“How do I forgive my sister after what she did?” asks one of my She Blossoms readers on How to Start Healing Broken Family Relationships. “She refused to help me take care of our dying father and forced me to plan the funeral alone. My sister hurt me deeply. It’s just the two of us now. We’re all that’s left in our family but still, forgiveness feels impossible.”
Family situations can be so difficult — especially when you lose a parent and you have nobody left except your sister. I don’t know what it’s like to care for a dying father, but I do know how painful and difficult it is to forgive a sister for the pain she caused.
Your sister hurt you. It won’t be easy to forgive her, but forgiveness is the healthiest choice you could ever make. Forgiving a toxic, unhealthy, or even abusive sister isn’t about becoming a better person or even restoring broken family relationships. It’s about healing your heart, spirit and soul so you can move forward with freedom, peace, and joy.
In Chapter One of Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back I described what it was like to hear my sister say she doesn’t want me in her life anymore. It was the most painful moment of my life, and writing about it reopened old wounds! But, writing was also healing. I described how I forgave my sister for hurting me — and how I blossomed into a more joyful, peaceful, secure and free woman than I ever imagined possible.
If I can forgive my sister, so can you. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
How to Forgive Your Sister for Hurting You
Remember Joseph and his brothers? The book of Genesis in the Bible tells us how they almost killed him, but decided to sell him into slavery instead. Genesis 45 tells the happy ending of Joseph’s story. Genesis 45 also contains powerful insights and tips for forgiving our toxic family members, forgetting the past, and moving forward into a fresh new season of life.
This article is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project. You don’t have to believe in God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit to benefit from my steps to forgiving your sister for hurting you Just keep an open mind. God brought you here for a reason.
1. Be aware of what you can’t see and don’t know about your sister
Joseph’s brothers were shocked and terrified in Genesis 45. They thought they were dealing with Pharoah’s Egyptian officials for the past few months; they had no idea they were talking to their little brother, Joseph. They’d sold him into slavery 20 years earlier (read When Someone You Love Says “I Hate You” for a brief description). Joseph’s brothers had no idea what happened to Joseph — but they knew they hurt him badly. They sold him, lied to their father, and had to live with the guilt and pain for two decades! Joseph’s brothers were in a far more painful position than Joseph himself, for they had to live with the fact that they hurt their brother so badly. They had to forgive themselves, which can be much more difficult than forgiving a sibling.
What is happening — or has happened — to sister? Your sister chose to hurt you, perhaps intentionally. She caused you a great deal of pain but you want to forgive her because you know you’ll feel happier and healthier if you forget the past. Your first step is to accept that you don’t know everything about her. You don’t know why your sister hurt you so badly. In fact, she may not even know the reasons behind her choices. When I asked my sister why she didn’t want to talk to me anymore, she said she didn’t know. And I believe her. I believe we all have reasons and motivations that we don’t understand. If you accept that people are complicated and sisters are hurtful for unknown and sometimes bizarre reasons, you’re one step closer to forgiving her.
2. Accept what your sister did to you
I’m writing a She Blossoms blog post for every chapter of Genesis, and I’m amazed at Joseph. He’s been compared to Jesus because he’s so trusting, compassionate, willing, obedient, kind-hearted, and loving. I especially love how faithful Joseph is, how much he trusts God. “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance,” he said to his brothers in Genesis 45:7-8. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” Joseph didn’t just accept the hurt and pain his brothers caused, he saw through it to the good God was doing for the Israelites. It wasn’t just about Joseph…and accepting this helped him forgive his brothers.
Can you accept your sister for who she is and what she did? This is a crucial step to forgiving your sister for hurting you. If you can’t accept her for who she is — and if you can’t accept the choice she made to hurt you — then you won’t find forgiveness easy. Before you can forgive anyone, you must accept what happened. Acceptance doesn’t mean agreeing with it or letting it happen again. Acceptance means that you stop wishing it didn’t happen. You stop asking “why” and simply allow your sister to be who she is. You also allow yourself to be who you are.
3. Choose to forgive your sister and move on
Joseph was all about living in the present and moving toward the future with hope, faith, and courage! Genesis 45 is just one of many snippets of his life that reveal how accepting and eager he was. This doesn’t mean Joseph didn’t feel pain; on the contrary, he wept so loudly that the whole house heard his grief. Joseph expressed his emotions in appropriate and healthy ways. He was authentic and open, yet careful and thoughtful. Joseph was wise and insightful, trusting and brave. These traits helped him forgive his brothers for hurting him — and they are traits we can cultivate in our own lives.
What needs to change in you before you can forgive your sister? You can’t change who your sister is, what she did, or how deeply she hurt you. You can’t make her talk to you or be nice to you. You can’t make your sister love you, or that you the way you want to be treated. The only person you can change — and it won’t be easy — is yourself. What needs to change in you? If you’re like me, you’re holding on to guilt and shame because you think your sister’s choices are all about you. Or maybe you’re so angry, bitter and resentful that you blame your sister for everything that happened. This third step to forgiving your sister is about being honest with yourself.
Change is hard. It took me 10 years to forgive my sister for hurting me…and I couldn’t do it alone. I had to change how I saw myself before I could even start forgiving my sister. I tried to change my self-identity for years by going to counseling and reading self-help books, but nothing worked.
The thing that changed my self-identity was seeing myself through God’s eyes. I realized how deeply He loves me, and I started developing a sincere personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He — through the Holy Spirit — not only changed me, He changed my relationship with everyone and everything in this world. And that changed everything…including my ability to forgive my sister for hurting me.
How is your relationship with Jesus? Find out who He is. Go deeper than what you already know. Don’t just believe in God, follow His lead. He has things in store for you that you could never imagine or plan! And He’s whispering in your ear right now. Don’t ignore His call on your life, for He wants more for you.
What do you think? Can you go beyond forgiving your sister for hurting you, and change how you see yourself and Jesus? Your comments — big and little — are welcome below.
With His love,
P.S. Are you struggling to make a decision or find the right path in your life? Read an Easy Way to Stop Overthinking God’s Will for Your Life.