There are many different family dynamics - they may be obvious favoritism of one child or obvious dislike of another. There may be no favoritism or malice shown, yet one child may feel that there are the recipient of behavior they don't deserve. As in the case of Joseph, the other siblings may complain when they see special favors directed to one, or a child who feels slighted may act out. The child who knows he is the favorite has his own cross to bear.
I want to talk about the child that feels slighted. As is the case with humans we don't always understand what motivates behavior. But assuming that parents are loving and really care for all of their children, I think it's safe to say parents wouldn't intentionally slight or hurt any of their children. Add to this, some families are very vocal and demonstrative with affection and others aren't. One other point of consideration is the varying personalities of each child - quiet, loud, sneaky, candid, sullen or cheerful. If communication is lacking, the slighted child's feelings may be magnified all the way to adulthood, reaching the point where the parent says, "You two don't get along."
In the movie, the parents recognized that they may have inadvertently played a part in how the slighted child developed. There's a scene where the adult daughter says, "Do you know how I felt, how you made me feel every time you directed attention to my sister? It's why I did drugs and made some of the choices I made. I thought no one cared about me." The mother responds, "Oh honey I didn't mean to hurt you. You never saw your gifts and what we saw in you. I'm so sorry you went through all of that." At that point there was mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.
In real life this mutual forgiveness is hard to come by. Hurt is awful to bear and awful to watch - Proverbs 18:14. When adult siblings can't and don't get along whether it's over perceived or real slights, it's sad. As a parent, it brings me no greater joy when all of my children are together talking laughing and interacting. It feels like I've hit the jackpot. It was not easy to get to this point. As they've grown, we've all talked and learned from each other. Apologies have been made on both sides.
I know they are no guarantees in life but I believe the following can prevent the onset of sibling rivalry of the nastiest kind:
- Treat everyone fairly
- Speak positively and with encouragement
- Pray for wisdom
- Celebrate all achievements
- Hope that adult children recognize that their parents were well meaning
- Forgive often
- Talk often
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1(NLT)
Do you get along with your adult siblings? Have your parents done everything yet there is a wedge between the siblings? As an adult, how do you handle this situation?