Today is National Sibling Day, a day when we who did not have the pleasure of growing up as only children try to look on the bright side of things.
I’m joking, of course—for the most part. Because while having siblings can mean having a friend for life, siblinghood can also be fraught. As Angela T. Khabeb writes in the April issue of Gather, “Often our family members are simultaneously the most invaluable and the most infuriating people in our lives.”
To have a sibling is fairly easy. To be a sibling, though, takes concerted effort. Here are three lessons I’ve learned in my efforts to be a sibling to my sister, Jen.
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1) How to glaze a spiral ham
I’ve also learned the plot of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and where Rory Gilmore went to college.
These aren’t topics I’ve ever cared to know much about, but being a sibling sometimes gives you an opportunity/forces you to learn from someone who may be completely different from you in many ways.
In a culture that seems to encourage us to remain divided from those who are different from us, having a sibling who forces you to look at the world differently may not be such a bad thing.
2) When to shut up
My sister and I have had some great adventures together. We’ve gone cave-exploring in the Bahamas, kayaked through rapids in Northern Michigan and whale watched (unsuccessfully) in Iceland.
We also share a ridiculous sense of humor that few but us understand or appreciate.
But every so often one of us says something to the other that is just a little too biting or close to the bone, and there comes a moment where we pause and look at each other sideways as if to say: Are we really going to go there?
I don’t know about Jen, but in those moments, I ask myself what is more important: calling my sister out on some slight infraction she already knows she committed—or keeping a deep, meaningful relationship intact.
Yes, speaking the truth in love is important. But sometimes keeping your mouth shut is too. I’m glad to have a sibling who gives me ample opportunity to decide between the two.
3) How to forgive
We in the church talk a lot about the importance of forgiveness—forgiving our neighbors, forgiving our enemies. But putting forgiveness into action can be a challenge—especially for me.
While I’m no grudge holder, when someone hurts me, it’s hard for me to continue on without assuming they’ll do it again. With my sister, it’s different. A sibling has the power to wound you in a way only someone who knows you thoroughly can.
Making the choice to leave those wounds in the past isn’t easy, but it’s essential to relationship. Being a sibling can give us the kind of practice in forgiveness (and in being forgiven) that can serve us well in the church and in the world—if only we are willing to let it.
Are you a sibling? What have you learned? What advice do you have to offer?
Photo: Jen, left, and Sarah on a recent trip to Iceland