Friday, October 26, 2007

Sibling Rivalry

As I've mentioned before, the relationships between my children, particularly Logan and Emma, are not always smooth. And as parents, we rack our brains to figure out what can do to make them kinder to each other. We try bribes, punishments, guilt-trips, and wonder whether we are at fault ourselves for the way they snipe at each other. I decided the best thing to do is to look at sibling rivalry in a Biblical way, and when I started thinking of the Bible, some quite interesting thoughts occurred to me.

Basically, sibling rivalry is rife all through the Bible. Come with me for a bit of a look.

Cain and Abel. When the very first pair of brothers in recorded history didn't see eye to eye on the way to do things, whatever makes us think the rest of us will be any different?

Isaac and Ishmael. The friction between this pair of half brothers is still causing repercussions in the world some 3000 years later!

Esau and Jacob. Hopefully none of my children will ever be compelled to flee for their life from one of the others.

Leah and Rachel. Quite a sad bit of sisterly rivalry. How about that line in Genesis 30: 15 where Rachel tells Leah, "He can sleep with you tonight, in return for your son's mandrakes." It takes share and share alike to a level we wouldn't want to contemplate.

Joseph and his brothers. I still think it was a bit unwise for him to tell them about his dreams.

David's sons Absalom and Amnon. This was a very nasty bit of sibling rivalry, festering for years before it finally erupted in violence.

David's relationship with his own brothers when he was young. I love reading the interplay between David and his oldest brother Eliab in 1Samuel 17: 28-29. We get similar sorts of comments in our household. In effect, Eliab says, "What are you doing here? I know how conceited you are. You can't keep your nose out of anything. What about your sheep?" And David responds, "Now what have I done? I can't even open my mouth around here!"

Even seemingly smooth sibling relationships like that between Moses, Aaron and Miriam had their rocky patches.

So the first thing all of this shows me is that God certainly isn't taken by surprise when my little brood get involved in fights and arguments. He knows what siblings are like. Maybe He gives them to us as a double-sided "blessing." They certainly teach us attributes such as patience and long-suffering. Is it unrealistic to expect our homes to be full of young Davids and Jonathans (who, interestingly enough, were not real brothers by blood, anyway.)

In fact, I think you can tell when you're in a Christian bookstore. Other parents, leaning over the indoor playground barriers, call, "Obadiah, stop bashing Ezekiel over the head!"

Jesus had younger brothers and sisters Himself and still never sinned! That is enough to blow my mind, even though there were occasions when his siblings grumbled and murmured about Him.

I searched the scriptures to work out what should be my response when Logan, Emma and Blake are arguing. I'm actually drawn to the response Jesus gave to the man in Luke 12: 13 who said, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" In other words, "This has nothing to do with me. Sort it out between yourselves." I love it.


  1. The least supportive people in my life are my 3 sisters. No surprise. I have to tell you this story: 6 years ago, we went down to CA to visit my family. We were all sitting out by the crowded pool of our hotel, my mom, 3 sisters and their families. My sister, Connie, who is 14 yrs my senior, said to me in a very loud voice, "I love your hair color!" Does this tell you anything about our relationship? My sisters have always been difficult, unsupportive and unsympathetic and it always saddened me. Oh, there have been brief times of semi-closeness but only when their lives were very happy. I've always longed for a close relationship with them, especially as adults, but I doubt that will ever happen.

    As for my own kids, I encourage them to serve each other (Chad, will you serve your sister this glass of milk.) I also encourage them that they are each others' best friends and that they will always have each other, even after we are gone. I tell the boys they need to look out for Carmen, they are her protectors. I don't know how this sounds but it's the way I feel it should be. Oh, they fight about silly stuff and call each other names but we address each episode as it comes. I also point out, "Is God happy when we do ...?"

    This was an interesting post, all the sibling stories in the Bible. Whew! Makes our kids look like angels, doesn't it?

    I'm afraid this will be an issue until the kids become adults. And, yes, there are times we just have to let them sort things out themselves. Just keep anything sharp out of their reach!

    Oh, Todd just mentioned Joseph - now there's a loving sibling relationship for you! Todd said to make sure Logan and Emma don't sell Blake off to any nomadic traders!

    Have a terrific weekend!

  2. The judge and jury. That's how I feel most days. "MOM! Jack spit at me and you're not going to DO anything about it??"

    AGGGHH I need some earplugs!

    I could go on and on, but let me just say that my kids have been at each other's throat worse than ever before. I have no idea why, but am glad there is biblical evidence of this being somewhat normal.

  3. Hi Paula
    Just really dropping in to say I've been visiting! I enjoyed your post on sibling rivalry - some great perspective there - we often get overwhelmed at it all and lose perspective as we teach our kids God's grace in all their relationships.

    Anyways, have a great weekend with your kids!
    Live life with your Kids!

  4. I TOTALLY Get it!!
    I love this that you've brought before us here. Jesus had siblings and DID NOT SIN!! How brilliant an observation!!!

    I've been doing much the same that Kate has been doing. The funny thing is that I"ve noticed a bonding between Mini-Me & J-man and then a bonding between G and Mini-E. Part of it has been because G has sort of withdrawn from J. I know it will get better as J gets older...but it's probably going to be this way for a while.

    But there are still all those days that no one gets along. Or when they ALL want to play by themselves except J-man who wants to play with EVERYONE.
    All. The. Time.
    It's an interesting facet in the family life. :-)
    I still am so excited about this revelation....Jesus had siblings and didn't sin.
    That proves He IS the Son of God. *LOL*