Self Doubt / Self Esteem

I had a conversation with a newly found friend the other day — a man, like me, in a long-time committed partnership with a man, who has also been active for some years in the Church after a long time away.  Both of us are of a certain age.  (I’m turning 50 this year, which, in a family with many centenarians, I consider something like the midpoint of my life!)  Both of us, while at one point having been very angry at the Church and having experienced some turbulence in our relationships with families of origin, find ourselves now craving reconciliation more than self-assertion.  I’m generally told I’m something of a rara avis.  Our conversation was at least proof that I am merely rara, not singularis.

There was a moment in our conversation where he made an odd admission — odd enough any way in most of the circles I travel in.  It’s an admission I’ve occasionally made myself.  Like me, he felt that God blessed his committed relationship with his husband, and in some way that was very clear to him, held him to that commitment.  But he wondered out loud if that commitment could be eternal.  “Maybe God holds me to my commitment, because God takes commitment seriously, even if mine wasn’t quite the right commitment.”

I shared with him a spiritual experience I once had, in which I pleaded with the Lord to please help me understand what to make of the seeming contradiction I experienced between feeling inspired to commit to a life-long relationship with a man, and the Church’s position on same-sex marriage.  I’d received a clear answer to my prayer: “You’re not going to get an answer that question at this time.”

I countered, it seemed to me equally likely that our relationships were blessed not only for this life, but for all eternity.

We laughed together.  Quite true!  And wouldn’t that be a delightful surprise.

But if I were being honest, I had to say that I simply didn’t know on either score. What we did know was that everything will all work out eventually.  And where we are now — in a loving, committed, same-sex relationship and active in the Church and on good terms with our devout LDS families — feels like the right place to be.

As a side note, his devout Mormon family — like mine, and like Daniel Parkinson’s, and like Josh Weed’s — has been unconditionally loving toward him.  In his case, like mine and like Daniel’s, they have welcomed and defended his relationship with his same-sex spouse, in spite of some of his early insecurity and lashing out over the issue, and in spite of their unwavering devotion to the LDS Church.  I’m hearing enough of these unconditionally loving Mormon family stories, and know enough of the specifics of how that depth of love and acceptance flows from a deep, deep commitment to the Gospel, that I’m starting to insist, even if these stories are unconventional, they reflect a truer appreciation of Church teaching than the stories where gay kids are emotionally brutalized by their families.  The infamous case of Christ v. Culture, folks!  If the Gospel were easy to live, we wouldn’t need the Church.

Maybe it is this foundation of familial love that we had each experienced that has enabled me and my fellow rare bird to be more comfortable dwelling in a place of ultimate uncertainty but proximal security.  My friend said something about the power of a “daily bread” / “manna” approach to the Gospel.  God, give me what I need today; not for yesterday because that’s done; not for tomorrow, because tomorrow’s not here yet.  Just for today, for right now.

We live in a world where people react.  It’s the logic of commerce (stimulus-response), of law (suits and counter-suits), of the media (the never-ending stream of one-upping sound bites), of politics (the dance of framing and counter-framing, and the bloodless violence of majoritarian rule and minoritarian revolt), and of religion (reformation and counter-reformation).  For those of us caught in the middle — say, for instance, gay people caught in the turmoil of public referenda designed to determine by a majority vote whether our kind of love will cause the collapse of civilization — it’s impossible to make it past breakfast without already having your stomach tied up in knots.

Allowing ourselves to dwell in the “maybe, maybe not” can open us up to the “this I know” grounded in love and acceptance of self and others.  It brings us into a space where we can stop fighting and start appreciating.

This is the spiritual principle at the root of the scriptural phrase, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”  The moment we start judging — reacting — we take ourselves out of the space that allows us to simply experience divine grace without judgment.  Forgiveness is the key to our salvation, and letting go — with time and patience — is the key to knowledge.

3 comments for “Self Doubt / Self Esteem

  1. Anonymous
    February 18, 2013 at 10:07 am

    John – I deeply appreciated your candid honesty in hoping for the eternal while admitting some self-doubt. All coupled with personal, inspired confirmation and hope. I am a gay woman currently married to a man with a traditional Mormon family. I respect and honor so much that you have been able to have a fulfilling, life-long, committed relationship with your husband. For many reasons, I do not see that beautiful opportunity of having a committed same-sex relationship for myself in this life. That said, I desperately want to know – do you think there is hope for me to have that in the next life? I have to be honest and admit I fear sometimes that by not finding that love or showing that commitment to a woman in this life, maybe I will be excluded from that in the next. I do get joy from my current family. That said, I’m not confident that it is everything in the eternal perspective or that I am complete. I don’t want to be miraculously changed or to feel differently than I do in this life, but I have a lot of anxiety about that prospect. I hope so much for my friends like you in committed gay marriages to keep that through the eternities. I don’t believe a loving God would tear you apart. But with my family and my own self-doubt, I worry that I will again have to choose in the next life. If I’m not brave enough to even make that choice now, as much as I want it with my whole self – will it ever work out for me in the next life? I’m trying so hard not to be angry or bitter, because as you say, “Forgiveness is the key to our salvation, and letting go — with time and patience — is the key to knowledge.” So I’m trying to keep an open perspective, but I feel like it’s currently so open that it’s frightening sometimes.

    • February 18, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Dear Anonymous –

      I am deeply moved by your question, and also heart-broken over where it’s coming from.

      You’re not the only person I know in a so-called “mixed-orientation marriage” who has expressed to me that deep down inside, they believe they are gay, and that this is an eternal aspect of who they are, and that even if they could change that in the next life in order to make it fit with their heterosexual temple marriage, they would not, because it is a cherished, powerful part of who they are.

      If there’s a place for gay sons and lesbian daughters and loving same-sex relationships in the Kingdom of Heaven, and if our ultimate eternal goal is to find unity in spirit and element (between our spirits and our bodies), and if the Church is true, and the priesthood sealing power is real in some objective sense, then I can’t imagine that there won’t be some kind of “making right” between now and eternity. My understanding of the Atonement is that Christ went through what he did in order to harmonize that which is in disharmony, and make right everything that was made wrong because of human ignorance as well as human sin.

      Making the decision to leave any relationship is extremely complicated, because it involves more people than you. Don’t beat yourself up for trying to be compassionate and trying to honor commitments you’ve made in this life!

      I have found it very comforting to focus on present joys, and to focus on alleviating pain that I have power to do something about now; taking one step at a time, and being super, super patient with myself as well as with others. And, as I said in my post, trusting that God’s love for us is fuller and more unconditional than we can imagine, and that God has wonderful things prepared for us; and that we will understand these things more fully as we increase our capacity to love each other as God loves us.

      • Anonymous
        February 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm

        Thank you with all my heart. Your words were so healing for me. Everything you said I needed to hear – and I’ll be honest, I definitely wept over it. For the days when I just don’t know if I can keep it up, you have given me incredible hope.

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