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.

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

  • Carole says:

    I agree with survivor girl. You need to get the child help. When I was young, my mother would hit me, I would hit my sister, and I found out recently she used to hit our cousin. Abuse is wrong and rolls down hill. Let God into your life, confess your sins, ask forgiveness and make amends. God will set you free.

  • suvivor girl says:

    Message to parents that let a sibling abuse younger siblings; besides getting them psychological help, if that doesn’t work there comes a time the abuser needs to be jailed and not allowed to hurst others. If you are complicit and in denial of the harm being done you’ve just as bad and should be jailed too. Religion can’t fix sexual abusers/batterers, dont make excuses n cover up crimes like the church either. Survivors are sick of that silencing crap. Nothing but justice is what is really needed and wanted.

  • Aldo says:

    Sandeep Singh and Christian Willis, it is surprising to me that you both having experienced childhood abuse and filled with the anger and resentment which will eat away at you and keep you in bondage, have not availed yourselves of the following prayer, which when said with a humble and contrite heart, will bring the freedom which you both inwardly desire. I pray that you do.

    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.

  • Sandeep Singh, I also believe with everything you mentioned. I was a victim of early childhood abuse and I’m angry and have some sort of trauma towards it. I was raised by a single parent mother whom divorced my father due to their relationship issues. I was moved over to Texas and lived in apartment rent with an older brother who’s 7 years older than me. Around the ages of 7 or 10, I still visually remember fights between my older brother because he didn’t get his way with me.

    It could be fights over little things such as who gets to use the TV, or when I try giving attitude when he gets in my personal space such as me even getting something from refrigerator whereas I’m deprived of that right. My brother waits for the right moment, such as whenever my mom was gone. Then my brother would grab me by my throat and drop me to the floor. He would also slam me against the wall, even threw me at the coach and made me take my clothes off as he tries spanking me with threats that he would throw me across the balcony upstairs.

    Threats to keep me from telling my mom what he did. If I tried, he would find some way to convince her it’s not true and my mom wouldn’t buy into it. That feeling and moment of helplessness. That’s how I felt and as much as I wanted to do something back to him, I felt in my gut that I was weak and would only cause myself more harm because of how young and defenseless I was. He was the golden child and I’m the scapegoat. It’s bad enough that with me grown in by blacks that they’re punishment almost always involve psychial abuse such as the belt. Even around my elementary and by mid school it was like this and I felt like an outcast around every student. No one would want to talk to me at school because of how awkward and quiet I am. He even treated me like this with friends around him just because I refused to allow him to tell me what to do in a controlled manner, such as a time when I was playing my video game at the living room and when my mom left again he grabbed me by the throat around my teen ages. Even his friend witnessed and did nothing to stop him. The situation kept occurring as long as my parents did nothing about it.

    But after that incident, I learned that my brother stopped his ways only because my mom showed him a verse from the bible since she is a Christian. That still doesn’t feel justified and I will never forget or remove remorse. I still carry grudge to this day about it and how I was defenseless to hit back or stop it like how you would stop a bully at school. It’s funny how my brother never told me any of this but my mom did. My mom says she was treated abusive from his father. Ok, so how come you didn’t believe your child or do something about it until now when I’m now when I’m in high school? As of now, I learned more about how my family members were narcissistic and to this day, my mom still favors my brother. It doesn’t matter what I do or achieve, I’ll never have the respect from my mom as opposed with my brother. My mom likes to call me selfish and how everything that’s wrong in my life is because of me, that in the real world life is gonna teach me anything for being that way. How is that so when I have to even life in the same room as bunk beds with my older brother whom I hate?

    And what’s funny is how he is out in California as I speak living his dream job. My mom acts as if it’s wrong for me to think against that because of his hard work. He didn’t work hard on that, it was just a trait from his abusive father himself, yet they get to talk cheap about my father whom I’ve never met yet he gets to. However, his father has even helped him out when he didn’t have enough money to support himself with the high rent there.

    I’m now 21 years old, yet he still expects me to all of a sudden forgive him and start calling him like I’m still a kid while he’s away to tell him my feelings about something? Hell no!! He may be my brother and I may have to repent for my sins and accept the sins he commit as well as fate that it’s in the past and how I should move on, but I will not be best friends with him and act like it all never happened.

    We are like rivalries with two different souls, like water and fire. I was the calm and he’s the aggressive, he’s social and him introverted, etc. At first when I was in college after graduating high school he could care less about my education and instead rushed me by waking me up only because he had to go to his stupid job. Even worse, since we only had 1 car, he even had us rode with him while he drove my mom’s car first to his job that’s like 30 minutes away from my school first.

    After feeling unsupported, I dropped out of college after seeing my high school friend did, (whom also goes through the same family issues but worse) and I starting working at scrappy jobs like Walmart as a late night shift maintenance. My brother now has me working to help out my mom due to her disability from a brain surgery back in 2006, where she is has short term memory as a permanent effect. However, reasons I also stopped college was because of them using my financial aid money. I’m working full-time jobs that don’t pay will. I fear I won’t get independence from my life and my past childhood reflects that neglecting and hopelessness.

    My brother now tries to act like he gives me advice but he can’t because he was spoiled all of his life from mom (golden child) and how he treated me back then (like a scapegoat) and even now. Telling me what I should be doing with my life or to go do something about it if life’s boring. Well that’s easy for you to say. At one point I thought he changed after he mentioned over the phone to my mom that he missed me around. But I realized he didn’t miss me as a true brother would. He only missed having somebody to admire the fact that he’s out living the dream and tries to act like some Oracle towards me. he’ll never change his ways, because he still treats me the same. It’s only different because I’m now an adult, but I still had other people even my closest friend take control of my life which reflects the violence I went through.

    The one thing I can at least do is keep my distance fully away from him. I don’t have to call or talk to him like he’s my friend just because now the only friend I had I no longer talk to. He says when my mom passes away that he thought of taking care of me, I would rather have taken care of my own life and that now has become a major goal in my life. People can look down and not agree with me but I honestly have no care for my family, especially my brother after what he did to me. I’m only taking care of my mom because I have to, but one of these days if I do have a better paying job and education, I can finally feel good and have high self-esteem knowing I did this. As well as knowing it’s mines. Just like with jobs, my mom shouldn’t be acting like my money I work hard for should be catered to her and her expenses as if she worked for it. But whatever, this is probably depression I’m feeling from my whole livelihood.

    My past have only taught me that I should defend and take care of myself when I can before anybody. I shouldn’t have to let someone or something take control of my life and telling or forcing me into things against my right. I should’ve called the police myself when I was abused but I was afraid of the consequences. But it’s not like I had a phone back then, the only I could’ve talked to other than my mom would’ve been the school. But regardless, this is something that’s now 10 years in the past. But knowing this. It’s gonna take more than just bible talk to get me to change.

  • Aldo says:

    Rebekah, Jonathan has given you some great advice. I pray that you would avail yourself of it. If you would like to chat one on one with a mentor, please click on the Talk to a mentor button at the top right of this page. Someone will be happy to discuss with you whatever issues you choose, and it is entirely free and confidential.

  • Jonathan says:

    Hi Rebekah,

    Have you talked to your parents about this? Or the police or a school counselor? Please do the longer you wait the worst is likely to come. Please don’t let yourself be the victim please get help. I pray for you :)

  • Rebekah says:

    My brother beats me too. A few years ago he split the skin under my eye with a sharp rock. It is getting worse. What should I do? When I don’t run the 1/4 mile home, he will hit me with his binder full of hardcover books, kick me, punch me, or carve chunks out of my arm with his fingernails.

  • Aldo says:

    Sandeep Singh, I beg to differ with you. The reason the article was written is not to “promote/convert to Christianity,” but to bring those who read it to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Within each one of us there is a deep desire to be reunited with our Creator. There is only one way by which Almighty God the Father has Divinely appointed for that to happen, and that is by accepting and receiving His “only begotten son” Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior. Go back and review the prayer. It is a prayer of having forgiveness of your sins, and being a partaker of eternal life.

    You too can be forgiven of your sins, and have eternal life by saying and meaning the prayer.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Alora,
    Power To Change is concerned about the safety and privacy of all its users, particularly children. For this reason, Power To Change will not be able to help you with your request. We recommend that you talk to your parents or legal guardian about this situation. If that is not possible, then please contact a trusted teacher, pastor or Christian counselor in your area.

    Passed by the U.S. Congress in November 1998, the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) < http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/privacyinitiatives/childrens_educ.html> requires operators of online services or Web sites to obtain parental consent prior to the collection, use, disclosure, or display of the personal information of children 12 years of age or younger.

    Be assured that the prayer team at Power To Change will be praying for you.

    Helpful Resources:
    Get some counseling right now by contacting AACC for a referral to a Christian counselor near you at
    http://www.aacc.net or New Life at 1-800-NEW-LIFE or the nearest mental health agency.

  • Jonathan says:

    Alora, how does he hurt you?

  • Sandeep Singh says:

    Don’t mind of there are grammatical mistakes, can’t edit the comments.

  • Sandeep Singh says:

    And doing good on others doesn’t mean taking a beating from others. You have to be in a position to be able to do good. If you are controlled by others like that, you will only do bad to yourself and others.
    I would love to know if there is a verse in Bible that motivates to get free from slavery and getting control of your life, so that you can do good and bad as per your understanding, and not because you were guilt tripped in doing so.

  • Sandeep Singh says:

    Dear Aldo,
    I meant defence, not violence.
    And I believe this story above is being used on the helpless and afflicted to promote/convert to Christianity.
    And for the record Gandhi was a racist and a playboy himself.
    Defending yourself against an attacker isn’t a crime in any law.
    That said,
    I didn’t mean all of the abused should immediately respond with beating their elders.
    They should rather separate themselves, gain control of their own lives, then take up gym or martial arts classes so that they can defend.
    And also some counseling to heal their disturbed or shattered psyche.

    And people must study more about narcissistic personality disorder. Most of them a users are sadistic narcissists who just get pleasure out of beating, guilt tripping, mentally and psychologically harming and in the end discarding their victims by either planning jail or assylum for them.
    They can be your husband, wife, father, brother, sister etc. Someone from your close relatives. Probably who you live with.
    Narcissism is a real problem in today’s world. We must deal with it with sufficient research and analysing the situation carefully and taking appropriate and necessary steps.
    Your life is meant to be in your control. That’s the purpose you were born for. Not to be controlled by others.

  • Aldo says:

    Sandeep Singh, I am surprised that you who come from the same country as Gandhi, would suggest violence as a counter measure.

    Jesus says in Matthew 5:44-45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

    I believe that Gandhi followed Jesus’ statement regarding non-violence.

  • Sandeep Singh says:

    If you’re getting unnecessary beating,
    It only means you gotta learn to give them necessary beating.

  • Sandeep Singh says:

    Simply put, you haven’t learnt the lesson of life if you are still confused as to what is right for you and why you are still tolerating the [expletive removed] it given to you.
    Sometimes our so called family members become like outsiders who will treat you like outcaste just under pretext of reminding that life is harsh. But they remain that way with you no matter what you do or achieve.
    So the conclusion is, there is no single reason to treat you harshly almost every day of the month other than just pleasure being derived from your pain, low self esteem, etc.
    One suggestion from heart, do not let physical pain do psychological damage. Do not let the scumbags reach to the point of mental and emotional harrassment.
    And always remember, you came to this world to rule, not to be ruled by others.
    So rule your own life.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Jonathan well spoken to Abear Julu…..We can only do what we can do, and in the end prayer is our only option.

  • Jonathan says:

    Dear abear juju,

    Im very sorry for all the suffering you had to go through by your so called family.

    First, I would recommend you to try to organize a meeting with them, in a public area, but at the same time a place where the each of you and speak your heart out without interruption, if you haven’t done it already

    If they still refuse to listen, make sure to record everything they say and store messages and emails to be handed over to the police. Your mother can’t lie her way out if you have documented evidence. There is no need to put yourself in a position where they can continually hurt you.

    In the end, I implore you to not give up on them. Please oray for them that they would see the light of Jesus Christ.

    I pray that you will be able to live life to the fullest for His glory. God bless you juju :)

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