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 How do you teach someone the value of forgiveness?

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Cristianna

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PostSubject: How do you teach someone the value of forgiveness?   3/29/2010, 2:38 pm

When they just don't seem to get it...

The background story. My younger brother (29 years old) has struggled with alcoholism since his early teens. My family is predisposed to the disease. Both of my older brothers suffered from it as well as countless other members of my immediate and not so immediate family.

It took a 3rd OWI and a police raid of his house in order for him to finally wake up. For the first time in 15 years of being an alcoholic he admitted to me that had finally came to terms with the fact that he can not and will not ever be a casual drinker. His only option was to quit drinking entirely, otherwise the alcohol was going to kill him. In the past he had the rediculous notion that he could just cut back and "learn to control it" despite my protests to the contrary.

He also admitted that he'd been suffering from very severe depression for some time. I knew he was suffering from depression in some way - but I had no idea how severe it really was until then.

I had tried to talk to him about his addiction in the past but he would become very defensive, angry and would shut down entirely. He would not listen no matter how much I pleaded and begged that he get help. I can't describe how hard it was to watch my little brother slowly kill himself - we have always been extremely close - but whenever I voiced my concerns the conversation would end in a fight and us not speaking to each other for a time. In the end I decided that I wanted him in my life too badly - despite the pain that it caused.

I felt much relief upon his admission of is addiction. He began substance abuse treatment and also began attending AA. He has now been more then 60 days sober. He has been keeping his mind busy and constantly surrounds himself with supportive people. I have seen a dramatic change in him, both physically and mentally. His struggles are far from over however.

There is an aspect of my brother's personality that persists in eating away at me. I know he will not TRULY be able to be at peace with his life until this issue is resolved. I question whether or not he will be able to stay the course of sobriety and healing with these tendencies still inside of him.

My father has always been a "tough love" sort of guy. He was relatively hard on all of us growing up. Never physically abusive, but could be a bit condescending and even insulting at times. There were also times in his life where we felt like we took a back seat to his job, girlfriend etc. He was not always the most tactful guy in the world when it came to his family.

As a teenager I was the one that was more at odds with dad. I was pretty miserable in High School anyway and my temper was short. That in combination with my dad's personality could be a pretty tumultuous mix from time to time. With that said, fights really were quite rare between us. Things were peaceful probably 98% of the time. My dad is flawed but he is far from a monster. Everything he has ever said and done was out of the desire to make us better people.

I realize now that my father was a product of his own father's tough ways. His dad was pretty ruthless. I think my brother and I actually had it pretty easy. I hold no resentment towards my father for the way he raised us. He parented the way he knew how. He did what he thought was right. He focused heavily on his work because he hoped to provide for us. There are a lot of redeeming qualities about my father. He loves us very dearly and would die for us. To me, that supercedes any mistakes he might have made. He is only human.

My brother however has a different take on things. He has always been a very sensitive person. In many ways this is a great asset - but for some people this asset all to easily turns into a vice.

Any criticism that comes my brother's way is instantly seen as an attack. Yes, my father often lacks tact - but my brother refuses to look at himself to see if there is any justification for my father's comments. Is it really that insulting that my father doesn't want his brilliant, kind, thoughtful (and alcoholic) son to spend his life working as a bartender? Is it really an attack when my father complains that he only sees his son 9 or 10 times a year? Or points out the fact that my brother never attempts to visit his elderly and sickly grandparents?

To me, this is pretty typical father rhetoric. To my brother it's a testament to the fact that my father doesn't think he is good enough.

My father isn't the only person that has been impacted by my brother's sensitivity. I have also had similar experiences. I'll never forget the numerous times my brother came to me in a drunken stupor, sobbing uncontrollably and totally inconsolable in an attempt to make me feel guilty for picking on him when we were children. By picking on him, I'm referring to the following. "Do you remember when you were 10 and you hit me over the head with a squirt gun?" "Do you remember when you were 8 and you told me that you hated me? You don't know how much that hurt me. You just don't understand."

To be honest - I don't remember those things. I AM sorry that I apparently scarred him deeply with my actions and I sincerily apologized to him after he expressed to me how much pain I caused - but I was a CHILD, and those events occurred almost 20 years ago. To me, those events were typical sibling tiffs. Pretty mild when seen in comparison with what other siblings have gone through.

Yet my brother carries these things with him. Even today when he seems to be doing so well in his treatment I catch these gliimpses of the old brother peeking through. The brother that carries resentment and painful memories from long ago around with him like they just happened yesterday. The brother that harbors vengeance in his heart for those that have "wronged" him - no matter how long ago the wrong occurred. There are countless other incidents that have occured throughout my brother's life - outside of my father and I. Bar fights, grudges, yearning for vengeance, the constant need for my brother to prove himself to those around him either physically, mentally or financially.

So, my question is this - how do I get my brother to realize the importance of forgiveness? How do I get my brother to realize that he will never truly heal from his addictions and depression if he continues to carry around chains of indignation and resentment?

This is a core issue that is at the root of WHY he became an alcoholic. How can I help him to see that the foundation of his healing will always be shaky if he doesn't learn the art of forgiveness?

“If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you” -Peter Marshall
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Safyre
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PostSubject: Re: How do you teach someone the value of forgiveness?   3/29/2010, 3:58 pm

In my experience the more you try to interferring with another person's path of learning and experience the harder and more volatile the lessons get if they are not learned or completed. I feel this happens because the person REALLY needs to learn them on their own without outside help. That doesn't mean you aren't available when they need a bit of support that just means you call back your energy and attachments and expectations to the situation. Allow the process to happen. This also doesn't mean enable him to continue to use or abuse you by knowing you will always be there when he falls. He won't learn how to pick himself up and balance if everyone keeps doing it for him. Think of the steps a child has to make when going from crawling to walking. Thinking of all the falls, out of balance steps, etc. that a child has to go through.

Cristianna wrote:

My brother however has a different take on things. He has always been a very sensitive person. Any criticism that comes his way is instantly seen as an attack. Yes, my father often lacks tact - but my brother refuses to look at himself to see if there is any justification for my father's comments. Is it really that insulting that my father doesn't want his brilliant, kind, thoughtful (and alcoholic) son to spend his life working as a bartender? Is it really an attack when my father complains that he only sees his son 9 or 10 times a year? Or points out the fact that my brother never attempts to visit his elderly and sickly grandparents?

In my opinion if I was your brother it would feel like someone was trying to attach their expectations on to me. If I am already hurting and trying to heal I have enough on my plate to deal with then someone else's expectations and feelings. Especially if healing need to occur in regards to your Dad. I don't see my parents very often because I don't care for their views and company. They aren't bad people just have different ideas and energy I don't care for. It took me a long time to be okay with not going an seeing them or jumping everytime they said or needed because I didn't want to be judged. I felt lilke I was a bad child because I didn't visit or help them like I had been conditioned to. Thing is I don't like how I feel when I am around them. It's unhealthy for me. My body gets tense. I think bad thoughts, etc. I don't want to be that kind of person. In an ideal world I would have a thicker skin and could let it all roll off and over time I have gotten better about that but it has taken time, healing and learning about what's healthy for me. I don't see my grandfather (98 this year) either does that make me a bad person. I don't think so. Maybe your brother since he is so sensitive feels similarly to me and he needs to stay away to find himself and heal.

Cristianna wrote:

My father isn't the only person that has been impacted by my brother's sensitivity. I have also had similar experiences. I'll never forget the numerous times my brother came to me in a drunken stupor, sobbing uncontrollably and totally inconsolable in an attempt to make me feel guilty for picking on him when we were children. By picking on him, I'm referring to the following. "Do you remember when you were 10 and you hit me over the head with a squirt gun?" "Do you remember when you were 8 and you told me that you hated me? You don't know how much that hurt me. You just don't understand."

Keep in mind you have a choice to allow the impact or not. So far both you and your father have allowed your brother to impact you. I know it's hard but sometimes you have to do what's healthy for you and not help. That's not tough love for your brother that's you loving, honoring and respecting yourself and your life.

Since men tend to be guarded about there true feeling due to societal conditioning, I feel like his bringing up what seems to be trivial experiences is just his way to open himself up to the deeper hurt and to see if it's safe to go deeper yet. I think what you did by acknowledging them and saying you are sorry was perfect. Keep doing what you are doing in helping him resolve and move through the hurt so he can start healing and go deeper. This can be tricky because some people get stuck and repeat it over and over again. They don't want to resolve it because they are attached and confortable with the pattern.

Cristianna wrote:

So, my question is this - how do I get my brother to realize the importance of forgiveness? How do I get my brother to realize that he will never truly heal from his addictions and depression if he continues to carry around chains of indignation and resentment?

This is a core issue that is at the root of WHY he became an alcoholic. How can I help him to see that the foundation of his healing will always be shaky if he doesn't learn the art of forgiveness?

Do you really feel like your brother doesn't forgive others? Or is it possible that he can't seem to forgive himself for not being the best he knows can be? Or doing more with his life?

Sounds to me like the root of his addiction is his fear to face the truth about himself, family, take responsibility for it and then forgive himself and start a new life. Its hard to face all aspects of yourself - best and worst - both can be equally scary. He needs to know he can be himself without expectations. He needs to know he can make responsible choices without being judge. Sounds like he is making healthy decisions if he has stayed sober for 60 days. That's a HUGE STEP that should be CELEBRATED! Each day he doesn't drink IS HUGE and he is FACING himself, taking responsibility for his actions and making better choices. Don't forget that because it's easy for you. Maybe instead of telling him not to be a bartender, ask him if he thinks its the best choice and environment at this time? Then leave it alone for him to think about. If he decides to be a bartender then he has more path to travel. Empower him to make choices. Trust he will make healthy ones (he already is) all the while knowing he will makes some unhealthy ones along the way as that is part of the process.

Your journey with him is equally difficult because detaching from him so he can learn is one of the hardest things to do to when you care so much. If you can be supportive when he asks for you and then watch him grow on his own it's the most blessed and beautiful thing in the world. There are no words to express then feeing when you watch someone get their wings and fly with confidence and without reservation.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you teach someone the value of forgiveness?   3/29/2010, 4:27 pm

cristianna wrote:
I know he will not TRULY be able to be at peace with his life until this issue is resolved

A few more thoughts ...
The journey and process he has started with being sober 60 days is going to a SLOW and LONG one. He is going to go through many phases and trials asking him if he can and is ready to do this.

  • making the daily choice of not drinking knowing that not only is the drug going to call to him and his body but also knowing he will be facing himself and his past decisions, actions, etc. clearly


  • once clear in his head all those emotions, hurt and feelings will come rushing in


  • Then he will have to make the choice not to drink again because his way of coping with them was to drink


  • Next he will have to really feel them, own them and take responsibility mentally for everything. During this process you feel so raw and exposed


  • Then he will have to forgive himself. Know it's okay to make mistakes and to know that he isn't bad and CAN choose to be different


  • Once he gets to this point then will he start to be able to heal and find the peace you would like him to have


It's going to be a very slow process. It should be. If it's rushed it won't be complete and it could be repeated. Be patient. Celebrate the small steps. He is making healthy decisions.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you teach someone the value of forgiveness?   3/29/2010, 5:04 pm

Safyre wrote:
In my experience the more you try to interferring with another person's path of learning and experience the harder and more volatile the lessons get if they are not learned or completed. I feel this happens because the person REALLY needs to learn them on their own without outside help. That doesn't mean you aren't available when they need a bit of support that just means you call back your energy and attachments and expectations to the situation. Allow the process to happen.

Yes, I agree with this entirely - he spent a good 15 years being unready for change. Any intervention on my part was futile. Now however, I see an honest and true desire within him to get better - to become happy. That desire never existed in the past.

I know that I can not force him to see what I'm seeing, but I'm wondering if there are subtle things I might be able to do to help direct him towards the right path. Maybe there are good books I could buy from him or maybe some audio CD's? Maybe there are actions I can take to help him without putting him on the defense...

Safyre wrote:
In my opinion if I was your brother it would feel like someone was trying to attach their expectations on to me. If I am already hurting and trying to heal I have enough on my plate to deal with then someone else's expectations and feelings. Especially if healing need to occur in regards to your Dad. I don't see my parents very often because I don't care for their views and company. They aren't bad people just have different ideas and energy I don't care for. It took me a long time to be okay with not going an seeing them or jumping everytime they said or needed because I didn't want to be judged. I felt lilke I was a bad child because I didn't visit or help them like I had been conditioned to. Thing is I don't like how I feel when I am around them. It's unhealthy for me. My body gets tense. I think bad thoughts, etc. I don't want to be that kind of person. In an ideal world I would have a thicker skin and could let it all roll off and over time I have gotten better about that but it has taken time, healing and learning about what's healthy for me. I don't see my grandfather (98 this year) either does that make me a bad person. I don't think so. Maybe your brother since he is so sensitive feels similarly to me and he needs to stay away to find himself and heal.

There are a couple of additional things I must mention about my father. He really isn't the same person he was back when my brother and I were children - my brother isn't aware of this fact because he has seen my father very little for some time now.

The other issue is, I know my father feels very guilty about some of the mistakes he made in his past. He has admitted this to me and has apologized profusely. He has not had the chance to do so with my brother, because my brother hasn't given him the chance. My father misses my brother immensely and my brother's avoidance really hurts my father terribly. My father has his own issues with depression. It's like a vicious cycle between the two of them. They fuel each other's fire of unhappiness. I have talked at some length with my dad about this and for the most part he listens to what I have to say. That is not the case with my brother however. He refuses to listen when I try to explain where my dad is coming from and how I was able to be at piece with him and have a good relationship with him. I can't help but feel that my brother holds on to these assumptions and is not willing to let him go. Sometimes I honestly feel that my father has become more of a crutch for him than anything. It's much easier to refuse responsibiliy for your own life when you have someone else around that's all to easy to blame for your ills.

Safyre wrote:
Keep in mind you have a choice to allow the impact or not. So far both you and your father have allowed your brother to impact you. I know it's hard but sometimes you have to do what's healthy for you and not help. That's not tough love for your brother that's you loving, honoring and respecting yourself and your life.


Yes, this I am aware. I feel sad for my brother because he carries around such pain and sadness - but I do not feel guilty for the silly things I did or said as a child. I know the issue is not actually with me - it's something that's inside him. His inability to move on from these things is a symptom of some real emotional issues that he must someday come to terms with.

Safyre wrote:
I think what you did by acknowledging them and saying you are sorry was perfect. Keep doing what you are doing in helping him resolve and move through the hurt so he can start healing and go deeper. This can be tricky because some people get stuck and repeat it over and over again. They don't want to resolve it because they are attached and confortable with the pattern.

Yes, I agree. People that feel pain for so long become comfortable with it. So many people get caught up in the cycle.

Safyre wrote:
Do you really feel like your brother doesn't forgive others? Or is it possible that he can't seem to forgive himself for not being the best he knows can be? Or doing more with his life?

The root of the problem is his inability to forgive himself - that is why he carries around that pain. His resentment towards others that have "wronged" him is a form of self punishment. I think this quote sums it up the best:

"Resentment is like taking poison and then waiting for the other person to die."

The same can be said about his life/job situation.

Safyre wrote:
Sounds to me like the root of his addiction is his fear to face the truth about himself, family, take responsibility for it and then forgive himself and start a new life. Its hard to face all aspects of yourself - best and worst - both can be equally scary. He needs to know he can be himself without expectations. He needs to know he can make responsible choices without being judge. Sounds like he is making healthy decisions if he has stayed sober for 60 days. That's a HUGE STEP that should be CELEBRATED! Each day he doesn't drink IS HUGE and he is FACING himself, taking responsibility for his actions and making better choices. Don't forget that because it's easy for you. Maybe instead of telling him not to be a bartender, ask him if he thinks its the best choice and environment at this time? Then leave it alone for him to think about. If he decides to be a bartender then he has more path to travel. Empower him to make choices. Trust he will make healthy ones (he already is) all the while knowing he will makes some unhealthy ones along the way as that is part of the process.

Your journey with him is equally difficult because detaching from him so he can learn is one of the hardest things to do to when you care so much. If you can be supportive when he asks for you and then watch him grow on his own it's the most blessed and beautiful thing in the world. There are no words to express then feeing when you watch someone get their wings and fly with confidence and without reservation.

Yes, I agree - I guess it just scares me when I see these glimpses of old negativity within him. I feel like he's missing a large part of the healing process. He has faced a lot of truths about himself already - but this is one part of his life that I feel he must come to terms with and it seems as though it has yet to be addressed in any way. I have faith that he will come around - I just wish there was something I could do to help him along without scaring him off.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you teach someone the value of forgiveness?   3/29/2010, 5:54 pm

Cristianna wrote:

Yes, I agree with this entirely - he spent a good 15 years being unready for change. Any intervention on my part was futile. Now however, I see an honest and true desire within him to get better - to become happy. That desire never existed in the past.

I know that I can not force him to see what I'm seeing, but I'm wondering if there are subtle things I might be able to do to help direct him towards the right path. Maybe there are good books I could buy from him or maybe some audio CD's? Maybe there are actions I can take to help him without putting him on the defense...

I think being really gentle, subtle and loving while he is going through this will be key. I think you can plant seeds, however, I think you need to do this by asking questions for him to answer not telling him. Read the Judgment - Separation - Comparison - Attachment thread http://oursacredfire.forumotion.com/questions-answers-f63/judgment-separation-comparison-attachment-t44.htm If your brother brings us something irrational ask if he has an attachment to the feeling or ??? Don't expect or provoke an answer. Just give him food for thougth so to speak.

Maybe speak to him about honoring himself daily and the choices he is making.
Here's that thread - http://oursacredfire.forumotion.com/questions-answers-f63/honoring-yourself-t45.htm

Also remember you, me, him, everyone is connected. How does he reflect/mirror attachments, judgments, etc. that you or I may have or are experienicng. how would we like to be treated?

Cristianna wrote:
There are a couple of additional things I must mention about my father. He really isn't the same person he was back when my brother and I were children - my brother isn't aware of this fact because he has seen my father very little for some time now.

The other issue is, I know my father feels very guilty about some of the mistakes he made in his past. He has admitted this to me and has apologized profusely. He has not had the chance to do so with my brother, because my brother hasn't given him the chance. My father misses my brother immensely and my brother's avoidance really hurts my father terribly. My father has his own issues with depression. It's like a vicious cycle between the two of them. They fuel each other's fire of unhappiness. I have talked at some length with my dad about this and for the most part he listens to what I have to say. That is not the case with my brother however. He refuses to listen when I try to explain where my dad is coming from and how I was able to be at piece with him and have a good relationship with him. I can't help but feel that my brother holds on to these assumptions and is not willing to let him go. Sometimes I honestly feel that my father has become more of a crutch for him than anything. It's much easier to refuse responsibiliy for your own life when you have someone else around that's all to easy to blame for your ills.


It's not your brother's responsibility to give your father a chance to apologize for his actions. It's not your responsibility to be the go between either. The only responsibility your brother has is to get himself healthy and balanced again.

They don't fuel each others fire they are fueling their own fire. Each of them can put out their own fire if they want to. Your father could write a letter of apology to your brother if he wishes which in turn would release his guilt. If your brother doesn't want to see your father issue and he needs to take responsibility and to own the effect of his previous actions.

In a way you may be fueling the fire if you keep trying to mend them. Let it be as it needs to be. Don't talk about it. If they bring up tell them that you will not be the go between anymore and if they have something to say they need to say it to each other - in person, phone or letter or ??? There is always a way.

Cristianna wrote:

Yes, this I am aware. I feel sad for my brother because he carries around such pain and sadness - but I do not feel guilty for the silly things I did or said as a child. I know the issue is not actually with me - it's something that's inside him. His inability to move on from these things is a symptom of some real emotional issues that he must someday come to terms with.


You don't need to feel guilty at all. I hope you didn't miss understand me in my earlier post. I was just saying acknowledging his hurt was positive for his healing.

Cristianna wrote:

The root of the problem is his inability to forgive himself - that is why he carries around that pain. His resentment towards others that have "wronged" him is a form of self punishment. I think this quote sums it up the best:

"Resentment is like taking poison and then waiting for the other person to die."

The same can be said about his life/job situation.

That's a great quote! Thanks! I can relate to it.

Cristianna wrote:
Yes, I agree - I guess it just scares me when I see these glimpses of old negativity within him. I feel like he's missing a large part of the healing process. He has faced a lot of truths about himself already - but this is one part of his life that I feel he must come to terms with and it seems as though it has yet to be addressed in any way. I have faith that he will come around - I just wish there was something I could do to help him along without scaring him off.

He isn't missing it. He just hasn't gotten to it yet. He has other stuff to deal with first.

Is he open to reading now ??? You don't want to go too fast and blow his mind and progress. In the meantime I will think on some other ideas.
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