Monday, December 1, 2008

Justifying Fraternity

I have chosen fraternity.

Part of living in a free society is the opportunity to make choices. Many other nations in our world take choices away from their citizens. In America, we add new choices every day. New things to do, new things to see, new things to read, new things to eat, new ways to live. I made a choice 10 years ago, which I have never regretted – the choice to be a fraternity man.

Because it is a choice, we should not disparage those who make a different choice. It’s their right. We should not judge them for the choice they made. However, we also should not sit idly by and allow them to judge us for our choice. It is perfectly acceptable to justify our choice – loudly and proudly if need be.

We each have our own justifications for why we chose to join. Perhaps, at this point, you don’t know why. That’s okay. I was that way myself, especially at the start. When I was a freshman, I wanted to take a long and fulfilling ride through my 4 years of undergraduate education. A fraternity seemed like the best vehicle for that ride – but I wasn’t sure why at the time.

By justifying the choices we make in life, our life becomes clearer. There are sound reasons why we make every choice – although some of those reasons may be hidden until we are ready to see them. As a new father, I sometimes try to remember my motivation for becoming a parent in the first place. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. Now that I have a child, I never want to go back to my life before him. Parenthood has provided me with an opportunity for legacy that can’t be found anywhere else. I wasn’t ready to understand that until I held him for the first time.

As I reflect on my fraternal experience, I have also discovered and rediscovered the reasons why I made this choice. My decision to join a fraternity becomes clearer and more convincing each day. Perhaps you can’t justify your reasons for joining a fraternity. I can.

Many people make a choice for safety. They want to live free from controversy, conflict, or debate. I chose fraternity, and welcomed these things into my life.

Some choose to avoid scrutiny and accountability. They want to go unnoticed. I chose fraternity – I want you to see me. I want my accomplishments to be felt.

Some people want their lives to be orderly, formulaic, and easily navigated. I opted for the emotional chaos that comes from a group of young men trying to pull together. I chose fraternity.

There are those who treat leadership as theoretical, relying on books by experts and seeking inspiration from heroes. I participated in a service project, set an agenda, approved a budget, intervened in a quarrel between brothers, led a meeting, and stood up to an older member who was slamming an empty keg into the fraternity house doors – all in the same day. I chose leadership that's real. I chose fraternity.

Some people like to think about moral dilemmas and discover their values through reflection. I chose fraternity – and tested my values day and night.

Many are forced to be in environments where mistakes cannot be made and learned from. I thank goodness for choosing fraternity – and getting myself into many mistakes.

Some want to always follow the rules and abide by authority. I chose fraternity, and learned that some of the most beautiful achievements come through defiance.

Many believe that “men’s only” organizations are antiquated and offer nothing to our society. I unlocked brotherhood, and all the unexplainable tears, cheers, hugs, and laughter it provides. I chose fraternity.

Live and let live. I will not judge someone for their choices in life – it’s the reasons behind them that can be investigated. Stand up for your choices. Discover the hidden reasons behind them.

I hope that you make choices in life that make you stronger and help give your life more meaning that it might otherwise have had. Whether by chance, luck, or destiny, I did.

I chose fraternity.


  1. Hey John, this is Graham Taylor, Oregon DU President (we met at UIFI in LA this past summer). I really like what you wrote, and thought it would serve as a good reminder about why we chose to be fraternity men for myself and my brothers. Would you mind if I read it at our next chapter meeting? You can contact me at:

  2. John,

    This is a great post!

  3. I have been a member of phi Delta Theta since I was a freshman. That means I have been a member for 43 years. I have seen, unfortunately my fraternity go from a brotherhood to a social club. I suppose this is what happens in the over populated liberal country.