T.J. Sullivan

You are always wearing your letters

You’re interested in joining our fraternity? We’d love to have you. You’re the type of person we look for: committed, enthusiastic, a leader. We think you’ll do great things here, and we hope that we’ll open some doors for you. You will make lifelong friendships, and hopefully, you’ll be the type of person whose positive impact will be felt here for many years.

This is the start of something really cool.
We know you have your reasons for joining, and we also know that the reasons you’ll stay will be entirely different. Trust us on that one. People tend to join for the image, the props, and the social stuff. They stay around for the friendships and because they find a place where they can impact the lives of others. It’s a family. We know this. Soon, you will, too.
Soon, these letters will be yours. But, there’s one lesson that we need to impress upon you before you sign your name on the dotted line, pay that first fee, and get that first t-shirt. It’s the single most important thing we’re going to ask of you, so you need to listen and understand it, now, before you say “yes.”
It’s the one most important thing that any fraternity or sorority can impress upon its new members. It’s the one lesson that every group must impress upon its newest members. Truly, our survival as an organization on this campus, and nationwide, depends on you understanding this one simple lesson and taking it to heart.
It’s more important than our history, our traditions, our structure, or our rules. Because, if you don’t understand this most fundamental lesson, then none of the other stuff will matter. If you don’t get this one “golden rule of fraternity,” then your son or daughter won’t have this kind of organization to join someday, and all of this will just be a fuzzy memory.
Here it is. Ready?
From the moment you say yes to this organization, you are always wearing your letters.

I’m going to repeat it.
From the moment you say yes to this organization, you are always wearing your letters.

We’re not talking about t-shirts, or sweatshirts, or hats made in the colors of the group. We’re not talking about a tattoo on your ankle, some party favor, or a badge you wear on your dress shirt.
What we mean is that when you say yes to lifetime membership in this group, everything you say, do and represent from that moment forward is a direct reflection on this group, your brothers, and the thousands of members who have come before you. Everything you put out to the world is a direct reflection of this fraternity. Every decision, every achievement, every mistake you make happens to all of us from this point forward.
When you go to the grocery store, you represent us. If you fall asleep in class or earn a weak grade, you represent us. When you drive down the road and slow down so a pedestrian can cross the street, you represent us.
When you turn 21 and hit the town, you represent us. When you become a leader of another campus organization, you represent us. When you insult someone or talk badly about another fraternity, you represent us. When you break up with someone and make decisions about how you behave during that difficult time, you represent us. When you go on Spring Break, you represent us.
When you go home and sit at your mother’s dining room table, you represent us. When you get a job and go to work for a company or organization, you represent us. When you commit your life to that special person, someday, you represent us.
You are always wearing your letters.
From this day forward, always. Every day, in every situation. They never come off.
As surely as if you tattooed these letters on your forehead. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a jersey with our name on it, or a business suit at an interview. You have to assume that every person you meet will form a permanent opinion about fraternities – good or bad – based on how you interact with them. Every good thing you do builds us up. Every dumb thing you do tears us down.
We live in a time when the actions of one man or one woman can kill a group like ours. One person who acts in a way that is inconsistent with our shared values can end a hundred years of tradition and pride. One choice you make on a Friday night can take away everything that generations of men have worked to build.
All the stuff you see that belongs to us can be boxed up or thrown out, because of the choices you make.
If this seems a little intense, that’s good. Because it’s serious. If it sounds like too much responsibility, or if you don’t think you can behave in a way that reflects well on us at all times, then walk away now. Do us the favor. We won’t think less of you. In fact, we’ll thank you. This sort of commitment isn’t for everybody.
But, don’t say yes unless you understand.
We’re not asking you to give up anything. We aren’t asking you to become something you aren’t. We’re asking you to become something more. We’re inviting you to become part of a group of men who make a promise to take care of each other, every day. We’re asking you to become the very best version of you that you can be.
We’re asking you to take a leap of maturity and to go to that place where you’re the same, honorable, dignified person on Saturday night as you are on Tuesday morning.
It’s a big deal, and not everyone can do it. Forget everything you’ve heard up to this point. Forget how much you might desire this, or how much we might want to bring you into the group. Just clear your mind and ask yourself one question.
Are you ready to never take them off?

Because when you say yes, you’re not just putting letters on a sweatshirt. You’re putting them in your heart. You’re forever stamping your identity with them. Everything you are, from this point on, becomes who we are.
You will make mistakes, and brothers will remind you of your commitment. There will be times where you will see other brothers forgetting their promise, and you’ll need to remind them. That’s part of this whole “fraternity” thing. We work together to make ourselves better men who stand for something. We carry each other. We matter to one another.
If we’re doing fraternity right, then we’ll make you a better man. If you’re doing everything right, then you will make us a better organization. So, please think about it. Take it seriously. Because if you say yes, these letters belong to you as surely as they belonged to our founders. If you say yes, these letters become your responsibility forever.
That’s the promise.

54 Responses to “You are always wearing your letters”

  1. Courtney Papillion says:

    This blog has definitely expanded my perspective of wearing your letters.
    Understanding this concept of being a walking advertisement is criticial to any organization. I completely agree that once you say “yes” you become everything we are and should be held accountable and constantly reminded of the image you create. If everyone is aware of this simple but challenging idea, then your memebers all together will coincendentally form a better organization.

    Thank you to contributing to the betterment of the Greek Community.

    Courtney Papillion
    Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated

    University of Louisisana at Lafayette Greek Community

  2. Courtney Papillion says:

    This blog has definitely expanded my perspective of wearing your letters. One who truly understands by saying “yes” to an organization understands that you wil always be seen as a walking advertisement. I completely agree that by saying yes you are becoming everything we are. The poor actions of one person has the power to tarnish and taint the pride of an organization. I believe by passing on this understanding to memebers of any organization, it will truly benefit the image and betterment of the org.

    Thank you for your contribution to the Greek Community

    Courtney Papillion
    Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated

    University of Louisiana at Lafayette Greek Community

  3. Caitlyn Manfre says:

    This article articulates so many ideas that all new members of a greek organization should hear! Personally, I do not think that the honor of having greek letters is stressed enough during the new member education process, in fact, I do not think I really learned this lesson until recently as we have been going through workshop for the upcoming recruitment. I love idea of stamping your letters on your heart, not just your tshirt,and I think that it brings up a very good point. Since I became initiated – I am a changed person, for the better and I am so glad I made this choice.

    Caitlyn Manfre
    Kappa Delta

    University of Louisiana Lafayette

  4. Kitrick says:

    This was powerful. My big brother pushed it a different, but very similar way: “Act as if.” Act as if everyone knows you’re a FIJI. Act as if you are the boss. Act as if you are a great leader. If you act as if, people will trust and respect you.

    It worked very well for me and now as an adviser for my fraternity I say the same thing when speaking with pledges and active brothers. Particularly in the age of social media, smartphones, etc.

    Thank you for this powerful message all the way through.

    FIJI
    University of Minnesota

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