It is so easy for us to distance ourselves from the other members of our families! Everyone has heard of "sibling rivalry," and it seems to be accepted today today that siblings will treat each other in ways that they would never consider treating someone who is no relation to them.
The book Home-Making has an interesting perspective on why this is true:
The fact that it is home and that the ties are natural and thought to be secure; that the members are sure of each other, without making any effort to win confidence and regard; that love between them is a matter of course, as if by nature, without winning it or cherishing it or troubling themselves to keep it, is another of the muses for the absence of real friendship among brothers and sisters. They imagine that family affection is a sort of instinct not subject to the laws which control other affections; that it does not need to be sought or gained or won, as affection must be in others, by giving affection in return and by the countless little tendernesses and thoughtfulnesses which are shown to others whom they desire to win. They forget that the principle, "he that hath friends must show himself friendly," applies in the family just as well as outside of it. They forget that friendship anywhere must be cherished or it will die; that indifference and coldness will muse it to wither as drought causes summer flowers to wither. They imagine, in a word, that the love of the family is so sure and strong that it needs no care, no pains, to keep it safe. So it is that in very many homes brothers and sisters come and go, day after day, and year after year, mingling in all the life of the household, but never really forming close friendships among themselves.*Indeed, in many homes, this seems to be the norm:
...[T]he intercourse of brothers and sisters in the home lacks even the graces of ordinary civility. As soon as the door shuts them within, restraint is thrown off, selfishness comes to the surface, courtesy is laid aside. There is no pleasant conversation. Neither lives for or tries to please the other. The speech is rude or careless and the whole bearing cold or indifferent.**How true this is! (And I've been the culprit more than once.)
Friendships in the family require care and culture as do other friendships. We must win one another's love inside the home doors just as we win the love of outside friends. ... [W]e must show ourselves unselfish, self-forgetful, thoughtful, kind, tender, patient, helpful. [Yes, even to our siblings!] ... We must live for each other. We must gain each other's heart by giving just what we expect to receive. We must cherish the friendship that we have won. Unless we do, it will not grow. We must watch our words and our conduct. We must seek to please and take pains never to would or grieve. We must deny self and live for one another. We must confide in one another. We must cultivate in our own hearts and lives whatever is beautiful, whatever is tender, whatever is holy, whatever is true. Friendships in our own home, to be deep and true and heart-satisfying, must be formed by the patient knitting of soul to soul and the growing of life into life, just as in other friendships.***
I have been thinking recently: Why is it that when we are home our speech becomes careless and inconsiderate? Why is it that when we are home our dress tends to be sloppy and slovenly? If we gave the members of our families the same respect, civility, politeness, kindness, courtesy, and care that we give to friends and strangers alike, think what our families could be like! Imagine what wonderful, close, satisfying friendships could be formed!
While my siblings and I still have frequent failings in this area, we are thankful that the Lord has worked in each of our lives to bring us closer to each other and to Him.
Our daily lives possess o'er one another;
A careless word may help a soul to kill,
Or by one look we may redeem our brother.
'Tis not the great things that we do or say,
But idle words forgot as soon as spoken;
And little thoughtless deeds of every day
Are stumbling-blocks on which the weak are broken.****
*Home-Making, by J.R. Miller; pg 149
**Ibid; pg. 156
***Ibid; pg. 151
****Ibid; pg. 161