormat, and that forgiveness does not mean putting up with endless crap from people! It means not hating people for being the way they are, in fact understanding that they may be very damaged, letting it go, and moving on emotionally. Having strong boundaries is fine. Being civil but not getting drawn into old dynamics is fine. If people change, that is great but it takes a while to reestablish trust.

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