In March 2020 those who wished to be social distanced from their siblings instead found themselves social distanced with their siblings. Now not only just roommates, siblings were co-workers, movie buddies, and the only source of human entertainment closer than six feet.
Opportunity or a roadblock to one’s social success?
Siblings are one of the chapters we cannot write ourselves. We don’t pick the number of siblings, their genders or personalities, or the birth order — not even how similar in appearances we are. God in His sovereignty places people in families.
While we gladly put our best foot forward outside the home, inside the home we assume everyone must deal with us; they’re stuck. This reality fuels the powerful, age-old sibling rivalry stretching back to Genesis.
In Matthew 19:19 Jesus said, “Honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We already vastly love ourselves, don’t we? “For no one ever hated his own flesh” (Eph 5:29). It’s not difficult to realize how we make sure we’re nourished, comfortable, and receiving attention (or no attention at all, if that’s what we prefer). We shout, “I’ve got shotgun!” or race for the best cushioned seat, and eye which cookie is the biggest. Our hearts want to be winners — followed and featured. No wonder Jesus asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
You can’t get more “neighbor” than your siblings. They oftentimes share your bedroom, hallway, bathroom, and DNA.
Our souls crave a relationship where we have everything in common with someone, and we just get each other. Ironically, our siblings have a jump start on anyone else, as we share growing-up experiences, extended family, many memories, even our own parents! In many cases, we share the same worldview and can quote the same movies and books.
The problem? Sisters and brothers are born with an aversion to sharing. We want to have our own friends, our own space, our own time, our own platform, and even our own talents. (“We can’t BOTH play the violin!”)
As my sister said, “You will die for your siblings, but you won’t let them borrow your things.”
The home is where integrity is loudest. As my dear mom (and I’m sure many other moms) said, “If you can get along with your siblings, you can get along with anyone in the world.”
I took this as a personal challenge as a young teen. It was a battle. A marathon. And even in my 20s, I still fail sometimes but the rewards for walking this intentional road with Christ’s strength have been priceless.
Maybe you feel daunted by the idea of being friends with your siblings. Perhaps it annoys you to look at them or you wish they would look at you. Likely, you’ve nagged and bossed so much they won’t ask for your advice. But maybe you see a faded outline of what things could be with I Corinthians 13 love applied. Love is patient when waiting for your turn at the computer. Not jealous when your brother wins Settlers of Catan again. Not bragging and not unbecoming. Love’s not out seeking its own and is not provoked. Doesn’t take into account wrongs suffered two years ago and rejoices with truth. Bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things — love never fails (paraphrased from I Cor 13).
5 Visionary Reminders
1. You will know your sisters and brothers for as long as you live and longer. They are eternal.
Notice who often stands up in the wedding party. Think about who will be there during your biggest family trials. Who will know exactly what you’re talking about when you say, “the house had that certain scent”? While friends come and go through different seasons, who will still be around the Christmas table?
Your brothers and sisters.
And who is uniquely positioned to be a blessing or a curse to your family?
And when is your investment more maximized than here and now?
You will know your brothers and sisters your whole life and hopefully into eternity. You have a part to play in sharing and living the Gospel with your siblings. I’ve heard numerous testimonies where young people are instrumental in their siblings’ salvation. Don’t ever stop praying for them and sharing truth.
2. They will remember more than you know but in love will hold no record of wrongs.
Childhood memories are pivotal. You can never take back the words, “You don’t sing very well” stamped on them forever (please don’t ask me how I know).
They’ll remember things you won’t remember.
If you push and push in meanness, one day they will wake up and want nothing to do with you. And maybe, nothing to do with your faith either.
As a firstborn, I could often get away with a lot of bossiness and still hold respect. But one day, they grew up and became their own persons outside of my shadow, and I realized I wanted to be like them and desired their good graces.
Thankfully, love holds no record of wrongs and forgiveness is possible in Christ.
You will hold on tight to the good records — memories cherished forever, complete with sounds, smells, tastes, pictures and all the laughter of growing up together.
A little brother will remember a banana split and a compliment. Your sister will remember you encouraged her when she was insecure.
3. Ministry must be intentional.
After reading a book by the Mallys with the very same title, I established the “Making Sisters and Brothers Best Friends” club.
It was a great idea, if not overwhelmingly cheesy. And my siblings weren’t too sure about it, but they did like the snacks. The gesture of a few intentional meetings sent a message of attempting friendship.
You can think of more effective, subtle ideas to begin building friendships with your sisters and brothers. Take them out for coffee, plan bike rides and hikes, stay up late talking in the hallway; you KNOW what would make their day and build relationships.
4. Their flaws have meaning in your life.
My parents taught us to practice self-control amidst the faults of siblings (they act like sandpaper, rubbing off the rough edges). Instead of nagging and outbursts of anger (which never produced the righteousness of God in the history of mankind, see James 1:20), pray for them. Know that they are means of sanctification as well as grace.
5. Sibling love will multiply beyond your imagination.
It’s awkward when you’re near siblings who clearly don’t love each other, but it’s a delight to be around siblings who are loyal to each other. Their strengths and weaknesses balance each other and bless the church.
We may come to a point where we prefer to be with our siblings over anyone else. They’ll become our comfort zone. But how can we leverage our sibling bonds for ministry to others?
We still need other friends besides our family and friends need us, too. As a sibling team, you can love on those without siblings or those who still have broken pictures.
Your sibling love can minister to the lowly. It will also overflow to your parents, blessed beyond measure when there is harmony among their children. And someday, your relationships will dramatically affect your siblings’ spouses and their children.
Love, in such pure form, will give you a place for trusted honesty. When friends might say, “Oh that’s a great life choice.” Your sister will say, “You can do better than that, sis.”
Ultimately, above all other benefits, you will have exceeding joy when you obey God’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
Is it too late?
It’s not too late, and it’s not impossible to restore relationships with sisters and brothers. There is no prayer for conflict we can’t utter and no sin we can’t ask forgiveness for. God can make all things beautiful in His time (Ecc 3:11).
Seize the blessing!
I don’t know where you’re at in your sibling story. Crying with them over the phone? Laughing in the car until you feel sick? Forgiving them 70 times 7? Remembering that they are eternal, and your earthly treasures aren’t? Praying for the wayward? Studying on the trampoline? Crying some more on their wedding day? Texting again and again, hoping they’ll answer?
May you taste the timeless sibling bonds that bring so much joy. May God heal the fractured relationships seemingly beyond hope and beyond control. Wherever you’re at in this spectrum, know God can use your story.
This article is dedicated to my siblings and best friends: Andrea, Janel, Joel, Adeline, Malachi, Joshua and Kaitlin
*Article first published in the Homeschool Idaho magazine summer edition