We often hear about "sibling rivalry" or "sibling squabbles" and want to know how to manage those episodes. And, let's face it, those moments arise and those issues have to be addressed. But the heat of the moment isn't the best time to start talking about how we should relate to each other. That would be like waiting to start a savings account until you have a major home repair that you cannot afford. However, if you find yourself in that spot, perhaps it will spur you on to think proactively in the future.
This same principle applies to relationships. Of course, conflict will happen and will need to be addressed. But the best case scenario is for there to be a regular, ongoing pattern of relationship building and strengthening in the "good times" so that there is a stock of trust to draw on for a "rainy day". Rest assured, this is already happening in your home. Siblings are building relationships. Trust is being established and is growing. But it can be helpful for us as mamas to know how to talk about it proactively, intentionally and positively (not just "Quit doing that to your brother!").
We have started to look at Romans 12 and we've seen these themes:
- Live peaceably with all.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
- Outdo one another in showing honor.
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We've discussed the living peaceably here and the rejoicing and weeping here. But one of the best guides for positive, active relationship building is the concept "outdo one another in showing honor". Here are some of the verses from Romans 12 that speak to that idea.
Rom 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Rom 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rom 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Rom 12:16b ... Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
When read out of context "Outdo one another in showing honor" sounds like some kind of ostentatious flattery contest. But when you look at the other verses, you realize that we're not talking about fake honor that is a kind of back door to self-promotion. First, this honor comes from a zealous, fervent spirit intent on serving the Lord (v.11). Secondly, it is related to meeting the needs of others and even looking for opportunity to do so (v.13). And finally, it is something we do for "the lowly" - in other words, this is service we render to those whom we would not expect to be able to return the favor (v.16).
When my brother worked for Chick-Fil-A, he was trained to respond to a customer's "Thank You" with "It is my pleasure!" My father picked up that habit because he felt it was a beautiful response. I've picked up that habit because I also think it is a beautiful response, and because I have seen the glow in my children's eyes when I tell them that it gives me pleasure to do good for them. I have also adopted that habit because I hope that by saying it, I can give a little nudge to my heart in those times when it doesn't quite agree with my mouth!
We've talked, in our house, about how diligently we would search if we knew that there were coins hidden in the house. Since caring for and outwardly demonstrating love to those with whom we most want to build trust is far more valuable than coins, how much more should we be actively seeking out ways to do it. When someone says "Can you hand me the box of markers?" instead of being annoyed or feeling inconvenienced, instead we want to think "Oh, good! I've just found another way I can show love!" Do we naturally respond this way? Nope. It takes practice. It takes intentionality. And it takes repentance. "I'm sorry I got irritated when you asked for the markers. I really want to be helpful to you. I'm sorry I didn't respond that way earlier."
Want to know a little secret? You, as a mother, have a tremendous (seriously, do not underestimate this!) power to enhance and multiply the effects of the little acts of kindness that may go unnoticed. Lean over to your daughter and whisper "Did you know that was the last page of his sketch book that he tore out for you to use? You really are very important to him!" Mention to your son "I've noticed how your sister has started making a point to ask you before she uses your tools. That tells me that your respect and trust is very precious to her." Try it. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Please don't leave this post with the impression that our home is a continual festival of little acts of kindness and beaming cherub children. What I'm illustrating here is not what we've achieved so much as a vision of what we should be thinking about and working towards. Every day is a new day. His mercies are new every morning. And for this I am eternally thankful!