From Diane Kehn:
While reading the reviews of a book (“Us”by Lisa Oz), I noticed a reference to another book, “The Forgiveness Solution”. The title intrigued me and I decided to look at what the reviews were for that book. One comment was from a reader who was in a conflicted relationship with her sister. She stated that no matter what she had tried in the past to resolve the situation, her sister made it virtually impossible to come to a reconciliation. The reader said that although she read several books on the subject of forgiveness and applied many of the strategies recommended by the authors, she came up in a stalemate. She started to feel resentful towards her sister. She was struggling with her belief that in order for there to be forgiveness, BOTH parties need to be willing to take responsibility for the situation. Other readers gave their input, insisting that she had not truly forgiven her sibling and was therefore unable to move forward.
Surely, I thought, in order to forgive, you need an apology or some type of contrition or remorse on the other person’s part. Otherwise what message are we reinforcing? That it’s okay to do whatever you like to others without regard, empathy or consideration of the other person’s feelings? This is not the Wild, Wild West, where the strongest survives. Perhaps that type of thinking is why there is so much bullying in the schools today by kids who grow up to be bullies on the road, obnoxious co-workers, and emotionally abusive partners in relationships, not to mention narcissistic selfish individuals who believe the other person has to “earn” their graces. Forgiveness needs an overhaul. Or at least clarification of what it is and what it is not.
Sibling rivalry, which evolves into wars, has been around since the beginning of time. The Bible, mythology, literature, and current news, gives many examples of unresolved issues in relationships many times leading to estrangement and even murder, between adult siblings, adult children and parents, couples, as well as so-called responsible citizens of countries all over the globe. I felt compelled to respond.
I feel strongly that the concept of forgiveness needs to be redefined and clarified. It is truly a difficult task to come away from family rifts feeling validated, vindicated, and respected, while at the same time allowing the other person to feel the same way. It’s called a win-win resolution.
I have come to the understanding that some siblings are very competitive for their limited resources, which are the parents. If the children have not been taught kindness and reciprocity towards each family member, they remain competitive and narcissistic (much like they were when they were infants screaming to get their needs met). Although siblings grow up (but not necessarily matured) and may “know better,” the hostility always remains just beneath a very thin layer of pretense. And anything can set it off. This phenomenon is known as jealousy.
Not having read the book, I can only give my personal, but practical opinion based on the hundred of clients I have counseled struggling with this very issue. If one thinks of all the things that bother us, very few of them are within our control. And since we all know that we cannot control anyone else, except through our own reactions to their actions, we might try an alternative approach to this age-old dilemma and apply “self-talk” therapy.
Tell yourself the truth as you see it from your point of view. (you already looked at the situation from the other person’s perspective and tried other methods which did not work). Say to yourself: “This is the way this person is. There is nothing I can do to make them change, especially if they are not willing. I have no other choice than to accept it and tell myself, ‘I wish it could be different. I wish they could be a loving, caring, giving, compassionate person. But since I have no control over their choices in life, so be it. I’ve done everything in my power to make it better, but for some reason this is not happening, not at this time.’ ”
You are not saying that it’s okay that you’re being treated without regard, respect, or even civility, you are just saying what is the obvious, that this is the way this person is and since you have no control over them, you accept that reality. You are not saying that you agree with it or that you’ll even put up with it. You are just acknowledging the reality of their behavior. Again, replace the word “forgiveness” with “acceptance”. Know that every one learns in their own time at their own speed how to get along with people. Some people “get it” very early in life, some not until a crisis comes into their life. Some people never understand. These people are very limited. Just as the realization that everyone may not be a math whiz, not everyone has relationship know-how, nor do they want to learn. Have patience, both with yourself and with the process of Life’s Lessons and get on with your own journey. Mentally wish them well, wish things could be different, but finally and most importantly ACCEPT that which is.
If it is any consolation, know that many people would elect to have different siblings (and other relatives), if they were given the choice.
What do you think?