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Deepali Dutta

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Why is so difficult to Forgive and Forget ?

We have all heard about the way of life is to Forgive and Forget people who have hurt us or disturbed us. I find it convinient to either Forget or just Forgive a person in such a case ,but to carry with a normal relation has not been easy!!

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    Sep 10 2011: Our actions have impacts on our way of living, I think its a normal event that you cant carry a normal relation with a person that you have forgiven.Things can be faded but not forgotten completely.
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      Sep 10 2011: True. It is noble to forgive, but to forget is something entirely else. We forget things all the time, but when something deeply affects us we can't just trick ourselves into forgetting about it. The offensive action is now part of your memory and it would be a denial of yourself to pretend otherwise. Also if you could forget there would be nothing to forgive.
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        Sep 11 2011: I agree Anthony...forgiving and forgetting are different and seperate, and to "forget there would be nothing to forgive".

        First of all, to forgive, we must have "blamed" somebody for something. It is beneficial to our "self" to investigate why we want to blame.

        That being said, I think we learn by remembering past experiences and putting them in a framework that we can remember with the intention to learn and grow in ourselves. What we focus on expands, so focusing on blaming and/or forgiving others for what we feel, is not beneficial to ourselves or those we interact with. What is important and beneficial to our own evolution and the growth of the whole, is to be able to move away from "blame", so there is no more reason to forgive.....take responsibility for our own feelings for the purpose of learning,growing and evolving.

        Amin,
        What is a "normal relation"?
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          Sep 11 2011: Well yes personal responsibility is important, but some times people do infringe on other without reason. One should be honest with themselves and not blame their problems on others, but at the same time not swallow guilt that should be placed on someone else.
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        Sep 11 2011: Anthony,
        I don't believe it is beneficial to try to place guilt on someone else. We can ask ourselves and others to be accountable and responsible for our words and actions, but if we are truly honest with ourselves, we cannot place a feeling (guilt) onto someone else. We choose in ourselves to feel guilty, and we choose if we want to try to make someone else feel guilty...or not. Each and every one of us accepting each other as we are, without blame or guilt, is more peaceful, in my humble opinion. It frees all of us from trying to control, or be controlled by others.
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          Sep 11 2011: Well sometime it is honest to place blame on other, whether it is beneficial or not. I do think it will be better if you forgive ultimately but that is your choice and sometime we can place blame on others and not look into our hearts and certainly should not accept it. Should children who are raped just accept that some people are rapist. No sometime there is injustice in the world that need to be acknowledge.
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        Sep 11 2011: Anthony,
        No, we should NEVER accept rape, or any other behaviors that harm people. There are certain behaviors that as a society, we can say are not acceptable. As I said above, I think we all could be accountable for our words and actions, and if some people choose NOT to be accountable for their actions (like rape for example), then society can take action.
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          Sep 11 2011: Well I felt you threw it out there. How can we be "accepting each other as we are, without blame or guilt" but then have action that we can't condone.
          Ultimately forgiveness is a process. We can't demonize people for being human and having the emotions of humans. Sometime we have grudges from problems that mostly stem from us. We have to go through these grudges so we can better recognize them and avoid them in the future. It is not enough to repress our natural feeling, but rather we have to know why a certain grudge is bad for us and how it relieves us of responsibility. Other times we have harm visited upon ourselves and we have to learn to avoid such harm. We should not forget, if that is even possible, since it place us in a position to be re-harmed. It is up to us to forgive. If one chooses to forgive then they will have less of a burden through life, but again it is a process. It is only natural to want revenge, and to deny that is to be inauthentic. Its just a step in a greater process, and while we should not glorify it should at least be acknowledge as a legitimate choice.
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        Sep 12 2011: Anthony,
        We can accept people and reject behaviors. I agree that "forgiveness is a process", and I agree with almost everything you have said about that process. I do not agree that "it is only natural to want revenge". Revenge only hurts the person who wants revenge. It becomes a burden in that person's life, and usually escalates.
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          Sep 12 2011: I think we live in a culture that has promoted the idea that the desire for revenge is a natural consequence of being hurt or injured by another. I am not convinced that this is true. Revenge is a decision and a permission given to a choice of action. Not all people even feel this urge. Many are much more focused on healing and paying attention to the needs of the injured party.
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          Sep 12 2011: I consider natural a big almost meaning less word. I agree with Debra that it is it is natural to want to focus on forgiveness. It is also natural to want revenge. It all depends on the calculus of a person's temperament, the situation, the social feed back one gets, and one's mood at the time of the incident. Sometimes it is natural to want revenge, sometime it natural to want forgiveness. I do agree with the adage that revenge is drinking poison in hopes of harming your enemy, but at the same time if these feeling weren't wired into our brains then there would be no need for forgiveness in the first pace.
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    Sep 10 2011: Even after forgiving one needs touch of best healer TIME in forgetting if not full at least to be faded.....
  • Sep 13 2011: Forgiving is easy for me, I do it with almost everyone, it's forgetting that is hard.

    James
  • Sep 12 2011: What an intriguing question!
    Holding a grudge against somebody who has hurt you is admitting defeat, it seems to me. An unpleasant sensation for all of us. I have, for a long time, found support and consolation in the maxim attributed to M. Ghandi to the effect that "Nobody can hurt me without my permission".
    More easily said than done or experienced, perhaps - but in order to be able to forgive, hence appear generous, I have also started telling people straight away that they have hurt me, or disappointed me. As Colleen says below, often people don't even seem to notice that they have offended you. But if you tell them they will probably be embarrassed, even mortified - and apologize. This is the moment when it is easier for you to forgive and forget, clear up the misunderstanding and "normalize" the relationship.
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      Sep 12 2011: Good points llse New!
      I believe dealing with anything, openly, honestly and as soon as possible is the best thing we can do for our own health. I feel that generally people do not intend to hurt us, and as you say, if they are told why we feel hurt, they often feel bad and apologize. For my own well being, and to accept responsibility and accountability for my own feelings, I say "I feel hurt by what you said or did". That allows me to take responsibility for my own feelings, and does not blame others for my feelings.
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    Sep 11 2011: I think the reason that it's so difficult to forgive and forget is because that person hurt us and by forgiving and forgetting you're opening yourself to another possibility to get hurt. If you keep a grudge against that person and hate him/her and keep him/her at a distance they can't hurt you like that again. By forgiving them you allow them back in so to speak. And some things just can't be forgotten even if they can be forgiven.
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      Sep 11 2011: Hmm. It fascinates me how two people can have such polar opposite views of the same set of experiences.

      For me, holding a grudge is like letting people live in your brain without paying rent. Screw that - it just makes you (the brain holder) sick. Literally.

      If the only way to forget (by which I mean drop it from your conscious mind) is to forgive, then you do it for your own health, and to hell with how it affects them.

      Lastly, you cut them out of your life, or at least you stop giving them power over you - e.g. stop giving their opinion value.
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        Sep 11 2011: Now that's a lovely comparison you're making here, Gisela. Anyway I do agree with you on this! As for professional involvement it's never as emotionally intensive as the personal one hopefully. But then again there are the exceptions. Anyway that's why a person learns all their life, right! :)
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        Sep 12 2011: I agree Gisela...
        Holding onto a grudge is like letting people take up space in our heart and mind, and can, as you insightfully say, literally cause illness. Holding onto blame, hate, or a grudge allows the words or action to continually keep us in the victim role.

        I agree...We forgive for our own health, so maybe we are forgiving ourselves for holding onto blame...grudges...hate? Quite often, the person we blame or hate doesn't even know what our feelings are, so it's not bothering them at all. It is hurting the one holding onto the feeling.
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      Sep 12 2011: Dear Koen,
      With each and every interaction in our lives, we have the opportunity to learn about our "self" and others. Feeling hurt gives us information about our "self" and the person who did or said something that may have hurt us. It also gives us information as to how to interact with that person in the future...or not. I do not advocate forgetting. I think and feel that learning from our experiences is more beneficial to us as individuals.We can keep people at a distance, if that is what we choose, without holding on to a grudge or hate, which simply hurts our "self".
  • Sep 11 2011: Hi Deepall, it depends on what you are forgiving and forgetting. You are a human, you have the power to forgive. Please, do not ever forget. We must take our life lessons and learn from them. If we were to forget, what is stopping us from taking the same path, next time? It is difficult to do both. I say, do not ever forget! With respect!! Good question!!!
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    Sep 11 2011: "Love Story" the movie.................".Love means never having to say I am sorry"
    This can be only understood if we delve deeply into the psychological make-up of people. We all have defense mechanisms and use them without evaluating them while in a state of irrationality. That is why I think humility is so necessary. If one can say.......There but for grace, go I.....then we realize that given the circumstances of the offending person's life, we could act out as she/he does. Do we really need to punish irrationality or do we need to realize that this acting out is really a cry for love. This is the gist of a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke. (Right now I cannot recall the exact words) but I am sure you get my drift.
    As to your question...how difficult it is to carry on a normal relationship with a person who acts out anger.......
    it takes a saint.
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      Sep 11 2011: Hi Helen, I enjoyed your posting as usual! However, I have always disliked that saying that "love means never having to say you are sorry." I think that sincere apologies make relationships function much more smoothly. I can hardly wait to apologize if I become aware that I have hurt someone in any way. I want them to know that i am aware of it and that I will take steps to ensure it never happens again.
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        Sep 11 2011: Debra..........You know how much I think of you.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but, the humble person can be hurt but not offended.(Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me)
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          Sep 11 2011: Thanks for pointing that out. Perhaps I need to think about that. How does one know whether they are hurt or offended? How does one discern the difference between the two in our own reactions? I absolutely disagree that words can never hurt us and I know that you have sometimes been hurt by unkind postings here on TED. I guess I need to learn humility because I am offended by people who treat you and others that way.
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        Sep 11 2011: Debra...........I have grown mentally, spiriitually. psychologicly, you name it, since I have been here on TED..For me it is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. So many things that were useful and valuable are now parts of a big picture that is coming out beautifully. Oh yes, I was really miserable when I first started posting here and some people were anything but nice to me. I thank you for all the support you have given me. To be offended, one must value the opinion of another. If they come on strong you have to consider where they are coming from and it is usually some kind of insecurity or unrelieved anger that just spews all over the place. My life coach tells me that "It's none of your business what others think of you" That does not determine who or what you are. (:D
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    Sep 10 2011: I think we are wired to avoid pain and it takes time to not only understand but to come to terms with the hurtful events which transpired. We nurse old injuries that we fear we are still vulnerable to. When we realize that holding on to the pain hurts us more than protects us we can let it go. I have heard it said that holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We need to realize just how much harm grudges do to us and learn to release the other person to their own future so we can pursue our own future with all of our passion and attention.
    These are skills that can be learned (thank goodness).
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      Sep 11 2011: Debra,I really appreciate your thoughts and advise. I very much agree with you when you say , " holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die ", in my case it was due to a dear friend who hurt me ,I have not made any effort to hold the freiendship since then,but whenever we met i was reminded of the pain i went through ,thus i tried to analyse why was it so difficult to forget the pain? I now undrstand after going through all the posts that it was my mistake of holding on to the pain for such a long time...i have now set my self free from all the grief...but yes my friend has truly lost a good friend like Me,because i have forgiven him and have decided to forget what he meant to me ! Thank you once again!
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    Sep 11 2011: Againt with this subject taht I ve seen some months ago, but today is the opportunity to introduce in this scheme the concept of dignity, and indignation....forget and forgive could be bonded with dignity and if we have to forget and/or forgive we have to do with dignity because we dont have right to delay our resolution to express our very real feelings.
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    Sep 11 2011: with respect; is it more difficult for you to forgive when its not convinient for you? it could be convinient for them too. direct reply to deepali dutta
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    Sep 11 2011: I don't know that it is - but also I don't know that the concept is valid.

    I agree that we need not dwell on what we perceive as trespasses against us, however, I am not sure that "forgiving and forgetting" is the only route.

    I know it is for some - but there has been some interesting work done in the field of understanding the human mind, obsession, and depression of late. From a study that was released a couple of weeks ago: "Patients who ruminate and activate the brain's frontal lobes are more likely to relapse into depression than those who respond with acceptance and activate visual areas in the back of the brain."

    But I think beyond depression, people who hold anger in the conscious mind or who replay events over and over are the ones who need to forgive and forget - for the sake of their own health.

    But people who are able to put these thoughts out of mind, without actually forgiving or forgetting, and function just fine, may not have to follow the prescribed path. There are those who, for instance, have tiny little attention spans - often perceived as a short-coming - but in this case are helped not hindered by the ability to be distracted and move onto something healthier (or at least more entertaining).

    (I for instance, have a teeny tiny attention span, but have great recall. So, yes, when someone pisses me off I will "forget" them shortly, but that's mostly a functional thing. Cross my path again, and it's a whole other matter.)

    So, to answer the question, it's a matter of how our brains are wired - and that is of course reinforced by our behaviour. I am a firm believer that unless someone is paying rent to be in my conscious mind, I'm not giving them the real estate. Others look at it as dwelling on past misdeeds is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die - which it pretty much is. The more you think about it, the worse your health is, while they are off living their lives.
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      Sep 10 2011: I guess I believe differently. Justice is important but not at the price of further victimizing the innocent. I learned the mercy speech from the Merchant of Venice as a teenager and it has been with me ever since.

      The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
      It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
      Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
      It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
      The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1

      It is also good to remember the times when we did not get what we deserved but rather had people who understood more and cared more and thus received mercy instead.
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          Sep 10 2011: In the context of the question as posed it is the person who is injured who chooses to forgive.

          In the context of your answer, I think of the massive loss of life in Iraq where people already victimized by a tyrant have been additionally victimized by a more powerful nation on the platform of 'justice'. The approximately 3000 people who died on 911 were not given justice by killing 150,000 plus people in Iraq. The injustice just grew and expanded. We do not even truly acknowledge that the Iraqis were not even involved in the original horror.
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          Sep 11 2011: The thing about pursuing 'justice' is that it is often unjust in the way it is carried out. Justice like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder (or perpetrator).
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          Sep 12 2011: Very hard being just and merciful at the same time. sometimes you can even resort to violence, thinking it would bring justice. but soon you realize you are caught up with the hatred and have lost the balance between when it is time to be merciful and when it is time to be just.
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    Sep 10 2011: I think it's not about forgiving and forgetting ... What was said belonged to a part of the person that wasn't all beautiful. The real question is: CAN YOU ACCEPT PEOPLE AS THEY ARE? For all I know a very famous person said: If you can't handle me at my worst then you sure don't deserve me at my best. It's great and noble to forgive and (partially) forget but is it worth the effort? I've learned the hard way that if it can't work it just doesn't.
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      Sep 10 2011: Hi Silivia, I have often heard the idea that accepting people 'as the are' is a good goal to have. Perhaps it is but why? I choose to have good people as friends. I choose to be with people whose values I can respect. I can certainly accept them and love them even if they hurt my feelings or something like that. I do not intentionally cultivate friendships with people whose values I do not respect (for example I do not deliberately choose thieves, murderers or rapists because I do not accept that this is a way a person should treat others).
      I just do not appreciate the people who feel that they have the right to inflict their bad moods and bad actions on others thus I do not admire that quote above about "handling me at my worst"!

      when my children were small and woke up on the wrong side of the bed, I used to tell them that I was sorry that they were feeling badly but that they did not have the right to make everyone else feel as bad as they did. If small kids can understand that- why shouldn't adults get it too?
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        Sep 11 2011: Hi Debra,
        You do have a point there but read me out, please. Well, for a person to become a murderer or any other criminal it takes a long, dark road of hardships. For some people the world has been filled with so much evil that there is no other way of existence. My point is that they don't know any better. As for the quote I haven't posted it all: "I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." Marylin Monroe. What I wanted to say by adding a part of this was that it's only human to make mistakes and we should accept normal people with all their flaws.
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          Sep 11 2011: No, there are also sociopaths, bigots, racists, chauvinists, none of whom do anything to improve my life so I have zero use for them.

          About ten years ago I made a new years resolution to no longer start conversations with people when past experience has shown that I am not happier at the end of the conversation than I am at the start. It took a couple of people a while to get the hint, and another person never did figure it out and had to be flat out told to go away, but that rule has worked for me just fine.

          There are lots of people on the planet - why bother with those who are unsuited?
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          Sep 11 2011: Hi Gisela,
          I made a similar resolution with myself many years ago. I started evaluating how I felt at the end of an interaction with someone. Do I feel energized or drained? Why do I want to continue to spend time with a person, if the interaction is not mutually enjoyable?
          I realized I was maintaining several old friendships simply because they were old friendships, and I felt that it would not be honorable to stop seeing these people. However, when I thought about being drained each time I had an interaction with them, I asked myself...what am I doing to my "self"? This process works good for me too, but I've never had to tell anyone to go away. I simply stop initiating interactions/conversations.

          Regarding sociopaths, bigots, racists, chauvinists, etc.:
          I interacted with many of them while volunteering with the dept. of corrections facilitating "cognitive self change" and other sessions. I think it's important to know our "self", how, when, where and with whom we choose to interact. When we have no expectations of others, we are free to interact with whomever we choose without blaming anyone for our feelings.

          BTW, I've also volunteered in a terminal care facility and been with several friends and relatives as they were passing on. Although one may think this is draining, I really felt very energized and empowered with these interactions:>)
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        Sep 11 2011: Well, that's your choice, Gisela. As a future psychologist I consider more people than my close and dear acquaintance to be worthy of my attention and forgiveness. Just saying. :) We don't necessarily need to be close to forgive someone's mistakes.
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          Sep 11 2011: Hi Silivia,
          We are more in agreement than it might appear. I too, with a long psychology background believe that people deserve more understanding than they are given. However, I get tired of people justifying other people's bad behaviour when it is a blanket approach. Some bad behaviour needs to be challenged in order to change.
          Our learning makes it easy for us to understand the roots and causes of many behaviours but strangely enough, I have discovered that many people who have REALLY experienced the terrible stuff are kind and considerate. Once one has experienced maltreatment at the hands of another, many resolve to never do something like that to any other person. Part of the teaching of empathy and compassion is to help people understand that they have choices in managing their emotions and actions.
          As to the Marylin Monroe quote- I wonder if someone had taught her to be better than her worst if she might have had a happier outcome in life?
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          Sep 11 2011: Ah, it's different when it's work, and you are dealing with people in a professional capacity. I guess I would wonder if there you have the same level of emotional investment as with personal relationships.

          I don't, but that may be me.
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          Sep 12 2011: Interesting point to ponder Gisela!
          I think/feel that the closer we get emotionally to a person, the more we have invested. The more we are emotionally invested, the more we can be hurt. There are many levels of emotional investment, so how emotionally invested one is in work/professional situations probably depends on many different elements for each individual?
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        Sep 11 2011: Hi Debra, :)

        Interesting question you've put out here. I had wondered what makes people lean towards such destructive behaviour as celebrities? May be if she had known better she would have done better. But then again can we really stipulate on "If" ... this word is soooooooooo ... engaging!

        Nevertheless I had also discovered that some kinds of bad/destructive behaviour need to be addressed head on otherwise they just lead to a dead end! Finally, yeah we do seem to be in agreement more than it might appear :D I also strongly believe in justice so I don't think people deserve to be victims of others' bad influence or attitude. By the way I really think you set up a great educational example with your kids there. :)

        But it's only human to make a mistake, more than noble to forgive and stupid to forget 'cause it means you learned nothing from the experience. This leads me to my initial question: CAN WE ACCEPT OTHERS WITH THE MISTAKES THEY MAKE? (which doesn't necessarily mean being friends with them). If we can't then we just don't and stop interacting with them. Thanks everyone (Gisela, Colleen, Debra) for having such a great discussion with you. :)
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          Sep 11 2011: Hi Silvia,
          Good point...what purpose does it serve for us to be asking...what if things had been different? Things are as they are, and we either accept...or not.

          You've hit on another good point, which I believe to be a basic element regarding moving on from destructive behaviors. We can address behaviors without blaming the person whose behaviors we don't agree with. By accepting the person and not the behavior, we can sometimes change our relationship with a person. My x-hubby and I remain friends for example, and I don't want to live with him. There are certain behaviors that I will not accept, and when our relationship changed, those behaviors were no longer part of my life, but he is part of my life in another way....as a friend.

          This is a piece I stressed while interacting with offenders in jail. They had behaviors that were not acceptable. That doesn't mean they were totally "bad" people. I tried to focus on their good qualities to reinforce the idea that they, as individuals, and the good qualities, were welcome in society. The bahaviors that kept getting them back in jail were not acceptable. Not only were those destructive behaviors putting them back in jail, but the behaviors were ruining relationships with their famlies and friends. So, again...I agree with you Silvia...it is the behaviors that need to be addressed.

          I believe we can accept others, reject certain behaviors, and be clear about what our own boundaries are.
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          Sep 11 2011: Nicely said, Colleen!
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        Sep 11 2011: I can't agree more with you ladies. :) Thanks for your input, Colleen! It's always nice to hear another viewpoint on what one says. :) Indeed the behaviour should be the addressed not the person blamed and labelled.