Newton’s Third Law

Newton’s third law of motion teaches us that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. I suspect that his law applies to human relationships just as much as rolling rocks. Every action evokes a reaction. When we attack someone, they counterattack. When we send love, love is returned. Clearly this law does not operate on a simple level. Past attacks can cancel out today’s loving words.

Do any of you have experiences that illustrate this law of relationships?

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  • Reply Claudia July 23, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Wally — I believe the opposite of your last statement is also true. Today’s loving words (consistently applied) can cancel out the pain — even the memory — of past attacks. This was my experience with my mother. I held much anger over the years because of her alcoholism, but when she died, I could not have loved her more than if I had had a functional childhood. (She did quit drinking towards her last years.)

    So I guess when she could send out love to me over time, I finally got to the point where I could return it. Charity never faileth, even beyond this mortal life!

    • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

      Thank you, Claudia. Beautifully said.


  • Reply Sydney July 23, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I often think about this problem because my mother cannot forget or forgive some words that my brother and I said to her over 8 years ago. (We were really just trying to talk to her about some things that were bothering us and all heck broke lose). But anyway, it hurt her feelings, and we’ve apologized, and I have jumped through hoops trying to make it up to her. She’s dragged my other siblings into it, and she won’t let go of it. No matter what we do for her or say, no matter how much love we show for her, she acts like it has “killed” her forever”. It has split the family down the middle. It’s the biggest mess I have ever seen. It has totally ruined my peace of mind. It seems way out of my control. Please Help. Talking to her about it does not help, it just makes it worse. By the way, I’m 58, and she is almost 80. Thanks, Sydney

    • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

      Sydney, what a tough situation! You’re trying so hard but it does no good. Ouch!

      I think there are three things you can do: 1. Pray for God to change hearts. 2. Send clear messages. 3. Let people use their agency.

      We really can’t make people forgive and be peaceful. But we can send clear messages. We can say things like: I am so sorry for the misunderstanding. I want us to be close and loving. I hope you can forgive any misunderstanding we created.

      Often we want to explain things–yet that may only make people defensive. So we pray, send clear messages, and respect agency.


      • Reply Sydney July 29, 2008 at 10:19 am

        Dear Wally, You just gave me what I needed to hear, thankyou so much. I think what’s kept me so stuck is trying to explain the problem to them, and it doesn’t ever work, so we keep having this gross problem that’s never cleared up. The best thing you said to me was “send clear messages”. Sometimes I’m sure they will deny there is a problem, but I will at least know I am giving it my best shot. Now, I just have to talk my brain into not worrying about this so much. Thanks again, Sydney

  • Reply Candleman July 24, 2008 at 6:09 am

    While it is true that the Golden Rule applies. And while it follows that people generally treat one another as they are treated. The inclusion of Christ in our lives catalyzes a different reaction to unkind and abusive treatment. His influence can allow someone who is mistreated to react in love and kindness in return for malice and spite. When this is the case, though, it is not a reaction at all, but action. A case of being free to act rather than being acted upon.

    I believe that freedom to act rather than react was the fundamental principle Jesus was trying to convey in his admonition to “go the second mile.”

    • Reply Asia Snow July 25, 2008 at 4:28 pm

      Beautifully put Candleman. It’s amazing the power we can have if we put our trust/faith in Chirst. He will enable us to do mighty change in even our weakest parts. I go before the slaughter next week as I attempt to visit my family in Utah peacably. How will I be able to turn the other cheek when I so easily become some monster defending my weakened self-worth around them. All I want is to be loved – and have that from the family who raised me.
      And so, in preparation to embark on another self-inflicted test, I pray diligently for Christ’s enabling power. I pray to be filled with so much of God’s love that I can love them. That I will have confidence in myself because of that love and not strive for them to assure me. That I will be able to give empathy when I would normally defend myself (try to prove my worth). I know I will survive this trip. But will I walk away stronger, more loving and closer to Christ or merely as a survivor? That is the question each of us must ask ourselves in regards to this earth life.

      • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:44 am

        Wow, Asia, you have set a lofty goal. Blessings to you. Let us know what successes and learnings you have.


    • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:46 am

      Very powerful, Candleman! The thing that lifts us above the animal kingdom is our agency. We can choose to follow Christ rather than react. That is a central point.


  • Reply Charmaine July 24, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I have someone in my life that has shown me that action doesn’t need to be reaction. Her mother is a loose cannon and says ugly things to her and she is able to maintain a sweet attitude toward her and keeps trying to please her even though it seems impossible. When her husband left and told her she was boring she remained his friend and showed no malice toward him at all. Maybe she has a gift because most of us are too vindictive and hateful when we are mistreated. This is what it means to “turn the other cheek.” and nothing is harder. It is easy to love those that love you.

    • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:46 am


      You have described the difference between the natural man and the man of Christ. The natural man reacts and protects self. The man of Christ blesses. Thank you for the example you shared.


  • Reply Candleman July 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Yes, “Even Skeletor has friends.”

  • Reply Jim July 25, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve enjoyed this question and the responses. By default, I believe that we most often respond in kind- when we feel loved, we generally give love; when we feel a lack of love, it is generally more difficult for us to love.

    But, as Candleman so aptly put it, we need to learn to act- to choose our response and to not just react. Some may be able to automatically react with love and forgiveness even when being mistreated- children, for example, often have an ability to genuinely love and forgive even if a parent or friend or sibling have treated them poorly. I think most of us though need a change of heart and need to become saints and as a child through the Atonement of Christ (Mosiah 3:19).

    In my mind, this really is part of the conversion process, and it requires a certain balance between “trying” harder but also relying more completely on Christ and the Atonement to change us in ways that we cannot change ourselves. I would be interested in other ideas on this….

    • Reply Sydney July 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm

      I really enjoyed Jims comments on this subject. I believe the main problem with this situation is more about hurt than forgiveness. I don’t think there is very much understanding about “emotional abuse”. It can be just as damaging or more so as physical abuse. We wouldn’t tell someone that was being physically beat up all the time to “turn the other cheek”, and to keep letting the person beat them up. So it’s a little more tricky than that. Emotional abuse from parents and siblings can go on and on in a viscious circle, and forgive as much as you want, and love as much as you want, and take the higher ground, but when they keep doing it year after year, it’s a heavy burden to bear.

      • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:44 am

        Thus we always forgive but we sometimes choose to distance ourselves from destructive persons.


        • Reply Sydney July 29, 2008 at 10:30 am

          Thanks again Wally. It’s very hard to distance myself, that’s where the guilt comes in because they are my Mother, brother, and sister. But I like getting a validation from you that it’s “ok” to distance ourselves from destructive people. The Gospel teaches us how important family relationships are, that when I distance myself from my own mother,brother, and sister, I feel like I am letting the Lord down, and not living the Gospel. So thanks for the validation. Sydney

          • admin July 31, 2008 at 9:14 am


            It is painful to see other people use their agency to hurt themselves and others. It is almost unbearable when they are people we love who also care about God. No one knows better than God how painful this is.

            Though God is always available to us, He does not chase us down and drag us back to a relationship. He patiently waits for us to come to our senses.


    • Reply admin July 29, 2008 at 9:45 am

      Yes, Jim, we are enemies to God unless and until we yield to the Holy Ghost and become saints through the atonement of Christ the Lord! Thank you.


  • Reply Charmaine July 26, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I agree it is a heavy burden to bear but being bitter and angry back is not the answer. Choosing not to take offense sometimes is and saying to yourself “this is not about me” helps you to move on without injury.

    • Reply Sydney July 27, 2008 at 9:47 am

      My problem isn’t about being angry and bitter. I love and forgive these people. They are my family. I sorry if I came across as unforgiving and bitter. My problem is the pain I feel from it. They don’t let up, it’s on a daily basis that I’m getting some hidden message email mailed to me, or a phone call that is very bizzare. It makes me feel very sad for them, it breaks my heart. I actually believe there may be some “mental illness” with them, and I’m their target. I believe I’ve tried everything I can to make these relationships work, and I’m wondering if there ever comes a time when it’s “O.K.” to cut yourself off from your family of origin because my peace of mind is going down hill fast. It’s almost like they are trying to push me away.I’ve prayed about this question, gone to the temple about it, even talked to my bishop. What do you guys think

  • Reply Candleman July 27, 2008 at 10:52 am


    There is a wonderful book out there called “How to Hug a Porcupine” which might be helpful.

    You don’t have to continually submit to abuse to please the Lord. It sounds like your family are big on manipulation. Typically, there are three ways we respond to with manipulators, 1 – Comply, 2 – Lie, and 3 – Rebel. Usually in that order. It happens because masterful manipulators can never be pleased. They don’t dare let up.

    I’m starting to realize that there is an alternative to this pattern – Honesty.

    It is sometimes necessary to tell a manipulative relative or friend that while you love them, your life is not about pleasing them, but pleasing God. Then you need to assert that pleasing God is a personal matter between you and God and that you’d prefer, even insist, that they stay out of that equation. Finally, they need to understand that if your efforts at pleasing God makes them jealous, or in anyway uncomfortable they’ll need to deal with that on their own.

    Warning: This approach doesn’t change the other person. It is just intended to establish boundaries, which if crossed will have consequences which most certainly will include guilt free noncompliance and possibly even separation. In other words, “If you make me choose between you and God, I will most certainly choose God.” Now the ball is in their court and you no longer need to be shriveled by guilt.

    Warning II: When I read “How to Hug a Porcupine” I sincerely wanted to learn to hug my porcupine. Trouble is, I discovered that I WAS the porcupine.

  • Reply Claudia July 27, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I agree with Candleman — his words have rung true with my experience. I had to take a ‘time out’ from a verbally abusive family member at one time. It is a heavy burden, and sometimes protective boundaries must be put in place.

    A phrase I have found helpful when I have been offended is, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to offend me when you …, but you have.” This opens the door for the other person to be honest, even apologize if need be, but as Candleman has stated, it is not about forcing the other person to change things. It is simply giving them the opportunity to engage in honest communication, which opportunity is vital to give them if it needs be we then have to take a time out. Our conscience can be clear knowing we have done our part to have at least tried to work with the situation.

    I am presently learning to take this idea one step further with family, and when I notice they are upset, say, “You seem upset about something. I can tell this is important to you. Would you like to talk about it?” This is my take on the “Seek first to understand.”

    Even Christ refused to respond when he was abused by his captors — perhaps because he knew it would do no good in changing their behavior? Yet his non-response did not mean that he didn’t love them!

    By the way, my family member mentioned above and I are now currently mending our relationship. It took time, but it is happening. I wonder if perhaps he respected and trusted me more for establishing the boundaries in the first place? Warmly, Claudia

  • Reply Sydney July 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I want to thank Candleman for understanding what it’s like to come from a family of manipulators. The 3 ways he mentioned to respond to manipulators are very true,”comply”lie”or “rebel”. I’ve done all three. I’ve tried to get them to talk about the “dead horse” in the middle of the room. But it’s very interesting when I try to do it. They DON’T want to talk about any problems that could be going on. I’ve tried to do it in a very open and loving way, and it backfires every time. They deny there is any problem, or that they have any negative feelings. They say that they only have “Christlike” love for me, so it just must be in “my mind”, or my mother “wails” that she must be a terrible mother. It feels very wrong when they are talking to me like this. I have read “How to Hug a Porcuppine”. I’ve been searching for help and peace about this for many years. At first I tried to help and change them, but after a few years of that, I’ve learned that’s impossible. I have a wonderful husband and beautiufl children and grandchildren. I am very conscious of not letting this horrible thing pass down to my children and the generations to come. Thanks to all for your loving comments.

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