20 September 2010

Backfiring Principles

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.


Gay Saint said...

I think you made the right choice. You DO want someone who has weighed both options, and has made a solid choice to be who they honestly need to be; someone who can do the best they can do with what they have been given, and chooses you. If you HAD held him back, that could have backfired. Now, who do you think he'll come back to when he realizes it is all a facade?

It was one conference - he still hasn't seen the ugly side of things: the propositions from "changed men, the lying and cheating in order to woe a spouse. He'll still have to fight through doing something he knows is immoral ("tricking" a poor innocent daughter of God into marrying him while knowing they both deserve better) if he's even strong enough to honestly consider this path.

And when he realizes - hopefully sooner rather than later - he'll know he can come back to you. Maybe it won't be the same relationship it was before, but he'll know that you are someone who can see both sides, who is fair and trustworthy. Had you burned those bridges, he wouldn't be able to say those things about you.

Maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing for you to be more persuasive. I think knowing both sides of the arguments and having reasons for choosing the position you did, allows you to BE more persuasive. You can be persuasive from an honest place, and prove your assumptions with your experience.

That said, I am so sorry for your loss. A dissovling relationship is never easy regardless of the reasons - and this reason just adds a twist to the knife.

Original Mohomie said...

Gay Saint, welcome...not sure I know you, but thanks for commenting.

1. I expect our goodbye was quite permanent and that he will not be coming back, for various reasons, even though until the conference, things were going really well between us, as far as I knew.

2. I think a big factor was that he realized marrying a woman wouldn't have to be the awful, deceptive thing so many make it out to be. I had said that, but I'd bet hearing from spouses who are apparently happy in their marriages (even though they've had some pretty big troubles along the way) was an eye-opener, as I think it is for most who actually attend or talk to them. There are people who have entered their marriages very honestly and openly, and even though they're taking on inherent issues on top of those of any marriage, they both still can choose whether the risks are worth it.

3. I actually do think I will be more assertive in my views in the future. If I could do one thing differently, I might have had more conversations with him about the things which are discussed at Evergreen Conferences, so it was less new and more nuanced when he heard it. BUT for all I know, he had a singular, spiritual experience which "changed his heart", and at that point, what could I have even done about that? No mere mortal can combat a supposedly divine experience. *shrug*

blj1224 said...

Only time will tell if he did the right thing for himself. He has a very hard, long road ahead, and his odds for success aren't great. It's foolish for anyone to know at this point if he did the right thing, and he may not stay on the path he's now chosen.

You, on the other hand, did the right thing in not trying to influence him, even though it resulted in so much personal pain for you. You want someone to commit to you with eyes fully open, knowing the choices, and choosing you.

Please don't allow anyone to make you feel dirty. You're an exceptionally kind, loving, honest, selfless, sincere man. You may not know that God exists, but I know He loves you.

Max Power said...

Wait ... you were dating a boy? For real? Good job! You should email me on Facebook and give me the details. :)

Daniel said...

"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."

It sounds to me like you want to date yourself. You want someone who has carefully considered both sides of mo and ho and found the same balance between the two that you have. I think that is a little unfair. Would it be so bad to find someone who wasn't as formerly conflicted as you?

Original Mohomie said...

Daniel, I've thought about that. I think my main reason is that as I've met guys who simply left the church when they were 13 or who aren't LDS or whatever, and I've discovered I don't respect their seemingly casual dismissal of beliefs to pursue what felt good. Maybe I'm proudly thinking only reasons like mine are valid, but for now, I just struggle with that perspective. It just seems like they think they've written off Evergreen or church-faithfulness, but I find that what they've written off is only their woefully incomplete or inaccurate (in my view) perceptions of them, and I'm a little afraid that one of two things is true:

a) They would be shaken if they actually learned that Evergreeners aren't all crazies and weirdos and might do exactly what the guy I was dating did if they went to a conference themselves.

b) I find that most gay men are glaringly ignorant of the rationale of those who stay in the church or are conflicted and are actually fairly bigoted towards them, mocking them as if they're irrationally self-loathing nutjobs. I guess I feel partially like they're mocking me three or four years ago, and I don't think I was deserving of such mockery, nor are my friends I care about. A few guys have softened their language or views when I've explained a few things to them, saying they've "never thought of it that way before", but they tend to go back to their derisive views before long, and I'm tired of explaining this stuff and having it dismissed. I just don't know if I could be with such a person just like I've never liked being around mohos who dismissively mocked gay guys who are..."being gay".

So no, I don't know that I need someone who has been as conflicted as me, but I want someone who really seems to "get it", either before or after I've talked with them.

That said, the guy I was dating wasn't the most completely informed guy about every perspective. He preferred personal conversations with people to conferences or research, which I am kind of attracted to (since I've typically tended to be the opposite), but which also meant he could be blown away by Evergreen's claims of success and the happy faces of those who have "dealt with it" in "gospel-centered ways". I feared that he would be with me for a year or so and then "discover" these supposedly revolutionary ideas of Evergreen or Exodus and feel like he'd been kept in the dark about this whole other perspective (due to political correctness, supposedly, rather than insufficient supporting evidence) and dump my A in the gutter to go after that shiny new ideal...fortunately, it was only a couple of months before that happened, though it still hurts like hell, not gonna lie.

But I'm open to a change...how's Boston's economic climate these days? Can a pennyless, single former moho find work and love there? Heh, don't think I'm joking...