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Band of no brothers: What true brotherhood means in an insincere world.

Language is an interesting thing. Similar to living beings, language evolves as time elapses. This itself is of course a normal occurrence, but in some cases it can prove to be detrimental when a very important word is bastardized to the point that it has no real meaning at all anymore. While I am sure the aforementioned can be used to refer to a plethora of words in the English language, the particular one I am referring to is the word “brother.” While the idea for this article has been floating around in my head for a while now, recent events really made me want to put pen to paper…..or rather keys to keyboard.

A week or so ago I took my fiancee out for some Italian food (my favorite cheat meal,) and when ordering, the waiter kept saying things like “no problem brother” to me. I’m thinking to myself, dude, you don’t even know my first name. I am your customer, not your brother.

I also see it a lot in the jiujitsu. I will meet someone for the first time and before a roll on the mats, they’ll fist bump you and say something like “let’s do this brother.” Yeah I get it, we have jiujitsu in common, but that doesn’t make you my brother.

Some people also make the mistake of thinking that because we might be very similar in a lot of aspects of life that we are brothers, but they would be wrong. Being the same religion, the same ethnic background, or having similar political beliefs doesn’t make you someone’s brother. It means that you have things in common sure, but similarity does not equal brotherhood. These things may or may not lead to you wanting them to be, but acceptance criteria is not in itself enough. I may have the required prerequisites for a job, but that doesn’t mean I walk into an interview and act like I’m already hired simply because I had all the correct boxes checked to be able to speak with the hiring manager.

Men all too often throw the word brother around like they’re tossing pennies to homeless people on the street. I gave some thought as to why this is, and I think it’s because a lot of men simply don’t understand what brotherhood really means. Maybe it’s time for a vocabulary lesson for those of us with Y chromosomes so that we can reassign some value to this word before it’s lost its entire meaning forever.

In this modern world, men have often reduced themselves to insincere friendships. They have guys that will always meet them at the bar on Fridays to play pool and knock back a few beers, but when they need help with something serious, those same “bar bros” are nowhere to be found. Funny how that works.

I think that deep down our DNA remembers that we were up until recent times, tribal creatures, and part of our brain is telling us that we’re lacking it in our lives. Our ancestors had people around us that they relied upon to survive, and now that isn’t (physically) necessary. And despite the supposed safety of the new world allowing us to live without having a band of brothers around, the desire to to belong to a group made up of loyal people remains embedded in our subconscious. I will admit that I was absolutely one of the people that started to forget what having real brothers meant. With the exception of some people I served with in my army years (which ended in the early 2000’s) I hadn’t had anyone I could truly call my brother in my adult life.

Over the past few years I started hanging around a tribe, and I saw what real brotherhood means in practice. To those not familiar with what I am referring to, a tribe could be simply summed up as a group of men that swore an oath to each other, push each other for bettering themselves in all aspects of life, hold each other accountable, and have each other’s backs in good times or bad. At first I started hanging around with them not expecting to want to join, but after time had elapsed I decided that I wanted to be part of it. After one life goal that took me out of the geographic area where they are located had finished, I returned and started the formal process of joining them by becoming a prospective member. So what made me want to permanently align myself with a group of people? This could be an extensive list of reasons, but the easiest way to sum it up would be “I rediscovered what true brotherhood was.” I’ve watched these guys push each other to be better men, all the while pushing themselves in order to surpass each other. They endure hardships together, and through these trials they become closer.

Through thick and thin they’re there for one other, regardless of how convenient it is for them, and I saw the value of being a part of this. But to have people care about you, you have to care about them just as much. Brotherhood isn’t a one way street, it requires a lot of work on your part too. Those that take but don’t give are weeded out like the parasites they are. You want to see your brothers ascend in many different ways, and they want to see the same from you. One of the ways this is done is when someone is highly skilled in an area that others aren’t, they give blocks of instruction so that others can learn. This can be anything from martial arts to running your own side business. Gift giving is another big part of it, but not in the quid pro quo sense. Sometimes something is purchased or made for another member, simply because you know they would truly appreciate it, and you don’t expect anything in return. You just want to see your brother happy.

In our case at least, prospecting isn't easy, it requires a lot of effort and self sacrifice on your part. This is by design, as if you are simply given something instead of earning it, it will mean less to you, and you're more likely to discard it when you aren't happy. But when you earn the right of being called a brother, you will treasure this designation and work harder to maintain cohesion with the tribe.

After leaving the army, I missed the camaraderie. But military brotherhood is similar to having a biological brother; in that these people are your brothers by association, not by choice. You don’t choose who you go to war with the same that you don’t choose who your mother gives birth to. Sometimes you may not even get along with some of them, but they would go in under enemy fire to save your life, and you would for them, even if you don’t particularly care for them as people. In the case of a tribe, you chose to be brothers with these men, and they chose you. And you have to earn your right to be worthy of the designation, something that I haven’t yet achieved. Still working towards that goal.

While the definition of what a brother is might vary from person to person slightly, when choosing to call someone one, you have to ask yourself how much this guy truly values you in his life. If for example you called this person and said “hey man, there are four dudes waiting for me outside the bar. When I walk out, I’m getting jumped. If you come and help you’re going to get stomped along with me” and that guy doesn’t come and throw down with you regardless of the known outcome, he ain’t your brother. Just food for thought.

If you call everyone your brother, then no one is. Stop degrading the underlying meaning of that word simply because you don’t have brothers in your life. Instead, treasure this word for what it is, and seek out those that you connect with and can rely on and form your own brotherhoods. Only then will you understand what this word means. What we do might not be for you, but I truly believe that all men need to to have some kind of group that they can connect with and grow.

The idea of a a truly "lone wolf" is a myth, as a wolf without a pack doesn't last too long in the wild. Wolves that wonder alone aren't looking for a life of solitude, they're looking for other wolves in nature in order to be part of a strong group, and you should be doing the same thing as a man.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Milo Michaelsen