"Reproving betimes with sharpness...then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy..." - Doctrine & Covenants 121: 43
I always liked this passage. I've tried to live it, not in the "I just abused you and raked you over the coals and will now pretend I care about you to manipulate you into believing I'm a good guy" way, but in the "I meant what I said, but I don't want my 'sharpness' to come across as hatred or destructive criticism. I understand there's likely more to the story than I see, and I want you to know that even with my belief that your behaviors are a problem, I care about you and want you to know that I'm supportive of your positive efforts, willing to talk through it with you, and recognize that you have great traits and qualities" way. My previous post wasn't directed at or referring to any one person, but I want to post a follow-up along this vein.
I posted what I did not to expose or harp on anyone. Had that been the case, I would've given specifics, or I would've done it when I first wanted to, a couple of years ago. I did have a few individuals in mind while writing it, but it's also something I've seen repeatedly over many years, and it's often like an elephant in the room. Nobody wants to call anyone out because we all know we have faults and can't possibly understand fully where anyone is coming from, and we all know that as soon as we cry "hypocrite", we're going to become one in some way and eat our words. The secret behavior or double lives I see often cause a lot of unnecessary pain and sorrow, and I think the consequences need to be understood, but my post also was an exploration of what I'm thinking and feeling around something that has brought me a lot of personal pain and confusion, and I genuinely wanted input on how to resist the bitterness or how to maintain perspective because I believe bitterness will only cloud my judgment and overshadow the love I have for those involved.
After all, some of the guys engaged in this kind of behavior haven't seemed, at least, to realize the consequences of what they do, and I don't think they're malicious. I'm sure the same goes for me with certain things I've done or am doing. I've done things I regret that hurt other people, and even though hurting someone wasn't my intent, I was glad when someone helped me understand what consequences my actions had or nudged me out of complacency or inconsistency, even if it was uncomfortable, so I could keep those things in mind in the future. But I acknowledge that love or concern for them was probably not my main motivation for writing what I did. It had to do more with concern for those affected or who might be in the future if they're not on watch, and to seek advice. I may have left too negative a tone in it, but I'd been holding those thoughts in for a couple of years now, and I finally posted it, for better or for worse.
I wrote from a very frustrated, angry, hurt place, to be sure. Part of me feels a very deep-seated anger and distrust from being personally lied to, misled, or what I perceive as used, and from resentment for being judged for my beliefs while those who say the right things seem to get a free pass while making contradictory decisions, and from wishing church members had a clearer picture of what "the struggle" is really all about, and from the trail of hurt I've discovered while talking to others who have had similar experiences and wanting to stop the people who seem to leave such trails. But however many woe-is-me or hero-complex reasons I may have to be angry or upset, I have to let go of it, and I can't shake the fact that when I really think about it, what I most want is to believe such guys don't mean to hurt people, to believe they're the good guys I've hoped they are and which they seem to be in so many ways.
And I know being a wounded victim isn't productive. I try to own my part. I trusted too much too soon, or I set myself up, or I read too much into someone's actions, or I expected more of someone than they were able or willing to offer, or I chose to give in to temptation when I knew it probably wasn't a good idea, or...a lot of things. That's my fault, not theirs. So some of it just comes down to personal differences and my own unwise decisions. And for each case where someone was hurt, there's probably some of that, and it can't all be placed on the common person.
I also want to make clear that I know that even if certain behaviors are hurtful, that doesn't necessarily mean they were meant to be. I suspect--or at least hope--that some guys would feel remorse if they truly understood how their actions have affected others, that they'd be less cavalier about their behavior and would recognize the damage caused and the urgent need to avoid repeating certain patterns. I think they'd be surprised if they'd listened in as I've talked with those they've left in their wake who were hurt or felt abused but try to downplay it, or they'd be dismayed to see the other incidental effects and damage to the credibility of the church or other organizations they are associated with. I've been there. They probably don't see the consequences they're accumulating in their own lives, either, and especially in a closed community, it often comes back to bite you. As hurt as I may get, I'm not so vengeful that I want to see them entangled in their own web.
MOST OF ALL, PLEASE don't let mine or anyone else's rantings make you feel unloved or unsupported in trying to make better decisions or be who you want to be. As I thought about some hypothetical guy reading this who has been caught in a cycle of unhealthy behaviors and relationships, who doesn't know how to change but genuinely wants to, who feels trapped between a rock and a hard place between beliefs and desires, I wondered if such a guy out there might be tempted to throw in the towel if this is how people feel about him and stop trying. Don't. That's not what this is about. I am certainly not saying you're useless, or a lost cause, or should just be a whore and abandon your beliefs, or anything of the sort. I know some of you are trying to remain positive about your foibles or "slip-ups" and trying not to get dragged down by guilt and self-punishment but trying to just move on with renewed vigor each time you fall. I'm not trying to rub your face in the mud. I do think each of us should search our soul more deeply if we keep doing the same things at the risk of others' emotions and health and our own welfare and reputation, but I certainly agree that when someone does "slip up", they should get right back up and carry on while taking the time to learn from it if their goal is genuinely to never repeat it. If they don't actually have that goal, then they should admit it. I think we all are capable of living honestly and with increasing authenticity and need to face the reality of the ripple effects of the decisions we make and the masks we wear. I also know that process takes time, and I'm still learning, and I know I'm just as imperfect as anyone, and chances are you're a really good guy in so many ways, and I'd more often rather comfort you (if you needed it and I thought it'd do any good) and learn from you than scold you and preach at you.
If any of you think you're one of the people I'm talking about and want to know where I'm coming from and want to clarify where you're coming from, please contact me. We can talk about it. I'd actually like to, if you're open to having a real conversation about it. I'll try not to bite if you'll promise the same.