Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mother Reacted Harshly to Daughter

Dear Aunt Dara,
Recently my mother, who is in her mid-80's, told me that she was thinking about not remembering one of my children with a gift this year...not a problem except she had already sent a monetary gift to my other child.  Her reasoning was that my daughter did not send her a card for her birthday so she must not care.  I became upset and reminded her of the many times she had come with me to visit, and that I know this was nothing intentional, she just forgot.  Anyway, I told her I did not agree with her and reminded her how hurt my daughter would be.  Her response was that she didn't understand why I was so upset.  I will admit I raised my voice and told her that she needed to rethink all this.  She sent my daughter a gift through the mail to me, and I thought that was the end of the matter.  When I got home last night, she had left me a nasty voicemail, telling me how upset she was and that she couldn't sleep.  She told me not to call or contact her this Christmas, that she had plans.  Also, that she couldn't believe the way I spoke to her after all she had done for me...that I was hateful.

This is not the first time I have been through this, but I know I didn't say anything wrong.  I had planned to apologize for losing my temper, but not being welcome for Christmas is a pretty harsh reaction.  I am an only child, so she's my family (my dad is deceased).  There have been several incidents like this in years past, so it's not dementia.  She is a Christian, as I am, but she has difficulty accepting that things don't always go as she wants.  I recently had surgery and was looking forward to seeing her this Christmas at a time when I wasn't in pain.  We live three hours from each other, and I try to go once a month.  She doesn't like my husband and is generally uninterested in what I'm involved in.  I plan to honor her request and wait until she cools off to visit, probably January, but I am very hurt, as is my husband.  The Bible instructs us to honor our parents, but this is hard to deal with. Any advice?

Hurting Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Yes, you are hurting.  What she said to you was very hurtful and it was a harsh reaction, but impulsive reactions do tend to be harsh.  However, your mother really didn't mean that she doesn't want you to contact her or visit her.  Calls and visits are very important to her, as evidenced by her reaction to not having received a birthday card from your daughter.  You are your mother's only child and you live 3 hours away from her.  She just can't jump in a car and drive to see you.  She is old and lonely, and she fears being alone and uncared for.  (She will not admit these things.  She responds to her internal pain by being rigid and harsh.  That's her way of getting attention, though it tends to push others away.)  If you choose to not call or visit her until January, that will just serve to validate her deepest fear—that her family doesn't care about her and she truly is alone in the world.  You need to set your pride aside and apologize to her, even though you think you didn't say anything wrong, and you need to visit her to reaffirm that you care about her.  We need to have love, kindness and compassion toward others and overlook things that hurt our feelings but truly don't matter (Proverbs 19:11).

God bless,
Aunt Dara