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.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you. I love you.”
“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.


58 Responses to “Sibling Violence: My Struggle to Stop Hating My Abusive 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. 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: 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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