I have always loved sports, especially football. My abilities as a player were average, but I learned all I could about each position, even those I didn’t play. I loved the strategy and fine details of the game so much that I wanted to be a coach. My final game was in high school.
My brother, Hoss, was not only blessed with size (he weighed 12 lbs. and 13 oz. when he was born), but also with quickness. During his junior and senior years in high school he was an All-State and All-American player. In 1982 he was offered a football scholarship at the University of Alabama and was successful playing there as an offensive lineman. His final game was in the NFL.
Two brothers with different gifts and abilities. I read as a hobby, have some musical ability, hate to cook and am a natural introvert. Hoss is great at working with his hands, enjoys listening to music, loves to cook and is a natural extrovert. Yet, our parents were never partial to one over the other.
Hoss (his real name is David) is more than my brother, but my best friend. We talk every day and sometimes several times a day. Most of our conversations include a lot of laughter. There has never been a moment when I have been jealous of his athletic success and recognition.
I believe one reason we are close to each other and to our parents is because they were not partial to either of us. Melanie, my sister, would say the same thing. Both love and discipline were dispensed on an even playing field for all of us.
A parent is instructed to “…provoke not (his) children to wrath…” (Ephesians 6:4). This is one of the fundamental responsibilities we have toward our kids. One way parents cause anger in a child is by showing favoritism among their children.
The word “partial” means “to show a favorable bias, to express a special fondness”. When parents compare a child unfavorably with their sibling the one on the short end of the stick will always feel inferior. They don’t feel valued or wanted as much as the other.
The most obvious example of partiality in the Bible is Jacob favoring his son, Joseph. It is said that “…Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children…” (Genesis 37:3). How is favoritism expressed to somone?
Partiality is evidenced through words. In an attempt to motivate a child some will compare them with someone else (it’s worse when it’s their brother or sister) that is doing better in that specific area. Statements like this show partiality – “Why can’t you be like your brother?”…”Why can’t you be more obedient like your sister?”…”Why can’t you make better grades like your friend?” This is devastating to a child’s heart because of rejection from those they need assurance and affirmation from the most.
Partiality is evidenced through gifts. Jacob gave Joseph a “coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3). This was not a fashion statement, but a sign of privilege which clearly communicated importance, authority, and favor. The result was anger from his older brothers toward him.
“And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” (Genesis 37:4) This was not a happy family. Brothers so hating the one that was favored to the point they couldn’t say anything kind to him. Later on they contemplated killing him and ultimately sold him as a slave, thinking they would never see him again. (See Genesis chapter 37).
This was Jacob’s fault. His partiality had set up Joseph for this conflict. This is amazing considering that Jacob himself grew up in a home divided by favoritism. His father, Isaac, favored his brother, Esau, while his mother, Rebekah, favored him.
The Bible doesn’t say this, but I think when Jacob was growing up that he thought, “I’ll never do that to my children; I’ll treat them the same”. Incredibly we repeat the same behaviors that we once despised because of the hurt they brought us.
Partiality is evidenced through greater time and attention given to one over another. Typically, our children that share our same temperament, interests, and hobbies are easier for us to understand and communicate with. However, we must not allow these natural attractions and mutual interests to cause us to ignore a child that thinks differently and has a personality we do not understand as well. It can ignite an anger that simmers for a lifetime in their heart.
I’m so grateful that Mom and Dad didn’t play favorites between Melanie, Hoss and myself. They didn’t give us cause to react against them – or each other.
I moved from my hometown in Huntsville, Alabama over 700 miles away to live in Virginia. The night Paula and I left will always be burned in my mind. The moving truck was packed to the brim and it was about 9 p.m. as we said goodbye. (We drove through the night). After the hugs, kisses, and tears I looked in the side mirror and watched my parents, my grandmother and my brother standing by the side of the road as we drove away. (Melanie was away in college at this time).
About two weeks later I received a letter from my brother, Hoss, and enclosed in it was a poem he had written that I treasure very much. He wrote it the night we left home. I was 22 years old and Hoss was 17.
Today my brother went away by will;
He did not have too much zeal.
My brother has gone away before,
But never so far.
I’m glad that while we grew up
We were true brothers,
And not just friends
My brother, five more than I,
Has a big heart and a tear in both his eyes.
Me and my brother shared the same room,
Had many days of fun and even gloom.
Many days we have spent in our life,
And had very little strife.
Me and my brother have four letters in each name,
And people say we look the same.
All our lives we went to church,
And many times we had to search.
I’ve seen my brother do many different things,
But we’ve always been brothers in the brotherhood ring.
I’m glad he and I look alike because I’m proud of him.
A brother is someone to share your life
And I’m glad I shared it with you,
And someone that says “I love you”.
The seeds we sow as parents today will determine the quality of relationship we have with our children – not only presently, but in the future. And not just between the parent and child, but their brothers and sisters.