"...hated their brother..."
"When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner." (Genesis 37:4)
When I saw these two spider webs "posted" side-by-side on the fence yesterday morning I couldn't help but wonder if there was some sort of friendly competition or sibling rivalry going on. It's happened to me on more than one occasion that a child has asked me to judge their artwork as being the "best of show," even while I'm surrounded by other children holding their own creations. The best I can usually muster is something like, "Oh, it's wonderful. I think all the drawings are wonderful," and pray the child doesn't press me any further to declare a "winner."
We all have it as young children, that deep need to be "special" or "the best." Millions, if not billions, are spent each year on ribbons, trophies, and the like to support that need to feel like "we're number one." Every child in the very early stages of their development needs to see themselves reflected in the admiring gaze of those who lovingly hold them and feel that they are, indeed, most special. Sometimes with our children I think we confuse the need to feel special with a need to compete. All the trophies in the world can never compare with the signs and words of affirmation we as adults can offer our children on a daily basis. A little competition is fine, but it was never meant to fulfill that need to feel special, the kind of feeling we crave and can only be truly fulfilled when we're in relationship with others who make us feel loved. (Honestly, sometimes I think parents should focus more on playing with their children and a little less on getting them involved in every sort of competitive opportunity that comes along.)
As adults we also carry with us that need to feel special. We yearn to feel special somehow to someone. That's what lights us up in romantic relationships. I think it also lies behind some of our drive to compete as adults, even if we compete simply by backing a certain sports team. If our team wins we feel special. "We're number 1! we scream," even if we never stepped foot on the field.
It's important that we acknowledge this need to feel special. If not, we risk the emptiness we feel without it driving us into bitter feelings and hurtful behaviors. In the passage from Genesis above, we see how the brothers of Joseph reacted when they were not made to feel special by their father. They hated Joseph and followed those destructive feelings to an act of murderous proportions. On a more contemporary note, I remember in the comedy routine of the Smothers Brothers when Tom would be losing an argument with his more articulate brother, Dick, and finally would play his trump card by saying, "Mom always liked you best!" It was a funny line, but probably struck a chord with adults not because we all had mothers that favored one of our siblings, but because we could identify with that need to feel special - even as adults.
We do not need to ignore or deny this need to feel special. In fact, I think it's when we try to ignore or deny it that we wind up looking for it to be fulfilled in unhealthy relationships and behaviors. God knows our need and responds by loving each of us as though we are the only ones God has to love. That's one way to think about God sending the Holy Spirit to be with us after Jesus - that God came to love all of us in Jesus, and dwell most specially with each of us in the Holy Spirit. Our response to God's gift is to love as we have been loved, to affirm each other as special children of God. I pray that God will help me love as I am loved. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
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