rebelling against low expectations

Saying “I Was Wrong”


“It’s Stephen’s fault,” I said, feeling hurt and upset. “He needs to apologize to me. I don’t need to apologize to him.”

My brother, Stephen, had hurt my feelings and I felt like I had every right to be upset. “He’s not even trying to be sensitive to me,” I told myself as I wondered what I should do. Actually, I knew what I should do. I needed go to him, talk it through, and humble myself—but I definitely didn’t feel like doing it. I’m sure you know the feeling—when admitting that you were wrong is the absolute last thing on earth that you want to do. You want to just ignore the problem or in some way “get back” at the person who has offended you.

But do we really think things will fix themselves? How will we be able to fulfill what God has for us in the future if we aren’t willing to resolve past problems and apologize for the part we played? How can we expect that God will give us new ministry assignments tomorrow if we won’t obey the assignments He’s given us today?

A few years ago our family was going on a long trip and my mom decided to add a special touch to our travels by making individual trail mix bags for each of us to enjoy along the way. It had dried fruit, nuts, M&Ms, and the like. At the beginning of the trip, we thought the bags were great and enjoyed our snack thoroughly. But you can only eat trail mix for so long, and by the end of the trip, none of us were too excited about dried fruit or peanuts. To top it off, it was the middle of July and all of the M&Ms melted, turning each bag into a big chocolaty glob. Stephen, Grace, and I decided that we had had enough of our trail mix bags.

However, my mother, not wanting to waste anything, decided that she would do something with the leftover trail mix to encourage us to eat it. She took a yellow cake mix, dumped in all the bags of chocolaty goop, and baked it in the oven. When it came out, it looked terrible—much worse than it had before. The papaya in the trail mix turned the entire cake orange. I mean, it was orange. There wasn’t a chance that any of us were going to eat it now—not even Dad, and he usually likes everything! Mom didn’t know what to do. In the end, she decided to save the cake in the freezer. Several months later she brought it out again. And you guessed it—it wasn’t a big success.

Now here’s my point. Most of us don’t like to deal with problems. We hide it, we disguise it, we attempt to cover it up, we try to forget about it, we hope other people will forget about it … but the problem is just going to reoccur until we deal with the real issue. No matter how many new ways my mom tried to serve the trail mix, it wasn’t going to work. In the same way, no matter how many new strategies we try in attempt to “just get by” with our siblings, it’s not going to work. We need to get rid of the underlying problems of bitterness, guilt, anger, and unresolved conflicts. This requires being willing to do an extremely hard thing—admit when we are wrong and ask forgiveness.

As I was feeling upset with Stephen on this particular day and thinking about these things, I knew what the Lord wanted me to do. I couldn’t go to bed angry or just hope my feelings would go away. I needed to take some initiative and resolve the conflict. So even though it was 10 o’clock at night, I invited Stephen to go out for a snack with me. We discussed our little disagreement (which felt big to me at the time). I asked him to tell me what I had done wrong. I asked the Lord to help me see it from his perspective. Suddenly I noticed how nice and sensitive Stephen was trying to be as he explained his point of view. I quickly realized that he wasn’t the only one to blame for our conflict. Although it was difficult to humble myself and admit my wrong attitude, I’m so glad I did. When we arrived home we felt like best friends again.

It may be hard to work through these “little” struggles that occur in our daily lives, but it’s extremely important that we are willing to do so. Think about tooth decay, for instance. It is a physical example of the spiritual decay that we see all around us. Toothaches hurt! It is especially painful to dig out the decay, but in order to fix the tooth you can’t just put in a filling. You’ve got to dig out the decay first. Painful? That’s for sure! But necessary? Absolutely. If you don’t take care of the decay, you’ll end up with a root canal later—or end up being toothless.

Many times in our lives we want to heal the toothache, but we’re not willing to dig out the decay. We know there has been a conflict with one of our siblings, but we’re not willing to go back to them, confess our sin, and ask forgiveness. We simply want to forget about the past and move on. We figure that they’ll get over it and things will be okay. We tell ourselves that it was just a little problem, and we don’t need to worry about making it right. We’re not willing to do hard things.

It’s difficult it is to humble ourselves, especially when we feel that our brother or sister was mostly to blame. Here’s a tip: They usually feel the same way about us! The question is, are we willing to do a hard thing in order to honor God in our relationship with our siblings? Remember, the Lord exalts those who humble themselves. It’s a promise (see James 4:10).

So take the humble road. Ask the Lord to bring any unresolved conflicts to your mind and show you where you were wrong. When you go to your brother or sister, don’t bring up all of your claims and counter-claims. Don’t go in with the purpose of defending yourself and proving yourself right. Just apologize for your own sin and ask their forgiveness. You will find that doing hard things brings tremendous rewards.

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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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  • Hi Sarah, really good points! And nice tooth decay analogy, will have to use that in devotions if I may. 🙂

    I’m so glad your family is adding to this wonderful Rebelution blog. I was at a conference in Sioux Falls one year when you and your dad did the talk on Knights, Maidens, and Dragons.

    God bless!

  • That was an excellent post.

    Even though I don’t have any brothers or sisters at home, this post is very beneificial for my attitude toward my siblings in Christ.

    How I relate to other people tends to stem from how I relate to my immediate family, and church family.

    I’m looking forward to the next posts. 🙂

  • Excellent! Ignoring the problem or disagreement sometimes seems the safest choice at first, but the problem always reappears later in a worse argument.

  • That is so true! Trying to ignore the problem makes things so much worse than they started out. God wants us to forgive and to humble ourselves. A lot of times when I think of forgiveness, I think of when Jesus was on the cross and asked God to forgive us. Then I am reminded how small the things I have to forgive are compared to that. I have had a similar trail mix experience. Our family drove to florida on a trip, and to save snack money we made tons of trail mix. By the third day everyone was sick of it and would rather eat nothing. I don’t think I have had any since.

  • Oh, I am so excited to see that Sarah Mally is writing a few articles on here! I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years ago, and my brothers and I have greatly enjoyed the book that she wrote with her brother and sister. I am very thankful that my parents worked hard at building the relationship my brothers and I have. They are dear friends, but it is nice to be reminded that there is always room for improvement- especially on my part!

  • Wow! Talk about being lead by the Spirit! I have seven brothers and sisters and we (sometimes) do not get along. Thanks for showing that i CAN make mistakes!

  • Yeah!! I have six younger siblings than me , And we sometimes fight, and it is hard to admit it when I’m wrong. Thanks for the help.

    Great point!! God bless.

  • There are 6 of us and it is a BIG struggle to get along. It is getting better, though. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be humble.

  • I only have two brothers, and I get along really well with the one who’s four years older than me, but the one who’s eight years older than me, let’s just say our teeth are pretty rotten. Thanks for this post, I’m definately going to be asking God for courage to talk to my oldest brother about our “issues”…

  • It is extremely difficult…and injures pride greatly =) My brother and I often don’t see things eye to eye…and get into all sorts of unnecessary arguements. Both of us think we’re right, though I’m the one who is usually wrong…well, most of the time. =) Thanks for posting this, Sarah. I like the cake analogy!

  • What a convicting post! My older sister and I have had some rough communication stuff lately. Thank you for bringing up humbleness in such a straightforward way. I really needed this.

  • Hey Sarah, Great post!
    I am eighteen and have a younger brother who is thirteen and I must admit, we don’t always get along. And a lot of the time I am the one who is wrong. I have never been too good at admitting when I’ve been wrong, but I am getting better thanks to you and with God’s help.

    Thanks and God bless,
    From your sister in Christ,

  • Jocelyn,
    I COMPLETELY know how you feel. Yes, admitting you are wrong is a great injury to our pride. It wrenches out your heart to humble yourself, this great being that you assume that you are, and say the opposite of what your old man desires to say. Sarah, thank you for the post. A great humbler to me, a reminder, and an *ouch* to the evil pride within.

  • Sarah’s right it is hard. I don’t always get along with my siblings, but I’ll try harder from now on. I don’t want a toothache! 🙂
    Let sombrero-clad unicyclists greatly abound!

    The D-ster

  • Thank you! That is truly amazing. I just got done fighting with my sister over a silly dishes problem, before I read your post. Now I am going to go say I am sorry, and humble myself in the sight of the Lord.

    your sister i Christ

  • Thank you so much. You have really opened up my mind and helped me to understand that it’s okay to admit that your wrong sometimes,it’s actually better then okay. It’s GREAT! =]

    My sister and i are always fighting about nonsense and it’s really hard for me to stop or even say sorry.While reading what you have written i know it will be great help and can turn me and my sister into best friends 🙂

  • This was such an encouraging post for me. I have one sister who is a year older than me, and we fight so much. But now, as I think about some of our arguments that I blamed on her, I have realized that I was wrong. I definitely see that we have some “tooth decay” that needs to be taken care of. Thank you for posting this, and reminding me to humble myself and do the right thing!

  • Very convicting…and encouraging. I completely agree with you, Sarah. It’s very hard to humble yourself and apologize, especially if your sibling is younger than you.

  • I fight with my bro alot and thats a little hard admiting im wrong is way harder he’s 14 months older but we live in 2 difrent worlds i completely agree with you sarah thanks for writing this.

  • Thanks Sarah! That’s some wonderful encouragement!

    I’m trying more and more to just drop my pride and work things out with my sis in some of our (many, but mostly silly) arguments. I’m going to try and look into her perspective of things more. :o) GOD BLESS!!

  • i have 3 sisters and i am the only male its hard to get along (except my 2 year old sister) and this helps so mush thanks sarah

  • Wow. It is true that the LORD has given you the gift of speech, Sarah.

    I often fight with mainly 3 of my 6 siblings, and I realize that I’m NOT always right, and I need to “be the better man” or take initiative, and solve the problem. But I have a question: My brother, (who’s a little less than 2 years younger than me) and I tend to fight a lot. I’ve tried humbling myself and saying I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me, etc., and he just yells at me and says well you should be sorry, yes, you were wrong, you’re gonna have to make it up to me, you better never do that again, I can sit wherever I want to, I don’t care if it’s yours, you have no right to tel me what to do, etc. I’ve been praying about it for a long time, but I just haven’t seen an answer. Any advice? and I will except advice from anyone willing to give it.
    Love in Christ,

  • How true!!
    Many times I find myself getting upset at my older sister, and then just letting it build up inside me, instead of talking it out with her. After a while, I’m a volcano waiting to explode, and that just makes things worse. You brought up an excellent point that it takes humility to work things out with your siblings, unfortunatly, I’m sadly lacking in that area. Thanks for sharing!!

  • How true!!
    Many times I find myself getting upset at my older sister, and then just letting it build up inside me, instead of talking it out with her. After a while, I’m a volcano waiting to explode, and that just makes things worse. You brought up an excellent point that it takes humility to work things out with your siblings, unfortunatly, I’m sadly lacking in that area. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Wow this post really helped me alot. I have quite a few siblings but I noticed that as much as I get along with most of them my little sister and I can never seem to get along. No matter what we do we wind up fighting. My twin tells me its like we hate each other. I know that I am to blame most of the time but I NEVER want to admit it. I always expect her to apologize for being rude to me. Well now I know that I need to start apologizing for my sins and for what I had to do in the conflict. Thanks for this post. It really helped.

  • This is great! but i have a question…what do you do if it is one-sided? Like, when you want to go down and dig out the decay even if you know it will hurt, but your brother/sister wants to avoid the hurt and keep the decay?

  • Well,
    This past year, I got into some trouble, and I lied to my family a lot. I lost control of everything, and I know that one thing is for didn’t help my relationship with my sister, who is like my best friend. I recently told her everything I had been going through, and now everything’s better. Now I have to tell my Mom. I kept everything from them because I was struggling as being a Christian, and it was hard for me to admit that what I was doing was wrong because I didn’t want to stop. It was like my fire for God was completely burnt out. But now it’s all getting better slowly but surely, and admitting I was wrong was the first step I had to take.

  • Wonderful comparision. And great writings.

    PS Thank you for all of your writings on here and in your book. They have inspired me and helped me a lot; and strengthened my faith. I’ve decided to make a change. So thanks.

  • That is a really good illustration! I have two younger brothers and I have a hard time saying it was my fault. Hopefully these few paragraphs will make a difference in my life.

    God Bless,

  • Ouch! Guilty as charged. I’ve been wrestling with this for years now–need to be right combining with bossy big sister personality. going to keep working at trying to overcome it.

  • It’s nice 2 know that there are other people out there who care about their relationship with their siblings-i have a younger sister & we work through many “little” struggles-but i am EXTREMELY grateful for God blessing me w/ such an awesome little buddy!

    In Christ,


  • hi, I read your book, I have 11 siblings, I also feel some times like I quote, “I don’t need to apologize to him\her”

  • I love the analogies, at first it’s just like “What the pie-muffin?” but then you get it. Oh, and I actually do say that in real life. I don’t have any siblings, but I have my parents to deal with, also my older step-siblings who come and stay for long periods of time and also friends who are over so much the handyman thinks we’re siblings. One of the reasons I have a bunk bed. Heh. I’m gonna have to work at this, but y’know, do hard things! 🙂 Peace!

  • Wow, great post! I often need this reminder! And it doesn’t stop with siblings. I’ve recently had to go back to my mom and appologize. I’m hoping that when I go home in July our relationship will be much better! But it’s like what it says in Acts 24:16 (I think that’s the reference) “I always take pains to have a clear conscience before God and man.” It’s kinda hard to live in such a way that I can go to bed each night knowing that nobody could say I wronged them and didn’t make it right. I fail at that more often then not. But by God’s grace, I will learn to be more sensitive to other’s needs and to His Spirit’s prompting. Another tip: if you ask the question “will you please forgive me?” it gives the other person a chance to respond instead of leaving them hanging with a simple “I’m sorry.”

  • This is very inspiring, I almost cried as I was reading through this message. A very inspiring message. God is so good! Continue to bless more teens through your testimonies.

  • Thanks for this series. I was interested in it b/c I have 3 other siblings. Our ages range from almost 6 to almost 13. I’m the oldest and I admit that I do have a hard time getting along with my siblings sometimes. And I really don’t like to admit I’m wrong. Sometimes I have to get the last word in and absolutely prove my point that I’m right and the other person is wrong. I’m still working on it but you offer good advice. I don’t like to talk things through most of the time. Thanks again.

  • Thanks for saying that! All that is so true! Those are one of the problems I have quite often with my siblings. And when it’s my fault, it’s hard to admit. And your right about being humble. It is hard to do, but it’s the right thing.

  • This is really helpful!!! I am the oldest of four kids and its tough sometimes. Especially since they are all boys.
    I totally agree with how hard it is to say that you were wrong!! Thanks!!

  • Wow this hit home for me. Im The second oldest sibling. So now i know whats gotta be done to try and fix our so called “Decay”. Thanks for the help.

  • WOW. Saying “I was wrong” is a really hard thing for the oldest to do, but it is so necessary sometimes for a good relationship. Thanks so much!!

  • Just wondering, what if the other party refuses to “dig out the decay” and confront issues while you want to do so and fix it? Is there anything we can do?

  • Getting mad at siblings is extremely easy to do! And saying I was wrong is extremely hard to do!! Which is a huge problem! Siblings alot times get the frustrations that we/I feel towards other people—which isn’t right at all! Admitting your wrong to your siblings is really hard and something I never really want to do! I know God will bless it when I do but it’s still hard.. But i think it’s alot harder going along and not saying you were wrong then actually saying it!
    God Bless

  • I am sooo guilty of this sin. I’m a first born and have a little brother. I feel like he causes problems lot’s of times when he knows I’m down and knows he can get me frusterated, angry, and in trouble really easily. But most of the time I act like a total pharisee to him, like I with my small occasional sins am better than him. I’ve got to get the log out of my own eye, before the speck in my brother’s eye, and realize that we’re both sinners and sin is sin no matter what!

  • Yes, that is a great struggle in my life. I am the oldest of 9 kids…and it can be a huge challenge!!!! So, i have to try to see the best in them and not just think im the big, innocent one!!!

  • i so understand how hard it is to apologize to brothers! i have 4 of em’! this article has really helped me. i cant wait to read the rest of them.

  • This is exactly what I needed to hear. I have had alot of trouble with this problem. I refuse to be wrong, and if I am wrong, I blame it on someone else for my mistake. I need to confess that I was wrong and get over it. Everyone makes mistakes.

  • This sit is exactly what i needed so thanks!!! I have four younger sisters and an older sister. this will help me out now and a couple year into the future because I also have an eight-month old little brother and I have a feeling there will be quite a few petty arguments with him. Sarah you will be a total blessing not only in my life, but the life of my sisters and brothers and all of the sibling all over the world.
    God Bless!!!

  • This is one thing that I struggle a lot with. Thx for this article, tho I heard this message b4, God keeps helping me and reminding me!

  • I have three older sisters. This was very encouraging to me, especially because we get in fights a lot and normally nobody admits its their fault. I don’t want to have bad relationships with my sisters in the end.

  • I have a problem with this….and it’s not just saying I was wrong but other things like “I love you” I really do love my brother but I have a hard time saying I do. I should show it more often. “God, Help me to love my brother and others around me. amen.”

  • this is great reminder! God requires us to be humble, I cannot think of a better lesson to learn when you have siblings!

  • I have a brother who is 4 years younger than me. I’m 11 hes 7 and cant stop talking about bionicles and even comes into my room to tell me about them! I couldnt stand it and raised my voice at him. Lately I’ve been trying to make it up to him by letting him in my room when I’m not in it, so I guess I’ve made it up to him but I keep doing it because he likes it and enjoys it and I like making him happy. I guess its hard at first but once you get going you cant stop.

  • Why didnt I think about this? I hear exactly what youre saying and Im so happy that I came across your blog. You really know what youre talking about, and you made me feel like I should learn more about this. Thanks for this; Im officially a huge fan of your blog

  • admitting one’s fault is really hard. and it takes a lot of courage. but even so, this blog made me see what good comes out of this difficult thing. i’m happy i came across this blog. u can point things out in the positive light and it’s quite inspiring. 🙂

  • I’m 14 and I have an 8 year old little sister who gets under my skin like no one else, I didn’t know what to do. But this has really helped. As pride breaking as it is, sometimes you have to be wrong. I’ll be praying I have the strength to go through with it!:)

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 →