My brother and I are estranged. We were close as kids and I miss that relationship, but he did something truly cruel and hurtful to me. I just can’t forgive him. I want to, but I can’t. Where do I start?
I think you made the first step towards forgiveness without even realizing it. You resisted the temptation to lay out in detail your brother’s wrongdoings. Sometimes we get a perverse satisfaction out of telling, over and over, the story of another’s misdeeds. But, like scratching a mosquito bite, the re-telling only inflames the injury.
Ask for your brother’s good, understanding that you may not even yet want that.
Then, understand that forgiveness is like the healing of any wound: it takes time. Begin with prayer. First, use this method suggested to me by a wise priest. Imagine your brother standing beside you. Then, imagine Christ standing before you both with open and outstretched hands. Lift your brother and place him in Christ’s open hands. Be still and sit with that image.
When you are ready, you can begin to pray for him. Don’t ask God to change him. Just ask God to bless him, to have mercy upon him. Ask for your brother’s good, understanding that you may not even yet want that. Don’t worry about your desires or feelings. Remember how your parents made you say, “I’m sorry,” when you clearly weren’t at all sorry, and “thank you,” when you weren’t at all grateful for a sweater instead of a toy on your birthday? They were training you in appropriate remorse and gratitude. You were exercising your virtue muscles until they grew strong.
These are exercises, too. Start with this prayer workout and be patient. I think you will begin to see good changes. Your brother may or may not change, but you may be able to put down the terrible weight of your own hurt and anger.
You don’t say how old you are or how old you were when the rift occurred. But, when you’re ready to consider it, allow yourself to ask if he may not be somewhere wondering, just like you, how to be restored to his sibling. And, once you can hold him quietly and lovingly in prayer, maybe you can meet and begin to find a way back to one another.
Let me know how it goes,