Life’s Tough Lessons ~ A Personal Account

June 16, 2013

I have given this subject long hard consideration, for it is a personal one.   I wasn’t even sure if I should talk about it.  For a few days I have remained silent. I even threw out the question to my fellow writers on Conservative Fifty as to whether I should even keep writing given my present circumstances.  The more I thought about it my resolve seemed to set… wasn’t my very first post on Maine Conservative called “Silent No More”?  How can I sit back and be silent?

Some of you know and some of you may not have connected all the dots yet.  So here it is.  This past week my brother was arrested for a pretty heinous crime.  It’s been all over the media, social network sites, and internet.  This post is not about whether or not he is innocent or guilty.  I do not condone or give any excuses for what he is accused of doing.  I have no knowledge of the incident or any information as to his innocence or guilt.  I am however his sister.  I am not going to hide from that fact.  I realized this week that if I sit back and try to blend in with the background and hope no one realizes this fact would in essence be saying I am guilty by association.  I have nothing to hide.   As a wise friend encouraged me, he said “You are not your brother.”   I am not responsible for my brother’s choices in life.  I am responsible however for how I respond to them.

I have always tried to live a good and decent life.  I have always been careful about the choices I’ve made.  I have always lived by the creed of Personal Responsibility.  I live it and I expect others in my life to live by it as well.   What causes a person to do something that my brother was arrested for?  Brokenness. We all live with degrees of brokenness.  Some more than others.  That is why we need God so badly.  If my brother is found guilty, I fully expect and desire him to live with the consequences of his behavior.  I realized this week that no matter how many good choices I make in my life… to ensure my life is purposeful and happy…that my children’s life is happy, we cannot control what choices others around us make.  There is no way to fully protect ourselves from hardship and crisis.  This situation is teaching me many tough hard lessons.  It is causing me to reflect inwardly as well as outwardly and how I respond.

I am his sister but I am also a daughter and mother.  The sister in me is heartbroken but the daughter and mother in me has swiftly moved into protection mode.  I so desperately want to shield my parents from what is being said.   I have advised my mother to stay off of the internet and Facebook for a while.  It will only bring her more harm to see what people are saying.   The venom and hatefulness being poured out towards my brother is a pretty rancid pill to swallow.  I have cried and felt even anger over what some complete strangers have said and have insinuated about him.  I have wanted to respond to some of the comments but knew that making rash angry statements will only bring more harm to me and my family.  Thus it brings me to lesson #1 –  Judgment.

I have had to ask myself this question.  How many times have I read something or heard something and automatically rendered someone guilty even before I knew all the circumstances or evidence?   In America, aren’t we supposed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court of law?  By asking this question I am not trying to infer that my brother is innocent.  I am just honestly asking myself that question because I am personally living the tirade of “court of public opinion”.  I am living the other end of my own guilty behavior.  No one who lives a “good” life ever thinks they will find themselves in the situation I am currently living.  To quote someone’s comment from Facebook, she said, “It’s something that’s supposed to happen someplace else not in our neighboring town by someone who grew up here. . .it’s really sad.”  Exactly!  That is how we ALL feel, including myself, my parents, and my children.  Which brings me to lesson #2 – Our Words.

How many times, in all of my self righteous judgment of others, have I used harsh words to show my anger, bitterness, and disgust?   How many times have I publicly made statements or made personal attacks on someone without fully being aware of who may be witnessing?  I thought of this as I consoled my 13 year old daughter who was sobbing in my arms because of comments from “friends” made on Facebook towards her uncle.   We cannot shield our children from the world.  As much as I want to wrap my kids in bubble wrap and preserves their hearts from being tainted by this broken world we live in… I can’t.  The harsh reality is … just is… and my daughter and teenage son are facing it daily.   It is my job as their mother to teach them to remember this lesson, have them carry it with them into life, and use the knowledge as a guidepost for their own behavior and responses.  It reminds me of the time Jesus shielded the woman who was to be stoned for adultery.   He drew a line in the dirt and said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   You will find this passage in John 8.  It has given me much to reflect on.

Lesson #3 – Personal Responsibility.  This whole situation has driven home to my children that there are consequences, real life consequences, to our actions and poor choices in life.    I have always been a big enforcer of making my children accountable for their actions.  But seeing your Uncle in the news and in jail drives home that point more than any grounding or apologizing to a coach will ever do, I feel.  Not only that ~ but our actions affect others.  There is more than just one victim in this sad story… my niece and nephew, my parents, my children.  Those who commit crimes affect the lives of many people.  They not only hurt the victim and the victim’s family but the perpetrator’s family suffers greatly as well.

Lesson #4 – Forgiveness.  What am I to do about my brother?  I am not responsible for his actions but I am responsible for how I react and respond to them.  Should I shun him and disown him?  Treat him as the social outcast that the rest of the world has done?   Or do I follow my Heavenly Father’s example.  As I seek solace and strength from my personal relationship with God I am drawn to Ephesians 1:7.  It says “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”  God’s grace, what an amazing thing.  As I have said before, we are all broken.  Some more than others.  Some are further down the path to completeness than others.  As I compare my life’s path to my brother’s there is one major difference.  We grew up with the same parents, in the same house, living similar lives.  So how did we become so different?  GOD.  I understood early on that I was broken and needed God to enter my life and start the process to wholeness.  My brother chose a different path.  A path that didn’t include God.  Often when we choose our own way it leads us down a path of self destruction.  Some use alcohol to self medicate, others choose drugs, sex, food, money, others cling to bitterness, the list of vices goes on… but eventually the day of reckoning will come.   We must be accountable for our choices.  Our lives are a culmination of our choices.  We are culpable for them but God took that guilt for us to the cross and there is forgiveness for all of us… should we choose it.

As I look through my own eyes of brokenness, and view a broken world around me, I know without a doubt,  that no government program or psychiatrists couch can fix all the devastation and the effects of the devastation.  There are some things that only the power of God can fix and heal.  My brother is in some pretty big trouble.  I will be there – to be his big sister.   Should he be found guilty I believe he should pay for his crimes.   I, in the meantime, will be praying and teaching my kids to pray, that his heart will soften and let God enter to bring about redemption, healing, and wholeness.

~ Maria Armstrong Solorzano




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