Straight Talk Advice

Apr 16, 2013

Big Sis wants Lil’ Sis to forgive her

Dear Straight Talk: I’m ashamed to say I was like "No Slut's" sister [column MAR 26]. In addition to having a terrible reputation, which gave my younger sister a bad reputation, I did everything to make her life miserable. The few friends she did make, I drove away. I laughed at her when she was naked, calling her body “gross,” and found it funny when she cried. She begged to share a room with our younger brother, but our mom would allow it. She thought my sister was exaggerating and brushed it off as sibling rivalry. I’m mature now and have changed. I feel terrible and wish like anything to beg for forgiveness and make it up to her. But I don’t know how to approach her or if the damage can be undone. We hardly see each other now except at unavoidable family occasions and she hardly speaks to me. — S.T.

Kira 20, Moraga, Calif. Ask me a question

If I was your sister, I'd have a really hard time forgiving you! What you did was mean, horrible and sad and it will definitely take multiple apologies and admissions of guilt. I would fight like hell to earn her trust back, but if she doesn't forgive you, you must accept that. You can only do so much before the ‘ball’s in her court.’ Give the process time.

Jane 20, Placerville, Calif. Ask me a question

My older sister said really cruel things and treated me roughly, too. I’ll never understand why. Later, she tried to repair the damage, but it was hard for me to trust her. She kept at it, though, and over time, I accepted her. Tell your sister how sorry you are and that you’ve have changed. Ask her for the opportunity to show her how different you are. Your sister might not be willing, and it may take a long, long time, but I believe if you keep at it, you will eventually become friends.

Ochatre 23, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

The best way to say you’re sorry is with a very sincere heart and mind. Start by acknowledging your wrongs without trying to justify why you did them. Avoid saying I was young then, or immature. It will just worsen the situation. Also understand that an apology won’t change things immediately. Your change of behavior will speak loudest.

Nicole 23, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

If your sister is willing to talk, speak from the heart about how badly you feel. Own everything. Then be prepared to listen. In meantime, work on yourself. People generally disrespect others because they don’t love or respect themselves.

Ryann 16, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

Your sister has closed herself off as protection. To regain her trust, you need to prove that you won't hurt her again. Best advice: Never give up on it. Long-standing determination will show you've truly changed and truly want her friendship and trust.

Taylor 16, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

At least give yourself credit for not turning it around and blaming her for not forgiving you. People do that. Bullying damage can last a lifetime. Constantly show her kindness. Tell her how much it would mean to you to have a talk. You sound sincerely sorry, so let that remorse come across. If it’s easier, write a heartfelt letter. There’s nothing like having a sister. Good luck rebuilding what you’ve lost.

Dear S.T.: I wish you the best, too. A common trap for people seeking forgiveness is to start fault-finding again if they don't succeed. Make sure to avoid this and stay humble. If she can’t forgive you, forgive her that. And by all means, forgive yourself and let yourself blossom into the good person you are today.  —Lauren

Editor's Note: I know excruciatingly cruel bullies from high school who grew up to be kind, caring adults who look back in utter perplexity at their now-foreign adolescent state of mind. I also know the nice kids who were the victims of these bullies who never got past it and grew up cramped by a continued hatred. I'm not excusing bullying— it's horrible. Look what it can do to a life! My point is, no matter which side of the bully-victim coin you were/are on, once you're out of the situation, FORGIVENESS allows you to move past it and become whole. 

Since today's column is from someone who made a grave mistake, I want to talk about the silver lining of mistakes, especially whoppers, which are harder for the mind to weasel out of. The advantage they give a person is the opportunity to become humble. These people are given direct access to their humanity, their "inner fool." Contrast this with the more perfect among us, who avoided glaring mistakes — or were given blue ribbons for them. These people can sometimes develop a pride in themselves that makes it extremely difficult to admit shortcomings or mistakes. This can be a handicap to creativity or teamwork. If you aren't free to make mistakes, you are less creative, and if you are always pointing the finger elsewhere and manipulating stories in order to keep up appearances, it soon becomes annoying to teammates and bosses.

The Blame Game is as old as humanity and springs from Pride, the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins. Even the most blatant blunderers fall victim to Pride and craft excuses or further attack their victim so they can appear virtuous. And "perfect" ones are entering the workplace in force as the hover-parented Millennial Generation with its high narcissistic index comes of age. I know of one startup company that made a "Failure Wall" where employees could write their failures publicly and realize it's okay to be human.

Let's all make a mistake today (you probably already did) — and admit it! Consider it a spiritual practice. —Lauren

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  1. By Anonymous, age , from Fair Oaks on 04/16/2013

    Today’s mistake, I should already be dressed and off to school.  Instead I’m reading news.

    I should get on that.  :)

    In all seriousness though, S.T., the panelists give incredible advice.  Do exactly as they say, and I am confident that some day your sister will forgive you.  When I was bullied or ostracized one of the things I craved most, and still wish I could get, was an apology.

    Sincerely,

    A Soul Who Cares

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  2. By Linda, age , from Yuba City, CA, USA on 04/16/2013

    My ex stepfather was an alcoholic who terribly abused my mom, me, and especially my younger brother.  My brother is small, quiet, shy, and sensitive and I love and care about him very much.  Our ex stepfather was “Mr. Macho” especially when he was drunk and terribly abused my brother, constantly calling him things like a “wimp” and a “queer.”  He would even do it at the dinner table and my brother would get sick to his stomach which caused even more abuse.  We share a room, and I would hear him crying himself to sleep many nights.  When we tried to say that we needed separate rooms as opposite sex teenagers, he just laughed and said it wasn’t necessary since my brother was “really a girl” and “had no balls.”  Our mom finally got up the courage to leave him, but the scars on my brother are permanent and he still has no self confidence.

    Last year our ex stepfather wrote us a letter saying that he was in AA and was doing the step where you make amends to the people you have hurt by your drinking.  He said he was asking our forgiveness and wanted to know what he could do the make amends.  None of us is willing to forgive him and we don’t see how he could make up for the damage he did to us, especially to my brother.  We put his letter through the shredder! 

    It’s real easy to say you should forgive when you haven’t been abused like this, but I think that most who have been abused would understand.  I certainly understand why S.T.‘s sister doesn’t want to forgive her.

    Linda

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  3. By M.H., age , from Davis, CA on 04/16/2013

    I have 2 stepsisters who bullied me.  We are close in age and I had to share a room with them when I went there for visitations.  They resented having to share their room with me and made things as difficult as possible. I was overweight and they teased me and made fun of how my body looked when I undressed.  It’s very humiliating to be put down like this when you’re naked, so I started changing in the bathroom.  Then they started putting me down for being so stupid as to change in the bathroom when “we’re all girls and all the same.”  I couldn’t win, whatever I did.  They also went out of their way to be naked in front of me because their bodies were much more attractive than mine, and because they knew it made me very uncomfortable and embarrassed.  If I said anything I would get the “we’re all the same” stuff again.  I was too embarrassed to tell my dad what they were doing to me, and also afraid that it would just make things worse for me if I got them in trouble.

    I’m now in college, so I don’t have to go there on weekends and share a room with them anymore.  I now only see them a few times a year at family events.  They now are super friendly to me and act like we’ve always been the best of friends!  I do my best to avoid them.  My dad said that they told their mom that they don’t understand why I’m so “standoffish” toward them.  It seems like they have no idea how much it hurt when they bullied me.  I would like to be able to forgive them.  However, I would need them to sincerely apologize, and I mean a sincere (not a phony) apology.  If they did, I think I could forgive them, so my best advice for S.T. is to sincerely apologize and hope for the best.  I don’t know what more you can do, since unfortunately you cannot undo the past.

    M.H.

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  4. By Carla, age , from Carmichael, CA, USA on 04/16/2013

    When I was 9, I was sexually abused by my then 15 year old female cousin while sharing a bed when visiting at their house.  I never told anyone.  I can’t tell you how bad this messed me up, and I still have nightmares about it.  When I see her now, she acts like nothing ever happened.  I want to forgive her because it is still eating away at me after 7 years since it has always been bottled up inside of me.  I want to forgive her not for her, but for me, because I know that I won’t be able to let go of this until I do.  However, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t do it.  It would help me very much if she would acknowledge the terrible thing she did to me and say that she’s very sorry and ask for forgiveness.

    Carla

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  5. By Anonymous, age , from Fair Oaks on 04/17/2013

    Sometimes I am sickened by humanity.  Today is one of those day’s, nonetheless I feel the need to try and help.

    Linda, neither you nor your siblings owe it to your stepfather or anyone else to forgive him.  It is or course your prerogative to choose not to forgive him, it is your choice.  At this point, you forgiving him would only help one person, you.  Forgiving doesn’t even mean seeing someone, you can choose to try and move on without meeting with someone.  I can tell you are still very angry, and for good reason.  The pain and suffering you went through is something I can only imagine.  Do what is right for you, find catharsis where you can.

    M.H., some of the panelists might disagree with me, but quite frankly your stepsisters don’t sound like they are worth telling the time of day.  People like that make me ill.  However if you want an apology, you might have to ask for one.  You could try sitting them both down and telling them what they did to you, and how it felt.  Then if they don’t apologize, tell them you want them to.  If they apologize then, and it’s sincere, you could try to find it in your heart to let go of that horrible experience.  If they still insist they’ve done nothing wrong, or even try to blame you, cut them off.  They aren’t worth your time.

    Carla, when I read what happened to you, I could hardly believe it.  I wanted to cry.  Please ask your parents to let you talk to a councilor, it could help.  I can’t advise you to talk to this person, they make me sick to my stomach.  It is incredible to me that you have tried to forgive her at all.  I wouldn’t be able to either.

    Sincerely,

    A Soul Who Cares

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  6. By Samantha, age , from Santa Ana, CA on 04/17/2013

    My sister and I had gotten along pretty well when we had our own rooms, but our parents got divorced and had to sell our house and we had to move into an apartment with our mom and share a room and share the bathroom since we now only had one bathroom.  We started having lots of conflicts about sharing a room and bathroom and started fighting and arguing alot.  Even though we weren’t getting along, we were still sisters so we weren’t shy about undressing in front of each other and one time my sister was so mad at me that she pretended to be sending a text message and secretly took a picture of me with her cell phone when I was just in my thong and sent it to some guys.  This was very humiliating and I hated her for it.  She later realized that it was very wrong to do this no matter how mad she was at me and said she was sorry and begged for forgiveness.  At first I thought I could never forgive her, but after a time I realized that hating somebody I had to live in the same room with was hurting me more than it was hurting her, so I decided to forgive her.  Telling her I forgave her was like lifting a big weight off my shoulders.  She cried and hugged me.  Ever since, we have been getting along really well most of the time and have become close.  So I want to tell anybody who is having a hard time forgiving someone that it will make you feel very good, so you should do it no matter how hard it seems.

    Samantha

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  7. By Vickie, age , from Salinas, CA on 04/17/2013

    My sister and I were very happy to forgive our mom when she stopped drinking and went to AA and asked our forgiveness.  We now had a mom instead of a drunk!  Forgiveness came easy and made us feel very, very good.

    Vickie

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  8. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 04/18/2013

    To Carla, M.H. and Linda—I am very sorry for what you have been through. Please know that forgiveness does not necessarily mean trusting or going back to being friends with the person who wronged you. Some people can never be trusted again—nor would it be wise! You would simply imperil yourself. And others you would never want to befriend again for the same reason. This is where discernment comes in, because other times it DOES make sense to trust (to whatever degree) and be friends (to whatever degree) again. This is where personal work and an examined life are very important, so you can learn to properly discern what makes sense given the person, their changes, and the situation.

    Forgiveness, however, in essence, is beyond trusting again or re-befriending. It’s an internal feeling that releases you from carrying the burden of the resentment. You never have to see the person again to do this. While an apology from them might help, you could wait your whole life for it—and why? Your life is too valuable for that! You want it to be free to blossom regardless of what this person does in THEIR life.

    So, discern and keep discerning and take brave inner or outer action accordingly. This could mean asking for an apology from someone who appears clueless, or accepting an apology from someone, however lamely they present it. But you CAN shed the resentment and blossom in freedom without them. Don’t hesitate to have a good therapist, counselor, or minister help you with this. Lifting this weight is worth the monetary cost you might incur. If the person who hurt you is someone you have to see occasionally and you really feel the need to address it directly with them, by all means, ask that therapist, counselor, or minister to facilitate a meeting between the two of you. I’m sending love and best wishes for forgiveness, however you get there. –Love, Lauren

    To Vickie & Samantha—Thank you SO much for writing in with your stories of forgiveness. You en-courage so many others to take their own steps to freedom. –Love, Lauren

    “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” ~ Nelson Mandela

    “Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

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  9. By Mindy, age , from Seaside, CA, U.S.A. on 04/19/2013

    I bullied my little sister for years and now feel terrible about it.  I hated having to share a room with her and took it out on her even though it obviously wasn’t her fault. I would do things similar to S.T. and make fun of her when she was undressed about things like having a “fat butt”  and “no boobs, etc.” among many other things, but she still undressed in front of me with no shyness because I was her sister.  I would even sometimes walk in on her in the bathroom when she was “on the facility” to embarrass her, and she never even told our mom.

    I’m now in college, and believe it or not, I miss her.  I now have a roommate who has many habits that drive me crazy and now realize that sharing a room with my sister really wasn’t so bad. I want to tell her how sorry I am and become close with her like some sisters are.  I had a friend who was very close with her sister and I envied them when I had sleepovers in their room, but I now realize that our lack of closeness was totally my own fault!  I’ll be going home for the summer in June and we’ll be sharing a room again for the summer, so this will be a good time to try to make things right with her and maybe start to have a close relationship, but I’m nervous about it and don’t know how to approach her.  I’m thinking about sending her an email ahead of time telling her how I feel and asking her forgiveness.  I really hope that she will forgive me and we can become close before it is too late.

    Mindy

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  10. By Anonymous, age , from Fair Oaks on 04/19/2013

    Mindy, I think emailing her is a great idea!  It puts the ball in her court, without putting her in the spotlight, so she has time to decide how she wants to respond.  Maybe mention you’d like to apologize on the phone as well, and offer that she can call you anytime she feels up to it.  When you do go home for the summer, hopefully things will have begun to smooth themselves out, and the two of you can work on getting close, instead of trying to solve whether or not she’s forgiven you.

    And in all honesty I don’t think you have to worry too much, she sounds like she found a way to cope.  I think apologizing to her will mean the world to your sister, and go a long way towards you being able to forgive yourself.

    Let us know what happens,

    Sincerely,

    A Soul Who Cares

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