A Biblical Perspective on Overcoming Hurtful Words Between Siblings

When I was a growing up, I moved a lot. I had one sibling. I saw cousins on special occasions. I made friends, but they were hard to keep when I moved. The one constant friend in my world was my sister, but I did not treat her as a friend at the time.

I thought that being big siswas a job description. I corralled my little sister away from trouble and, sometimes, into it. Like a wild stallion, she bucked against being controlled and resented me for it. My control and her desire for freedom created friction in our relationship that would last into our thirties.

In my stubborn effort to control my sister, I said a lot of things that I regret now. My biggest regret now is that I never trusted her to make her own decisions. It took me too many years to let go of the need to control and protect her. I regret the years I lost misjudging her and devaluing her unique individuality.

As adults, we had to learn to treat each other as equals and respect our right to live our lives differently. As adults, we had to learn to love each other without judgement. My sister was the first to learn and show me that in our relationship. Her humility and patience has spoken volumes to me.

Where would we be today if we had learned all this earlier?

I’ve always been blessed with the gift of words, but that is not the same thing as being a responsible steward of how I use them. Sometimes being skilled with words just makes it easier to hurt someone with them. It’s not true that words can’t hurt us; words cut deep and leave lasting scars.

How do hurtful words effect us when we are children?

When kids say hurtful stuff to kids, we call it bullying. We counsel bullies to stop bullying and victims to not take their words to heart. When adults say hurtful stuff to kids, however, it sticks with them. Whether they want to be this way or not, kids are like sponges; they absorb what is said and done to them when they are young, and it shapes the adults they become. Hurtful words spoken to a child become issues they have to face in adulthood. When kids say hurtful things to adults, they challenge the adult’s ability to keep a level head. They make the adult feel disrespected and devalued and want to hurt them back. It is the challenge of an adult to not retaliate in revenge or hurt but to reinforce rules and boundaries and think before they speak.

It’s not always easy to be the adult when your feelings get hurt. I faced this recently when I visited my two nieces. The two angels that used to be enamored with everything I brought to do with them were now engrossed in their phones and barely saying “hello” to me. The auntie they referred to as their own fairy godmother was now out of magic. If they said anything at all to the adults around them, it was incredibly hurtful. They were 10 and 12 and already acting like teenagers.

In my great frustration, I wrestled with giving the girls a piece of my mind. I felt checked in my spirit about doing so. I felt God leading me to pray instead. I went online and found a prayer that spoke to the hurt I was feeling and I prayed it over my family.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts, but constructing healthy boundaries among the family God has placed us with is extremely challenging. In the gap between fresh hurt and restored peace, the words with which we choose to express our emotions can be critically wounding, or soul restoring. To process emotion as our Savior would, it’s best to talk out our conflicts with Him in prayer.

Father, praise You for family. You tell us that it’s not good for us to be alone, and therefore have placed people around us that impact our lives and move us away from the loneliness of solitude. “The Lord is my strength and my song,” Exodus 15:2 reminds. We must remember that the family we live with is not responsible for our happiness. They are not charged with the status of our hearts and souls. And they cannot control how we feel, nor leap into our minds in an effort to understand the depth of our emotions.

When we are misunderstood, or a family member misunderstands us, we feel hopeless to plead our case. Help us to hold onto Exodus 15:2. You are our strength. The inability to filter our thoughts is a cue to hand them over to You. In the moments when silence is Your answer, help us to be patient. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, inspire us to recall who You say we are. Loved. Forgiven. Saved. Purposed. Unique.

Thank You for the comfort of family. The warm embrace of a mother and father, siblings, and extended family. There is something about being related that earns our trust easier other relationships. When and if that trust is broken through abuse and/or abandonment, we pray for your protection physically, and Your guardianship of our hearts and minds. Empower us to seek help and counsel from You, and from others trained to help us remove ourselves from danger and harm. Anyone intending to harm us or treat us abusively is never +w You intend us to linger with.

We confess all of the words we wish we could take back. Because of Adam and Eve’s mistake in the garden, our sinful nature can lead us down paths that we know are wrong, and into mistakes that we had no intention of making. Yet because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are forgiven over and over again when we confess to You in our Savior’s name. Help us to pass the same compassion on to others who wear on our hearts and patience. Bless us to be patient and wise, to seek You first, and speak kindness. Convict us when we are wrong, and strengthen our resolve to apologize.

Hurt within families can destroy relationships permanently. But with Your guidance, anything, and anyone, can be restored. You are our Healer. In You, we find peace. Our hope lies in You. And our faith can pull us across any divide when we let go and let You determine the way. Luke tells us “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near” (Luke 21:5-28). Jesus is coming. There’s no doubt about that. We want to follow Him fast and focused until He returns to take us home, or we arrive home in heaven to Him.

In the midst of conflict and hurt, it’s easy to be bitter. Misunderstanding can breed justification for cutting off a relationship like a dead tree branch. Payback and comebacks replay in our minds. Vindication runs on repeat. But God, You tell us to focus on You (Colossians 2:19). Let the world explain away, but let us listen to You first.

God, You are there in the pain we cannot bear, do not understand, and want to run from. Hold us and help us. Help us to endure long silences until we are sure You have inspired our choice of words. Quicken our hearts to forgive, and to pray for those on the other side of disagreements. Bless those who hurt us, and help us to be a blessing that shines bright in Your Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer by Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com

When someone close to you hurts you, it hurts more because it feels like a betrayal. Someone close to your heart turned on you. Yet, Christ tells us to pray for people like that. Luke 6:27-38 tells us to bless and pray for those that hurt us. In times when you want to hit back, take a step closer to Jesus instead.