If you have a brother or sister, or if you have more than one child, then you are very familiar with sibling rivalry. But in case you’ve never heard the term, sibling rivalry is the jealousy, fighting, and competition that happens between brothers and sisters.
Sibling rivalry takes many forms. As young children, siblings fight over toys and compete for and become jealous over their parents’ time and attention. School-aged siblings compete over grades, in sports, for friendships, and for their parents’ praise.
As adults, siblings may compete and be jealous over who marries first, or who has the first child, or who has the better finances, career, or vacations, etc. I’ve even seen friendly competition over whose hair resists graying the longest! 🙂
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Sibling rivalry, of the non-friendly variety, is a natural by-product of our human nature. We all by nature are self-centered and want to keep the focus on me and what I want or “deserve.” We want what we perceive as “fair” to me.
While natural, this self-centeredness and rivalry is something we all must strive to grow out of, learning that the world does not revolve around just me. And it is something we must continue to fight against even as adults.
Our parents, if they are good parents, helped us with the jealousy we felt about our brothers and sisters while growing up.
I know my mother was very aware of making sure that each of her three children knew that we were loved equally. She strove to help us feel that she always at least tried to treat us the same, within reason, of course. And I love her so much for it!
I remember, when we were all really young, her placing three Tupperware glasses on the counter and filling them half full with Coke for each of us. I watched her lean over and eye each glass adjusting the level of drink to be as exactly the same amount for each child as she could get it. Can I say it again…I love my mother!
We all knew that Mama tried hard to love and treat us the same. But she was also wise in her efforts. For example, Mama wouldn’t engage in a “fairness” debate. Any plea that Mama should allow me something because she had allowed my sibling to do or have it, fell on deaf ears. But I never thought she allowed my sibling that thing out of any greater love for him or her. I could understand that she had her reasons. And knowing that my mother valued each one of us kids, helped me not resent that sibling.
However, not all of us do a great job at that. Isaac and Rebekah are an example of parents whose behavior and attitude toward their two sons, instead of defusing sibling rivalry, actually fostered it.
How did they do that?
They divided the boys by each favoring and loving one son over the other.
They each picked a son to love and dote on!
Isaac picked Esau. Rebekah picked Jacob.
And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28
They had “his” and “hers” children!
You know…like bathroom towels!
And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. Genesis 27:5a
And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son… Genesis 27:6a
By playing favorites with their sons, Isaac and Rebekah fostered competition between them. They neglected to teach Jacob and Esau to love and respect each other. Which also resulted in their not learning to love and respect their parents.
In order for us all to grow up in maturity and consideration for others, we must each be taught…and learn…to let go of the petty rivalries and selfishness of childhood.
And we must let go of comparing ourselves and our lives with others, our siblings first of all.
…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12b
These comparisons lead to all kinds of sins—coveting, envy, hatred, jealousy, deceit, anger, etc. And do not lead to the contentment and peace and thankfulness that God wants for each of us.
Isaac and Rebekah learned the hard way that playing favorites with our children is not the way to have a blessed family and home. And certainly, not the way to help their sons grow out of the natural sibling rivalries of childhood.
While it is easy to judge them, I can see how they fell into that trap. For it is always easiest to like and spend time with those with whom we share similar interests and temperaments, and who obviously like to be around us, too.
But as parents we don’t have the option of making such a choice. No two of our children will be the same. And not all of our children will share our interests. Therefore, it will take extra effort on our part to seek out and spend time doing things with each of our children that interests and is meaningful to him or her…and that makes him/her know that he/she is special to us.
While it may sometimes be really difficult to make that happen, the possible results of playing favorites…a broken family…is unthinkable.
Isaac and Rebekah suffered greatly from their mistakes in this area. Their old age was not full of comfort from their sons, but rather heartache and disappointment.
Their family was broken by the lack of love between their two sons. Jacob’s covetousness and lack of respect for his brother and his brother’s right to have the birthright led him to take advantage of his brother. Esau’s anger, hatred, and determination to exact revenge on Jacob and kill him led to Jacob being sent to live far away! (Genesis 27:41-46)
Their family remained broken for the rest of Rebekah’s life. Rebekah’s plotting in favor of one son over the other son caused her to never see that favorite son again. How sad! Beyond sad! (Genesis 27:5-13)
While adult children cannot use their parents as their excuse to be envious of and/or hold grudges against their brothers and sisters, we parents will answer for how well we helped them be able to deal with that temptation.
And for how well we loved each one of our children.
May the Lord grant us the wisdom we so desperately need to raise each of our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! That they will each love Him…and each other…throughout life.
Drawing nigh to Him,
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT
How do you show each of your children that they are loved and special to you?
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