I am generally a pretty optimistic guy, I think. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I prefer to focus on how things can become rather than on how terrible they may be now. I prefer to try to understand where someone is coming from and their motivations, talking with them one-on-one rather than publicly calling them out for their blatant hypocrisy or endangerment of others.
But for a while now, I have been fighting a bitterness that tries to creep in as I've learned things about people I once trusted, or at least wanted to, or how deceived most people are about where someone really is at, and how that can affect people's perceptions and understanding of homosexuality in general. I'm floored at how compartmentalized so many keep their lives, how bent on maintaining images they are. I've lost respect for people I once loved because I see them consistently making decisions that are clearly not leading to what they claim to want or believe, and I see them deceiving themselves as well as others. It's sad, but I have to stop caring for my own sanity. But then, not caring seems to open a door for bitterness and resentment.
And then there's the recognition that others may have thought the same of me at some point, and I've been grateful for those who kept an arm extended for me when I eventually realized my own folly, if they were correct. And I may be wrong to be upset. I may be ignoring the beam in my own eye. I may be losing sight of what it means to love someone, warts and all, because I'm defensively caught up in how their actions may threaten my well-being and people's perceptions of me or others. I'm easily bothered by proliferation of false information and perceptions, so that certainly comes into play. But then, isn't it fair to be upset about most of this?
Part of the resentment is that I, because of the shift in my beliefs, am seen as dangerous or as fallen, while the smiley BYU boys who look like your all-American wholesome good ol' boys are screwing each other right and left but praised and held up as heroes because they're "trying" to live the gospel. It's ridiculous, from an outsider's perspective. You can get away with anything, with maybe a slap on the wrist, as long as your heart's in the right place and you claim to believe the right things. But then, isn't it a positive move for the church, away from Pharisaical, rules-based punishment to a focus on the desires of the heart? Isn't that more Christlike? Shouldn't I be happy? I try to be. But it's hard. I'm trying to get over the "woe is me" resentment born of losing a community, being a guy with no cheerleaders, nobody telling him he's doing the right thing because there's no community groupthink or institutional definitions of what anyone is supposed to be doing for someone in my position. I'm on my own, except for the few individuals I've met who are similarly forging out on their own, with slightly different motives and values but a common respect for finding one's own way. I believe I'm loved and appreciated individually even by many in the community I left, but I'm also an outcast of sorts, no matter where I go, despite my life being more consistent with my stated beliefs and values than just about any BYU poster boy I've known. So I acknowledge quite openly this possible source of anger.
I guess I'd have less trouble with it if I thought the church members cheering these guys on knew half of what they've been up to. If they had told their bishops about their sexual escapades and gotten into BYU anyway, I could accept that.
I could accept these guys saying they're grateful for their families' unconditional love and support if they had given their families a chance to make it unconditional, if they hadn't told me that their family doesn't know about their behaviors and doubts.
I'd have more sympathy for a guy who says he's trying to keep his relationships "appropriate" if some hadn't uncomfortably forcefully attempted to make out with me after I said we really shouldn't, and I didn't want to.
But I know too many who have kept their behaviors and thoughts hidden, all while letting everyone think they're "doing so well".
Their ecclesiastical leaders don't know what they've done because, hey, if the bishop doesn't ask, he doesn't need to know, and what a "struggler" believes and is striving for is more important than what they've been doing. They seem to think a month or two of abstinence proves their intent. I call bullcrap. Forget lip service, show me your conviction in action.
I see guys going to the temple who clearly couldn't if they were honest in their interviews. But if the church isn't what it claims to be, anyway, what does it matter whether they're worthy in the church's eyes? They don't offer any consideration for respect for the beliefs of those who regard that place as holy and the rites as a sacred experience. It's a lie one tells oneself to quell guilt and to save face. I'm calling a spade a spade. You chose comfort over integrity.
Yes, I'm pissed. Truth be told, though, I'm thoroughly livid at and disgusted by only a couple of people, and painfully disappointed in a couple more. This is more about a collective, cumulative emotional response, probably. It's less about refusing to believe people are flawed and more about the frustration of hearing yet another person say, "I really respect So-and-so, he has his act together," when I know fully well he does not, or hearing about yet another couple of guys in a support group fooling around with each other but not telling anyone else in the support group, lest they should be censured or expelled, which then permits quite a nasty interwoven web of escapades before anyone wises up to what's been going on. It's about sitting quietly by after having experienced something with someone but respecting their privacy by not spreading word about what happened, and then finding out they've done the same thing with numerous others who could have been warned if a predator hadn't been protected by secrecy. It's about watching guys I respect and would love to treat right entering social circles where I can be pretty sure they'll be lulled into a sense of security by other "faithful" LDS guys who will have their way with him or use him and lose him, when I think he's worth so much more than that. I recognize that those are the risks in any group, and it takes two to tango, but I want to warn people not to be lulled into that false security just because someone's active at church and has a temple recommend.
These aren't feelings I like to have about people, and I'm trying to work through it all and recognize that some people have felt similarly about me at times, whether or not I deserved it. I probably did deserve it at times, but they probably were suffering from self-pity or resentment other times. I may be going through some of that. I try to love regardless. I suppose I wouldn't care about someone's hypocrisy or destructively duplicitous behavior if I didn't care about him, as well as the people he's interacting with or deceiving.
To those of you who can't seem to keep it in your pants but claim to believe you're supposed to, shut up and be a man by taking ownership of your decisions and exercising some self restraint. Nobody but you is going to keep you from temptation, so stop blaming the people you're around: you choose to be around them knowing fully well what they're about. Or acknowledge you don't really believe what you think you're supposed to. You're not the only one with a sexual appetite, and you're not the only one who's conflicted, so quit with these pathetic whines or excuses about how "weak" you are or how you just "end up" in situations where it's hard to control yourself. We all do that from time to time, but some of us man up and acknowledge we put ourselves in those situations by choosing not to avoid them when we knew what was coming. If you're not going to LEARN from your past, admit that you don't want to. Admit that you don't believe you need to. But quit with this act of "I know what I want". Your actions prove otherwise! Just stop using the atonement as a crutch for your lust for animalistic pleasure-seeking. Talk about taking the name of God in vain. Grow a pair, man.
To those of you who find it so important to be "seen" as a "good guy", maybe you should try being the guy you think you're supposed to be, and if you can't or won't, admit that you're either lying to everyone including yourself about what you really think is right, or you're too lazy to figure out how to change your behaviors. Either change to be the man you want to be, or admit that you're lying to yourself about why you're doing what you're doing, admit that it's all for appearances. Admit that you don't know what your identity is. No, you don't have to be perfect, and yes, it's good to strive for more and try to be better than you are today, but stop pretending you're already there as if you're doing it for anyone but yourself. Own up to where you are now, even while saying you hope to be better tomorrow. I understand how hard it can be to admit you're not as "together" as people want to believe. I fully understand the temptation of believing there's no harm in motivating people by letting them think you're better than you are because people need examples to strive for. I also don't believe your personal life is everyone's business. But a simple, "Hey, believe me, I have my own issues and do some stupid things, so don't think I'm all figured out and together," is often enough to keep someone from comparing themselves or a loved one detrimentally to a false perception of what you are.
But having gotten all of that off of my chest, I turn now to the only thing I can control: my own response and reaction. I don't know quite how to direct my anger. The people I'm most angry with aren't worth talking to about it, nor have they responded well in the past to such lines of questioning. I have felt some bitterness for the religious cultural community which seems to breed this kind of neurotic need for plastic perfection. But that's not productive, either, and I believe that same culture has a lot of positive within it as well, so I'd rather fully acknowledge the bad while refusing to allow it to taint the good, as I also try to do with individuals. I've thought of just running from everyone associated with the cultural sicknesses I see, but to truly get away, I'd have to alienate myself from people I do care about and want in my life, and let's be honest, cultural ills are not exclusive to this one organization or situation. So I opt for facing it and dealing with it. I've dealt with these kinds of feelings before, and I've come to a place of relative peace with them, working through it and coming out of it with a more patient perspective. But this has been a tough one for me. I'm struggling, partially because I keep learning about what's been going on behind the scenes that I didn't know about before. If I didn't have a handful of friends who are honest about where they are and are actually quite successful at living what they believe, I'd think there wasn't a healthy or honest moho in the church. I do know there are some, and I'm grateful for that.
I guess I'm just trying to process it all without being judgmental and petty or letting hatred and pain creep in too much. Most of the time, it's not a big deal, and focusing on the people I know who have integrity and the love I feel even for those who I think are deceptive helps. I try to see them as a family member, someone I hope for rather than give up on. But sometimes, like today, I just lose the strength and energy to pretend I'm not angry and hurt and have to direct that somehow. Any suggestions?
Note: please see my follow-up post, "Showing forth afterwards..."
And for a related post, see "As long as you put 'it' in the right place."