My sister and I did not get along. She was messy while I was neat. We didn’t share the same interests and couldn’t relate to each other. It seemed like all we did was argue and fight.
One day, when I went to get a skirt I wanted to wear, I found it in a crumpled heap on the floor of my closet. My sister had dumped it there after wearing it. She hadn’t even asked me if she could wear it, and then when she’d finally returned it, she hadn’t even bothered to hang it up. For me, the neatnik, this was beyond insulting.
Furious, I grabbed the skirt off the floor and headed to the ironing board in the basement. Tears of frustration and anger welled up inside me. I didn’t like my sister, but even worse was an unfamiliar feeling: I realized in that moment that I also didn’t like myself and the way I was thinking.
As a student in the Christian Science Sunday School, I’d learned the importance of Jesus’ teachings, including forgiveness and the demand to love. But Jesus did more than simply tell his followers that they should forgive and love. He showed them why and how they could: Each of us is the child of God, who is divine Love, so the ability to love is included in who we are.
I certainly didn’t feel very loving at that moment. I felt totally justified in my anger and in all the negative thoughts about my sister that were swirling through my head. And yet, as I stood there alone in the basement, something inside me changed. A beautiful, peaceful feeling spread over me.
Looking back, I know that moment was answered prayer, because beneath the anger and frustration was a real desire to love my sister and to live as the child of Love that I knew God had created me to be.
The ugly feelings vanished. I had a clear recognition that I could be the forgiving, love-filled person I wanted to be, because that was the identity God had given me. How my sister was acting couldn’t change the fact that I reflected Love. That was so freeing.
From that moment on, my relationship with my sister was different. I felt genuine love for her, and a sweet sense of my own purity and gentleness filled my heart. We actually never had another argument, and we even became very good friends.
What happened? I learned that day in the basement that my happiness, peace, and ability to love aren’t dependent on how others act. That’s not to say that others’ bad behavior is OK or that we should simply put up with it. But I did discover that all the good that we are is dependent on God alone, and when we recognize this, we can feel joy and contentment no matter what. I discovered that love is a gift from God. It is ours and can never be taken away. The expression of Love is what we are and what we will always be.
This turning point in my relationship with my sister was huge. But even bigger was the foundation this experience laid for my whole life. I came to see that anger, hurt feelings, and self-pity don’t have the payoff they seem to promise. In fact, all they do is obscure the loved and loving spiritual identity that is ours as children of God.
By contrast, turning to God and listening to God in the harder moments enables us to see the good in everyone more readily and more completely. And this in turn opens the door to the power of Love, which restores us and heals our relationships.