Who can tell why men choose a certain course in life.
| Did both of the brothers choose to be drunkards and barroom brawlers, or were they fated to be such? That is a good and heavy question. In any case, it certainly became a way of life that the both of them learned to live and accept as their norm, and that, much to the long-suffering love and patience that only a mother can have for the children of her womb.
I will relate certain events to you, as I was a personal - if not reluctant - witness, having been the family pastor for several years. I can recall any number of late nights when our Border Collie would alert us to knocks on the door. As I awoke from my sleep wondering who could be knocking at such an hour, I could only imagine that there was a serious problem. But, rather than a serious problem, it was a most familiar problem. For there in the dim glow of a porch light stood a disheveled and somewhat unsteady familiar figure appearing somewhat worse for wear. After asking slightly sheepishly if we could talk we walked across to the church, and, as I had done many times before, I listened as this young man, looking much older than his years, bemoaned the state of his life with tearful promises to change. As I have said, I had been in this same place many times before and had heard the very same penitent promises. And, like on those well-recalled occasions, my confidence in his trance-like resolve was wholly lacking. One of my most vivid memories is when one of the brothers arrived at his father’s funeral intoxicated. To be sure, alcoholism is a respecter of no man or family.
I have often wondered about the lives of these young men, and of the choices they made in life. What was it that enticed them to a life of drinking and violence? And what makes such a question even more interesting is that there was an unmentioned third brother. I was closest to him and his family. He was, what is commonly called, a straight arrow. He held down a well-paying career, lived in a beautiful home, took care of his mother, and had beautiful daughters that fared well. He was as much the opposite of his brothers as it was possible to be. So, what was it that made the difference between his choices and theirs? At first, there may seem to be no reasonable explanation, that is, until you know just a bit more. To me, that bit more is the fact that the father - who I liked very much - had been bedeviled by the drink for many years. And, of course, statistics do tell us that those who have a parent or sibling with a drinking problem are three times more likely to develop the same problem. Sometimes, for what appears to be no reasonable explanation, members of alcoholic families are skipped over, and saved from the family curse, as it were. My own father and his brothers were heavy drinkers. My parent's divorce when I was nine, was, in no small part, due to my father’s heavy drinking. And me, I don’t drink at all. It is sometimes strange how life goes.
It would seem as though we are live streaming the violence of society and the world into our homes each day. Maybe that is exactly what we are doing. And, in spite of any protest we might raise, we still continue to watch and listen. We seem to have some strange love/hate relationship with violence. And while you ponder that most unusual dichotomy, consider the fact that we seem surrounded by violent people. This prevalence of potential violence is why you are seeing for the first time since the old West, people walking around wearing a sidearm. And, given the number of random murders and home invasions occurring every day, do you really blame people for giving themselves a fighting chance? You may be one who believes that guns are the problem. They’re a problem alright, but for the victim, not the killer. We are living in one hell of a world. And, though the birds may fly above you, you don’t have to let them build a nest on your head.
The fact is, there are many people out there who live rough and violent lives. I don’t know why they choose to live the way they do, they just do. It could be that it is all they know. I am not a doctor or expert in the field of sociology. But, I was a pastor for thirty years, and if there is one thing I do know, it’s people. I am of the firm conviction that, generally speaking, people live their lives as they have been taught to live them. Whether it is by a parent or some other caregiver, children learn life’s lessons by what they observe and what they are told. I have no doubt that you can remember something your mother or father told you when you were very young and you haven’t forgotten it to this day. The common saying, “it’s as plain as the nose on your face” is quite appropriate in our discussion because it is that plain, and more so. If a boy is subjected throughout his life to seeing his father abuse his mother, the tragic result could well be that he will also have a low opinion of and abuse the women in his own life. Violence most often gives birth to violence, and the child of that birth may often be much worse than the parent. Children, after all, are adults in miniature. When looking at a young boy, you may well be looking upon the father in miniature. Of course, we all understand that children absorb the world around them - good and bad. Sociologist and psychiatrist are becoming most adroit in their ability to determine the next budding generation of serial killers long before they become adults. And, while such science is not exact in its prognostications, it can often be chillingly accurate.
Drunkenness, fighting, abusive and uncouth behavior, and the constant spew of fetid and vicious language are all acts of violence against our society and culture. We live within and breathe this acrid air every day of our lives. It is a world in which some seem to thrive. I can only hope that we do not become too acclimated and beyond caring or striving for better.
THE ANGRY PEOPLE
Of course, anger and violence often walk hand. If you confront a violent person you are probably also dealing with an angry person. It is true, however, that violence does not need anger to function. Be that as it may, anger is constantly swirling around us. If you were to take a large sampling of society and place them in some type of therapy, you would probably find that most were dealing with anger issues of one type or another. This would not be surprising, and it should not be considered something exclusive to our times. This anger has always been a part of being human, and it is not always a bad thing. Some anger is perfectly appropriate under certain circumstances. However, much of the anger we are witnessing today is in no way appropriate and is completely out of control. If it was possible for people to spontaneously explode with anger, people would be exploding all over the place. They wouldn’t need to strap a bomb to their chest. Just say or do what they perceive as wrong and they go off. These days, people will kill you for playing your music too loud, or cutting them off in traffic. They will fight you over the latest must-have toy in the melee that is Black Friday. Many people have absolutely lost their minds. The stresses of life have turned them into vicious thugs looking for a victim upon which to vent their rage.
What has become of us? And I don’t need to speak in terms of the world, but just in these United States. It seems as though our people have gone mad, and it’s getting worse. Our people are afraid, and that fear has exacerbated their anger. You would think that many are not even sure at what they are angry, but they do have a definite sense that something is wrong. It is that very awareness of uncertainty that angers many as they look for someone to blame. And, if it hasn’t already begun to happen, a scapegoat will soon be found and history will repeat itself.
WHAT LIFE WILL YOU CHOOSE?
So, how will you choose to live your life? It is true that you may have a predisposition toward a certain behavior, but it is not carved in stone that you must live that way. I could have easily followed the siren call of drink as did my father and his brothers, but I chose another path. That is not to say that I turned out faultless. No, I made my own mistakes, and some were similar to his as far as I know.
But none of us must choose to follow some script, as though our choices have already been made for us. Don’t run headlong toward the precipice because you have been led to believe that you don’t have a choice. Use some good old common sense and think for yourself. A man must not feel that he must prove his manhood by challenging others for the slightest affront. We all know that there was a time when men did that very thing, and many men died for insults of an infantile nature. But manhood is not proven by the number of punches on your fight club card. Also, exhaling foul language as you do carbon dioxide only reveals a severely limited vocabulary, and that is true of both men and women. Hitting women doesn’t make you a big man, but it does make you a small coward. And mothers, choosing to slap your children around in the middle of Walmart doesn’t make you a firm disciplinarian, it just makes you an abusive bully.
Finally, be a man or woman with principals. If you have a family, defend them, and any others who can’t defend themselves. Do your very best to use intelligence and self-control in all of your dealings with others. If you have to defend yourself, make sure there is no other way out. Stand for something, and teach your children to do the same. Educate yourself as much as you can. Fill your life with books that will teach you the history of men - what they did right and wrong. Choose to live a life so that your eulogizer won’t have to lie.