This I Believe

Cristina - Mesa, Arizona
Entered on November 19, 2006

I believe we are all weak. I also believe that we will find our strengths within our perceived weaknesses. So often we shy away from facing our fears. We put up façade after façade in the hopes that we will somehow fool the world and have folks thinking we are faultless, wonderful human beings. Yet, we will never fool ourselves. Truth is we are scared, mean and ugly at times. We use our moments of human error as opportunities for judgment and self recrimination. We turn our self loathing into outward searches for others who may also represent what we so dislike in ourselves. We then focus our disdain upon those individuals who encompass our own faults. We see clearly in them what we run away from in ourselves. They are our mirrors. They serve as the scapegoat when looking within becomes too painful.

With that said, I believe our weaknesses are gateways to our strengths. Just facing them is cause for celebration, a stepping over the threshold so to speak. Our weak moments, our fears, our perceived ugliness…all these so called “negative” aspects of who we are serve as milestones by which we can gauge our growth. What is needed in the equation is our own spiritual fortitude and the willingness to stand in our weaknesses and be thankful for them.

My brother, Steven, died 11 years ago. His life was riddled with failure and fault. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and he served as my scapegoat. Oh, how I loved to judge him. I never tired of looking down my nose at him and I couldn’t understand why he would choose the route he did. I didn’t comprehend and for this reason I labeled him and put myself up on a pedestal. And then, the call came. He was found under a bridge, dead. He died a hobo’s death, by way of dehydration and environmental factors. My mind and soul were numb as I flew from my comfortable home in Colorado to Arizona, for his funeral. My judgments coursed through me, “He was too weak to beat his addictions.”, “He made his choice, no one forced him into this life”…and so on, and so on. These were the thoughts that kept me from really feeling anything, until my other brother, Richard, took me to where his body had been found. It was evident a body had been there. The numbness disappeared, to be replaced by an utter and profound sense of shame and sadness. That night, I locked myself away and for hours begged and prayed for forgiveness. That my own flesh and blood died in such a manner was horrible enough. But, knowing that in life I was one of many who put him down and degraded him, this was almost unbearable. That night, my brother became my guide. That night I realized who the stronger person was in all of this. Never did he judge me. He tried so many times to connect with me yet I would shrug him off as a nobody, a drug addict. He simply nodded his head and went on his way, taking in my cruelty without as much as a fight back. Forever peaceful he was with me even when I was at war with him.

Later I would learn of Steven’s gifts. I always knew he could draw and create. He had a knack for building things. But, I didn’t know he could write. His work is amazing to read. There were few things we could save, his possessions were meager. Yet, his was a rich being indeed. His depth as a human being was profound. And oh, how he’s taught me. I made a decision the night I battled my shame over how I mistreated him. Never again would I write another human being off. That night I realized just how weak I had been all those years growing up and I came to terms with my own ugliness. I faced myself full on and saw clearly that in all that time, my brother had been my gentle scapegoat. I saw so clearly in him what was coursing through my own soul’s veins and I took out my disparagement without mercy.

My brother gifted me with a legacy I must carry on to my own children. I do so with honor. I know I have much more work ahead. I forget sometimes and catch myself judging others. My forgetfulness never lasts for long, however, as though my brother were in my ear reminding me to face myself and stand within my own weaknesses. Each day I grow stronger as my weaknesses present themselves to me. I find myself cherishing them, loving the humanity they represent and the opportunity they offer me to grow, realize all that I truly am. Because of my brother Steven, I have realized that my weaknesses can serve as entryways into amazing strengths and amazing opportunities. Because of my brother, this I believe.