Don't get me wrong: I'm sure there are great guys on the football team, and I'd probably be tired of people singling them out if I were one of them, but I've known enough people, over the course of several years, who have reported abundant alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity, not to mention dishonest academic practices, among specifically the football players that I'm pretty confident they can take on the theater department in a contest of transgression. I await the transfers of the football players by popular demand of the righteous masses and indignant administration. You know, for integrity's sake.
Then I thought maybe the conservative football players are extremely penitent every time they intoxicate themselves or penetrate a daughter of God, whereas the theater gays are brashly defiant and stubbornly liberal, and that's where the difference is. Truth be told, I've only heard from one first-person source about the theater department cleansing, so I don't even know the details, and this might all be conjecture, but let's just say it fits church culture perfectly.
And that brings me to my point: the popular LDS notion that it's "what's in his heart" that matters. Even those who seem to recognize a dissonance of sorts and express a sort of sympathetic, "Yeah, I can see where you're coming from," seem more patient with the constantly, repeatedly 'penitent' sinner than with the person who commits the same sins far less frequently but doesn't share the belief in the gravity of the sin, if they even believe it's a sin at all, because one is at least "trying" and "has his heart in the right place."
At least, that's how I used to think, even though I didn't fully realize that's how I thought at the time. The frustrating part is how thoroughly I understand the point of view I'm describing because it was mine. I know not every LDS person shares it, but I know many--maybe even most--do. In a way, it's completely understandable: if what matters is one's 'heart', or one's 'faith' in certain beliefs or deity, and if there's an 'atonement' which washes away sin, then certainly the point when you stop making it effective in your life is the point you have 'given up', and to over-abuse it is better than to waste it or ignore it...or something like that. Besides, without Christ, you are nothing, and we're supposed to forgive until seventy times seven, so...under those assumptions, it just makes sense to be more patient with the constant but penitent sinner...or does it? Not in my book.
"Trying". The word hypocrites bank on. The word which ignores the damage done and runs away from consequences because they have to keep their eye single...until the next time. Seriously, folks, if you're committing the same 'sin' over and over, at some point I think you have to acknowledge that your 'heart' is not, in fact, "in the right place," and that you are no more 'righteous' than any other common sinner who is not acting against their professed beliefs. You HAVE to, if you have a shred of integrity.
I submit that to be happy, you must stop destroying your integrity more and more each time you 'slip up' by pretending you're not going to do it again but not really changing anything, and that this pattern is absolutely, completely no better than the unrepentant sinner who doesn't believe what they're doing is wrong. I submit that to be happier, whether we're talking about 'sin' or 'bad habits' or 'changes you want to make in your life', we each must:
- A) admit that you don't really believe what you're doing is wrong or harmful to anyone including yourself (and admit that your secrecy is an attempt to save face by living what you want while wearing a facade to deceive others--yes, to deceive, not to avoid drama, not because it's none of their business, but to deceive), and either recognize that the drive to change is not due to a true problem in your life but to external pressures or demands you don't actually believe are right or true for whatever reason (whether or not others seem to think you "should"), or
- B) stop making excuses and exonerating yourself based on your 'heart', stop pretending you should get some kind of free pass because of your 'intent' no matter how many pandering authorities are letting you off the hook because they need to validate themselves or need something from you or don't want to believe you could be as imperfect as you are, recognize that your integrity depends on bringing your actions and beliefs or goals into alignment, recognize your behavior is harmful and find out why to integrate beliefs and understanding that will actually foster and motivate change, be kind to yourself when you do fall short (as we all do, especially when striving for something beyond "normal" or "average"), and do something (break cycles, ask for help and accountability, whatever is required) to truly avoid repeating the error, if it is one.
Sometimes, I haven't realized a need for change until someone explained how my actions or attitudes have affected them personally, which they might not know to do unless I admitted I didn't see a need to change. Since I care about harming others, I've had the opportunity to respond, though is is harder some times than others, or understanding the 'why' has been a challenge, and admitting that rather than sweeping it all under the rug can be difficult because I might look clueless or might have to change. Sometimes, I do want to change and have received a quiet nudge or a slap in the face to wake me up to a need to break patterns and cycles, and I've made another step towards progress until the next "lesson learned". Other times, I recognize that I do want to change, but I admit I have bigger fish to fry, and I have priorities, and they may not be the same as someone else's.
But the point is to improve. To really try. To strive for better today than yesterday in some way. There will be backslides, sidetracks, colossal mistakes, putting things on the back burner, and moments where you feel some things never seem to change. There will also be triumphs, joys, leaps forward, picking up again where you left off, and moments where you read a journal entry from twelve years ago and realize, "Wow, have I really come that far in that regard?"
I just don't buy this "his heart is in the right place" business. Isn't that what "change of heart" is all about? Whether you believe a "change of heart" is a spiritual manifestation of the goodness of God in purifying and aligning your will through the atonement of his son or an otherwise originated epiphany of clarity, resolution, and recognition of your own capability and motivation to live in a way that will be meaningful and leave an impact, I think we all have to, at some point, stop fooling ourselves with comforting masks or accountability-erasing balm because truth--or God, if you prefer--is not gullible. While mercy or ignorance may clean the slate of accountability for each of us, integrity--happiness--demands something internal, something nobody can force upon us, and something no amount of "acting like everything is fine" will ever bring about: a change of heart, and steps to truly align our actions with our beliefs, whether that means admitting our beliefs and priority of values don't match those of others or acknowledging that our actions are not excusable and do need to change to some degree, or both.
Man up, men, and let's all try a little harder to stand and be counted as we are, unafraid, in the light, accountable, courageous, honest about our beliefs and fears and hopes. It's scary, it's hard, it's vulnerable, it's likely to upset someone, and none of us is perfect at it or ever will be...but it's productive, it's ennobling and empowering to ourselves and to others, it fosters truth-finding, it promotes understanding and intimacy in ways secrecy never will, and...OK, actually, I'm just trying to get you all to admit your dirt, so we can have a big ol' gossip fest and point and laugh at the weirdos and scorn the filthy sinners.
Ha, is that what some are afraid of? Probably with good reason. Scary stuff, being exposed by admitting either your beliefs or actions are not what you've let everyone, including yourself, think they are, and letting that be the start of a true, lasting "change of heart" (you can't truly fix something you won't even admit is broken). Is there a limit or balance to how open you should be about such things? Probably...but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say most people could take several steps towards openness, ownership, and integrity (integrating rather than compartmentalizing their lives and actions and beliefs) and would find themselves happier for having done so. Take it or leave it, but don't expect me to shut up about it. :-)