A: When I was young I experienced years of systematic emotional and physical abuse at the hands of my father. After my mom threw my dad out and we got a protective order, many members of my ward kept putting pressure on me to forgive my dad and let him back in my life. They even went so far as to help him to violate the protective order on several occasions. I kept insisting that I had forgiven my dad, but they would invariably and solemnly declare that I hadn't truly forgiven him, the implication being that I was a bad person because I (and my family with me) would not allow him to return to our home. As a teenager I experienced a lot of self-doubt and wondered if I was sinning because my local church leaders whom I trusted and respected had basically informed me that I was a bad person for not allowing an abuser to return to a position of power over me. (Included in this group were young mens leaders, bishop's counselors, etc. but NOT the Bishop--thank God for a righteous judge in Israel!)
Fortunately I am older now, and I am able to understand that these brethren had no idea what they were talking about. I can say this because I have researched this subject on my own and I am happy to report that the church holds the opposite of that bad counsel to be true, and that the church rightly acknowledges that to allow such a person back into your life could be potentially dangerous, and detrimental, even in the name of forgiveness.
"Emotional [or any kind of] abuse and mistreatment that occur over an extended period of time can be devastating. Those so wronged have the right and responsibility to protect themselves. If a perpetrator is not a family member, avoiding all contact might be easy. But terminating contact with an abusive family member is difficult, particularly for Latter-day Saints, because of the emphasis we place on the importance of family ties. Nevertheless, victims of abuse must protect themselves from family members and others who freely choose to mistreat them." (Maxine Murdock, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1994, 60–61)
Here's a link to the article I just quoted (make sure to scroll down to "Am I in error...?").
The church has included more generalized statements about forgiveness in many of their manuals that I think apply to this question as well. Here is one excellent example:
"Explain to class members that forgiving others does not mean approving of their wrongdoing or offense. Forgiving someone means that with the help of our Father in Heaven, we can cleanse our hearts of anger or hatred toward the offender, cease to dwell on the offense, and feel peace. This process is not always easy or quick, but Heavenly Father will help us as we try to forgive." (“Lesson 34: Forgiving Others,” Preparing for Exaltation: Teacher’s Manual, 197)
After sending his disciples "forth as sheep in the midst of wolves" The Savior counseled his disciples to "be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." I think that this counsel applies perfectly to a situation in which you are called upon to forgive someone who has been "abusive, unhealthy or manipulative." As doves, we wish the person no harm, in fact we may even wish them well, but as serpents we are wise enough to recognize a wolf who, given the opportunity, will most likely return to their old patterns and just hurt us again. We owe it to them, as much as to ourselves, not to place them in such a position unnecessarily. As the old saying goes: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!"
Here is a link to a recent Ensign article called "Forgiveness and Making Up for Losses" that also deals with the subject of forgiving those that have hurt/abused you. The quotes at the bottom from Richard G. Scott are particularly good.