Dear Dr. Yael,
I love my father very much, and it bothers me a great deal that he has not spoken to his brother for more than three years. Growing up, we were all so close, yet there was a fight about a kibbud at a wedding and since then they do not speak.
You see, they have a younger brother who is a rav and he was given a kibbud, as opposed to my father who is the oldest. My uncle apologized and the younger brother has given my father kibbudim at other simchas. It hasn’t helped. Neither has having rabbanim speak with my father. My mother has remained close with this uncle and aunt and invites them to our parties. They come and my uncle tries to speak with my father, who ignores him.
I wonder if there is some jealousy involved. My uncle is very wealthy – and very generous and always doing chesed. My father makes an average living. Their parents, my grandparents, are no longer alive. They were poor and my uncle always took care of them.
Dr. Respler, this whole situation is so hard. My father is upset with us because we are close with my uncle and his family. He seems to be an angry person. I know that he reads your column, so I hope that your answer to this letter will make a difference for us – and most importantly for him.
I Want Shalom
From your description, it does sound like there is an element of jealousy under the anger. However, it is hard for me to know for sure. Here are some general ideas to think about:
Did your deceased grandparents prefer your uncle? Were they proud of his financial success and show it? Did your father feel as if they were not as happy with him? We have focused quite a bit on favored children as well as on those who felt unliked by the parents.
Is it possible that this grudge has its roots deep in the past and this kibbud issue is what your father is focusing on because dealing with past grievances is more painful?
I always tell my clients that bearing a grudge is allowing someone to live rent free in their brain. The person who bears the grudge feels slighted and left out and often deprives himself of enjoying the people he really loves.
Grudges give a person an identity, he is the “person who was wronged”! There is a feeling of rightness and strength in this identity, which unfortunately helps people feel that their anger is justified! Additionally, if a person feels wronged because he wasn’t a favored child, the grudge he nurses later gives him the compassion and comfort he didn’t get in the past. In order to let go of a grudge, we have to be willing to let go of being “the wronged one,” and whatever sympathy was received through being “wronged.”
Unfortunately, the grudge will not help him get past the pain; it will only keep him from connecting to people and getting the empathetic healing he really needs.
I know you have spoken with your father. I wonder if you have told him how much this hurts all of you. By telling him that making peace would be good for his family, you are giving him an easy way out that can save his pride. He won’t have to admit to himself that he was wrong to hold the grudge and it will be easier for him to let it go.
In the spirit of Chanukah, I hope that you will be successful in bringing an end to this situation. Life is too short for us not to have shalom in our families.
Moshiach is not here because of sinas chinam, and bearing a grudge plays a huge role in delaying his arrival. With this in mind, let us all let go of the feeling that are being wronged.