Sibling Violence: My Struggle to Stop Hating My Abusive Brother

Written by Catherine Braun

faith_siblingviolenceI hated my brother. He teased and tormented me relentlessly. I was only ten. My hatred buried itself deep within me, like a worm eating holes in my child’s heart.

Maybe it began with typical sibling rivalry – a two-year-old boy dumping his new baby sister out of her bassinet, expressing displeasure over her nervy intrusion. I realize now that he had legitimate emotional concerns of his own. Nevertheless, his unacceptable actions toward me persisted for years. Unchecked, malice crept into his heart like a weasel into a hen house. I became the target of his aggression.

Screaming for justice

My memory categorizes the assaults by residence. The earliest serious injury occurred in my first home, high on a hill overlooking the ocean where the vista called for serenity. When I was four, for reasons I can’t remember, my brother picked up a piece of scrap iron and split open the back of my head. I screamed for justice from my parents. None came.

When I was eight we moved to the country into a rental property while our new home was being built. The Dutch doors, divided in half across the center, fascinated me. I spent endless hours incorporating those doors into fantasy play – a storefront, a cage at the zoo, sections of door opened and closed at my will. One day my parents left us unattended; my brother burst through those doors. Wielding a mop handle, he delivered a crushing blow, raising a bleeding, purplish egg on my forehead.

“Look what he did!” I bellowed later that afternoon. My mother failed to carry through with effective discipline. My father ignored the incident, as he did all the others. He was an abuser himself. For years, all of us watched him abuse my mother physically and emotionally.

Our new home was not finished, but we moved in anyway. There my brother finished off the back of my left hand with a nut pick, carving it up with raking stabs. “Don’t you tell anyone at school how this really happened,” my mother warned. By now, I was my own defence. I rebelled and, defying her, told the first person who asked. Nothing changed.

My shinbones collected permanent dents from kicks by hard-toed shoes. My developing breasts ached from closed-fisted blows accompanied by sexually disparaging insults. By now, I knew there was no point even mentioning it. Instead, I not only let the sun go down on my anger but I pulled the shades on my emotions. I locked and barricaded the doors.

By our mid-teens, my brother’s abuse waned and then stopped altogether. The story was no longer about my brother, but about me. My placid and good-natured inborn temperament was what most people saw. However, it covered my white-hot rage, converted to an iceberg, lurking below the surface waiting to rip apart some – any – passing ship. It was there in those icy waters that Jesus met me, not with condemnation, but with love.

A change of heart

I needed to revisit Scriptures I had read as a child, but this time I asked Jesus to help me understand them correctly.

Being a perfectionist, I had tried to follow the law. But Jesus did not expect me to be able to stop hating. He only wanted me to recognize my hatred as sin. I was heading down the wrong path, taking matters into my own hands. He wanted me instead to come to him with it. He is the only one who can make the kind of heart change I needed.

Over time, Jesus helped me see that I believed many things that were untrue. I believed I had to earn God’s favour by being good. I believed that no one cared about me and that no one was interested in protecting me. I believed my needs did not matter. I believed I was not worth loving or protecting.

My childish interpretation of God’s Word caused me unnecessary pain. I now understand that if Scripture does not sound like good news, I am probably not grasping it correctly. Were I to revisit my childhood experience with Jesus, our talk might go like this:

“I hate my brother!”
“Yes, I know. I’m glad you could tell Me so.”
“You mean it’s okay?”
“No, it’s not okay, but you’re okay with Me. Tell me your story, pour it all out. I’ll listen.”

And I’d sob away the hurt, the anger, the feelings of helplessness, knowing that He believed me and understood.

“What your brother has done is wrong. Your parents should have stopped him.”
“Sniff…..”
“I’m sorry this happened to you. I love you.”
“Sniff.”
“Yet, you know that your hatred is also wrong. You need to admit it to Me and let it go. I’ve forgiven you. Now it’s your turn to forgive him, or your hatred will eat you up. Forgiveness will take time. When you’re willing, I’ll make it possible. Think about it and we’ll talk again soon.”

Encouraged and strengthened, I’d move back to the neighbourhood of my hatred to face what was true about me, to confess it and be forgiven, and let it go. This is what the love and forgiveness of Christ makes possible: to face ourselves at our ugliest, never for a moment losing the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

I confronted my brother many years later. To his credit, he acknowledged his wrongs and expressed genuine remorse over the pain his actions caused me. By then I had already uncovered and let go of most of my painful feelings. It was good to hear his confession, but he might have chosen to withhold it. I would have needed to forgive him anyway.

Today my brother doesn’t mistreat me in any way. We are friends and enjoy a playful relationship. Yet there are still times I need to stand up for myself with him. He is often intrusive, pushing beyond reasonable boundaries. I must verbalize my stand: No, you may not do that; no I will not allow that; back off; give me some space. It’s not good for him, for our relationship, or for me to allow behavior that generates fresh anger in me.

Take a look at your life.  How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times.  There are things we dream of doing one day, there are things we wish we could forget.  In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new.  What would your life look like if you could start over with a clean slate?

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.

Is this the life for you?

If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour – unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

It’s easy to find fault in others. It’s even easier when they have committed a clear sin. It’s much harder to forgive and then to honestly assess – and correct – faults in ourselves. Fortunately, we have a Savior who helps us do just that.

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74 Responses to “Sibling Violence: My Struggle to Stop Hating My Abusive Brother”

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Alyanna, I m sorry that you have suffered your brother’s cruelty so long. That is not the way that men are supposed to act. Have you talked with your mother about the way your brother treats you? Perhaps she may have some ideas of how you can get your brother to see how hurtful he is being. How do you think your father would react if he knew how cruel your brother is to you? If your parents are unable to help you could also talk to a teacher at school and ask them for help to keep you safe from your brother.

    You don’t have to live this way. You will find people who can help your brother understand that his actions and words are very damaging.

  • Hi. i’m from the Philippines
    My brother always teases me becoz I’m childish and stupid… He always call me stupid and abnormal… Idk what I’m gonna do… I’m really stuck in this miserable life…. He started abusing and fighting me since maybe 12yrsold.. He has a friend same as his age.. And his friend was so mature… He wanted to be like that too… His friend always teases her little sis…..
    He was starting to bully me… He always get my snacks and he only gave me 10 pesos even tho my allowance was 20 pesos… Then since I was 14… It was night… And only me and my brother were not yet asleep yet… I wanted to watch TV but my brother won’t let me.. I was then angry becoz he always say bad things to me and I just couldn’t help it… I punched the wall and stomp my feet becoz of anger, making noises… And then my brother appeared and hit me with his slipper….
    He doesn’t fight when my daddy is around… But then my daddy was now going abroad to wprk, my brother abuses me more…
    BECOZ OF HIM, I FEEL LIKE I’M NOTHING… I ALWAYS LOOK MISERABLE BECOZ OF HIM…
    I’M ALREADY 16 THIS AUGUST….
    I’M TIRED OF THIS WORLD NOW………

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi EM,

    I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been through this. What an awful experience. There’s an excellent article by Lynnette Hoy that talks about how forgiveness and full restitution are not the same thing. Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that you just go on as if the bad thing never happened. Sometimes you need to reset your boundaries. You can read the article here: http://powertochange.com/experience/life/forgiveness/

  • EM says:

    48hrs ago I was assulted and battered by my younger brother of 28yrs. I am 32. He tried to kill me by strangulation and suffocation. My mother came in and pulled him off of me. He 6’4″ and 350lbs, and I am 5’6″ 110lbs. He went crazy on me for no reason at all. After he losened his grip from throat, I sliped away and ran to the bedroom, where he came after me some more. I though the bedroom door would hold up but it didn’t and my mom was fighting him off of me. He did the same to her and I ran away this time for the door. He choked her out 2x will I ran out the door. I ran to get help and call 911. After I found a neighbor, they called for me. I saw him leave as if nothing happened. I am terrified of my brother now, and am prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law. My mother on the other hand is trying to make excuses for this. He almost killed us, and put fear deep in me now. I don’t know how to handle this on a spiritual level. I am so angry and feel like I will never forgive him. But my I feel has already forgiven him and ready to let him come like nothing happend. How do I handle this?

  • Mya says:

    Hi, my brother beats me if I don’t give him my charger or something like that. He blames me for the most stupidest [expletive removed] ever. It either stops, or he can forget about me in the future. I can block him out of my life. Just like that. He will call once, and that will be the last. I’ll tell him why and he will regret his [expletive removed] behavior. If it leads on through his life, and I have kids, he could hurt them. I’m sorry about my cussing but it’s been done. My prayers to those who have been beaten, may your lives be happy and blessed.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Anom, I am glad you were able to find this article and share your story. You should not have to live in fear of your brother like that. It is true that often siblings are hurtful to each other but what you are describing crosses that line into abuse. Have you asked your parents for their advice on how you can stop your brother’s cruelty? If they are not able to help you then you have other people in your life who can help you. Talk to a pastor, teacher or a counselor at school. Ask them for ideas on how you can be free from that hurtful things your brother is doing.

    Your question, “Why does God let this happen?” is not an easy one to answer. Do you remember the story of Joseph and his cruel brothers? They wanted to kill Joseph because they were jealous of him. They eventually sold him to slave traders and lied to their dad that he got killed by a wild animal. Even though God allowed that to happen to Joseph, He never abandoned him. Joseph knew that God was with him and trusted Him even when things went bad. It was only years later that Joseph was able to find out why God had allowed that to happen. There may not seem like there is any good reason why God has let your brother be so mean to you but I encourage you to continue to trust in Him. God’s promise to you is that “everything works together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) “Everything” includes your brother’s cruelty. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get him to stop. Remember Joseph kept working hard in all situations to make his situation better. But when things did not go well, he still trusted in God’s leading in his life.

    Let me pray for you: Lord God I pray for this young man who has felt the cruelty of an older brother for far too long. I pray that You would help him find a way to show his brother that his actions are wrong. Give him courage to do difficult things and guard him from discouragement and depression because of his brother’s meanness. I pray that You would show Yourself to this young man and let Your presence be the light that brightens his hope and his life. Bring healing to the whole family and show Your transforming power in their lives. In Jesus’ name amen.

    So Anom, do you have a pastor you feel like you could talk to?

  • Anom says:

    I myself have a older brother who makes me do everything for him. It’s been that way for years. My parents don’t have a very loving relationship. It seems they just stick together because that’s the way they were raised. My brother has physically hit me before, he yells at my parents for little things.. Mind you he’s in his 20′s still living at home. Whenever he needs something he tells me. Like water, foot run, food. It’s honestly ridiculous. When I was a kid is be woken up by him yelling at my dad and ripping his shirt and stomping. I would be crying in my bed. He’s put pillows over my face. I’m just at loss. I believe in god but why does he let this happen? I’m almost 15 and I just want to be free. And I want everyone to be ok

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Anonymous,
    You are in a serious situation and if your brother’s behavior isn’t changing, then you need to get help. What do your parents say about all of this?

    You said that ‘you are hesitant to acquire legal advice or initiate any action, do not believe in violence and refuse to retaliate but would appreciate some advice.’ Is there another family member that you could live with? This does not sound like a safe environment for you to be in and if your parents don’t take control of the situation and ask your brother to leave the home, then you need to initiate some action. He will continue to be physically abusive until someone challenges him and shows him that they are serious about stopping the abuse.

    In the meantime, I would love to pray for you.

    Dear Lord God,
    I lift up Anonymous to your right now and ask the You would give her wisdom regarding what to do in this situation that is obviously not safe for her. Would you show her an adult that would be able to help her. I pray for Your protection of her and that You would work in the heart of this brother as well who has such anger management issues. I pray too for their parents that they would have much wisdom in knowing how to deal with him and that they would know the next steps that need to be taken. In Jesus’name, amen.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Soul,
    May I suggest that you seek professional counseling? There were obviously some horrible things that happened to you in your childhood and you need to be able to not only deal with them but get to the bottom of what really happened. In order to do that, a professional counselor needs to be involved. We do have a wonderful team of online mentors who can walk alongside of you as you get help but they are not professionals that can help you get to the root issue.

    God, I ask for ‘soul’ that You would help her to get the help she needs and to be able to get to the bottom of the abuse that happened to her when she was younger. Lord, You know what happened and You are the one that can take her broken pieces and make something whole out of them….work in her life Lord. Amen.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    MoMo,
    You are so right that it is not acceptable to hit your sister, ever! However having said that when children are young they often hit one another but it shouldn’t be something that is the norm, nor should it be tolerated at any age. Physical violence against one another is something that needs to be stopped.

    I don’t know how old you or your sister are….have you talked to your parents about this? If you are old enough to be on this site, I would suggest that you get some help with anger management before someone gets seriously hurt.

  • MoMo says:

    Wow that’s crazy. I am a big brother myself. I’ll be honest my sister and I constantly fight, I do hit her at times when things go out of hand but I have never left marks bruises or have broken anything. Still this doesn’t make it acceptable. The only reason why I do it is because she is always constantly hitting and teasing my brother when our parents aren’t home and he is always screaming and things just get chaotic and she gets out of control. I try to be calm with other but it never works. After I hit her she hits me back and we basically fight, since I’m the oldest I always get the last hit and she runs off crying and screaming and she wont talk to me for the next hour and claims that I am the worst brother and I am an abuser, but then after a while everything well go back to normal. I am hoping this is a normal brother and sister relationship.

  • Anomynous says:

    I am currently in the same situation, my brother has been constantly abusing me since the age of 8, the first incident i was kneeded in the face which fractured my skull and required surgery, the most recent incident occuring not 2 weeks ago now at the age of 16 and 18 he threw a 1m x 1.5m metal heater at my leg which broke my femur, he was kicked out of school for strangling a fellow class mate to the point where he blacked out and has been seeing a psychologist since the age of 12, and has undertaken anger management classes none of which has helped the situation, being over 18 and my brother i am hesitant to acquire legal advice or initiate any action, i do not believe in violence and i refuse to retaliate please i would appreciate some advice.

  • soul says:

    Idk know how or where to start. I can’t remember much of my childhood. I do remember being molested at 11 by my stepbrother and next night looking out tthe window and hearing seeing my brothers shadow fighting with my stepbrother. Then months later my brother seen in pictures partying with my stepbrother. My mom gave me pills diet pills water pills and alcohol at 12 yrs old. They threw me out at 16. From what’s currently said is my dad whom I know isn’t my real father but no one will tell me….

  • Bethany says:

    My little sister she has become violent to me she is only ten it happened in 2011 the year after moving house . I’m scared of her I keep wanting to run from home but I don’t as I’m an auntie . As I’m an auntie it’s stopping me from running away from home

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    I pray that sibling can get along in the world, as they seek God’s grace in there lives. In Jesus Mighty name Amen

  • he wont change says:

    i keep seeing this phenomena over n over n over again.
    if he has changed why would you need to tell him your
    boundaries? it would be him looking for ways and means
    to make his younger sister feel more appreiated, loved,
    respected,safer etc.
    like many abused people you refuse to accept that he did not
    love,does not love and will never love you. you are stuck on
    thinking an elder brother should and must love their younger
    sister. and protect them! acceptance of this mega loss of a love
    that you did not get and never will is what you are lookining for
    not a forgiveness in jesus.

    the little change and apology in him is because you are bigger
    and can defend your boundaries better. it is just a change
    of strategy. even with current awaareness if both of you were to
    become children again he would still hapilly molest you.
    his aopology is what you desire and despately long for. to have
    the brother you never and will never have, even if it means
    constructing one!
    like i said i have seen this thing dozens of time. i recently saw it
    on rapper nellys relationship with his father.his incredible
    drive to have a cruel father change into a kind father and nellys
    own blindness and delusion of a father who repented and now takes
    his children to plays as a good grandfather…. of course it is
    just a changed strategy…trusting on quik sand. if nelly lost his
    fame and money the sweet grandpa of nelly kids will vaporise like
    mist at dawn.
    granted i too have been in abused reltionships of trust. however
    there was a certain genuinely loving adult who was my anchor
    n understanding and calling out bs from people who should
    have been loving and taking care of me as their child and to the
    others as their younger brother.

  • Kevin says:

    I am 38 and many of my family issues when I was younger are manifesting in a more intense way then ever. I have never been brought up with religion and to be honest am a skeptic by nature. In short, my brother and I were both exposed to and given the ability to consume alcohol at a very young age. My father worked in the alcohol industry and he basically collected a ton of alcohol in the house. My father was the friend type of father who allowed me, brother and friends to drink at the house. My mother was mildly against it. My brother was less secure and developed a serious drinking problem and I drank as well too much. I however was popular, a good athlete, and did pretty well in school. My brother was more insecure, heavy drinker, and a grump. In any event, he and I had our ups and downs and are pretty different. He was and is very passive aggressive and verbally abusive. He has always been a angry person and now he is worse. My parents health is bad now and our family is very dysfunctional as now my parents are overbearing and feel guilty about their mistakes with exposing us to alcohol in the past. My brother recently told me he hated me and wished I was dead along with many other abusive insults that hurt me deeply. This prompted me to tell my family we all have to go to therapy or I will never talk to any of them again and especially my brother. I am struggling with anger, sadness, resentment, pain, depression, sadness towards my family. I’m not sure what to do or if the therapy is going to work. My wounds and others are too deep. I’m angry at my parents for their mistakes.

  • Michael Jantzen M. Jantzen says:

    I’m saddened to read that you’re stuck in such a hard situation. It’s terribly hurtful when our family is no longer a safe place. You may want to connect with one of our free and confidential mentors to help you journey towards healing and a healthier life. The link is on the top right. Alicia, I would love to have some conversation with you here as well. I have a few questions. Who do you think was trying to warn your mother not to have any more kids? In what ways have you tried to reach out for help? Take care.

  • Alicia says:

    I hate my brother I want to kill him or I will kill myself I don’t want to live and be fake with everyone. No one listens to me. My brother died of cancer and I feel it was a warning to my mom not to have more kids but she still did .I have have an unhappy life. There is no walk for verbal abuse or no charity or no shelter.

  • Michael Jantzen M. Jantzen says:

    Hello Ashanti, it was brave of you to share some of your story here. I’m so sorry that your uncle has hurt you. Is this still happening? I’m a bit confused by the verb tense in your comment. Have you moved yet? Whether it’s still happening or not, there is still much pain in your heart. I would encourage you to talk to one of our free and confidential email mentors. Just click here. http://powertochange.com/discover/talk-to-a-mentor/ Someone will listen, encourage and offer advice if you’re interested. Take care.

  • Ashanti says:

    My uncle use abuse me every day in consitanly i told my mother & grandnother but they always said wait until we move he’s 23 im pretty young i’ll usually cry then my mother would comfort me but it still is happning even though i pray :(.My ma still say we are going to move but i dont know what to belive

  • Michael Jantzen M. Jantzen says:

    Hello A. Thank you for being brave enough to share some of your story with us. My heart was saddened to hear about how violence and verbal abuse has been a part of your family story. I’m not sure who influenced your father to become this way or if it started with him. Your brother has followed in his footsteps and in his own pain, displays worse behavior. You said prayer did not work. And you likely wonder if God heard you as you cried and prayed under the bed in fear. I don’t know why God didn’t do some miracle to put an end to the abuse, but I am sure of this. Your prayers worked in this way: they have kept you from becoming like your father and brother and now you have someone wonderful by your side. I’m sure those scars still affect your relationships though, even with this wonderful person. I would invite you to journey with one of our free and confidential email mentors to seek healing and freedom in your life. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor/ Take care.

  • A says:

    From early in my life, I had experienced my father (alcoholic) abusing my mother physically at first, then verbally throughout my childhood continuing to adult life. As a little girl my brother hit me the eye causing great loss in vision. He continued to be indifferent, hateful, very disrespectful one time he was yelling from downstairs in the yard and throwing bricks at my second floor window “I will put you in a pool of blood with your baby” ( I was 9 mos. pregnant). Thinking back there numerous and seriously bad events. His wife attacked me from behind and threw me to the floor yelling let’s trash her. They had cursed me repeatedly, my so-called brother has said the most vile things to me that one could not easily repeat. Physically, emotionally and every manner he has mistreated me. From a disgusting father to a vile brother who had a son I loved and tried to help..he also caused me tremendous pain. My mother has passed away, she had a very bad and difficult life! I prayed so much as a child under the bed because my father would come home in the late nite hours terrorizing us….but what followed was a even more vile person the worst..that brother…no prayer helped!!! Today I am fine because I have a wonderful person by my side however the pain and scars of unnecessary suffering is still there. For me prayer did not work.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Anonymous, I am sorry to hear that your brother can be so hurtful. What do your parents say when you talk to them about it?

    I am glad you have asked for prayer about this because I know that it is through God’s help that a good solution will come out of this. Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) God knows the best way for you to respond to your brother–best for both you and for your brother. Focusing your attention on God and listening for His Spirit to lead your thoughts, your attitudes and your behaviours, will result in walking the path that God has intended for you. God will help you stand firm against the taunts and disrespect of your brother, “May I experience Your loyal love, O Lord,
    and Your deliverance, as You promised. Then I will have a reply for the one who insults me, for I trust in Your Word.” (Psalm 119:41-42) God will protect you from the attacks–verbal and otherwise–from your brother, “He delivers me from my enemies; You snatch me away from those who attack me; You rescue me from violent men.” (Psalm 18:48) He will help you to love your brother even when the things he does are not worthy of love, “But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45) All of this comes from trusting in God and following His direction.

    Lord God, I do pray for this young person and the pain caused by his/her brother. I pray that You would lead Anonymous into the path that You know is best and that will create the best for everyone involved. I pray for Your protection and for Your healing in Anonymous’ heart. I pray that You would work in the heart of this brother as well who has such anger and hurt in him that it pours out into the ones who are closest to him. I pray for their parents that they would have wisdom to know how to bring peace to these siblings. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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