I got tattoosIt was a long time ago, but the memory still gives me a chuckle. It was a reminder of the insecurities and the thought process of fools… and as the old song says, “Everybody Plays The Fool.”

He was smack in the middle of his two brothers in age and size. A tough family, one that would be considered to be from “the wrong side of the tracks.” All three brothers were rough and tumble construction workers. The oldest brother was a very short guy with a nasty disposition… He was the only brother to own a house and he mowed his yard with a 357 strapped to his hip.

The youngest brother, the most handsome of the brothers, was big, over six-foot tall and built like a linebacker. Like many of us in those days and especially that profession, being tough was a prerequisite and paramount, at least the way we viewed life at the time.

The brothers were scrappers, well the oldest and the youngest, the middle brother was the kind of guy that wanted people to fear him, and would play the role of the fearless tough guy with nothing to lose, even though the middle brother had more of the type of chest and body that resembled the skinny kid who got sand kicked in his face in the Charles Atlas cartoon advertisement.

The middle brother would hold his arms out to the sides, looking like he had cactus in his armpits,  trying to look wider than he really was. He sported the semi-long, greasy hairstyle held out of his face by his ears that he used cleverly to hold the hair, much like fancy drapes are swagged from windows.

His cracked front tooth, even though not from fighting, looked like it was, so he used it like a pirate does gold. To finish off the ensemble, the middle brother had tattoos inked up and down his arms, this in a day when only bikers, ex-cons, and inmates wore that much ink.

The middle brother was out with his crew minus his brothers when trouble began… and trouble was and is always inevitable in the blue-collar bars where alcohol is added to bad attitudes. The middle brother played his standard poker hand when an unmarked and clean-shaven fellow called his bluff.

The middle brother huffed and he puffed as if he were going to blow a house down, but the challenge to show his hand outside the bar stood… Yup, the middle brother folded. He really didn’t like to fight… he just wanted everyone to think he did.

The best and most telling part of the story, the part that still brings me amusement is that he told his crew in utter disbelief, “But I got tattoos!” The middle brother desperately wanted to look like a man to be feared to achieve the respect that so desperately alluded him.

Although most of us wouldn’t be so blatant with our actions or admissions, I think many of us still want to portray a certain “look” so that the world will believe us to be in a specific category, the one we want to be part of. I wonder what Jesus wore, or how His disciples, who were also from a blue-collar background, before the days of collars, dressed?

The story of the middle brother reminds me that rarely can you judge a book by its cover… and even if we do, we still can’t read the heart… or hearts… and life isn’t a game of poker… so there’s no need to bluff…