It’s so simple, really. When your brother or sister is cleaning your room, remember to say “thank you.” When they are tattling to mom about what a dear help you have been, turn a bashful eye. When they are cuddled up next to you reading a book and smelling so sweet, kiss them on the top of their darling little heads! Loving your siblings is easy.
And then there are times when you love your siblings by refraining from bashing them over the head with a frying pan. Because siblings are wonderful creatures, but they are not perfect, and sometimes they can be extremely trying.
Whether you are the oldest or the youngest, if you are anything other than an only child, you know what I’m talking about. Most of my life, my siblings and I have gotten along rather well, but that doesn’t mean it was for lack of effort. If you want to truly keep the peace, and yes — love your siblings — here are a few things to remember.
1. They are not perfect…and neither are you!
Being the third child out of eight, I have had experience with baby siblings, siblings very near to me in age, married siblings and everything in between. The trick to every one of these situations is to remember that none of my brothers or sisters are perfect…and neither am I! I can’t count the times I’ve become frustrated with one of my siblings for doing something (leaving a wet washcloth on the bathroom floor, talking with their mouth full) only to catch myself doing the same thing later that day. When you have expectations for your siblings above those of love and respect, you are probably asking too much. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, gifts and struggles, so be sensitive to that with everyone, especially those closest to you.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
2. Love them even if they’ve made themselves an “enemy”.
If you are like me, you and your siblings get along one day and then have conflict the next. So often conflict is triggered by something unimportant like chores, misunderstanding, lack of privacy or simply someone waking up in a bad mood. Don’t let these things tear you and your siblings apart. If you nurture your relationships with your brothers and sisters, you will find that they become the friends that stick with you through the years. There are, however, times when one of your siblings decides that they don’t want to “nurture” a healthy relationship with you. They’d rather look out for themselves or take their anger out on you. Remember during these times that you are still called to love your siblings. Even if they weren’t part of your family, you’d be obligated to be kind, gentle and patient with them. You never know — this kind of attitude could even get your sibling out of their funk!
“And this commandment we have from him (Jesus): whoever loves God must also love his brother (and sister).” 1 John 4:21
3. Remember when you were that age.
If you are an older sister, it can be easy to slip into habits of looking down on your younger siblings. I know I sometimes think of my own younger siblings as loud, obnoxious, messy and ungrateful. It isn’t until I remember myself at that age that I’m able to forgive these things. Children come in every shape and size, but every child is messy, loud and obnoxious sometimes. Remember that you were once a sticky-faced munchkin yourself and move on. This also goes for your older siblings: when your older siblings seem to be acting unreasonable, do your best to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you were (as you someday will be!) in their place? Most of all, be kind.
4. Watch your mouth.
Whether you’re hashing it out with your teenage brother or snapping at your toddling sis, you need to be very careful what comes out of your mouth. Words that we throw out in thoughtlessness are rarely lost. Hurtful, degrading, crude or snappish language only sends one message: “I am more important than you.” You don’t want your siblings to grow up and move away with these sad memories. Try to be gentle and encouraging in every situation.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
5. Never be the victim.
One of the most annoying things a sibling can do is to act like the victim. You are responsible for the way you act and react. Do not blame your sister or brother for making you mad, egging you on or “tricking” you into doing something dishonorable. Take responsibility for your behavior and you’ll be teaching your siblings to do the same. One of the greatest ways you can do this is by learning these three phrases: “I was wrong”, “It was my fault” and “Will you forgive me?”
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (or sisters!) dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1
6. Don’t make excuses.
No matter what, your siblings are never an excuse for treating someone disrespectfully. Even if your little brother is still begging you to play a game after you told him you were busy or your baby sister won’t stop crying or your older sister is hogging the TV, you don’t have the right to seek revenge or be rude. Rolling your eyes, shouting, using a sassy tone…all of these things make you a poor loser.
7. Remember the fruits.
Galatians teaches us about the “fruits” that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer. These can be easily applied to our relationships with our siblings. Ask yourself these questions:
- Loving or hateful?
- Joyful or having a bad attitude?
- Peaceful or fighting?
- Patient or constantly irritated?
- Kind or “just don’t care”?
- Good or treating them badly?
- Faithful or not there for them?
- Gentle or too hard on them?
- Self-controlled or easily angered?
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved (that’s us), compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”