Before I went to go live with my dad at the age of 16, I had grown up with just one sibling, a sister. Ours was a very rocky relationship. We were 6 years apart in age, which made her the adoring little sister and me the annoyed older sister. Looking back now, all she ever did was love me and want to be like me. But I didn't treat her the way a disciple of Christ ought to. We had different fathers and her dad and I didn't get along well which added contention and strife between the two of us. I used to think that sibling quarrels were normal and to be expected. When I converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ I began to feel a big inner-conflict with the way I treated my sister; I felt like a hypocrite. Worse, I felt I was not pleasing the Lord. However, old habits die hard and it seemed impossible to break our relationship pattern. Very soon after my conversion I decided to move away to Utah to live with my dad.
Years past, I got married and settled in Utah. My sister still lived in our home-state, Washington, and I felt like I never got to make it up to my sister for the years that I wasn't kind to her. We loved each other, there was no doubt about that, but we had spent so many years apart that we never had the chance to change the dynamic of our relationship. Then, as luck would have it, my sister moved to Utah very close to where my family and I lived. At first our interactions were cordial but very surface level. But then, anytime any tension or stress would arise, I would feel like we were 16 and 10 again, reliving our past arguments. It was ridiculous, I was 25 years old with a family of my own. My childish arguing seemed almost automatic, out of my control. It was like she knew which buttons to push and how to really get on my nerves. I again felt that deep inner conflict and hypocrisy. I knew that when I was around her I was not my best self. I was ashamed of my behavior and attitude.
But it wasn't until I stumbled upon a scripture from the Sermon on the Mount that everything changed for me. Jesus said in Matthew 5:24, "...go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." I can't tell you how deeply that scripture affected me. I knew, at once, that not only was our arguing unacceptable to the Lord, but the Lord was not accepting my righteous service because I had not first reconciled myself to my sister. I had repented of the past, but I still held onto the guilt of not being a better sister, and worse still, our relationship was still rocky.
I decided to take the matter to the Lord. After a lot of prayer, meditation, patience and stumbling across a fantastic book called The Dance of Anger, the Lord helped to heal our relationship---more specifically, He helped to heal ME. I learned to accept His forgiveness. I am not the person I was at 16. I came to trust His word when He said I was forgiven. I learned to let go of the guilt and allow the possibility for healing.
I finally had to give the burden to Him, and as I did, He lead me to find ways to change my behavior in a healthy way. As time went on, I could see that I could only change so much---my half of the relationship. The other half I had no control over. I just had to trust in the Lord and send love to my sister. Eventually, as I began to react positively and with love, there began to be a huge change in our relationship. Good conversations were had, forgiveness extended and the past overcome with a promising future.
We have since became dear friends, which is why I feel I can share this story on this blog. My sister means everything to me. I am so glad the Lord, in His infinite wisdom commanded all of us to make peace with our family members. You cannot be a disciple of Christ and have evil or bad emotions towards someone. I know that to be true. It does not matter what that person has done to you or will continue to do to you. You need to find peace in your heart. You need to forgive and seek forgiveness. It is a most liberating experience. It allows you to experience the atonement in your life in a very real way. If you have any disputations with your family members, I encourage you to go your way and seek reconciliation. It brings peace beyond measure.
When you have done all that you can do to forgive, seek forgiveness and make peace, if the other person doesn't change and continues to treat you poorly, seek reconciliation from Christ. Some things will not be solved in this world. Some people will continue to be mean, toxic and abusive. But you can forgive even them. Christ paid for the suffering of the sinner and the sinned against. Our sufferings are His sufferings. He desires to take them from you. Go to Him for help. Have a real conversation with Him. Tell Him why you are upset, why you feel mistreated or why it is hard to forgive. Let His atonement be powerful enough to heal your broken heart. Give Him the burden, let justice be in His hands. Someday it will all be fair. But for now, it is the atonement that undoes wrongs and removes the affects of being mistreated by others.
When you go to the Savior with your relationship problems, I know you can be healed. It has happened repeatedly for me. Even when people continue to treat me badly, I am able to send love and peace and know with all my heart that Christ will make everything ok. On the other hand, when I have treated others poorly, I know I can repent and be truly forgiven. He is our healing balm; there is no heartache too big for Him. When He was in the garden of Gethsemane, He suffered for your pains, sins, weaknesses and heartaches. They were all laid before Him. He knows you intimately. He waits for you to come to Him to be healed. He already paid the price and stands ready and capable to bring you peace.
As Christ so quickly forgives us, we ought to forgive one another and we ought to forgive ourselves. Love is the mark of a true disciple. Contention is of the devil, and is never acceptable to the Lord. It will be our love, our forgiveness and our living example of our conversion that we will be judged for. None of our gifts, offerings and generosity will be acceptable if we have not first sought reconciliation with our brother through Jesus Christ our Savior.