Dear Rachel,

I have an acquaintance who travels in a few of the same social circles I do. This person feels I wronged her in some way. I’ve apologized, but she won’t “forgive” me. Whenever she sees me, she throws a fit of rage and shouts at me in public or leaves the event, claiming she can't be in the same room with me. I'm considering not going to celebrations where we're both invited to avoid these encounters and spare the hosts discomfort or embarrassment. On the other hand, even though I don't want to cause this woman distress, why should I miss out on celebrations because of her issues?

Please help.

Afraid to Be Seen

Dear Welcome Guest,

First of all, I want to commend you on your sensitivity to all concerned, especially the person who has attacked you. The Torah mandates us not to cause pain or distress to others, especially those who are vulnerable.

But at the same time, we are not responsible for others’ behavior, especially if it is irrational, and particularly if we have done what we can to restore the relationship.

Prior to Yom Kippur, we are required to request forgiveness from anyone we have wronged up to three times. If we have asked sincerely and they have not forgiven us, it becomes their responsibility and we are absolved of the sin (unless it is something of gargantuan proportions that really is difficult to forgive or we haven't made proper amends).

So my advice to you is to keep your distance but keep your dignity.

I don't think that you have to avoid social situations that you would otherwise enjoy. I'm assuming that if the hosts invited this person, they are aware of her issues. You could request that they put you at a table far from her, but you still may bump into her at some point during the evening.

Should that happen, it is always best to take the high road. Smile politely and say "Hello," or if you feel that would provoke her, just quietly move away. Letting her control you is not a good mental health option for either of you.

I would also suggest perhaps writing her a letter again expressing your heartfelt apologies if you have caused her any harm in the past. Let her know that should you meet at an event, you hope that you can greet each other without hard feelings and honor the hosts by avoiding any unpleasantness. This makes it clear that you have no intention of backing down from social engagements because of her reactions, and that you wish for everyone to experience courtesy and pleasantness.

Of course, even after you’ve written a letter, she may continue to react strongly to seeing you.

So remember:

  • Don't let another person cause you anxiety or keep you from doing a mitzvah that you want to do.
  • Don't have any expectations that she will change.
  • Judge her favorably and with compassion, because she may be struggling with issues you don’t know about.

Wishing you many happy occasions,