I have the best job in the world. I am a counselor and psychotherapist. I love my work and I love those with whom I have the opportunity to work. I am honored to be a part of the lives of incredible individuals, couples, and families on a daily basis. I am privileged that they trust me with their stories and allow me to journey with them for a time.
As I have worked with my LGBT-LDS Brothers and Sisters, I have heard the good, the bad, and the ugly stories of interactions with other church members and ward and stake leaders. My heart leaps with joy as I hear the good stories and I find myself wanting to run to that member or leader and hug them, praise them, thank them, and encourage them to keep up the good work! The bad and ugly stories hurt my heart. I hurt for those who are on the receiving end of unkind words, sideways glances, rumors, and untruths. I find myself wanting to seek out these members and leaders to remind them that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of love. Plain and simple.
I don’t want to dwell on the negative. Doing so only perpetuates negativity. Not my style.
I share the following story to highlight the way in which one person can make a tremendous difference in the lives of our youth. Recently, I was told about an amazing interaction between a young person and their Bishop.
On this particular occasion, this young individual had chosen to seek their Bishop’s counsel regarding a matter troubling to them. After a brief discussion, there was a pregnant pause and silence. For those of us who have ever seen a Bishop about perhaps less than stellar actions or behaviors, this silence feels like an eternity. I usually found myself bracing for the worst possible thing that could come out of my Bishop’s mouth. Usually, the catastrophizing I was doing never came to fruition. Luckily, for my young friend, any catastrophizing they were doing did not fall forth from their Bishop’s lips.
Instead, following the pause, this wonderful Bishop opened his hands as if welcoming this young person in to his heart and arms and said, “ How do you feel?” To which my young friend replied, “So much lighter!” The benevolent Bishop continued, “I am more proud of you now than when you walked through my door. This took courage and humility. I am so proud of you… I’m glad you came in… I respect you… I love you.” The praise and encouragement kept coming. The counsel and suggestions continued – leading to my introduction of this incredible young person.
My mind immediately switched to scenes of the not so pretty encounters of my LGBT-LDS Brothers and Sisters. What if their experiences had been the same as my new friend? How would their lives be now had they been welcomed with open arms and a loving heart from their ward or stake leader? Moreover, the ever sobering thought, how many lives of our LGBT Brothers and Sisters might have been saved if members, ward, and stake leaders followed the example of my client’s Bishop?
Unfortunately, history cannot be changed. We can, however, move forward and work to build a church culture and its membership that exemplifies what our Savior taught – to love one another.
As an ally to my LGBT Brothers and Sisters, the words to a familiar Primary song jog my memory back to the phrase: Kindness begins with me. Kindness begins with me.
Kindness begins with each of us as individuals as well as a collective membership.
I was once overwhelmed with the ignorance, lack of education, and naiveté of those with whom I knew in my ward, workplace, neighborhood, and among family members. In time, I learned that it’s easier to teach by example rather than tilting against windmills.
As members, advocates, and allies of our LGBT Brothers and Sisters, a few very simple suggestions will make the lives of those sitting in silence and fear less lonely and scary.
First, recognize the efforts of others around you as they reach out to our LGBT Brothers and Sisters. A handshake, a hug, a word or two of appreciation for these acts of kindness will perpetuate more of the same behavior.
Second, be understanding, patient, and kind to those who are extending a hand of fellowship, or even an olive branch. They need our love, support, and encouragement, too.
Third, when in doubt, always resort to love. This is the example our Savior provided us, and the strongest way I know to accept and love those around me who don’t see things the way I do. Change is difficult for many people. In fact, at times I am resistant to change in my own life, but if I want people to change around me, I want them to do it NOW. (Patience is something I am constantly trying to find, can you tell?) As you see small changes in yourself and others, refer to the first suggestion on this list.
Finally, as you feel comfortable, make it known that you are an ally to our LGBT Brothers and Sisters. Even if you are unaware of any folks in your ward, work, neighborhood, or Bunko group who are LGBT, by sharing that you are an ally makes you “safe” to those who are feeling alone or isolated. The open seat next to you might be just the invitation someone needs to come in to a meeting knowing you are an ally.
Kindness begins with me. Kindness begins with you. Kindness is a pure expression of love. Love is the key to making changes in our lives. Love is the key in educating and perpetuating acceptance of our LGBT Brothers and Sisters.
KINDNESS begins with me. Kindness begins with ME.