rebelling against low expectations

Responding Correctly To Irritations


The second installment in the Brothers and Sisters series is written by the youngest Mally sibling, Grace. Now 16 years old, Grace was 12 when she wrote Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends with her brother and sister. Since then, it has sold 30,000 copies. Today she shares stories and examples from her own life as we learn about responding correctly to life’s (and sibling’s) many irritations.

Being the youngest in the family has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages. Older brothers and sisters seem to have a knack for taking advantage of their younger siblings and getting them (or should I say me) to do just about anything.

For example, I tend to sympathize with things that are hurting or suffering, whether people or otherwise. Unfortunately for me, my older siblings Stephen and Sarah used to think this was pretty funny and had fun making me feel sorry for things. You know how on milk jugs they have that plastic band under the cap that keeps it sealed before you open it? You probably just pull it off and throw it away, right? Well, when I was younger, Sarah and Stephen would make me feel sorry for these plastic bands. They named them “pricklies” and every time we threw a “prickly” away, they would tell me how sad the poor little prickly was about being tossed away in the garbage, all alone, with no friends. They even made up a song called “Poor Little Prickly.” Not bearing to see the poor little “prickly” abandoned, I would go and rescue it. Eventually I decided to start a collection. At one time, I had over 80 of them!

Of course, this embarrassing story has a point. Just as I have “mercy tendencies,” Sarah and Stephen also have their various gifts, personalities, interesting habits, and “quirks.” God is the one who puts families together. He knows exactly what He is doing. The assortment of gifts and personalities He provides makes the family a very powerful team. However, these differences, which make life colorful and exciting, can also cause a lot of irritations.

As rebelutionaries, we need to learn how to handle irritations in a godly way instead of allowing them to cause damage. You see, our goal is not to seek an irritation-free environment. We will always have irritations in our lives. Instead, God wants us to learn how to handle these irritating situations correctly. In fact, this is one of the reasons God has put us in families. Our brothers and sisters and parents each have different strengths and weaknesses. Their personalities and characteristics may annoy us at times, but if we can’t learn to get along with them, we won’t succeed in our relationships with other people later on in life.

Recently we received a letter from a girl (we’ll call her Lauren) who was having trouble with her sister. Lauren explained that she and her sister share a room, but she likes the room clean and her sister likes it messy. Sound familiar to anyone? Lauren said that she had tried everything: telling her sister to clean up, cleaning up for her, talking to her parents, and even asking to switch rooms. Nothing helped. She was frustrated and didn’t know what to do.

I’m sure we can all relate to situations like this. I know I can. But if we’re hoping to change the other person, or if we’re expecting the Lord to step in and perform a miracle to change our circumstances, then we’re probably headed for disappointment and more frustration. You see, the Lord usually isn’t interested in rescuing us from irritating situations. Rather He is interested in changing us! Just like beautiful pearls are formed when an irritant makes its way into an oyster’s shell, so when we respond properly to “irritants” in our own lives, we will be displaying the beauty of Christ in our lives. You see, irritations are actually good things. They just happen to be irritating!

Like Lauren, the young lady who is struggling with her sister’s “messy tendencies,” we need to realize several things when we’re faced with an irritation. First of all, we need to realize that we don’t deserve anything—not even a clean room. Everything we have is a gift. The Lord gives and takes away, and He commands us to be content in all circumstances.

Secondly, we need to look past the irritation and ask God to reveal the bigger picture. What is His goal in this situation? What is He doing? What do we need to change in our own life? What are the needs of the other people involved? I’ve found that once I am able to look past the irritation, it often feels like a light “turns on” and I am able to see how God is using a difficult situation in an important way for a significant purpose.

So next time you are irritated, remember that this is a test from the Lord. Remember that God could take away the irritation in an instant if He knew it would be best for you. And remember that you are a rebelutionary—being trained by God for the important, world-changing assignments He has prepared for you. The training may be tough; it requires endurance, humility, and lots of patience—but the fruit is eternal.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • That was a very good post. I have one older sister, two younger ones, and one little brother, and have always shared a room. I am so thankful that my parents have encouraged us to have good relationships with all of our siblings. Thank you for the great post!

  • That was a wonderful post Grace, I’m so glad you and your siblings are helping to shine a light on some truth and Biblical instruction.

    God bless,

  • Right on, Grace. This is a reminder I need constantly both in my family and at work. Thank you for sharing what God has shown you.

  • Fantastic post, Grace! I have four siblings and can most thoroughly apply this to my life! Thanks for the encouragement to keep my eyes on eternal fruit, not present irritations =)

    God bless!

  • I really appreciated the post. I’ve read your book, and really enjoyed it. I’m the oldest girl in a family of 8 kids, and it helps to be reminded that although it isn’t normal for siblings to be really good friends, it is possible AND desirable! Thanks for inspiring me to keep pursuing the goal!

  • Great post indeed. I have two younger brothers (whom I love like crazy) who are really fun to be with, but they can be just as anoying/iritating sometimes. This is just what I need to hear. Thanks.

  • Great insight, I had never thought of it that way. I get irritated quite alot with one of my younger brothers. But I do see what you mean by not deserving anything, I definately don’t! And I want to get an A+ on the tests that God gives me=)
    Very encouraging!
    Naomi Elizabeth

  • What an awesome message! It opened my eyes to how often I get angry over small, unimportant things when it comes to my two brothers. Sadly, I never learn my lesson or ask questions to seek what God is trying to teach me. Thank you for the questions and the godly advice. God bless your ministry with your siblings. I am challenged by all three of these posts to create a more concrete relationship with my brothers- through the grace of Christ alone!

  • I’m the oldest of 5: 1 sister and 3 little brothers. They’re all very sweet, but we do have our arguments and irritate each other and get angry at each other sometimes. My mom said to me once to think before I get angry “Will this matter tomorrow? How about next week?”
    Thank’s Grace for the article!!!!
    May God bless you!!!!


  • ‘…our goal is not to seek an irritation-free environment.’ Awesome – so true. It’s easy for me to get discouraged about my battles to bear the rare fruit of the Spirit known as ‘Kindness’ in response to irritations from my 9 siblings. My Mom encouraged me with the verse that ‘Love covers a multitude of sin.’ Make up lost time guys, and let God love your siblings through you and yield a harvest of kindness in response to the promptings our Loving Gardener.

  • You talked about the meesy girl and the clean girl(Lauren’s story) well, I’m the meesy one, and I can totally empathize with Lauren’s sister. oldest of my three younger sisters is just like Lauren. Maybe I can work on giving my sis some grace, as well as cleaning up a bit. Thanks for the great post!

  • This is so relevant! I like my room clean and my sister ( I am second in 8 children) usually couldn’t care less if she tried! Our room would get messy… like you’ve probably never seen! And one big drawback to having things piled up all over your room is that the ones on the bottom- well, they get broken, spec’ally when you sit on the pile(’cause there’s nowhere else to sit)! I figured it out awhile ago; whenever I feel like having a cleaner room I just clean it up, including all her stuff. Then she has to ask me where everything is 😉 ’cause she can’t find it! I wonder if this is the right thing to do?

  • Wow, Grace, this has been very helpful! I have always struggled with my older brother. it is frustrating, because, i have an awesome relationship with my older sister. (I am the youngest.) I see what an awesome relationship I could have with my brother, but don’t. this wasn’t my choice. it’s frustrating to me, because sometimes my brother is awesome! and then he turns around and says or does something that hurts. I know I am not perfect, and that sometimes his reactions are my fault, but some are not. now, since I have been “burned” by my brother, i become more and more afraid to bridge the gap. It’s harder and harder for me to even try being.. well, sisterly. but this article has helped me and inspired me to keep on trying.
    God bless you.

  • I have two younger sisters and Dorothy, my one-year-younger sister irritates me a lot. I just don’t know how to calm myself. Thanks for the post. Now I know other people have ( sort of) the same problems!

  • My brother definately knows how to irritate me. That being said, I am th emaster of being irritating. Thanks for this post.

  • …With an older sister, 2 younger sisters, and 3 younger brothers, I sure get irritated! I was very encouraged, and though over the years we have all gotten better, I realized we still have some work to do!

    Thanks, Grace!

  • Wow. This really changed the way I look at these kind of situations. It wasn’t until I read the line “we don’t deserve anything…everything we have is a gift.” It made me realized what I sense of entitlement I carry with me. Great post.

  • Thanks, Grace! I have a younger sibling who’s quite irritating, and somehow I really appreciate your post. I now know how to deal with her:) Actually, she’s quite cute, considering.. Great post again!

  • Great post! I am the second oldest of five so we can get pretty irritated being around each other all day. This was a good reminder to look beyond the irritation. Thanks!

  • Awesome post Grace!
    I am eighteen and have a younger brother who is thirteen and trust me, he can get to be very irritating and annoying. I have a hard time not losing it. But I realize that I do things that annoy him to, so I can’t really get mad at him when I do the same thing. And I also realize that getting back at him won’t make things easier, it will just make them twice as bad. So when he does annoy me, instead of getting mad at him, and choosing to let it bother me, I will ask God to help me to just let it go.

    With love from your sister in Christ,

  • Thank you for posting this!! You are right, Grace, it is so hard to have a loving and forgiving relationship with our siblings, and I struggle is this area so often! But if I can truly work at my relationships with my 9 brothers and sisters, then God can bless me and show me so much! Otherwise, I can just stay bitter and selfish, and then God can’t show me things with an unwilling heart and spirit. I hope and pray that I can be the best friend I can be to my siblings, and I can only have success if I let God do the work in me!

    In Christ,
    Hannah B.

  • I am the oldest of three, my youngest sibling was just adopted from Guatemala and we are just finishing up our first year with him in our family. He has already begun to manifest his “unique quirks” that are slightly irritating at times, and this post was a breath of fresh air for me. Thanks Grace for posting this. It has really helped me!

  • Omigosh! That is so like me and my sister. I need help too, but thanks Grace Sarah and Steven, thanks so so so so so SO much!

  • My twin brother is absolutely the most difficult person to get along with in my life. Thank you for helping me to look past the present irritations and see the rewards of growing in and through our differences. You did a wonderful job and I am so happy for you that you have such insight. 🙂

  • I am the youngest in my family. I have 3 older brothers and thay made and still make me do things. Thank You for the post it has helped me no yell when my brothers make me mad.

  • i am 13 and only male in 4 kid family and i fight with my younger sisters (not the 2 year old) and this helps thanks grace

    ps i have ur book and i love it!

  • This post title caught my eye on the right hand side of the blog… I just had to click on it. 🙂
    I don’t have a problem with my siblings irritating me at all (I’m the youngest and the only one left at home) but sometimes parents can irritate, too. I get so frustrated with myself when I discover that I’m getting irritated with something my parents do… It’s not honoring to them, for sure, and it is sin in God’s eyes… 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter 🙂 ) says that “… love is not easily irritated…”. I try to keep that verse at the forefront of my mind at all times. It’s not easy, but then again… we “rebelutionaries” aren’t looking for the life of ease, are we? 😉 Rather, doing the hard things that God desires of us… and what great blessings come from obeying our wonderful Savior, denying our own selfish tendencies, and giving our utmost for HIS highest.

  • This is alot like the situation I used to have with my sister. We don’t have this happen much anymore, but it helps to see that someone understood and went through what I did.
    (with absolutly NO offense to my awesome sister:P)

  • “Funny” how I should find this right at the very moment I’m grinding my teeth trying not to be irritated by my brother’s habits! soon as I saw this post I knew God wanted me to read it.

    “You see, the Lord usually isn’t interested in rescuing us from irritating situations. Rather He is interested in changing us! … Remember that God could take away the irritation in an instant if He knew it would be best for you. ” These are impactful statements! It’s easy for me to think of irritations as test, but it’s a whole different matter to realize (and trust) that the test is good for me!
    It’s good for me because God desires for me to have perseverance, unconditional love, and selflessness. Tests are working me there.

    Thank you for the encouragement!

  • This is a great artical. I am the youngest of the 2 kids in my family. I do have problems with my sister and this will help me deal with it!!

    Thank you!!

  • Great post.
    it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut when my brothers are being annoying, although i know it is the right thing to do.

  • thanx so much for encouraging us to press on and reminding us of the importance and blessing of building life-long relationships with our siblings!

    In Christ,


  • I have a younger sister – and although I ought to be the older, wiser one….. at times she just pushes me to my breaking point. I’m going to go read part 3 now!

  • wow that was really good! i could deffinatly use this in my own life thank you for posting it!

  • I read the post and immediately thought, like Ruth above, “I’m the messy sister.” My older sister (with whom I share a room) and my mother frequently get annoyed with the conditions in which I keep (or should I say don’t keep) my room in. Although I have gotten slightly better in the years, I know it is an irritation to my family. This article reminded me, not only that I need to accept irritations with grace, but that I need to not BE the irritation. I need to take the log out of my eye before I can take the speck out of my brother’s (or sister’s). I think it is important to recognize the things we do may hurt or annoy others, listen humbly to criticizm or rebuke, but most importantly, and probably hardest, we must use our family’s insight to CHANGE, be different.

  • Great post. I’m definitely irritated at my siblings a lot. Sometimes it’s with my younger sister, she’s the opposite of me. I’m quieter, serious and organized. She’s crazy, talkative and carefree. So we get on each other’s nerves a lot. I tend to be oversensitive sometimes and get irritated at things that I should just let go. But it’s hard! (sigh) That’s what doing hard things is about though. Now, I can try to either deal with the irritations in a nice way not yelling at my sibling or just ignore them. We’ll see how it works.

  • My brother is an extreme irritant. He is autistic and has some kind of mental illness. He doesn’t know how to relate and comunicate normally with people, so he uses extreme irritation as his most common form of talking. He has real anger issues and can’t stand talking. He broke one of the car mirrors once because of people talking in the car. I just get so frustrated and annoyed by the way he acts and treats people. Any advice for this special case, or am I to try harder and not retaliate and let him get to me? Anyways, great article!

  • Awesome post!!!!!!! My Dad was just talking to me about being irritated with my siblings last night. I’m the oldest of four kids, which means that whatever I do, they do. It’s my responsibility to set a good example and if I get irritated at them, then that shows them that it’s okay to do that. Also, getting irritated at them doesn’t help the situation at all. it just makes it worse.


    You could try to find a way to communicate with him that might not irritate him. Or you could be calm and try your best to not do things that he doesn’t like. I’ve never heard of a case like yours but if I were in you situation, I would try one or both of those suggestions. When my younger brother start to get irritated, I try to figure why or what is irritating him, then try to help.

  • This is great!!! I have almost always had my own room but there are definately alot of iritations in my life with three younger brothers. thanks!!

  • I totally agree! Being the second oldest in a family of 7, (5 kids), I definitely don’t have it as bad as those younger than myself, but I still get irritated often. Praise the Lord that He has shown me that those irritations are like a refining fire- It has the tendency to soften the rough edges, and to make me more like Christ. It also gives me a chance to demonstrate Christ-like behavior to my siblings. I never like the fire, but it’s essential!

  • I agree on so many levels with you Grace I am the oldest of 3 kids the other 2 are twin 8 year old boys and I am 12! They can be very irritating sometimes but I just look to God for an answer and a way to be nice even when they aren’t! I was overjoyed when I say your post because there are more people out there who share my same issue of siblings! But they love you more than anything I have found that out over the years! In one year I will be babysitting and my Mom keeps reminding me to be a leader to those younger kids so your post really helped me on so many levels so thank you!

  • Wow–

    Ever read Screwtape Letters, Grace? He talks about how we think that everything is “ours” or “our right.” When we get real, we realize it’s not. And I have a lot of getting real to do.

  • omigosh,this is so needed in my family. i have 5 other siblings, and its a crazy time! Everyone mad at each other, yelling. with this i hope to be able to calm the chaos (it wont be easy!)

  • Wow! Its like God knew I needed this!!!!! Wait He did! Thanks for this post! Irritating things happen in our family all the time! Being a middle child I get it from both ends. My older siblings when they lived with us were super irritating and now with them gone my little brother has nothing better todo then irritate me. Well, maybe he doesn’t do it on purpose all the time. 🙂 Thanks again for the encouragement!

  • it’s like what john 21:22 was saying. we must follow Him first rather than complaining about it. the pearl thing was lovely, nature has its way to reveal a hint of its Creator.

  • Oh my gosh!!! I have four younger sisters but just one of them just about pushes me over the edge with the crazy things she does. It’s nice to know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, ya know?
    Thanks and God bless!!!

  • Thank you so much Grace! You have greatly encouraged me to continue toward my goal of friendship with my sister. I don’t want to be satisfied with just getting along with her or any of my siblings. I have five younger siblings. : ) I love them all! I’m sure though me and my sister are complete opposites! Thank you again! I just want to encourage you to keep striving so you can here God say “Well done my good and faithful servant”!


  • thanks grace me and my little brother share a room and tend to have a lot of fights but this post has helped me realize that he was a gift of God not a demon from hell.

  • this is just what i needed. i have 2 younger siblings and they can be really irratating. this was very helpfull! thanks for posting this grace!

  • I have to (temporarily) share a small room with my 2 siblings. Yeah, it’s been really hard. It was great to read this post, though, because it reminded me what really matters. Thanks Grace! 😀

  • Thank you so much! Being the middle child and the only girl sometimes makes it rather hard for me. That you and whenever my younger sibling is irritating me I’ll just remember that it is a test from God!! Thank you Grace and God bless! <3

  • Wow, Lauren’s story sounds a lot like whats going on in my life (especially the messy room part). This post helped a lot. Thank you so much!

  • Wow! That was a great post. My sister and I have the same problem as Lauren. I’m the one who wants the neat and clean room. That was a very helpful post.

  • Thank you! This was so helpful to me! I have an older brother and a younger brother, and it’s hard being the only girl and stuck in middle. But this made me realize how I need to accept them for who they are and spend as much time with them as I can, while I still can. I’ve generally been closer to my older brother, but he’s going off to college in the fall and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ll miss him! This has inspired me to try to look past all the little irritations and be grateful for my brothers. Thanks!

  • Thank you, Grace, for sharing your perspective of irritating situations between siblings! After reading your post, I realized that I should not let my impatience get the better of me as I face irritating situations with my younger sister!

    God bless you!

  • BAM! Preach! That’s exactly what I needed! Thanks you, because I find myself saying things to my younger brothers, who get so irritating at times, that I later regret and feel condemned about. Thank you for posting this!!!!!! 🙂 Thank you.

  • i get irritated easily, though i always try to hide it. but, the fact that i’m irritated doesn’t give me peace. and when i happen to read this, i felt sort of ‘enlightened’. this really help and i’m grateful.

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  • At 16 I am the youngest of six kids “three older brothers and two older sisters”. Growing up as the youngest always had its ups and downs. Which sharing a room with 2 of my brothers (who were only 3 years older then myself) throughout my childhood I had always had the nicknames like “mama’s boy..etc.”. Though I was always really close with my mother being home schooled since second grade. But with me being so close to my mom I always felt like they never wanted to take me to hang out with them and their friends so I didn’t tell mom anything. But with in the past year I saw a change in my brothers and sister. They started taking me places with them and telling me story’s about their lifes. But with in the past 8 months growing closer to them then I ever had before they all moved out. My sister went and bought her own house, one of my brother moved to work on a farm with a family he had known for awhile and the other one went to collage. Times were really sad for me and the first time my brother and went to the farm came back to visit I didn’t talk to him as much before for just leaving me. Though about two-three months ago my sister moved back in, and I was really happy at first! things slower started going back to the way they were. We started fighting again and for a couple of weeks. But even though I want through all that pain when they all left my having her come back and fighting with her was the worst because out of the for of us her and I are most alike and im really happy to be in the same house as her when she gets home from work.

  • Really helpful. As my three younger siblings are getting older they seem to get more irritating. There’s nothing I can do about it, and even though I know it, it’s been tough trying to ignore it. Having somebody else say it is really helpful.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →