A Brother's Battle

Updated: Apr 14

Stephen M. Sloyer

Life is a battle each of us must face. We are constantly bombarded with difficult situations in which things do not go according to plan. In some instances, we or those we love are greatly mutilated, physically or emotionally, by these hardships. As I have mentioned before, it would be cowardly to run from the inevitable negatives we will encounter in our lives. So what are we to do?

A quote from war journalist Sebastian Junger can give us a glimpse of the answer:

“The only thing that makes battle psychologically tolerable is the brotherhood among soldiers. You need each other to get by.”  – Sebastian Junger

We may not be faced with the bodily and psychological violence to the degree that actual soldiers face. Nevertheless, we can learn much from their experiences. As war has become more brutal and taxing on its survivors, the importance of brotherhood rises. Should we fall prey to the “picking oneself up by one’s bootstraps” mentality and disregard this crucial aspect of manhood, we will be like a lone sailor drifting into a storm. He must constantly adjust the sails, steer the ship, monitor the conditions, and maintain courage to face it. Most of us would inevitably break down in that situation. If one has brothers (or a crew in this analogy), he can rely on them and trust that they will support him. Their chance of survival increases and the relative stresses of the situation diminish.

Stephen Mansfield differentiates brothers from acquaintances as men that you can turn to for support, encouragement, and (as needed) constructive criticism. It means that going into battle, we have more than men running in alongside us; it means we have men we can trust running alongside us, men who care about our well-being and success. This is the more preferable way to go through life, contrasted with the individualist creed of many in the West.

Another point to consider is that we too will be called upon to be brothers to others. We cannot be all taken without giving a part of ourselves back. For this realization, let’s turn to another quote:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  – Attributed to Plato

This quote, attributed to one of the founding fathers of philosophy, echoes the essence of Sebastian Junger’s quote from above. If we are to build a band of brothers, we must not elevate others on a pedestal, thinking them to be without sin. After doing that, we must give them aid with kindness and with their best interests in mind. Sometimes, the medicine they need (or we need) is bitter; yet, if we are to be good, virtuous men, we must abide in the truth. We must be able to give and, more importantly, receive constructive feedback that is aimed at helping us be better men and better serve our families and communities.

Life is full of battles – sometimes they are big, sometimes small. We will face many, sure, but our brothers have their own as well. If we are to take Aristotle’s guide to virtue as being the “golden mean,” it is our duty to find that mean between our own self-interest and that of those we care about. We should not be stingy nor wasteful, but generous. We should not be prideful or self-deprecating, but humble. We should not be pandering nor cruel, but rather kind.

If you are alone, find some brothers. If you are struggling, find some brothers. If you need advice, find some brothers. And if you have none, reach out to us for we are more than happy to welcome you into our ranks.

This article was originally published over at The Vital Masculinity Project. It is published here with the author's consent.