I lost a relationship with someone dear to me because something about the Evergreen Conference persuaded him to take a divergent path which necessarily excluded me because we were dating steadily. He went because of me. He wasn't going to go to the conference, even though a loved one of his said they were going and wanted him to go with them. I would rather lose him to other philosophies than keep him out of total ignorance of them, so I told him so and suggested that it is better to have been there, to have heard the things said and have a personal response to them, than to refuse to even hear them, especially when discussing the ideas with his loved one. He agreed with that idea and decided to go.
I had reason to believe he was confident in his decision to date me and was quite comfortably and confidently on a different path than Evergreen taught. I knew certain people close to him, including the one going to the conference, were already suspicious of me as an influence in his life, which is why I told him I was going to hang back and not be in touch for the two days of the conference so as to not interfere and let him just soak it in and process it initially without my skeptical influence. I figured he'd have some questions, some ah-ha moments as I had, and have felt some tinge of desire to try the Evergreen way: working towards a temple marriage with a woman in a therapy- and gospel-centered way. I figured we'd talk about it, and he'd talk about it with his loved one, and he'd sort a few things out.
I was wrong. We said goodbye over the phone the night the Conference ended. That was it. No questions. No thoughts to bounce around. No more openness. Commitment of the sort Evergreen teaches often requires cutting out influences which don't fully support it and closing one's ears to contrary arguments because those distract from the goals. If you're going to commit, you must eliminate distractions and commit 100%, and immediately, while the resolve is fresh, like an alcoholic cleansing his house of all triggers and substances before he starts to rationalize keeping that one bottle just in case... Maybe I should have known. Maybe I suspected but didn't want to face it.
Maybe I should stop trying to articulate both sides of every issue and start trying to persuade people more. While I am trying so carefully to allow each person their autonomy by sharing my thoughts, as asked, while acknowledging opposing views and without trying to persuade them (especially when I see they are impressionable), I know the folks at Evergreen or Affirmation or political activist organizations are not going to be so gentle with them but will instead insist, testify, and persuade with all the fervor they have. And they will tell them that in order to make a change, you must surround yourself with the right influences and eliminate the destructive or wishy-washy ones. As such, they are at war, and it's only a matter of who gets to people first and demands the most discipleship, surrounds them with the most community and social support or shelter, gives them the greatest sense of mission and purpose, or exercises the most dominion and social sanctions for non-compliance.
Meanwhile, the quiet, measured, rationally moderate voices encouraging critical exploration of both sides are lost in the din and posturing of would-be mentors and saviors, all of whom believe their cause to be the righteous, correct, joy-offering cause, and all of whom can reasonably claim that to make effective changes, one must make hard decisions and commit to a process of some sort. Sometimes, the would-be mentors maintain a quieter profile, not loudly shouting on street corners but nonetheless using persuasive rhetoric in quiet conversations, based on their conviction of paths they believe are correct. You can hardly fault someone for sharing what's made them happy with those who seem interested, even when those people take away someone dear to you...but that doesn't stop me from feeling a marked tension with such friends.
I'm tired of feeling like I have to either join the more polarized ranks or have people I care about led away by them. I guess I want to be with someone who has seen both sides, who has listened to people from Evergreen, Sunstone, Affirmation, the Gay Christian Network, etc and opted for a moderate, personally-determined course while maintaining judeo-christian values and principles without the need for institutional or social approbation. Good luck, right? Maybe I want someone like that in the way conflicted, misbehaving LDS boys want friends who "know what they want" and are committed to church living: to find in someone else what I secretly am afraid I can't be, myself. Maybe. But I just think it has more to do with wanting something sustainable.
And hey, maybe one such organization seeking souls to save is right, and I'm just the wishy washy appeaser, a mere pawn or distraction in the raging war between good and evil, right and wrong, wallowing in indecision and unmanly, lukewarm non-conviction. Damn it, there I go giving benefit of the doubt. But I'll tell you this much: it was much easier and cozier (and empowering) thinking I was fighting on "the right side" with my clan of like-minded. It has taken a whole lot of conviction, perseverance, strength, and courage to be this non-polarized and...apparently standing alone.
In this case, I knew I had an opportunity to poo-poo Evergreen, to expound on everything I heard and saw at the conferences I went to with which I disagree, stroked his ego to reassure him that he is an adult and doesn't have to bend to anyone's insistence that he go to some conference, to keep him from ideas I believe are, more often than not, half-truths and glossy whitewashes which are excused because the path they promote is the "righteous" one. I saw a possible opportunity to pull him closer to me and defend him from his loved ones. But if I were to be with someone, I'd want to be part of their circles of loved ones, too, and I knew how important his friends and family are to him, and I couldn't bring myself to selfishly seek my own happiness at the expense of his personal growth and truth-seeking, and I deeply cared about him and wanted him to have the confidence of knowing he was freely choosing his path in an informed way. I do wonder why it was so important to me that he specifically listen to Evergreen but not important if he never went to Affirmation or was a member of North Star, etc. Maybe I perceived that he might be susceptible to Evergreen's rhetoric and was afraid of losing him to it at some point and wanted to save myself the pain further down the road by getting to it now. Either way, I chose principles or truth (as I see it) over comfort, even though I knew very well it could end up hurting me a great deal, and I would do it again, and I hope to always do that.
Yet I feel almost dirty when friends who believe he made the right choice to call things off with me tell me that's something they really respect about me. I know in my mind it shouldn't bother me, but it does. And I just wonder how many times I'm going to shoot myself in the foot or have my efforts to "seek truth" backfire, in a way, and cause me pain (hopefully not partially out of some drive to be a martyr, a thought which has crossed my mind but which I don't think is more than a possible, small factor), or if/when I'll cave and start combating persuasion with persuasion more often.