Will you be spending the almost here holiday with midlife siblings you don’t like? Do you deliberately not see them or their family during the holidays because of an old grudge?
Midlife siblings are growing old with you. It may be in a few months or a few years, but time for balancing family ledger is running out. Let’s look at a Christmas story, to see how forgiveness worked for Charles Dickens.
Dickens’s famous Christmas Carol has old Scrooge, parsimonious and downright mean, sleeping in his gloomy bedchamber. He has spent the day browbeating his employee Bob Cratchit, complaining that he will have to pay him for the holiday, ignoring the penurious plight of Bob’s family and little son, poor crippled Tiny Tim.
He planned to spend Christmas ignoring his sister’s family.
In the middle of the night the cellar door creaks, an ominous bell starts to toll, and the ghost of his old counting house partner, Marley, lurks into his crypt-like bedchamber.
Marley, clanking his loud chains made of cash boxes, ledgers and very bad deeds, drags toward Scrooge, now awakened and terrified. Warning Scrooge about the consequences of his miserable behavior, rattling the padlocks and metal chains that bind him, Marley says he has been lugging these painful shackles since he died, wandering the earth as punishment for his ungenerous life.
He says he has come to save old Scrooge from that same fate. Scrooge will be in those irons in his next life if he doesn’t give up the past and live a more humane life in the present, and see his way to changing his foul behavior and learning to live a kinder much more openhanded life in the here and now.
Scrooge is made to look back at what started this life of anger and penury. He travels to his childhood with the ghost of Christmas past to see the once sweet little Scrooge who had a nasty father who left the child alone at Christmas in his dilapidated boarding school, reading by a flickering fire.
We forward through the three ghost stories to a kind of Dickensian life review, where Scrooge can see that there was also good in his life in old Fezziwig and Scrooge’s sister Fan. His life did have joy, but poor Scrooge kept retreating to his gloomy self, the lonely, neglected child who inhabited Victorian England’s broken-down boarding school system.
Take that story as a warning tale. Family members who pass on their anger, hurt, resentment, and scars to the next generation are dooming those kin , like poor old Scrooge, to a future in Marley’s chains. Forgiving your midlife siblings can release you from being bound by childhood wounds , or cruel behavior, that gets passed on from one generation to the next.
Scrooge was living in the past. He just can’t imagine a joyful, happy version of the present. Worse than that, he can’t combine the three tenses of his life: his nasty childhood past, his just as wretched present, and what is sure to be, as the Christmas ghost show him shows him, a sorrowful future. Scrooge sees, through those clanking chains binding Marley, the tethers on his own family, poor Tiny Tim, and hapless Cratchit—living just as miserable a future. In fact he is warned, if he doesn’t change right away, poor Tiny Tim will die and his own death will be mourned by his servants stealing his bed curtains.
Scrooge has an epiphany. He calls all three ghosts—the past, present, and future—together and finds redemption. He discovers, as his nephew Fred says, a holiday season that wants to be a “forgiving, charitable time.”
The next morning he throws opens the window of his bleak London brownstone and yells for all to hear. He has transitioned into the here and now, lets the past go, and sees a happier family future. He rushes out to buy that mammoth turkey for the Cratchit family, and has a great holiday dinner with his nephew’s family.
Scrooge moves into the here and now, no longer living miserably in the past .
So when that ritual family occasion comes up in the next day or two , think of Scrooge. Consider how moving into the present and forgiving those old family wounds might just make your own life much more joyful.
See your siblings in the here and now, as people who are the longest deepest relations you will ever have—sisters or brothers. You have half or more of your adult life left to live with them. View them as the team members who need to help you as a family caresfor your parents. Let that anger go.
Make this holiday season be, as Scrooge’s nephew says, a kind, forgiving, charitable time. Consider forgiveness.
To find a path towards sibling forgiveness check out my You Tube series