Family Relationships: The Bridge Between A Brother and Sister

By Robert Brennan, M.A.

 

At New Hope Ministries, we often get letters from sisters who have recently learned about their brother’s homosexuality.  The sister wants to communicate that her Christian values do not include homosexuality and yet does not want to alienate her brother.

 

The Dilemma

While this revelation of your brother’s homosexuality is uncomfortable for you, it is uncomfortable as well for your brother as he has been bearing the heavy burden of his secret until now.  The fact that your brother has shared his secret with you is an important sign of trust in your relationship, which can become a bridge to his healing.  Your brother is reaching out to you and this is a courageous act on his part to find acceptance and connection with his family.  You may be the only person he has this bond of trust with and hidden in that trust is the opportunity for healing and reconciliation of his past and with family members.

 

Your dilemma is how to love your brother on one hand, and on the other hand allow him to know that your values as a Christian are in opposition to his lifestyle.  The concern, of course, is that he will experience rejection as you tell him you love him but don’t accept his homosexuality and you may lose him as he disconnects himself form you to guard himself from hurt.  Inherent in this dilemma are two purposes that are opposed to each another.  The conflict is that you will try to unconditionally love your brother and at the same time set up a boundary of “faith” which will communicate, “I love you except when you cross the boundary of the homosexual lifestyle”.  For many Christians, giving up the boundary of faith is synonymous with giving up on God, or is it?

 

Another View Of The Problem

I’d like to suggest that there might be another lens in which to view this dilemma.  At first glance, we might think that the primary issue here is the potential compromise of our Christianity.  We have the opportunity to take the very real concern for brother’s well being and express it in terms of a desire to nurture wholeness and healing in him.  The question becomes “How do I love my brother in a way that will promote his healing of homosexuality and family relationships?” No we can see sister as the bridge between brother and God’s healing hand in his life. 

 

Family Security

The family is a stable system.  It has checks and balances like any system and it can be unbalanced by the unexpected.  When we find out a member of the family has been living a homosexual lifestyle for years and we have been kept in the dark we are very troubled and upset.  This family is like a rubber boat that we just discovered has a leak in it.  That leak represents the long held secret of homosexuality that has just been revealed and it’s devastating effects.  What upsets us is that we have ventured out in the safe boat for years and never questioned its trustworthiness.  When it springs a leak, we are struck at the core of our self when faced with feelings of disbelief, distrust, anger and shame.  What can we do to save the family from drowning?

 

Bail water, jump overboard, signal for help, what can you do to save this family?  .  It often begs the question “why did it happen and how can I fix it”.  At this point we must realize that we cannot fix the past or the person.  In fact if you try to fix the homosexual, you will create a deeper wound of rejection.  Trying to change someone has a distinct message, which is “You are not acceptable as you are”.  How do you respond when someone says you are not good enough?  Most of us pull away or reject the notion.

 

Grief and Loss

In order to truly help the family member who has revealed his or her homosexuality, we must accept them first.  This does not mean that you accept homosexuality but accept the person.  The difficult reality to accept is that the family relationships have created this condition of homosexuality. We must feel the grief of losing our family member to this condition.  We are in grief over who we thought our brother or sister is as people and family members.  When this acceptance takes place, real growth can occur because we accept reality and no longer live in the mystery of secret.  This is the place where we must sit before God and pour out our suffering and place it at the cross.  We have then moved beyond blame and the need to fix the broken part.  St. John of the Cross referred to this as the “dark night of the soul”. 

 

A New Relationship

When we accept the role of the family in the production of the homosexual condition, we are more prepared to love our homosexual family member in an unconditional manner whether they are gay or straight.  Genuine love requires this acceptance without giving up who you are as a Christian.  The model of Christianity is God’s unconditional love for all.  Look at your brother as a man first, then as a homosexual secondarily.  Your goal is to support you brother in making decisions that lead him to grow in his masculine identity. 

 

There are special considerations in the relationship between a male and female family member.  The homosexual male will often confide in a woman about very personal struggles he goes through in relationships with other men.  Appropriate boundaries must be established in order to minimize the need to become dependent on each other.  The sister does not want the brother to hang on every word she says, asking over and over for her advice.  This can create dependence on his part for her input, and on her part to be needed by him.  The sister no longer has an objective perspective and she becomes an enabler of dependent relationships by wanting to control him.  This is counterproductive to her brother realizing that his real need is to learn how to have healthy, non-sexual same sex relationships.   

 

Resources

Because this process is long and arduous, I would like to recommend some resources to assist you along the way.  Please utilize the excellent resources at Exodus International (http://www.exodusnorthamerica.org/).  You will find many excellent ministries and books to encourage you along the way.

 

Robert Brennan is a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern and can be contacted at (415) 256-0521.  If you would like further discussion about this topic through email, you may email Robert at Apokata Psychological Services (http://christianmentalhealth.com/)