Siblings. I have two. A brother, two and a half years younger, and a sister, nine years younger. Yes, I’m the first born. Don’t get me started on how we firstborns take a hit for the team before the younger ones even take their first breath. We break our parents in by providing opportunities for them to develop their parenting skills. And while our siblings seem to get away with everything, we’re expected to be cooperative and responsible.
Even though we grew up in the same house, my brother, sister, and I are very different. It’s not that we don’t get along—we do. But, we have dissimilar interests, goals, and temperaments. I’ve sometimes wondered how three children with the same parents could grow up to be so diverse in how we think and approach various situations.
I recently watched the movie, Conviction, starring Hilary Swank. It made me think a lot about sibling relationships. Conviction is based on a true story about Betty Anne Waters (Swank), a high school dropout who spent twelve years putting herself through law school while she worked as a single mother, raising two sons. Betty Anne’s brother was wrongfully convicted of murder and his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders became exhausted.
Betty Anne didn’t necessarily want to practice law because she had a dream to defend or prosecute criminals. She just loved and believed in her brother so much, she was willing to do whatever it took to free him. As soon as she passed the bar and could practice law, she went to work on her brother’s behalf. Challenging the conviction with DNA evidence, with the help of the Innocence Project, she proved her brother's innocence, and he walked out a free man after 18 years in prison.
I’ve asked myself, “Could I do that? Could I completely devote myself to such a cause?”
I’ve wondered what contributes to siblings having that kind of commitment to each other. It’s certainly not the case in every family. I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of sibling rivalry so extreme—or blowups so big—that brothers and sisters go years without seeing or talking to each other.
Betty Anne and Kenneth grew up in an unstable home. They probably felt they only had each other. They depended on each other for love, companionship, and survival.
I’ve read that sibling relationships result from complex factors that include gender, temperament, age spacing, and birth order. They’re also influenced by parenting behaviors, marital quality, and family conflict.
Two of my favorite TV shows revolve around brother-sister relationships. Parenthood can be seen on Tuesday nights on NBC, and Brothers and Sisters is aired Sundays nights on ABC. I think what I love so much about both shows is that although the characters are flawed—they all screw up—they eventually forgive each other. And even when they’re angry—they still show up when their brothers and sisters need them. Because they’re family. Because no matter what happens, they still love each other.
We may not always agree with our siblings. We may not even always like them. But the fact remains … we’re still family. And for those of us who may not have a brother or sister, we can sometimes find friends who make us feel like we do.
“I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” ~Maya Angelou
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)
Whether we’re bonded to our brothers and sisters through blood or through our hearts, they’re an important part of our lives.
“A brother shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams.” ~Author Unknown
“Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk.” ~Susan Scarf Merrell
Have a great week … and say a prayer of thanks for the “brothers” and “sisters” in your life.