My brother is boycotting our family dinner again

Your Life
Dr. Gelasia Marquez
December, 2015

The rest of us don’t even understand what it is he’s holding a grudge about, and any attempts to talk about it have been rebuffed, but we know our parents would like all of us there. Is there anything we can do?

Grudges are tough. They are the opposite of forgiveness, because the people involved are holding on to old hurts long past the time they should have been let go. This can happen because people remember things with their emotions – whatever incidents caused this rift are a completely different reality to your brother than they are to you, because you filtered them through different emotional lenses.

You may want to call your brother and ask to meet somewhere neutral for a conversation about what’s caused this rift, perhaps a coffee shop. Tell him you really want to understand, not to argue. Pray before your meeting, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the right words.

During the conversation, listen. Listen carefully. And then indicate you understand what he has said and why he is upset. Use words like, “I can see why that would have been hard for you.” And acknowledge that you may have done a few things wrong, too. The words, “I’m sorry” have more power than you can imagine.

Then you can say, “And there are a few pieces of the puzzle from my perspective that may help you understand why I’ve felt hurt.” Don’t deny his reality, just add yours. Make it clear it’s about your feelings, not about blame. And then tell him what you’d like to happen next – “I’d like it if you could come to Christmas dinner and eat with the family. We miss you.” 

It might be awkward or tense at first, but with time, you can ease back into a more comfortable relationship.