Jump to content

How do I help my sister?

All Gods Fail

Recommended Posts

My sister is a long-time believer of the fundy/charismatic stripe, and believes in a literal interpretation of the bible (including creationism/ID). She was the one who got me mixed up with religion in the first place (which had disastrous results for me - more on that in another post someday), but she has also suffered enormous guilt for my experience. She realizes that as a result of what happened to me, it's natural that I became an agnostic/atheist.


Some good did come out of it - she became a much less radical fundie and switched churches, spent less time attending church, and softened her beliefs overall. She has the occasional drink now, goes to some R-rated movies, etc. She got a little more secular, in other words.


But she still sends her kids to a private xtian school (even though they can't really afford it), and still insists we were made out of mud and ribs in the garden of Eden 10,000 years ago. And she has emotional problems she needs to deal with (we were orphaned at a very young age), but refuses to seek any kind of counseling other than xtian-based. This has made her suffer quite a bit, and has left an open wound in her psyche that Jesus has apparently failed to heal.


My sister and I have a complicated relationship, but we both love each other and care about one another even tho we couldn't disagree more about god and the bible. In the past, we have had very heated arguments about god which resulted in me making her cry and her causing me to have panic attacks. Not very productive. Luckily, we patched things up and both agreed to disagree and respect each other's mutual belief/disbelief.


We enjoy each other's company and try to get together as often as possible (we live in different states halfway across the country), but I'm trying to think of what to say to her now about the subject of counseling and therapy, which I think she really needs to get over the painful loss of our parents when we were so young. She's been using religion exactly like a drug, masking the issues and trying to pray it away and church it away. It isn't working, and she's frequently miserable and sometimes takes it out on her family (not through abuse or anything like that - she will just get very wound up and lash out emotionally at them, then suffer terrible guilt over it, which only adds to her misery, which sets her up to lash out again, etc). The tragic thing is she is a very kind, loving person who could be so much happier and fulfilled if she would just let go of the rest of her religious dogma and resolve some of her personal problems.


She has tried just about everything in the xtian world to get help, but of course all they do is tell her to pray. She was on antidepressants for a while and it seemed to help quite a bit, but of course she wouldn't get any professional counseling and ended up going off her prescription.


Anyway, to get to my long, rambling point, what do I do now? I don't want to destroy her faith, just to put it in perspective. I can see that religion is keeping her drugged and causing more harm than good, but of course she sees it as just the opposite. I just want to get her to give up the extremism, not her faith.


Any thoughts or ideas would be very welcome. I know you can't force anyone to change what they don't want to, but it just kills me that she has to go like this.


Thanx in advance!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

AGF, I am probably the last person who could give any advice on what the next step should be for you, in attempting to convince your sister to get help. All I can tell you is what I would tell my loved one who I felt was in need of help.


"Sis, I love you so much, and all I can do is be completely honest with you. I want you to know that you are so important to me. I want you to know that anytime you need to, or want to talk to me, I am here for you. I don't care what time of the day or night, I want you to know that you can call me, and I will make time to talk to you. You never have to feel that you have to suffer alone with any guilt or insecurities you may be experiencing. You are not alone. I am here for you."


If she will not seek counseling on her own, and if she will not take your advice to seek it, then all you can do is be there for her.

Beyond that, I got nothing.

Please keep us informed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's hard to say what to do. What she needs is a combination of a little education and some caring (but stern) family counselling. She needs someone to tell her and to demonstrate to her that this is ruining her life. She's throwing money away putting her kids through private schooling, because she thinks she's protecting them from something, and it's money she can't afford to piss away. That really bothers me, because I see that a lot.


It's really hard to see a family member break down and cry in front of you, but you can't just let her get away like that. You need to say, "I'm sorry I'm upsetting you, but you need to know that what you are doing is wrong, because it's hurting you and your kids." You absolutely cannot be afraid of upsetting her. If you do that, then you're just letting her escape back into the terrible lifestyle that she desperately needs to abandon.


Above all, maintain that you're trying to help her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quite right.

I think the best approach is to tell her once very clearly "I say you need to get out of that fundy cult. It's ruining you" but make clear that "I'm still on your side. I've told you what I think you should do, the ball's in your court now. Inasmuch as I can help you by being there for you when you need someone, I will be there, but please do consider what I just told you".

This will probably upset her, but IMHO you need to drive that point home at least once without any chance for misunderstanding on her side.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

AGF, I find this is one (possibly the only) time I have to disagree with Neil and Thor as to how gentle to be with her. I agree with Bob that the best thing to do is be as consistantly loving and always there for her as you can. She's already getting ultimatum-type thinking from her Christian sources. Not that I think Neil and Thor are advocating being brutal in any way, but at this point, I think that the tough love hardness is not appropriate and might make her feel even more alone. I'm sure she's already feeling alone and abandoned in a subconscious way from her Christian sources, even if she won't admit it to herself. You can be the one who doesn't leave or tell her that ultimately her problems are her fault. Responsibility, yes; fault, no.


I'd say the same general things that Neil and Thor have expressed, but in a much more gentle way which doesn't imply any kind of time limit on her. Above all, make it clear to her that you love her enough to not leave her, no matter what she does. Hopefully, that will provide a sense of safety for her to be able to really talk to you when the Christian side fails her to the point where she recognizes it. Giving her a safe place like that will serve to not trigger any defensiveness programs she may be carrying. Clearly, she's already feeling defensive in several areas. I don't think she needs to be getting further triggers for the same from you. Just the opposite.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you call Christianity a cult in front of her, you're just going to turn her against you. Maybe suggest spending some time away from church in favor of family activities, or attending a liberal church just to see what it's like, but don't try to get her to drop it all immediately...then she'll probably panic and suspect "Satan is turning you against her" or something. You have to take it slow with those kinds of people, IMHO.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanx, Loren and everyone. Good advice all around! I'll be thinking about it carefully.


It's difficult right now to talk to her about god and religion. Since our last blow-up about it we both agreed to let sleeping dogs lie. It makes the subject really difficult to brooch.


Like I said, I'm not trying to make her into an atheist, but just to give up the extremism. Compounding the fact is her husband is equally conflicted - one half in the real world, one in fundie-land. Together, they kind of reinforce each other.


This is tough - I don't want to risk alienating my sis, but I really want to help her, too.


Heh - if I were a xtian, I'd say 'pray for me'! :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.