Dear Aunt Dara,
I have two older sisters who live over 1000 miles away, and the three of us haven’t been together since our mother’s funeral four years ago. My sisters recently told me that they are planning to be in the area for Mother’s Day weekend so they can visit the cemetery and spend time with me. I have mixed feelings about the visit. I stayed home with Mom and took care of her during the three years that she was ill, but neither of my sisters did anything to help with her care. They never listened to me when I told them that I needed help with Mom, and now they want to act like it doesn’t matter that they didn’t help me. I know that I’m supposed to forgive them, but I just feel resentful. Also, they said that they want to go out to a bar and party like we used to do. I used to have a problem with alcohol, but I quit drinking two years ago after I gave my life to Christ, and I don’t want to be in that type of atmosphere again. How do I tell my sisters that I don’t want to go to a bar with them without offending them, and how do I get over my resentment?
Resentful and Confused
Dear Resentful and Confused,
First of all, I am so sorry for your loss and I commend you for your dedication toward your mother. Taking care of an ill person is not easy, especially when you are the sole provider of care. The Lord will not forget your labor of love (Hebrews 6:10) and will bless you for it. Secondly, congratulations for your sustained sobriety. That, too, is not an easy task. By these accomplishments, you have demonstrated that you have strength of character and a strong sense of responsibility.
How do you tell your sisters that you don’t want to go to a bar with them? Simply and honestly. Make it about you, rather than about your disapproval of their plans. Tell them that God delivered you from your drinking problem and now you do not feel comfortable going to a bar. No other explanation should be necessary. Then, offer to go somewhere else with them or suggest doing something else with them that does not involve alcohol.
Now, regarding the resentment that you feel. It’s only natural to feel disappointed and hurt when family does not provide needed assistance. However, resentment comes from unresolved anger. Most likely, underlying the anger are thoughts such as:
1. An expectation or “should” statement, such as, “They should have helped me.”
2. A judging statement, such as, “It was wrong for them not to help me.”
3. A self-pity statement, such as, “It was unfair that I had to take care of Mom alone.”
The first step is to acknowledge to God that you feel resentful, being honest about the reasons and thoughts that you are harboring about your sisters and their behavior. Next, ask God to help you to resolve the anger. Pray for you sisters. Pray God’s blessings for your sisters. Ask Him to open your heart to other points of view, other thoughts toward your sisters and their behavior. Then, let your behavior be the example of God’s love and forgiveness, even if you don’t feel as if the forgiveness is complete. Do what you know is right, even if you don’t feel like it. A forgiving heart often must demonstrate itself first through acts of kindness. (Matthew 5:44) Finally, give it time. Forgiveness is often a process, especially if the hurt is deep.
Here’s one other thing to consider. Their visit this weekend should be about your relationships as sisters and the mutual loss of your mother. Now is not a good time to confront them about their failure to help you or to tell them how you feel about their lack of support. Concentrate on reuniting with your sisters to share feelings about your shared loss and make a commitment to reestabilishing and maintaining a relationship with them.