Finding out your brother is an atheist and you aren't the only one in your family. Awesome.
Finding out your brother was suicidal after coming to this realization. Awful.
Me and my siblings get along fairly well. Even with the sheltering thing from one, autism in another, and one who is very secretive. Of course, the one who is secretive (we'll call him *Andrew) was only that way because he felt like he couldn't be himself in our family. And he couldn't. When I was eighteen and nineteen, I was just then hitting my "teenage stage". I never even considered doing drugs or having sex. At that age though, Andrew began to live two lives. One was the perfect Christian kid who never did anything wrong and had the sweetest most virginal Christian girlfriend ever. Behind the scenes (most of this came to light years afterward) he was smoking weed among other various drugs, developing a cigarette addiction, sleeping with his girlfriend, cursing, hanging out with people who were definitely not Christian, and lying the entire time.
As his siblings, we were aware that there was more going on then Andrew was telling us. My parents bought the whole thing hook line and sinker. To be fair, they always did. He has always been an exceptionally good liar and my mom was especially fooled by them. My sister-in-law in an act of horrible privacy-invasion looked through my brothers phone and found tons of nude photos of his girlfriend. She freaked out and told everyone about it. My brother was angry at the intrusion, but unapologetic towards the pictures. At one point, despite vehement denials that he wasn't having sex with his girlfriend, I told him to please use protection. Please. I repeated this over and over until his shoulders finally sagged and he said that they always used protection. It makes me sad that my own religiosity, along with that of my family, was the reason he kept all of this so secret.
But I didn't know that within all of that, my little brother was also struggling with his faith too. When he let go of the notion of a god, he said he was confused, angry, and rudderless. He couldn't talk to most of his friends and family because we were all so super religious that he knew what the answers would be. This makes me feel a bit guilty. My brother needed me, but didn't feel comfortable talking to me. That's fucked up. Why did I live that way? Why was I more okay with being super judgmental Christian then I was a support system for the people I know and love? How many other friends and family have struggled with something and felt like they could never say anything because they feared my judgment?
My sister-in-law hates divorce. Doesn't matter how bad things are, in her infatalized Christ-addled brain, she believes that divorce is always bad and avoidable. Always. And so, when her friends come to her and are having marriage problems, she gives them the advice that any judgmental asshole would. Hang in there, doesn't matter how things are, God hates divorce, blah blah blah. Why anyone comes to her for advice is beyond me, but some still do. How many more of her friends need a shoulder to cry on, but can't go to her because they know how judgmental she will be? How many has she convinced to stay in toxic marriages? How many have contemplated suicide because that seemed like the only option out of a horrible marriage?
For the record, I am neither for nor against divorce, although I do have my own opinions. I think that if you are married, that should be treated with a good deal of gravity and you should do whatever you can to make that marriage work. I hate this, therapy-won't-work bullshit that people come up with. I hate how quickly some people throw in the towel. And I loathe the saying "we fell out of love", because I absolutely believe that love is an action and a choice and what you are saying is, you don't want to love that person anymore. In the same breath, I also understand that people get married for the wrong reasons. They have expectations their spouse can never live up to. People change. And there are also extremely abusive marriages that will eventually result in someone's death if they don't leave. No matter what my opinions are though, I rarely share that with anyone and especially don't share it with someone who is struggling in their marriage.
For me, the reason I acted like an ass was because my need to be right and righteous trumped my compassion and understanding. I liked being right and was assured in that rightness by the Bible. But I hurt people. I know I did. My own brother couldn't come to me when he began to have doubts. That is not a life I want to live. I want the people I love to know that they can talk to me about anything. I may not understand or always have the best advice, but I will listen. It is even possible I won't agree, but I will listen. I told a good friend yesterday that whenever she has a little extra money in their month, she needs to get therapy. She needs to do this before she gets pregnant and has a baby. "You need therapy in order to become the best mother you can be, because your mother was not what she should have been. And you need to get that sorted." I wasn't mean about it. I didn't say she was completely screwed up. I didn't try to offer some uneducated friend therapy. When another friend tells me about her on and off again boyfriend, I listen, try to offer a few relateable stories so she knows I feel her pain, and offer to hang out with her.
My best friend is currently a mopey mess because it turns out he didn't magically fall in love with his son when he was born. He is bitter, resentful toward his wife, hates being at home, hates taking care of the baby, and acts as if his life is over. It doesn't help that he and his wife refuse to go on any outings with the baby except to the grocery store. I don't agree with it. It bothers me greatly that this man is acting like a child and whining about his loss of freedom when he was part of this. Blaming his wife is also messed up since he was more than capable of saying no. But here is what I do instead of tell him what a baby he is being about the baby. I listen. I listen to him complain, I ask slightly-leading questions to make him think, I encourage him to do things with his wife AND child. And when he needs a break, he knows my house is always open, and he has used this respite numerous times. The reason I do this is complex. Practically, I know that when people are resentful and angry, they sometimes take it out on their child. I don't want to think that my best friend would ever abuse his child, but I am also aware that parents that don't like their child aren't exactly in their right mind. I also know that, even if this leads to a divorce, I still want him as my friend. Even if I don't agree. And I also know that sometimes people need a place to vent in order to deal with life. I provide him with a safe, non-judgmental place to do that. Mostly, I do this because he is my friend, I care about him, and don't wan to drive him away because I have some deep seeded need to be right. My sister-in-law has lost a lot of friend because of her attitude.
It's hard sometimes. I am an opinionated person. It bothers some people because I seem to have an opinion about everything. But I have learned over the years that if you want to maintain a solid friendship and want people to come to you when they are struggling, you keep your opinions to yourself. What they need is encouragement, support, and occasionally some hard truth, but what they don't need is your judgment.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.