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ASK ALMA: Reverend Needs Heavenly Advice

By Alma Gill

Dear Alma,

My brother in-law is a minister, but he’s also an oblivious, self-centered fool. At Christmas, he irritates people by doing things like sitting in my 94-year-old mother’s favorite chair and acts hurt when we tell him to get up. Or he goes shopping and is late for the big dinner. I said we shouldn’t wait for him, but that’s a hard one to enforce. I try to not let it get to me, but part of me says he needs to be told that he is not the center of our universe. My poor sister is constantly making excuses for him. How long should we suck it up, or is it time to finally dish some out?

W.P., Springfield, Va.

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Dear W.P.

Family gatherings; they’re a blessing, aren’t they? Some relatives come from far away; others just drive across the bridge. But, oh, what a time it is…for the first good hour.

Which group will you hang with — the ones on the couch watching the game, the ones drinking in the basement and doing whatever, or the ones at the kitchen table? I’m a kitchen table kinda girl myself. That’s where you find out everybody’s business. LOL.

Sorry, this isn’t about me; it’s about your BIL – the minister who wants all the attention.

I can hear him now, “Hello, world. Yea, the one that revolves around me.”

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Sounds like your BIL is accustomed to having things go his way. Whatever he says, it’s fine. Whatever he does, it’s fine.

Many in his congregation affirm that for him every Sunday, don’t you know. I know because my father was a minister, and I watched how he was treated. We sometimes discussed this very topic while riding home from service or after visiting with church members.

We’d talk about how ministers have to work on their humility.

They’re local celebrities, and that makes it very hard.

Since your BIL is a minister, I would be remiss if I didn’t refer to a Bible verse. The one that comes to mind goes something like, “God resists the proud or the scornful, but He gives grace to the humble.”

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We all could use some extra grace, can I get an Amen. Just like compassion, humility doesn’t always come naturally.

I know I’ve taken the long road in answering your question, but I think it’s important to understand where your BIL is coming from. Clearly, the Reverend-Mister-Local-Celebrity in your family has taken it to the next level.

Yes, you could have a talk with him, but not at a holiday gathering. Do it in smaller company, maybe even the next time you call your sister and he answers the phone.

Ask him, straight up: “What’s up, Chuck? Why you always taking Mama’s seat?”

Then take two steps back and remind him of his ability to humble himself and acknowledge the needs of others.

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He’ll be shocked and taken aback but also wise enough to listen to what sounds, to him, like a compliment.

Family gatherings and special events are just that – special events. It’s not the time to let him, her or them “have it.”

Use these celebrations to build unforgettable memories and traditions that will live forever within your heart.


Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.

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