Growing Up With Brothers

In the eternal brotherly struggle, no one is the innocent. 

April 22, 2020
David, Lin and John

Dear Lin, As the youngest in a family of 3 boys, how can I tell the difference between which of my brothers is the nice one and which one is evil?


Before brothers are sorted into good and evil, they are companions. They are thrown together like vipers in a sand pit. Companions, rivals, foes, wardens, prisoners. There are bunk beds and and a room to share. There are pizza slices to split up and baseball cards to fight over. There is the back seat of the car where the mind games begin and end. In the eternal brotherly struggle, no one is the innocent. 

Is it in our nature to claim a brother as a friend?

Why do all the stories of brotherhood paint such a dark if sometimes Technicolor dreamcoat of sibling rivalry?

Think of all those bands of brothers. From the Kinks to Oasis. The common discourse has been fistfights.

Remember that in the Bible, there wasn’t enough room in the entire world for just two brothers. 

What kind of twisted sick tradition is that? The tradition where your mom asks you “What’s wrong?”

God told Rebekkah that her twin sons Jacob and Esau were not waiting for childbirth to bring them eyeball to eyeball. They started wailing on each other in the womb.

And what happened to Jacob’s son Joseph? His brothers threw him in a hole and sold him into slavery.

This is the kind of story that has repeated itself through history.

Tales of deceit and betrayal.

There is no tension like the tension between brothers. I’ve known brothers who cannot play in the same touch football game. To this day certain games I played with my brothers when we were kids are off limits now.  And if a stopwatch comes out during a family reunion round of charades, the brothers makes sure it ends badly.

“Really, the quotation you want me to act out is the first line of Dante’s Inferno in italiano?”

The stage was lit when my nice brother John age 3 turned to my evil brother and said,

“David, you are a idiot.”

Alliances were formed and broken.

But intervene in any brotherly conflict and brothers will circle the wagon. Because you don’t treat my brother like that. Only I treat my brother like that.

It takes time to mend the fabric of fraternity. 

For some the stitching doesn’t hold.

A time will come when your dad is gone and your mom has no memories and you will realize all you have left are your brothers. Whatever good and evil has colored your narrative, your brothers are the only ones who understand the importance of place.

They are the pieces of that puzzle we never finish. As jagged as those pieces have become, we know those are still the pieces that fit together.