When growing up with 3 siblings…conflict was inevitable. I know this because I have 4 children of my own. I think that the difference between the family of 6 that I grew up in vs. the family of 6 that I now preside in…is that in the family of 6 that I grew up in…the second born child was the one who was always right and now, the family of 6 that I now preside in…the father is always right. It’s weird…I wonder what makes the difference.
The conflicts between siblings have remained much the same through the generations. “I call the front seat!”
“You always get the front seat!”
“So…that’s because I am older…”
“So…I am bigger…”
“What about me?” says the youngest.
“What about you?” says everyone but the youngest.
My parents did their best to intercede in our sibling rivalries…but, now, as a parent, I realize there is no perfect solution…nor is there any solution. If you are a parent and your children don’t fight…you may want to check their pulse…or see if they happen to be some futuristic android sent back in time from 2525….It could happen…if man is still alive.
My dad would wisely address the conflicts by using controversial, psycho analytical reverse forward psychology.
“Dad! Ryan bit me!”
“Well…bite him back.”
“Dad…I tried to bite Ryan back…but then he punched me…”
“Do we have to talk about this during the Vikings game?”
My mother would frequently take a different approach.
“Ryan…did you kick you brother in the throat?”
“Well…you need to apologize.”
“Oh…ok…I am sorry that your neck is so weak.”
“Ryan…did you hold your sister’s head underwater?”
“Well…you need to apologize.”
“Ugh…fine…I am sorry you can’t breathe under water.”
Strangely…our parents must have done something right…or at the very least…so wrong, that the reverse psychology actually worked.
My brother and I had an incident recently. That is not surprising. We are both cut from the same stock and both tend to do things without thinking…however, what impacted me powerfully was his apology. This is what he said, “I wanted to tell you that I would never purposely put you and your family at risk, but my poor decision did just that. I feel that I need to adequately apologize to you. I am embarrassed and shameful of my poor action and for that I am sorry to you and your family.”
I don’t know if I have ever heard such a meaningful apology in my life…nor have I given one. I read the apology to my family…in which I and my family fully accepted. My brother’s humble course of action, blew me away. If only I, and all of us, for that matter, could take such ownership as he did…then I would have to believe that the conflicts that we encounter would actually build our relationships rather than sever them.
In Acts 15:36-41, we come across a well know, but little talked about conflict between Paul and Barnabas. These two Godly men have a sharp dispute, in which they actually go their separate ways for awhile. Yet, if we read the entirety of the New Testament, we find that reconciliation takes place between these two men. We are not given the details of how…but that is not as important as the fact that it happens.
May we find the ownership, responsibility and humility to reconcile our conflicts. Jesus reconciled us to himself…it seems the least we can do…is be willing to reconcile with each other.