Painting a New Picture for Greek Life

Picture this: It’s 107 degrees on a blazing hot Oklahoma afternoon in August. An extremely zealous freshman girl toting an eager grin, a broken sandal and a New Mexican heart sprints to the sorority chapter that won her over the past week during recruitment, holding nothing back.

I had already painted a complete picture of my expectations for what my Greek experience would be like, without knowing what frame the future would put around it.

Greek life was easily one of the most influential parts of my college career, though not all of it was as simple as dragging a paintbrush across a white piece of paper. After surviving the first few months of classes, I returned to my hometown, giddy to talk about the college life.

One conversation back home caught me off guard. I was catching up with a dear friend from home when they suddenly asked, “So, how are those friends that you pay for up at school?”

I immediately knew they were referring to my involvement in Greek life. I left the conversation discouraged and confused.

Let’s face it. The average person may view Greek life as a collective group of so-called “brothers” and “sisters” — self-seeking individuals who have it easy, who only care about their popularity and who have just about the furthest thing from an authentic friendship.

I think back to the day I ran to the chapter I wanted to impress so badly. After seeing all the goodness it had to offer, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Founders of Greek life originally based sororities and fraternities on core values such as community, integrity, academics and philanthropy — all things that go close to unnoticed by today’s society. However, those of us in the Greek community may also be a piece of that problem. It’s easy to distinguish Greek life today from its foundational roots many years ago.

So how do we change it? How do we alter how our culture sees Greek life?

It starts with us. And it comes from Him.

Jesus completely changed the way I saw Greek life. He’s the true artist who knows exactly what colors to use to paint a more accurate picture.

John 15:13 left me wrestling with this thought of true sisterhood and brotherhood for many weeks.  It reads, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Wow. Hard stuff. To lay one’s life down for a friend is sacrificial and draining — and it even presents a potential for rejection. Nevertheless, Jesus calls us to great heights as we continue in our relationship with Him and in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

For me, this meant loving my sisters as Jesus loves me, even when I didn’t feel like it. Sacrificial love is genuinely listening to a sister at 2 a.m., even though you have a Calculus test the next morning. It may be committing to the late Sunday Mass despite the fact that the brothers you’ve been inviting for weeks now still refuse to join you. Or maybe it’s just establishing a friendship with a person who’s your perfect opposite because you know they deserve friendship and love.

Are we willing to give anything for our fraternity brothers or sorority sisters? Do we look at others with the same gaze of love that Christ shares with us?

We should.

If we did, our lives would reflect Christ — and one by one, our secular culture would take a second look. Why? Because we live in a world that is looking for authentic friendship, passion and people who are pursuing holiness. They just need a painting to draw inspiration from.

Let’s prove our culture wrong and paint in bold strokes. Where they see partying, let us be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). Where they see people who are privileged, let us be like little children (Matthew 18:3). Where they see only a hookup culture, let us be courageous in living chastely (Colossians 3:5). Where they see money and status, let us live with humility (Ephesians 4:2). Where they see lust, let us exhibit sacrificial love (Mark 12:31).

How does this look practically? Here are a few ideas to start: 

  1. Stay humble of heart. We must evaluate the way we speak of ourselves and of others. The comments we make in reference to every aspect of our lives should be reflective of our full dependence on Christ and not rooted in pride or self-knowledge.
  2. Live simply. It’s easy in the Greek culture to be caught up in materialism. Let’s rid ourselves of the things in our lives that are unnecessary so that we can live in humility.
  3. Practice purity of heart. Turn to prayer (20 minutes a day) to bring you closer to true love, authentic friendship and purity. Treating our Greek brothers and sisters with respect and dignity will catch the attention of a very distracted culture.

If every Greek individual is convicted of this eternal perspective to love endlessly and give completely of themselves, every chapter on every campus will be transformed. Greek life, and the world beyond, will begin to notice the meaning of sacrificial friendship and of true brotherhood and sisterhood.

The day I ran to my sorority chapter was a day filled with hope for what my life could be like in this new family for the next four years. This hope became a reality because I did find lifelong friendships through Greek life. I was committed to living the core values of my own chapter. Our experience in Greek life has the opportunity to change our chapters — and even more so, change our culture. Jesus wants to radically transform Greek life, and it starts with us. It starts with you. Don’t be afraid to have hope.

Let’s strive to leave a legacy worthy of being remembered.

Erin Scanlan
Erin Scanlan
Erin is a third-year missionary serving as the Team Director at the University of Texas at Austin. She was born and raised a Texas girl before moving to New Mexico where her parents currently live. Erin graduated with degrees in Marketing and Management from Oklahoma State University where she was involved in the sorority of Pi Beta Phi. If not found watching or playing some sort of sport, Erin loves curling up with a good book, eating popcorn probably every other night of the week, and traveling the world. She has a twin sister, Fallon, who also serves as a FOCUS missionary (woah, yep, I know. crazy). Favorite Saint(s): St. John Paul II, St. Teresa of Avila & Mother Teresa

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