The most impactful, longest lasting benefit of fraternal membership are the close bonds formed, but… What do you DO with brotherhood and sisterhood once created? Seriously, do we just sit around and enjoy it? Is that really why fraternities and sororities exist? Shouldn’t we ask how do these relationships advance your members’ lives? Does creating sisterhood in and of itself, actually achieve our mission?
Yes, there is value in the support system created through sisterhood and brotherhood. And, we have all heard, and are inspired, by the extraordinary stories that display unconditional care and concern. Stories of tragedies overcome by the support of sisters and brothers who are so much more than friends. Just like you, I love reading these stories. They re-kindle that spark of love for mankind in me too. But, I don’t think our founders created us to simply “be there” in case of these emergencies. Often I’ve said we would pick a brother up from a broken down car in the middle of the night and so much more. We are like AAA but for everything else! But, as I reflect more about the founding of our organizations, I feel like we are failing our founders. Let’s be honest… a support network is important, but I don’t think it alone is worth all this effort!
The focus on brotherhood & sisterhood as our an ultimate goal has distracted too many of our chapters. Our true mission is to make men better men and women better women… THROUGH brotherhood and sisterhood. I don’t believe our founders intended brotherhood to be the end, but rather the means. It is the vehicle through which we challenge and build each other up. This bond obliges her to listen when we challenge her choices. She can’t ignore us when we say that her grades aren’t acceptable and she must try harder. Additionally, that same bond requires us to enter into that conversation precisely because she is our sister. Avoiding the confrontation isn’t sisterly. It might be more comfortable, but it actually disrespects her. In some chapters, it’s called pulling out the brother/sisterhood card which compels the member to listen.
Why do so many chapters achieve the sisterhood and then stop? Once they create the brotherhood, they think they are done. They even think they have achieved something worthy of great pride! How many times have you heard chapter members boast, about how “tight” their brotherhood is? “We have the tightest brotherhood on campus dude!” I love challenging them. “Really? Prove it. How much better is it than the chapter next door? No… Really! Tell me how many BTU’s (Brotherhood Tightness Units) more is yours than theirs!” Sometimes I just agree with them. “I believe you. All the other chapters have an inferior brotherhoods.” (Fewer BTUs) “So what? What does it matter? How does it make your chapter superior?”
Sorry folks, but that is just too damn basic!
You will not get an “A” for simply getting out of bed and going to class! I don’t want chapters feeling they have accomplished something because they achieve the most basic functions of sorority or fraternity. You blink and breathe on a regular basis too. Want an Olympic Medal for it?! If we start to challenge them a little more on what they are doing with those bonds once achieved, members will start talking about accountability and standards. Maybe they will achieve a healthier confrontation culture among sisters, even if only within the cliques that exist in some large chapters.
We owe it to our founders, and ourselves to more than just ‘show up.’ We must always push forward, never satisfied, always improving and growing. It’s comfortable to keep things as they are, but that’s not what brotherhood and sisterhood is about. It’s about striving for success and positive change at all times, even when it isn’t easy. So enjoy the sisterhood and brotherhood, but really take pride in those bonds if you are using them to challenge our members to grow in profound ways that only family can.
Credit // Author: David Stollman
David Stollman has energized students at over 500 campuses, and numerous fraternal conventions. Learn more about David and his keynotes at campuspeak.com/stollman. You can also follow him on Twitter@David_Stollman.