I have a younger sister who has always had a strange attitude toward me. She constantly boasts about her intelligence and memory while subtly denigrating mine. She doesn’t just do this with me, but also with others who are family or friends of hers.

As I get older, I feel less tolerant of her and, even though I love her a lot, I have decided to distance myself from her now to avoid losing my peace of mind…. It’s truly sad because, even though I would like to spend time with her, I don’t feel motivated because at any time the atmosphere can change on account of one of her distasteful comments.

Dear Friend,

You are absolutely right. It is very sad! Some people have such poor self-esteem that they must make others look bad in order to make themselves feel good. They constantly compare themselves with others, thinking things like, “I’m not as pretty as she is, but I’m probably smarter,” or, “Why does everyone like her better than me? Don’t they realize what a phenomenal memory I have?” Those thoughts are destructive inside the mind, but are even more destructive when said aloud.

It is very common for a younger sibling to compare herself to an older sibling. In the formative years of life, most younger siblings are jealous that their older siblings get to stay up later and have more privileges. A competition can go on inside the younger sibling’s head, constantly trying to prove that she deserves the same privileges as the older sibling. Some younger siblings go through life still trying to prove themselves, even though no one else is judging. And some, like your sister, expand the competition to include other people in their lives.

We can understand your decision to limit the time that you spend with your sister. However, it is inevitable that you will sometimes be around her. We recommend that you try praising your sister for anything that she is good at. Try not to be very obvious, but compliment her on her cooking, her decorating, or whatever other quality that you honestly admire. Try to give her one compliment for every five minutes of conversation. If she brings up how intelligent she is, agree with her. Tell her that yes, she is very intelligent and that she has a good memory too! Try to build up her fragile self-esteem and ignore your own feelings of annoyance.

Will it be easy to praise your sister and ignore your own feelings? Certainly not. But there is a reward that the Apostle Peter promised. He taught, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”(1) When you bless your sister through your sincere compliments, Peter says that you too will be blessed. Ask God to help you as you help your sister.

We wish you the best,

1 1P 3:9