Dear Annie: I am struggling with forgiveness. I am the father of a beautiful 15-year-old girl. On Mother’s Day several years ago, she told me that she had been molested by my nephew, a boy I treated like a son. Unfortunately, this has completely torn our family apart. We went through the legal system, which was very frustrating, and he has pleaded and served his sentence.
What I am trying to do now is find forgiveness, but to this day, my nephew has denied that anything ever happened, and his mother has backed him up on this, as well. So I find myself struggling with forgiving both my nephew and my sister, especially because they have not sought my forgiveness or attempted any reconciliation to our family as a whole – which, if things were reversed, as a father, son, brother and uncle, I would feel obligated to do. I pray often for help. I know that forgiveness is not for them but for me, but this has been a struggle, to say the least. Thank you for your response. – Trying to Forgive
Dear Trying: I applaud your wisdom. You’re right; forgiveness is more for you than for them. What your nephew did was horrible, and it will take a long time for your anger to subside enough to make room for any forgiveness. Be patient with yourself. Even having the intention or will to do something – that is progress in the right direction.
Also know that forgiving them doesn’t mean you have to want to spend time with them. It’s good to forgive in your heart, but it’s important to maintain a healthy distance to protect yourself, especially if they are still denying what happened.
Dear Annie: I have a wonderful stepson and daughter-in-law. They are both social and attend most family events. Over the many years, they have been to our house for dinner more than 30 times and to other relatives’ homes for dinner, as well. The problem is that they never ask to bring anything and never come with a gift of any kind. I have asked them before to bring what they want to drink, and they don’t even do that. Our daughter-in-law says that because she didn’t bring a dish, she will help with the dishes. Our other guests bring something and still help clean up. The problem has lately become exacerbated because they have a baby in tow and now don’t help clean up, as they have to leave early to put the baby to bed.
How can I approach them without causing a rift and seeming like the ugly stepmom? My husband refuses to say anything. – Tired of the Empty-Handed
Dear Tired: Your husband’s refusal to say anything hints that he doesn’t think this sort of etiquette is really that important. It’s no wonder his son never got the memo on how to be a good dinner guest.
Next time you’re hosting, give your stepson and daughter-in-law very specific instructions. Leave no wiggle room: “Please do me a favor and bring an appetizer.” Putting it in those terms will make clear that the appetizer is not just for them and not just to be brought if they feel like it. It’s for helping you, the hostess. You really shouldn’t have to spell that sort of thing out, but as a mother figure, you’ll be doing them a favor.
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