Unpopular opinion: the term “brother” is trite, overused, and meaningless to me at times.

Please put down your pitchforks.

That includes you too, Tom.

Let me explain. Because there’s a chance it may just be me. Perhaps a few people have been feeling it, too. Or, more likely, most of you will be of the opposite opinion — hence why it is called an opinion.

Let me give you my story with the word “brother.” For me, a “brother” is someone who is as close as possible. Even after growing up with my not-so-great biological brothers, I understood that a brotherhood defined a close relationship.

When YOB was first being formed and names were being suggested for this site, we focused on this notion of incorporating some form of “brother.”

“Brothers” was truly the name for our community. We were guys walking a lonely path together, sharing each other’s burdens; truly, we were becoming as close as brothers.

So, I embraced this notion fully — these were my brothers. As we gained you, our readers, you too became my brothers (and sisters).

It was honestly one of my long-held desires finally being fulfilled.

I have written about my longing for a “true brother.” And I have chronicled my adventures and misadventures looking for one. Recently, I came to the realization that I have the closest relationships I could hope for in John, Carver, and Sam. They are genuinely my three closest guy friends.

Yet when I decided to start calling them “brothers,” I found a poor taste in my mouth. It wasn’t that it was a letdown, as if my expectations had been too high. No, that would’ve just been anticlimactic.

This taste was sourness, as if the word “brother” was now too cheap. This word didn’t properly demonstrate the relationship I have with these men.

As I unraveled this dynamic to understand it, I came to see how often the word “brother” was being used around me.

Amongst the other bloggers, amongst the readers, and amongst my own relationships with guys I wasn’t as close to — the word was being thrown around constantly.

And I saw that I was one of the ones who used “brother” the most. In my desire to embrace this new brotherhood, I had actually started ruining the word for myself.

Old messages, comments, and posts showed me that I had taken “brother” and thrown it around like a tennis ball, bouncing it off every guy around me.

I had worn out this once meaningful word until I couldn’t even bear to say it anymore.

I decided no more would this word cross my lips. I would find a new word for my closest friends, my fellow bloggers, and the readers with whom I interacted.

But then, a close friend of mine commented something in passing. He mentioned that some of the alternate general terms of address people use like “guys” or “man” seemed insincere to him. Those terms came off as distant — like it offset the power balance, making the addressee inferior to the addresser.

He loved the word “brother” because it was an equalizer, showing true camaraderie.

A new thought hit me: what if, in my attempt to superficially title my closest friends, I hurt and distanced myself from other close, dear friends? How could I possibly justify doing that?

The problem had nothing to do with the actual word, “brother.” The problem was that I’d selfishly decided to redeem and reclaim something that I’d never lost. I hadn’t somehow demeaned the specialness of my closest friends with a single word.

The only person upset and offended was myself.

So, where does that leave me now? I still want to call my closest friends by a special name — one that they understand demonstrates how much I care about them.

I want a term to use for the guys I journey with on YOB. And I desire something also to say to you, the reader, so you know well how much I care for you as you journey with us.

For some, maybe the word “brother” does that for them; for others, perhaps another word. And still others may not even really care. I can’t actually know until I talk about it with that person.

Ultimately, I want to be sure each guy in my life understands how much I care for him within that relationship.

How do you define “brother”? Do you use the term or feel that it has lost any previous power? How do you express and demonstrate love to those you care most about?

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