"A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city" (Proverbs 18:19a).

I'm not sure how the bad feelings began between my oldest and youngest child. Considering the fact they were both strong-willed, I suppose a conflict was inevitable. Whenever I needed my daughter's help in watching her brothers and sister, she was determined to let her little brother know she was in charge. My young son, however, had other ideas. Resenting his sister's bulldog methods of control, he tested her authority every chance he got, and homeschooling became difficult since I could never trust either of them together alone for any length of time. One day I finally asked my daughter, "Why don't you just talk nicely to your brother? Things get done so much easier when you speak with honey instead of vinegar."

"Oh, Mom," she cried. "He's just asking for it, and I'm delivering." Years later, my oldest and youngest finally resolved their differences, but not until after many hurtful confrontations.

Left unchecked, bad feelings between siblings can last even a lifetime. Jacob and Esau were two such brothers who wasted 20 years in a broken relationship. Being more than an annoying little brother, Jacob actually stole Esau's birthright and left town in fear of his brother's wrath. Years later, God commanded Jacob to return to the land of his father, but the huge obstacle of brotherly reconciliation stood in his way. When messengers reported seeing Esau and his band of 400 men coming toward them as they traveled, Jacob was sure his brother was coming to kill him and his family. Coming before the Lord in prayer, Jacob humbled himself and prayed, "Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children" (Genesis 32:11). God answered Jacob's prayer after a humbling all-night wrestling session (vs. 24-32), and when the two brothers met, they finally reconciled with an embrace and a kiss.

What about you? Do you have a poor relationship with your brother, sister, or some other family member? Have they been bulldogging you with negative remarks about homeschooling? If you're tempted to retaliate with a few hurtful remarks of your own, take heed and guard your words. Lifelong conflicts can be easily avoided if you respond in humble brotherly love. "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

Father, I know You desire the family to work as a unit, but I've allowed selfishness and pride to ruin my relationships with those closest to me. Show me how to live in forgiveness and love my family even when they're being unlovely. In Jesus' name, Amen.