Am I My Sister’s Keeper?
(I found the beginning of this post buried in my drafts folder. It was very emotional and distraught because I was in the middle of a painful situation with my sister. Almost a year has passed and we’ve all found some peace and healing. After spending the weekend with this sister and her husband I thought it was appropriate to revisit this post with a different perspective)
“It’s like you’re stabbing yourself in the leg. And I’m caught between agonizing over your pain and getting frustrated that you’re bleeding all over me.”
This is what I told my 20 year old sister last year when she justified re-uniting with her then-abusive husband. At the time I couldn’t hear the self-centeredness in my words. Her first year of marriage had been a rocky one, ending in a split that I expected would end in divorce. I knew he was wrong for her. I KNEW IT.
But she didn’t. They have been back together for almost a year now and I’ve probably only said a dozen words to him until our family trip this weekend. In my mind I kept thinking that if I ignored him, he would go away. She would end the marriage and get back her life and go to college, live her dreams.
Her dreams? No, those were my dreams. She never wanted to go to college. She expected to marry young, not unlike me, although I managed to wait another year and had the decency of NOT being a teen when I wed.
But it’s not about ME, I keep telling myself. It’s about her and her happiness. It took me a long time to understand this. I spent many months really upset by the choices she was making (and the responses from other family members) and trying to talk her into changing her mind. I even wrote a post about how sometimes answers to prayers can be wrong. But looking back, my problem was that I thought I was right and I could control other people. Both of those attitudes are problematic in relationships.
The fact that I’m ten years older than my sister doesn’t mean I’m necessarily more mature or better at relationships. I know she looks up to me and wants me to be proud of her. Looking back, I know it was hard for her to have disappointed me with her choice to stay married. It’s only been recently that I’ve realized I was proud of her for being kind and understanding to me even when I was being belligerent and decidedly unkind about her husband. In those moments, I learned the truth behind the question, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” I’d always thought I could have it both ways, but I’m learning now that I can’t.
Forgiveness is a virtue I’m a little rusty at. But, I’m getting better. We invited Lil Sis and her husband on a family trip with us this weekend and had the chance to watch them interact. They were very happy, respectful of each other, and worked together well. This has given me hope in the power of change. It’s also given me a greater desire to forgive and stay out of other people’s business in the future.
In the end, though, I’ve realized that I need forgiveness from my sister for adding to her pain when I ought to have been helping relieve it.