QUESTION: Recently our brother sent his information to a company that provides ancestry information. He found out that we have a half-brother who was born before any of us were, but after our parents married, which makes our father “the culprit.”
We don’t want to tell our mother but would like to meet our brother. Please help us solve this quandary.
~ Three Siblings
Dear Three Siblings,
I don’t think meeting your half-brother should require your mother’s knowledge or permission. As adults, you are free to make your own choices as to whom you wish to befriend or not. I see no reason, especially at this point, to tell her anything. After all, based on your letter, you have not met the gentleman, much less determined if you like him well enough to have a long-term relationship where he is involved with or an intimate part of your family.
I see no reason to distress your mother at this point. It would appear you don’t know if she already knows whether or not that your father had a child with another woman. While it is perfectly acceptable for you to choose and explore this, and meet with your half-brother, it is not your mother’s choice. It may be even one she might not choose to explore even if she did know. In my opinion, it would not be fair to drag your mother into this by revealing what you found out and what you wish to do. IF it is the case she knew nothing about her husband’s indiscretion, this unasked-for-knowledge risks causing her enormous pain and unnecessary suffering.
It is not clear from your letter if your father is still alive. If he is not, this information would be a further burden in so far she cannot resolve something that would adversely affect her positive memory and feelings of their long-term marital relationship.
While I am a great advocate for truth and transparency, sometimes we must temper the seeming and brutal harshness of truth with compassion. In some religious traditions it is said that the only time it is acceptable to lie is to save the life of another human being. Certainly your mother’s physical life is not being threatened here, but the life of her mind, her happiness and continued peace of mind are at major risk with revealing the truth. You and your siblings need to consider that and act according to your own conscience.
Here is a short, affirmative and declarative prayer for guidance: “I give thanks knowing that Divine right action and Divine peace of mind are at work in this situation, guiding all parties involved into right choices that uplift, bless and benefit us all going forward; and that the rights of all are respected and protected where any potential conflicts are perfectly and positively resolved.”
Anthony Kelson, RScP
Dear Three Siblings,
Since we live in a time where technology enables us to discover secrets that in the past might have remained hidden, these quandaries are becoming quite common. I have a few straightforward thoughts on this.
1. How do you know your mother doesn’t know? 2. How do you know your dad does know? 3. You are free to meet your brother at any time he might be willing.
Lastly, remember there are likely to be consequences in not telling your mother if she truly does not know.
Secrets have a way of making themselves known especially when we start poking around in them. How would your mother feel if, or when, she finds out you kept any of this from her?
I tend to believe that to keep, or create, a healthy family we need to take great care with the decisions we make and the behaviors and activities we partake in. Betrayal is a huge issue, which I’m guessing you are trying to keep your mom from feeling in regard to your father. However, betrayal is a messy thing; it often happens due to choices which lead to consequences we have failed to think through.
So while you are free to meet your brother any time he might be willing, please think, discuss, and process the scenarios listed above and any potential consequences on the other side of your choice. There are a lot of hearts at stake … including your mother’s.
Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian
QUESTION: We have a 17-year-old daughter who excels at everything she does. She also takes on too many responsibilities and is now overwhelmed. Anytime she’s asked to help with a project or event, she always says yes. We’ve told her over and over to learn to say no and we’re getting nowhere with getting through to her.
Do you have any innovative ways of getting through to a teenager who thinks to be popular she has to be a “yes girl?”
~ Worried Parents
Dear Worried Parents,
It truly is hard for some people to say no, and I used to be one of them. But one of the things people in ministry are urged to do these days is self-care and one of the lines I have heard more than once is, “You can’t save the world if you don’t first save yourself.” So rest time, “off” time, vacation time are important. Now I realize we all want to be liked when we are 17 but we also need to realize that each of us has only 24 hours per day, and at least eight of those we need to sleep or at least rest.
I also sympathize with teenagers these days. In order to get into the colleges they want, they need to show that they have been active in community things as well as maintain a high grade point average. Some of us adults are making our teenagers crazy with all the loads we put on them or urge them to take.
What suggestions do I have? First, ask your daughter what she’d like to give up. Point out to her that her health is even more important than getting into Oxford (the one in England, not in Ohio or Mississippi!). And you might even say that God rested on one of the days He/She created!
If she balks at giving up anything, you might have to use a little parental authority and demand that she give up something. After all, if you’re paying the bills and providing the housing (as well as love and understanding), you do have a part to play in her well-being … even if she doesn’t agree! Or you could have her list all of the things she does that she likes and then ask her to drop one or two activities.
Finally, you might say what a joy she is to have as your daughter and how proud you are of her that she wants to do so many important things. But as my father said to my mother one time, and she was a wonderful woman, “Honey, you can’t do everything!”
Time for my ecclesiastical nap (!).
The Rev. C. L. “Skip” Lindeman
Dear Worried Parents,
First, it’s refreshing to hear that your daughter is ambitious and excels at everything she does! Many a parent has the challenge of encouraging their children to be involved in areas outside of themselves that benefit the community – whether it be school, church or the neighborhood. Your concern deals with the flip side of the same issue – how to be active and involved without losing our sense of inspiration and purpose.
For all of us, saying yes to too many requests can become an issue when we start to feel undo pressure. When our emotional state becomes overwhelmed and frustrated, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Many times, the underlying reason for always saying yes is our need to please others. That need comes from good intentions and a big heart, but it also becomes the source of validation for our worth. Being accepted for who we are and recognized for what we do is perfectly healthy but ultimately our value is not in what we do, but how we do it – the energy with which we participate in the world. A good question for your daughter to ask is if she’s feeling inspired and loving while doing her activities or burdened and diminished? The answer will point the direction of where to cut out activities.
Advising her to learn how to say no is good advice, but she’s in the predicament she’s in because it seems she doesn’t know how to do that. Saying no requires setting boundaries and there are some practical steps to doing that. One way is to take time to sit down with her and review her schedule together. Establish a list by setting up three columns – Yes, Maybe, No. Break down her list of responsibilities according to how she feels when thinking about doing them. (This pertains only to outside commitments or, heaven forbid, our menial chores might never get done!)
Once the list is created, ask her about each task on the list – how does it make her feel when she’s doing it or when she’s accomplished it? Ask her to think about if commitments are based on a need to please or if they’re creating a real sense of fulfillment for her. The answers she gives will point her in the direction of learning which activities to eliminate. Doing just for the sake of doing can be a waste of energy. We want to choose the activities that allow us to flourish and feel good about ourselves and the world we live in. That should be the guiding factor in determining the best course of action.
In the Religious Science teaching, we acknowledge Spirit is the essence of life and the power and presence back of everything. We also believe that we are all expressions of Spirit. One of the beautiful aspects of Spirit is it’s giving nature. Creating a balance in the flow of giving and receiving is essential to becoming the best versions of ourselves.
Rev. Mary Morgan.