Q: My brother and I got into a horrible argument over a decade ago and haven't spoken since. He did something that I couldn't find it in myself to forgive, especially after a lifetime of similar behavior.
After quitting drinking, my brother has been trying to get in contact with me over the last few months to apologize. I don't see the point, as the damage is already done.
Other family members have kept me in the loop about his life and are pushing me to hear him out, but I don't really have any desire to speak to him. It sounds to me like he's just trying to blame his issues on his addiction anyway.
Should I take the call?
A: Give your brother the opportunity to apologize -- for your own good.
Forgiveness is a state that affects the forgiver more than the person forgiven. Even when we have good reasons to be upset, resentment and anger are toxic -- especially when left to fester.
According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness often yields healthier overall relationships, improves mental health, reduces anxiety, bolsters self-esteem and decreases your likelihood of depression. In addition to the psychological benefits, it also says that forgiveness can strengthen your immune system, lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting, and it doesn't have to mean leaving yourself open to being hurt again. Listening to others' apologies gives us a greater ability to empathize and understand why people make the choices they do.
Hearing your brother out doesn't mean that you have to reconcile. You still have the power to choose your relationships and maintain the ones that are good for you.
Even if you don't feel ready to talk to your brother, you can still work on forgiveness in your life. Trying to understand others' choices allows us to understand ourselves better, too. Everybody makes mistakes, and the worst of these hurts don't fade with time alone.