Dear Ms. Spiritual Matters,
I am troubled by a broken relationship with my sister. This dilemma began five years ago when we disagreed about who should be invited to my daughter’s wedding. My sister insisted all her grandchildren (There were eight kids under the age of eleven.) be welcome to a $50/plate reception dinner. I said that this was not possible. It was just not within our family budget.
My sister came to the wedding and reception but was distant to me and rude to my daughter. She and her husband ate at the reception and, then, quickly left without saying good-bye. I have not communicated with her since except at family funerals where she has been polite.
What do you think I should do?
Events like what you describe can make us wonder who the people we love really are. We may look back and second-guess ourselves. Were we right? Do we share part of the blame? Could we have handled the conversation better with less hard feelings on all sides? You explained the financial limitations to your sister. Her behavior was inconsiderate.
Most people would let things be. I admire your courage to reconsider the events surrounding the estrangement you now feel with your sister. Your question, “What do you think I should do?” shows you seek self-awareness and want your life to demonstrate the spirit you try to be.
You want who you are to be in sync with your soul plan.
First, take a deep breath and give yourself some room to embrace yourself as you are.
Second, consider what might happen.
Scenario one: You could open the conversation with your sister by saying, “Wow…we have not really talked since the wedding incident. I miss you.” She might be ruminating over the event but not have been able to muster the inner spiritual strength to talk about it with you. She may apologize and you can accept and begin anew.
Scenario two: You bring up the event and your sister refuses to talk about it with you. If she refuses to talk, stop beating a dead horse. Instead, you might say, “Can we start over from here?” If she is willing to open conversation with you, go forward.
According to Kent Nerburn in Calm Surrender: Walking the Path of Forgiveness, “Apology can take many forms; true forgiveness accepts them all.” Some people cannot verbally own up to their missteps. If you can accept this, you can forgive your sister even without her extending a formal verbal apology. If your sister shows a willingness to move forward in a relationship with you, let this be her apology.
No one is without regret. It is no crime to look back on our life and say to our self, “I wish I had done things differently.” You were who you were in the past. You are who you are now. This is how life’s journey works. As each of us steps along on our inner spiritual journey, we increase in self-awareness of the soul we have become. Honor yourself and your spiritual journey. You can shape the future.
Reach out. Ask for strength and wisdom. May your forgiveness spread the seeds of a renewed relationship with your sister.
Susan Schoenbeck holds Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an experienced educator and teaches nursing students at Walla Walla University — Portland, Oregon campus. She is an oblate of a Benedictine Monastery where she learned centering and contemplative meditation practices. She is author of the book, Zen and the Art of Nursing, Good Grief: Daily Meditations, and Near-Death Experiences: Visits to the Other Side.