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Ask Ellie: Confession of decades-old betrayal a self-serving act

Your neighbour didn’t have your best interests in mind back then, and he didn’t have them in mind now.

Dear Lisi: Why can’t people leave sleeping dogs lie?

Over 40 years ago, two neighbours and I were approached by an outside corporation with a get-rich-quick scheme. The proposition depended on me giving up control of part of my farm. Thankfully, I was skeptical and held off, fearing it wasn’t all that was promised.

My neighbours appeared to support my reluctance. The corporation used a number of legal manoeuvres and spread outlandish rumours about me in my close-knit rural community. It cost me thousands of dollars in legal fees and my reputation, not to mention the truckloads of stress before the scheme collapsed and we could go back to rebuilding our more normal lives.

Fast forward to yesterday when one of the neighbours, now retired and living out of the community, phoned to unburden his conscience by telling me that he and the other neighbour had conspired with the company to try to force me to capitulate. The information they provided the company cost me dearly in legal defense. And they admitted to being the source of the destructive rumours in my community.

I had long since packed the soul-destroying impact of those days away, believing the matter was closed. I had also given special support to both the offending neighbours, one with financial assistance through a tough time, the other with personal support when their family experienced terrible trauma through the loss of one of their children.

I didn’t sleep at all last night. Today, I cannot shut off the flood of bad memories that have invaded my thoughts.

My former neighbour may have unloaded his conscience. But he awoke a truckload of bad feelings for me. Am I that naïve that I freely gave my trust to these people? How could they come to me for help despite deceiving me in the past?

I forgave the confessor (forgetting will be another issue), but how do I handle things when I next meet the other neighbour? Can I trust my other neighbours? Myself? Anyone?

Happier not knowing

Someone clearly advised your neighbour to get this off his chest to clear his conscious. I have no doubt he feels better with this lightened load of guilt and shame. But you’re right: you didn’t need to know. Not after 40 years.

Your neighbour didn’t have your best interests in mind back then, and he didn’t have them in mind now. I would stay far away from him. He’s very self-serving.

As for the other neighbour, I wouldn’t seek him out. But if your paths cross and you feel the need, you can simply say that you have learned the truth about those many years ago and walk away. No need to hash it out or even discuss.

Yes, you can trust yourself. And you can trust others. There isn’t a person out there who hasn’t been scammed, lied to, cheated on or tricked. Don’t be hard on yourself. You’re a good person.

FEEDBACK to the grandparent concerned about her son-in-law spending her money after she’s gone (Nov. 1):

Reader – “I wondered if this grandmother had already set up some trust funds for her grandchildren’s education. If she is concerned about the bulk of her estate going to her daughter and spendthrift son-in-law, why not divert some of it now to the grandkids?”

FEEDBACK regarding the athletic woman being harassed by an overweight colleague (Nov. 2):

Reader — “This is a matter for HR. This harasser needs to become aware that this is a serious issue. What is happening is actually grounds for termination with cause.

“Also, I strongly suggest she contact a labour lawyer, just in case this goes sideways. Know your legal rights.”

FEEDBACK regarding the woman who loves her husband but loathes his attitude (Nov. 9):

Reader – “Maybe her husband, being in his sixties, remembers being strapped himself in school. Even if the wife is the same age, being a woman, she wouldn’t have been strapped no matter what she did, just as women today are much less likely than men to be charged criminally no matter what they do. Maybe she should ask him if that’s an issue behind his remark?”

Lisi – That’s an interesting perspective and one I never thought of. I am not in my 60s, but I can promise you there was no “strapping” allowed in school in my day. It could be what’s driving his negativity.

I’m also not sure I agree with you that women get off easy simply because they’re women.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: