Don’t Call Me a Sissy

By Brian Lowther

My brother is five years older than I am. When we were kids, he was bigger, stronger and better than me at everything. This gave him plenty of reasons to pick on me, make fun of me, call me names, you know, brother stuff. I think my experience was pretty typical. He wasn’t a terrible brother, or a bad person. I probably would have done the same if our roles were switched. But when he’d call me a name, or make fun of my big head—which was admittedly disproportionate—I would lose my temper. I'd scream at him and then I'd go inside and tattle to my mother.

One fall afternoon we played wiffleball in our front yard, something we did most every fall afternoon. He was the pitcher. I was the batter. He threw a fastball. It blew past me and then I swung. I missed—of course—and struck out. He celebrated. I threw a tantrum. This gave him yet another reason to lampoon me. Ordinarily he was fond of garden-variety insults like “Lame-o” or “Idiot” or “Dipstick.” But on very special occasions he’d call me a name that would make my blood boil: “sissy.” He knew how to push my buttons, as most siblings do. I hated being called a sissy with a white-hot hatred. So I went inside.

“Mom, Tim called me a sissy,” I said with seething fury.

My mother's advice: “You go outside and you tell your brother that he is a typewriter.”

A typewriter?

That was her impenetrable comeback that would cause my brother to reevaluate his browbeating ways and immediately apologize?

You can understand why she would say this. She didn’t want one son to insult the other son. So she chose the first harmless inanimate object that came to mind. As a six-year-old trying to one-up my older brother, anything was worth a shot. Perhaps there was a magical insulting quality to the word typewriter of which I was unaware.

I went outside, and the very next time Tim called me a sissy, I looked him dead in the eye and shouted, “Oh yeah? Well you’re a typewriter!”

I was proud, and angry, certain that he would immediately repent, “Oh my. Am I a typewriter? I better change my ways. I don't want to be a typewriter. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, dear, sweet brother.”

To the surprise of no one, Tim didn't repent. Instead he replied, “Did mom tell you to say that?”

I was deflated. My mom-infused weaponry was a monumental failure. But suddenly an epiphany struck. I could go back inside to tattle and my mother would likely advise me to call Tim a saucepan or a coffee table. Or, I could attack my brother and try to beat him to a pulp. That would put an end to “sissy.”

Now, I don’t know if what I decided at that moment was right. I'm sure there is a very Christ-like way that I could have handled the situation. But you know what I did? I attacked him. From that moment forward whenever Tim would pick on me—especially when he'd call me a sissy—I would summon all of my six-year-old, Incredible Hulk-like ferocity and I would charge at him like a wild animal. I'd try to hit him, kick him, bite him, anything to catch him off guard. He was generally able to brush me aside with relative ease. But every once-in-a-while I would get in a good shot.

And you know what? He stopped calling me a sissy. In fact, he started calling me Billy the Kid, after the hot-tempered manager of the New York Yankees who would storm out of the dugout in a belligerent rage at the hint of a questionable call. I could live with Billy the Kid. That was almost a badge of honor. And it was certainly better than sissy.

This disposition has never left me. Now, don't get me wrong. I like to think of myself as a peaceful person. I try to exude gentleness and love. I know that violence only begets more violence. But inside, I still have the urge to belt somebody if they call me a sissy.

I think this is what drew me so strongly to the Roberta Winter Institute. Like most Christians, my attitude toward Satan was passive resignation: avoid him, try not to sin, resist temptation. Ralph Winter on the other hand, spoke the language of revolution, in defiance of the devil's tyranny. He championed proactive resistance against systemic evil. He wanted to overthrow the powers of darkness, or die trying. Given his intelligence, he could have been a NASA engineer, or a successful computer programmer or a rich businessman. Any of these titles would have garnered him respect. But he knew that men don't follow titles, they follow courage. I loved that about him.

Satan has spent all of human history sending us a message: that he can take whatever he wants and no one can stop him. But I think it's time to send HIM a message: the call of the RWI is to go out as fast and as far as the Holy Spirit will carry us to recruit those who follow Jesus to destroy the works of the devil. Let's show the prince of this world, that he cannot take whatever he wants, and that this world and all its inhabitants are meant for the kingdom and the glory of God.

Brian Lowther is the director of the Roberta Winter Institute. Prior to that he served at the U.S. Center for World Mission in graphic design and publishing.  He lives in Southern California with his wife Debbi and their two children.

Posted on January 20, 2015 and filed under Second 30, Blog.