No sibling relationship is perfect — they all come with their fair share of conflict. When I was young, I remember being so upset with my sister that I bit her arm — hard! While we have grown past our childish fights, there are definitely days when things aren’t so rosy.
There are many reasons why enmity breeds so easily in our sibling relationships. For some, it might be bitterness. For others, it might be a lack of communication. Upon reflecting on my life with my sister, I’ve realised that one of the insidious reasons for my occasional disgruntled thoughts towards her is jealousy.
THE COMPARISON GAME
Who can say that they have never been compared with their sibling? Sometimes, it can feel as though our siblings are there just to show us that we are flawed in a certain way. I’m a twin, so the experience can be even more intense! Every difference between Tammy and I was amplified because everyone expects us to be so alike.
Growing up, our intellect, our weight, our height, and even our complexion were common points of comparison, and soon, it became clear to me that I had begun to compare myself against my sister, even when no one pointed anything out. Because of this, as much as I love my sister, having a twin was tiring at times as I grew to measure myself against her in almost every aspect of life.
As that sinister sense of jealousy stirred in my heart, it was more and more difficult to love my sister for who she was. If Tammy seemed better than me in any area, I could not celebrate her fully because whatever she had, I wanted.
With the endless availability of things about our siblings that we can compare ourselves with, the potential for envy and jealousy to rear its ugly head is always there. How then can we overcome this feeling that seems to come so naturally in our relationship with our siblings?
1. Think rightly
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves … (Phil 2:3, NASB)
Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi changed the way I saw and handled my relationships, including the relationship I shared with my sister. It is interesting that while he was addressing their conduct, he found the solution in their thought life. Whenever you recognise that your train of thought might be heading towards contempt or envy, snap out of it! Stop and ask God to change the way that you see your siblings and yourself.
For myself, I found that my heart gradually became slow to compare contemptuously and quick to celebrate the wonderful things I saw in others. Eventually, this effected a change in my conduct, speech and especially in my motivations, where I did and said things out of a genuine respect and honour for my sister. Upon learning to value her above myself, I found that thanksgiving came instinctively, instead of jealous thoughts.
IT IS FAR BETTER TO PRESERVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP THAN TO PRESERVE YOUR PRIDE.
2. Forgive quickly
Ruth Bell Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, once said this about marriage: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
This simple piece of wisdom is not just applicable in the context of marriage, but to every relationship we have with other people. Living in the same house as our siblings means that we are very often witnesses to each other’s bad days and tired nights when we are more easily agitated and more prone to lash out with biting words. Sometimes, we hold these things against our siblings in order to feel better about ourselves. However, be quick to forgive. Learn to hold your tongue in moments of anger or irritation. It is far better to preserve a good relationship with them than to preserve your pride.
3. Act lovingly
I once heard a pastor remark in his sermon that we should “practise acts of love” in our families. Truly, it is not in our nature to love beyond ourselves. We must make a conscious effort to love where we can. How different would your relationships look like if you woke up every day determined to practise loving your family members and friends?
Admittedly, family is where we face some of our greatest hurdles. It may feel so diffiult to act lovingly when we are being compared or treated poorly in our view, but instead of letting our feelings control our actions, let us discipline ourselves and choose to act in a godly and loving manner. It’s not always easy to act against our feelings and emotions, but it is always worth the effort.
ADMITTEDLY, FAMILY IS WHERE WE FACE SOME OF OUR GREATEST HURDLES.
4. Always be thankful
There is one habit that you can practice every day that will definitely impact the way you view your siblings and even yourself. That is the habit of thanksgiving. For those of you who feel particularly susceptible towards comparison, practise thanksgiving! If you struggle with thanking God for your siblings, take time to make a list of their positive traits and then thank God that He created them in that way.
I am always thankful that I have a sister that asks me the difficult questions — questions that challenge me to live a devoted life unto Christ. And once in a while, she reminds me never to forget the gospel! For that and more, I deeply value the relationship we share.
No matter how fun or how difficult the relationship is, pray that God will show you the value of your brother or your sister, and that He will give you the love and wisdom you need to continue growing in your relationship with them. Ask that God will give you a humility of mind, which will enable you to be quick to forgive and quick to act in love. All in all, let love be a matter of first priority in your relationship with your siblings.