Can One Person’s Apology Make Amends For Other People’s Behavior?



By Rev. Renee





            It’s amazing how many ripples and ramifications our abuser’s behavior can have for all concerned, and how, against our wishes and through no fault of our own, we can be forced into all kinds of uncomfortable dilemmas, both in the present and for years to come. The abuser’s selfish and cunning habit of lying about us and smearing us to the rest of the family, combined with her Silent Partners’ self-righteous tendency to judge us and take sides against us, rather than remaining neutral or butting out, often lead to future complications that no one ever anticipated.  

            In their rush to disapprove of and punish us for setting limits and refusing to tolerate any more abuse, our abusers and their Silent Partners often fail to consider how their actions might backfire on them later on. Here we will discuss one of the most classic dilemmas that the abuser’s and the family budinski’s typical lack of foresight can lead to down to the road. It’s a subject that’s relevant to all of us, because sooner or later, almost every Adult Child will find herself in this situation.    

            Question: My mother was always very abusive, jealous, and controlling. When I met my husband, she took an instant dislike to him, was openly hostile, insulted him to his face many times, and did everything she could to break us up. She was adamantly opposed to our wedding and threatened to disrupt it in any way she could- including standing up and objecting when the minister asked if anyone knew any reason why we should not marry. Because of her behavior, we decided not to invite her to the wedding. We could not take a chance on our day being ruined and everyone being embarrassed by the things she said she would do. 

            When we refused to allow her to come to our wedding, she tried to turn the rest of my family against us. My aunt (her sister) and uncle, and their children took her side and boycotted my wedding, and they have not spoken to us since.

            It is now almost 5 years later and my husband and I have a child, and another on the way. My mother seems to have had a change of heart with the birth of her grandchild. A few months ago, she called and asked to meet with my husband and me. She apologized to both of us for her behavior and took full responsibility. She even said she doesn’t blame us for not letting her attend our wedding after the threats she made to ruin it. She seems to have made some real changes in her attitude and is trying to mend fences. We are taking it slow and are hopeful that maybe we can trust her and have a good relationship in the future.

            Now here is the problem. It seems that my aunt and uncle and their children think that just because we have reconciled with my mother, it automatically means that they are included in the reconciliation, even though they haven’t apologized or done anything at all to make amends. I think my mother agrees with them but is not really saying anything because she knows our connection is fragile right now and she doesn’t want to rock the boat.

            For the last 4 years my mother has spent the holidays with them, but now she wants to spend them with us. And she wants my aunt and uncle to be included, because one of their children moved out-of-state and the other will be traveling, so this year they will be alone. This idea makes me and my husband extremely uncomfortable. We do not want to spend our holidays with people who betrayed us, took sides against us, spread gossip and lies about us, boycotted our wedding, and haven’t spoken to us in 5 years. We don’t trust my aunt and uncle, we feel they disapprove of us and don’t even care that they hurt us, and we have no desire at all to be in their company. 

            When we agreed to accept my mother’s apology and give her another chance, we did not know that she was part of a package deal with her sister and her family. It’s not my fault that my mother dragged her sister and her family into our disagreement, and it’s not my fault my aunt took my mother’s side and “punished” me. I feel like I’m expected to pay the price for their decisions and overlook my aunt and her family’s actions without them ever personally apologizing or admitting they did anything wrong. Does my mother’s apology cover them? Does making up with my mother mean that her “supporters” are automatically included in our reconciliation?

          Answer: An apology is not just an expression of remorse. It is also an acceptance of responsibility.  How would it be possible for someone to accept responsibility for what somebody else did?  Wouldn’t it be a little irrational on our part to blame one person for another’s behavior? Of course it would. Then it follows that it would also be irrational to forgive one who did wrong based on the apology of a third party.  The only person who could justifiably apologize for another person would be the parent of a naughty child, who actually IS responsible for her child’s behavior.

            I am a big proponent of personal responsibility, and of standing up and being accountable for one’s own words and actions. I also believe greatly in letting Natural Consequences (see article on our site) take their course, and teach offenders a lesson that would be lost on them if we stepped in and bailed them out or let them off the hook too easily. 

            The problem that we have as Adult Children is having been raised to continually overlook abuse, stuff our hurt down, not complain, and allow life to go on without upsetting the apple cart. In other words, to let our abusers get away with anything and everything, never apologize, and never take any responsibility. 

            The concepts of justice and accountability were unheard of in our families. WE were always expected to forgive, regardless of the fact that no one even asked for forgiveness. The onus was always on US to make right SOMEONE ELSE’S behavior and to take responsibility for the results of it. We have been brainwashed into believing that the SOLE responsibility for keeping the peace at any cost is on OUR shoulders and our shoulders alone. Ingraining this fallacy into our brains was very advantageous for our abusers, and worked very well for them for many years. Until now. 

            Now it’s time to UNLEARN the false teachings of our childhoods. Now it’s time to undo the indoctrination and the brainwashing that always seems to benefit our abusers at our expense. The truth is, it is NOT your duty to keep the peace and constantly overlook while your abusers have a field day victimizing you and stabbing you in the back. If you forgive people who never even bothered to ASK for forgiveness (apologized), then you are undermining God’s Law of Sowing and Reaping. You are giving them carte blanche to cause as much pain and suffering as they like, without ever having to answer for it.

            What this means to the person who asked this question is that it is not YOUR fault that your MOTHER dragged your aunt and uncle into your disagreement. That’s between your mother and your aunt and uncle, although your mother’s apology to you does also need to include an apology for turning other people against you. 

            But if your self-righteous aunt now finds herself in an awkward position concerning you, then she needs to take it up with HER SISTER, who put her in that position.   She also needs to accept responsibility for HER OWN decision, which was to get involved and take sides when she should have butted out. Your aunt and uncle need to apologize to you for shunning you, and if they are embarrassed or angry at having to do this, then your mother can apologize to your aunt and uncle for dragging them into this whole mess. 

            These are two separate issues. One has nothing to do with the other. The first issue involves YOU, and is between you and your aunt and uncle. The second issue DOES NOT involve you.   It is between your MOTHER and your aunt and uncle.

            Your aunt betrayed you, and she owes you an apology for that. Her actions are not automatically covered by your mother’s apology. Just because you reconcile with one estranged relative doesn’t mean the rest of the clan is automatically included without ever having to be accountable and express remorse for their own actions. You wouldn’t hold your mother responsible if your aunt wronged you, so how can your mother make amends for your aunt’s behavior? 

            It is natural for us to feel uncomfortable around people we can’t trust. This is an inborn, self-protective instinct that God gave us. How can we possibly feel comfortable in the presence of people we loved all our lives, but who care so little for us that they would cut us out of their lives without batting an eye, just to please someone else? How can we possibly ever trust someone who would stab us in the back just to gain the approval of another person? Someone who, instead of defending us, giving us the benefit of the doubt, or at least remaining neutral, is perfectly okay with causing us pain and sorrow, and never seeing us again, even though we never did anything to her, all just to stay on the good side of an abuser? 

            Why would we open ourselves again to a Judas who would sell us out at the drop of a hat? Why should we have to feel hypocritical and unsafe, plastering a phony smile on our faces and trying to make small talk with a back-stabber who is so eager to judge us and believe lies and gossip about us?  This is not our burden. We didn’t cause this situation, and we need not allow ourselves to be burdened with fixing it. At some point, don’t we have to start having some standards for the kinds of people we’ll agree to have a relationship with? Like maybe that they need to have some integrity and some loyalty?




            How old are these people, anyway? Twelve? I’m picturing a nasty little clique of whiny, immature schoolgirls- “I’m mad at Sally, so if you wanna be my friend, you have to be mad at her too!”  Or “I don’t talk to Jane so you can’t either!” Or “ Eeew, don’t go near Betty! She’s got cooties!” Silly, isn’t it?- when the parties involved are 8 years old. When they’re in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond, it’s petty, spiteful, bizarre, ridiculous, and downright nutty.

            What is going on with grown-ups who behave like mean, childish little brats? Who ever heard of a functional adult who, instead of fighting her own battles and resolving her own conflicts, has to “tattletale” like a little crybaby on the person she’s “mad at”, spread gossip and lies, and make it some kind of test of loyalty to drag others into her problems and see whose side they’ll choose? 

            Who ever heard of a normal adult who allows a third party to force her to break up her relationship with someone else? Who stops talking to a family member based on the say-so of someone who is obviously angry and upset with the first relative, and therefore more likely to lie or exaggerate to make the first one seem like a terrible person and whatever happened between them seem much worse than it really was? Who would be foolish enough to take such accusations at face value, and actually END her relationship with one family member because of what is supposedly going on between her and another family member?

            Well, normal, functional adults wouldn’t do these things, and don’t do them. But we’re not talking normal here. We’re talking narcissistic, abusive, psychotic, nut-jobs. And their world is a whole different world from the rest of ours.

            What are they thinking? They’re NOT thinking, at least not rationally. If they were, they’d be coming up with constructive suggestions for the family bully to change his behavior, instead of agreeing with him, egging him on, and adding fuel to the fire.

            Narcissists refuse to accept boundaries. They don’t choose to see where they end and other people begin. Rather, they see others as extensions of themselves, attached to them as if joined at the hip. You only exist for their use and benefit. Outside of their world, you cease to exist. In their minds, everything you say or do affects them, whether or not it actually has anything to do with them. You will notice that any independent decision you make in your own life is regarded as something you are doing TO the narcissist, to spite him or to upset him. Anything you say, any opinion you voice, is viewed as a direct challenge to him. It’s like you’re a part of his body that refuses to do what he wants it to. The narcissist believes the entire world revolves around him, and you are part of that world.

            Just as a single narcissistic abuser refuses to allow others their autonomy apart from him, the abusive narcissistic family does not see and accept each member as a separate individual. Everyone is just part of one big, sick organism, kind of like a big ugly lump. This thing moves as one, thinks as one, acts as one. One part cannot separate itself from the lump and speak out on its own. All the parts have to agree with what that one part says, because they are not emotionally separate individuals but merely enmeshed parts of one big whole. 

            Nobody in such a family thinks for themselves. There is one way of thinking, one collective decision-making process, one opinion for all of them.  Anyone who breaks from the group mentality will become an outsider, quickly shut up or shunned. If you want to be an insider and remain in the group, you can have no mind of your own.   You have no choice but to go along with the group and be of one mind with them. Being right or wrong doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is being the same. 

            The abusive family’s idea of togetherness is a totalitarian version carried to the extreme. It’s one for all and all for one, a kind of Communist regime where a few people dictate what everyone has to think, say, and do, and the KGB secret family police will keep an eye on everybody and keep them all in line, reporting any sign of independent thinking and carrying out the necessary “dissuasion” . 

            In their warped, pathological perception, if you offended one of them, you offended them all. If you set a boundary or stand up and say something to one, it’s as if you said it to the whole group. If one is mad at you, they’re ALL mad at you. If one isn’t speaking to you, they’re ALL not speaking to you. And if one suddenly decides that they ARE speaking to you again, then EVERYBODY is speaking to you again. The only wild card they never consider is whether YOU will want to speak to THEM again. They just assume that you’ll passively go along with whatever the group decides, just like all of them do.

            Think of a herd of buffalo on the prairie. When they run, it’s as one. If they turn left or right, they all turn together. When they stop and graze, they all stop and graze at the same time. And it only takes one to start a stampede. As soon as one gets spooked and starts running, they will all run, blindly following the first one’s example, even though they have no idea why they’re running or what they’re running from. Think of lemmings, all following each other to their deaths off the cliff, never stopping for a second and saying, “Wait a minute. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all! Maybe there’s a better way. ”

            And so the same herd mentality auto-pilots our abusive families. No one ever says “Wait a minute. How will my taking sides and shunning so-and-so help resolve this situation?” No one has the brains or the foresight to think “If I go along with betraying someone who never did anything to me, then what? How might this come back and bite me in the future? If I change my mind later on and want to make up, how will I undo what I did? If both my feuding relatives mend fences in the future, where will that leave me?”

            Thinking, speaking, and acting as one big dysfunctional lump of lemmings, blindly following whoever puts on the most theatrical performance, our relatives manage to make sure that a disagreement between just two people, which might eventually have been resolved, had it stayed limited, turns into a huge feud involving the whole family, and causing hard feelings for years to come.  

            The chances of the original problem ever being resolved amicably drops exponentially with each additional person added to the mix. This results in rifts that can never be healed, and a family that will never be the same (which is probably a good thing!). In an act of collective suicide, the selfish troublemaker will influence the foolish herd to follow her right off the cliff, effectively killing the whole family structure. And they will ignorantly gloat in their smug self-righteousness all the way down, right up until the moment they hit the bottom. (For more on the collective herd mentality of abusive families, see the articles “They Can’t All Be Wrong and You Right…Or Can They?” And “The Devil’s Advocate: Handling The Family Meddler” on our website.)




            When my birth-mother ended our relationship, she wasted no time in starting her smear campaign of lies about what really happened between us. The relatives with any capacity for reason and logic realized that it was highly unlikely that I had turned on her for no apparent reason after 47 years of being a devoted daughter. They knew there had to be more to the story than she was telling, and they didn’t believe her lies.

            But one aunt and her two daughters, Agnes and Ms Budinski, decided to take sides against me, and jumped on the chance to judge me and “punish” me by disowning me, and apparently my husband and children as well. (For more on the antics of Agnes and Ms Budinski, see the article “The Devil’s Advocate: Handling The Family Meddler” on our site). 

            Now my children, Agnes’, and Ms. Budinski’s were cousins and had been raised together all their lives, spending every holiday and family event together. But suddenly my kids, who were 13 and 16 at the time, were shunned from their family.

            Agnes’ and Ms. Budinski’s children were a few years older than mine. Over the years, my children had attended one party after another for their children. They were Catholic, so it started with the First Holy Communions and confirmation parties, followed by Sweet Sixteens for the girls, 18th birthdays for the boys, high school graduations, college graduations, and eventually engagement parties and weddings. My kids were always there to congratulate their cousins and wish them well, and never missed one of their big events. My older son, who had to pay for his car insurance and other expenses, often had to miss time from his part-time job and lose money to attend a wedding or other party, but he didn’t hesitate to be there to celebrate his cousins’ happy occasions.

            Well, fast forward to a year after my estranged birth-mother died. My older son was graduating from high school and we were throwing him a party. Unlike my cousins, who never missed an opportunity for everyone to pay attention to their kids, we did not throw parties every time somebody hiccupped. This was the first and only big party my son had ever had.

            Because my aunt and cousins had never actually confronted me and told me they weren’t speaking to me, at this point I just figured we were all busy and simply hadn’t been in touch that much. After all, they had no reason not to be talking to me, so how would I know they were “punishing” me? So they were included on our guest list, and invitations were sent to all of them. These two cousins also had five adult children between them, some of whom were married and living on their own. All of these children, my son’s cousins, received their own personal invitations as well, which included their spouses or significant others.

            Well, not only did not one of them attend my son’s party, they did not even have the manners or the class to RSVP. Maybe they were trying to manipulate me into calling them so they could confront me, but I did not take the bait.  

            Even worse, they sent no gifts, after all the gifts my son had given to them over the years, and did not send him so much as a card to wish him well. Not even a call to congratulate him. They completely ignored his big achievement and the biggest day in his life up until that point. 

            A few years earlier, Agnes had had a falling out with another cousin (yes, Agnes does have people-problems!). On her 16th birthday, Agnes’ daughter, who missed this cousin, called her. The cousin hung up and refused to talk to Agnes’ daughter. At the time, Agnes was completely outraged that this person had been so unkind to her child. She could not get over that this cousin would take it out on her innocent daughter. And yet, here she was a few years later, being just as cruel to my innocent child by boycotting his graduation party.

            The only exception to this sick little family “protest” was Agnes’ daughter, the one who had been snubbed years before by the cousin who hung up on her. She couldn’t attend because she had moved out of state, but she did send a nice card to her cousin with her good wishes. Since she had been hurt like this before, apparently she was the only one who felt some empathy and compassion for my son, and she was the only one who did the right thing.

            How did my child wind up paying the price for my birth-mother’s lies? Number one, I hadn’t done anything wrong. My birth-mother ended our relationship, not me, and I was devastated when she did. Number two, even if the rift had been my choice, which it wasn’t, what did that have to do with them? The problems were between my mother and me, not them. I never did anything at all to them, except love them all of my life.   It was none of their business, and it was not their place to take sides, pass judgment, or punish anybody.  And number three, even if I HAD done something to them, which I hadn’t, how could they justify taking it out on my innocent child, who had nothing to do with any of this? Why punish him?

            This is yet another fascinating example of an abuser’s contradictory behavior, and of how no one else’s viewpoint or feelings matter but hers. When you divorce your abusers, they’ll jump all over it if you don’t let them see your kids anymore, huffily accusing you of dragging the kids into it, hurting the kids, and using the kids to hurt them. But if THEY decide to divorce YOU, they don’t hesitate for a minute to drag the kids into it and divorce them as well. Suddenly hurting the kids is perfectly okay, as long as we can use them to punish their parents! When it comes to controlling THEIR relationship with YOUR children, they think all the choices are theirs, and you should have no choice.

            If Agnes thought she was right to be indignant when her child was snubbed by an ex-relative, then why shouldn’t I be just as indignant when she and her family did the exact same thing to my child? Wouldn’t my son be justified in having hard feelings toward Agnes, Ms. Budinski, their mother, and their children, his ex-cousins? Wouldn’t my husband and other son be justified in feeling anger toward the spiteful low-lifes who hurt their son and brother?




            Now this is where the plot thickens and things start getting sticky. Let’s say sometime in the future that Agnes regrets what she did, apologizes to me, and wants to make amends. Does she not also owe my son an explanation and apology for disowning him and boycotting his party? Do her grown children not owe my husband and me an apology for not having the manners to respond to the invitations we sent them? Do they not owe their cousin an explanation and an apology for not being there for him on his big day, like he was for them on all of their big days? Remember, they were not little kids at the time. They were independent adults, some married and with their own homes, who each made their own decision to hurt their younger cousin, who loved them and had always been there for them. How can Agnes’ apology make up for what THEY did to him? Quite simply, it can’t.

            So in all practicality, how would it be possible for all of us to ever reconcile and be together as a family with all of this unfinished business hanging over our heads, and all of these loose ends that need tying up? Even if things somehow got settled between Agnes and me, how could I expect my son to be with the people who did this to him, and who never acknowledged the hurt they caused him and apologized for it TO HIM? That would be a betrayal of my son, and he is the only one in this whole scenario that I owe any loyalty to.

            Now that Agnes created hard feelings between her children and mine, it would not be possible for them to reconcile until her children owned up to what they did and made it right. Therefore, it’s just not possible for us to have that big, happy family reunion. I wouldn’t put my son in that position. Reconciling with them before they made amends with my son would mean allowing them to ignore his feelings all over again, just like they did at his graduation party, and making him feel just as unimportant and insignificant as they did on that day. Why should he have to overlook what they did to him just because Agnes and I made up?

            The only way a complete restoration could occur would be for everyone concerned to be accountable, take responsibility, and make amends for their own actions. No one else can do it for them.

            In my case, this would mean 1) Agnes and her husband apologizing to me and my husband for what they did to us and our family, meaning a) disowning us over something that was none of their business, and b) turning other relatives against us. 2) Agnes and her husband apologizing to my son directly, as well as to his brother, for disowning them, for turning others against them, and for boycotting my son’s party. 3) Agnes’ children apologizing to my husband and me for disowning us and not responding to the invitation to a party we were hosting. 4) Agnes’ children apologizing to my son for hurting him and to both of my children for disowning them.  (If Agnes’ children have a problem with numbers 3 or 4, they would need to take it up with their mother). 5) Agnes apologizing to HER children for dragging them into and putting them in the middle of this whole mess that had nothing to do with them in the first place.

            This scenario, unlikely as it is, would settle things between Agnes’ family and mine. However, it has nothing to do with settling things between my family and Agnes’ mother, or Agnes’ sister Ms Budinski and her family. In order for everyone concerned to be able to attend family events together and be at peace in each other’s company, then everyone concerned has to settle their own accounts.

            This means Agnes’ mother, my ex-aunt, taking responsibility for her own behavior and apologizing to me, my husband, and my two children for what she did to us. Then Ms. Budinski and her husband and children would also need to be accountable for their behavior and apologize to me, my husband, and my children, separately and individually, just like Agnes and her family had to do, for their part in hurting us all.

            Whew! That’s sure a lot of apologizing that has to happen for this rift to be healed and these relationships to be restored. Unfortunately, as all of us from abusive families well know, the chances of any of this happening are nil. But if they fail to do this, just imagine all of us attending the same get-together and socializing nicely with Agnes and her family, because they were the only ones who had made amends, while not speaking to her mother, sister, or sister’s family, because they are still not speaking to US! A little ridiculous, isn’t it?

            Can Agnes somehow apologize and make up for Ms. Budinski’s part in all of this? Well, would we blame Agnes for something Ms. Budinski did? Of course not. Because Agnes is not responsible for Ms. Budinski’s behavior; therefore, she cannot apologize for Ms Budinski’s behavior, or make amends for it. 

            Let’s say Ms. Budinski disowned me and my family because she was influenced by Agnes’ drama and caught up in her histrionics. Can she blame Agnes for MAKING her disown us? Well, she can if she wants to, even thought nobody can MAKE another person stop talking to someone else. Dysfunctional narcissists always try to weasel out of responsibility for their own decisions. But that’s between her and Agnes. It has nothing to do with me or my family.  If she wants to blame Agnes for her choices and Agnes wants to accept the blame, then Agnes can apologize to Ms. Budinski for putting her in the middle or pressuring her to take sides. That doesn’t get either one of them off the hook as far as owing me and my family separate apologies for what each one of them did to us.

            There is no such thing as making up by default, sliding in on someone else’s apology. So just because Agnes and I might reconcile, it does not mean that she has automatically reconciled with my husband and children. It does not mean that I have made up with her husband and children, either, and it doesn’t mean that my husband and children have made up with hers.  It doesn’t mean that my family and I have automatically reconciled with her mother, or with her sister and her family. You cannot apologize by proxy. You cannot make amends by proxy. And you cannot forgive by proxy.

            Agnes cannot apologize for her children’s behavior anymore than I can accept her apology, or theirs, on my children’s behalf. No one can speak for another person. No one can apologize for someone else, and no one can forgive for someone else. 




            Going back to the person who asked the original question, it is normal and natural for you to feel uncomfortable spending a holiday with your aunt and uncle. However, you didn’t create this awkward situation, and it’s not up to you to fix it. You CAN’T fix it, because you didn’t cause it. You don’t control your aunt’s behavior, so fixing the damage she does with her behavior is not in your control either.

            That leaves several options for your mother and aunt, who did create the problem: 1) Your mother can choose to spend the holidays with her sister, and you and your family can have a nice peaceful, stress-free time without them. Or 2) your mother can spend the holidays with you, if she wants to badly enough, and see her sister another time.

            Or 3) your aunt and uncle can apologize and show some sincere remorse to you and your husband so that maybe you would be able to relax and feel at peace in their company. Then maybe you could all try celebrating Christmas together, if not just yet, then perhaps next year. If your aunt is prideful and resents being put in the position of having to apologize for taking sides and boycotting your wedding, then she needs to take that up with your mother. That’s between the two of them, not you. Your mother is the one who put her in the middle and expected her to take sides, and she is the one who did take sides and snubbed you.

            One caveat should you decide to spend Christmas with your mother- make sure you do it at YOUR house. That’s the only way to guarantee that no unpleasant surprises will be pulled on you- like your aunt and uncle just happening to “drop by”, or your mother conspiring to arrange an impromptu reunion behind your back. Your reconciliation is too new and too fragile for you to be sure that your mother’s loyalties now lie with YOU instead of her sister, and that she can be trusted to respect your wishes. Until you have had enough time to discern her spirit, choose the locations of your get-togethers carefully, so that YOU can control who shows up and who doesn’t.




            What is a proper mature response to a relative who tries to drag you into a battle that has nothing to do with you? It’s very simple- “I’m sorry you and Jane are having problems. I love you, but I love Jane, too. It makes me very uncomfortable that you seem to be trying to make me choose between you. I’m not going to take sides in your disagreement, and I’d appreciate it if you don’t try to put me in the middle. Thanks for understanding and I hope you can work things out.” Period.




            And here you thought we didn’t know you’re out there, logging on and reading our articles just like your victims, checking to see if we know what you’re up to, and what we’re thinking and planning.   Well, we do.

            As helpful as this article might be for us Adult Children, there is a valuable lesson in here for you, too, if only you choose to take heed. I hope and pray that you will learn something from it, and think first before you lie about, gossip, or smear one family member to another, pressure anyone to take your side and outcast your child, meddle in someone else’s conflict, judge, take sides, disown or “punish” anyone, betray someone who loves you and trusts you, or do anything other than mind your own business. If you managed to mind your own business and stay out of it all these years, standing by silently while one of your relatives abused another, then now that the family victim is finally standing up for herself, it is not the time for you to finally open your mouth and jump into the fray.

            My advice to you is to think long and hard before you do something as major as boycotting a wedding, graduation party, or any other happy occasion for a family member who loves you and never did anything to hurt you.   These celebrations are ONCE IN A LIFETIME events.   If you choose to takes sides and foolishly punish someone whom it’s not your place to punish, by shunning or causing trouble on one of the biggest days of their lives, understand that you can NEVER go back and undo it,  and you will NEVER be able to make up for it. You will be shooting yourself in the foot and cutting off your own nose to spite your face. 

            Five or ten years down the road, when grandchildren marry, babies are born, or Uncle Lenny dies, and the original enemies kiss and make up, loyalties will shift. The person you’re siding with now, never a paragon of honor and virtue to begin with, will be so anxious to stay on the good side of the person she just reconciled with, that she will sell YOU out in a New York minute- and YOU will be the one nobody is speaking to!

            The long-range ramifications of dragging other people into our battles, or allowing ourselves to be dragged in to someone else’s battles, can be quite daunting to repair once the damage has been done. Things can get very complicated and mushroom far beyond the control of those who think they can always go back and undo what they did anytime they want to.   It’s just not that simple, and many times it’s not possible at all. Many disagreements between two people grow into family feuds and permanent estrangements that can never be repaired. This is especially true with betrayals. 

            Wise and mature people know this, and that’s why they refuse to allow others to involve them in conflicts that are not their own.   The next time someone tries to drag you into a dispute that’s none of your business, why not stop and think first, before you do something you may live to regret? Ask yourself what good would it do for you to disown your family member. Try to do something constructive, instead of something even more destructive. Taking sides against someone who never did anything to you can mean that down the line, after everyone else has buried the hatchet, YOU’LL be the one on the outside looking in.