What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest posts is by Natalie.

I used to believe in monsters. Until my brother became one. Three years ago, I got a call that my brother had been arrested for molesting his step-daughter. Certain there had been a mistake, I was obviously dumbfounded. Until he confessed. Through slurred words, drunken ramblings and tears that, yes, he had, and on more than one occasion. The arrest was just the very first drop in a roller coaster of emotion.

This event has single handedly shaken my world like nothing before it. It has transformed my family in a way I could have never imagined. Each of us in separate and different ways.

I’m happy to say I think it’s made me a better person. I know this may be hard for some people to reconcile but what I want people to know is there are no such things as monsters. I no longer believe in “bad” people. My message to my daughters (and yes, I have all girls and one is the same age as the victim) is there is no such thing as “bad guys.” There are good people who make bad choices.

Before you start to type your heated disagreement let me stress that I in no way condone or excuse my brother’s behavior nor any other kind of deviant, illegal behavior. My brother was the perpetrator in this instance not the victim. But I refuse to crucify him either. And that’s what I have really learned. Who am I to proclaim an individual, made in Christ’s image, a monster? How can I possibly know the many facets of one person? Can anyone of us be defined so narrowly? Would you want to be? It makes us feel safer to categorize and label others because we can distance ourselves, disassociate with our fellow human beings and relieve ourselves of the all-consuming question, “How could this happen?”

Can one do a monstrous thing? Clearly. We merely have to turn on the evening news to hear a barrage of examples. Prior to my experience, I would have listened to that litany of negativity we call news and literally passed judgement aloud based on each two-minute news story. I probably would have continued my role as judge and jury, until the person upheld for judgement was my brother.

My brother is my little brother. He is the one I played with on family camping trips. The one with whom I watched Goonies and E.T. repeatedly. The one who made us laugh with his renditions of Weird Al parodies. The one I held the first time a girl broke his heart. The one I cheered for on the football field. And he was also the hidden victim of sexual abuse by a neighbor. He self-loathed and self-medicated until he was a textbook alcoholic. And he made a self-serving decision that will cost him the next 20 years of his life.

The law is there to pass judgement for us. My brother chose an action that earned him his consequence. I don’t negate any of that. What I want you to know is the next time you are seated in front of the nightly news or the next time you see a “Save a deer, Shoot a Sex Offender” bumper sticker (yes, they exist) please try to remember the vast majority of these “monsters” were held as newborn babies by someone who loved them. Who wanted the world for them.

And then life happens. Any number of circumstances that they allowed to change the course of their path. And while these circumstances don’t excuse misconduct, remembering them as innocent children (which is how I imagine the Father sees all of us) makes it easier to empathize and perhaps even forgive. Which is what I believe each of us is called to do.

What I want you to know is that someday that “monster” may be your brother. Because what this has taught me for certain is, it always is.