Notice: Younger siblings, please do not throw this blog post in your older sibling’s face. Forward them the link, if you like, but don’t tag them in public on social media. Take it easy on them. Some of us “oldests” have trouble finding our role–as I’m sure you know. 😉
I’ve been an oldest child for twenty-one years. My sissies kindly say that I’m a pretty good big sister. I’m still not perfect, and I’ve misused my role all too many times. But I’ve come to realize that being the oldest not only comes with privileges and responsibilities. It also has power.
I remember the moment when my younger sister Molly told our Bible study group that she trusted my biblical advice. That if I said something about the Bible, she was likely to believe me over even respected Bible teachers.
Good thing I was sitting down. I felt all the honor of her trust and respect, and all the weight of the responsibility. It kinda blew me away. I mean, what if I got something wrong and led her astray?
See, I’ve always wanted to be a good big sister. (I mean, really, which of us sets out to be a sadistic jerk toward our younger siblings? I hope not many.) But I didn’t fully realize the power of my role until then.
Somehow the fact that I’m older–even if by only two years–makes a difference in how my siblings view me. I learned to read first. Learned to drive first. I’ve been there as long as they can remember. There was never a time when Darcy wasn’t there–older, stronger, oh-so-much-wiser. (That stronger/wiser thing has evened out as we’ve grown, but still… It might not be much, but I’ve still had more experience than they have.)
Just by its very nature, the role of an oldest child is leader.
The younger siblings instinctively know this. Why do you think they love to say you’re not their boss? Because they instinctively feel that you are their superior in some ways, and they jolly well don’t like it. 🙂
So, fellow oldest child, you don’t feel like a leader? Not your personality type? Not your preference?
To be perfectly blunt: tough. It’s your job.
Although you may never lead anyone else, leadership of your siblings is your birthright.
Oh, you can abdicate. You can kinda let life slip by, and someone else will take your role. Maybe a younger sibling with a personality geared more toward leadership will step up. Maybe your siblings’ friends will usurp your position of admired, looked-up-to role model and supporter. Or maybe some dumb, yet popular celebrity who couldn’t care less will become the person your siblings respect.
You were born to lead. Don’tcha think God knew what He was doing when He placed you in your family?
But you can sell your birthright. Esau did. He sold it to his just-a-few-minutes-younger twin brother for a bowl of stew. He even swore that he meant it. (Yes, I know the birthright was a tangible thing in their case, but stick with me.) Later, Esau regretted it bitterly. (Check out Genesis 25 and 27 for the whole story.)
See, it wasn’t really about the stew. Or his younger brother’s petty manipulation. Esau’s birthright should never have been treated that way even in jest, let alone in earnest. The problem was Esau despised his birthright. Counted it worthless. Unimportant.
So, how do you value your birthright? You have an opportunity to lead your younger siblings into Light, and Truth, and Righteousness. (Conversely, you could lead them down a pretty path to hell. Yep, that power is yours, too.) Or you can abdicate, and your birthright will default to whoever happens to step up.
Come on, you don’t really want to risk that, do you?
About now you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. You don’t know my siblings.”
Fair enough. Your siblings are individual people. Every single relationship–and I do mean every. single. relationship.–is different. But I think general principles can be adapted to fit all manner of situations.
You know one of the most powerful ways to lead? By example.
Quit rolling your eyes. 🙂
“But my younger siblings don’t respect me enough to follow any kind of example I set!”
Wrong. Unless they are already utterly and completely corrupted, they won’t be able to help themselves. If they see you living a content, fulfilled, honorable life, they’ll secretly respect it, even if they never indicate so.
Even if they call you “Miss Perfect” or “Mama’s boy.” (There are a lot of worse things in life than being called “goody-goody,” by the way.)
On the other hand, if they see you failing, your leadership might be debased to a case of “What Not to Do.” This is not as powerful, just sayin’.
So one way to lead is to get all your own ducks in a row.
Not that you’ll be perfect. Not that you’ll never ask for help. Not that you’ll never apologize.
Knowing when to ask for help, addressing your imperfections, and apologizing when you need to are actually signs that you’re keeping those ducks in formation.
And when you’re consistently doing well at this thing called “life,” it’s easier for your siblings to respect you. It’s how you strengthen your role.
Whatever you do, don’t act uppity when you get things right.
When you do your chores and schoolwork, when your parents say “Great job,” when your siblings say “How come he gets to…?” Don’t brag. Don’t smile smugly. Don’t rub your accomplishments in their face.
An air of superiority is the quickest turn-off for a younger sibling. Just be genuine in trying to do right, and be honest when you make mistakes.
Because you were born first, all your little actions have power.
Don’t waste them. Keep your daily life following Jesus, not only for yourself, but also for the siblings who are watching you.
Okay, so I’m just getting warmed up on this subject, but I’ll hush for now. More to come soon, Lord willing. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Oldests, how have you noticed your birthright of leadership? How have you used it? Or have you used it at all?
Younger siblings, whatcha think? What makes you respect your oldest sibling? What do they do that drives you crazy?
And if you don’t care to leave a public comment, head to my “Connect” page and shoot me an email. 🙂