Monday, December 7, 2009

Conditioning and Caboosing


"We love you no matter what and as long as you don't give in to that, everything is ok." - mom and dad

"You'll always be my brother and I'll always love you. As long as you resist that temptation, you have nothing to be ashamed of." - little sister

"Robert, I've known you for so long and I know who you are. Because I know that I know you, no matter what ever happens, I'll love you and you will never change for me." - real friend

Please don't condition your love for me - leave off the caboose. Perhaps you don't intend to, but your words betray you. The value in the words of what my "real friend" said is indescribable. I've heard it only a few times, and it always evokes emotion from deep within. I watched Harvey Milk tell a fearful young gay man, "you are not sick and you are not wrong and God does not hate you." I want to believe it so badly that I find myself needing to wipe my eyes or breathe deeply for fear of losing my composure. How can a society of "saints" indoctrinate its young disciples with such horrible messages that they believe they are sick, wrong and hated of God for being gay? Christ said that LOVE was the greatest commandment of all. If you have to put love aside to do something in the name of your deity, then haven't you missed the mark? If you condition your love, then haven't you conditioned your discipleship?

My cousins black-listed me. I've lived in their home, I was roommates with another, and I baby sat for and visited them weekly. It is more than words can convey, how horrible such reactions are. Parents that cast their gay child to the curb; brothers, sisters, or extended family that cuts them out of their lives; and universities or communities that expel them from their organizations. Is such conditional association consistent with love, compassion, or even respect?

My psychology hero is Carl Rogers. One of many tenants he had for effective counseling or therapy was that it must be non-directive. When there is unsolicited directional counsel or expectations, they hinder progress because they become interference and static. This detracts from the individual's ability to make discoveries and intrinsically motivated decisions. Each person must come to find their concept of the world and the course for their life. This requires that they are able to discover it themselves, free from the innumerable influences that are only motivated by self-benefit. Support and love is requisite - but conditions and cabooses can be fatal.

To truly love someone, you desire the best for them. With conditional love, you desire what's best for you - and so you care not whether your counsel is unsolicited or directional, because it is motivated by your interests. If I love someone, I will trust them with their life and support them with real love free of conditions. When others do this for me, I feel that their care is genuine. They become a safe place for me to open my heart and mind to explore. Only then do I become desirous of their counsel.

A post script prompted by Calvin's valid comment:

So, there is love, and love needs to truly be unconditional. As far as support, we would hope that our loved ones would be willing to support us no matter what (as long as we're not way off the mark; for instance, I don't expect that they would support me if I was robbing convenience stores). So, support is something that we hope for and I hope that my family would support me whether I had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Regarding consequences, they are the results of our actions. They're sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes they're neither. I don't find it unjust that certain choices can lose me my membership in the church. My involvement is voluntary and it's their prerogative to set conditions for their community. If I was a member of PETA, then I'd probably need to stop hunting. Yeah? While this is the case, I really wish that things were different. I wish that familial support could continue even if someone had a same sex partner. I wish that there was a different way for the church to deal with actively homosexual members. And I wish that love would prevail in questionable situations.

14 comments:

robert said...

A really great post. Your respect for Carl is well-deserved as is my respect for you. Hang in there. Maturity is the best revenge for the nonsense you are being put through.

Calvin said...

In writing a paper recently for one of my classes, I thought a lot about Elder Oaks' talk from October's conference about love and laws. It came to mind as I read your post.

First I'll say I agree that the reactions of some of your family members are terribly inappropriate, sad, and not in line with gospel principles. It's tragic that we have such a difficult time understanding God's commandment to love one another.

I thought Elder Oaks provided great insight on the topic. One point I liked was that the breaking of commandments will necessarily impact our relationships. Your post didn't talk about breaking commandments, but this point demonstrates something important about love and law for both parties: our behavior will have an impact on things, but it should never affect the love we have for each other.

The main point I got from the talk is that God, who is the source of perfect and unconditional love, still has behavioral requirements which he asks of us because he knows that only by obeying will we become perfect. He loves us so much that he requires us to do what is necessary. What worth would his love have if he didn't care what we did, and we ended up being eternally damned?

I guess we can apply that how we'd like, but I think there are important ideas there about genuine love. Elder Oaks quoted Elder Nelson, saying, "Real love does not support self-destructing behavior."

Again, I'm obviously not saying that being gay is sinful or is self-destructing behavior; I'm saying that Christlike love does not and cannot equal blind support. I think it's appropriate to desire unconditional love from our family members but inappropriate to demand that our behavior affect nothing.

Alan said...

@Calvin: I respect your sincerity, and I would have less of a problem with your approach if (1) it were not commonly used within the Church to justify conditional love, and (2) it defined its terms.

"He loves us so much that he requires us to do what is necessary"? What is necessary? And necessary for what? I wish I could have more confidence in the corporate Church's statements about what is necessary and what "He" says vs. what the personal opinions of church leaders say, but the Church's record in this area is sufficiently zig-zaggy that I'm afraid I can't anymore.

Andy Foree said...

You are always loved. Don't ever forget that.

UTMOHO said...

Robert, I am sorry you have had so much hardship with this. Know that we are here for you and we do really love you. If you need anything even if its just someone to vent to just please call or text me. Love you

Bravone said...

Two of the blessings of my own personal struggles are the ability to see good almost everyone, and the ability to love unconditionally. If I had to experience all I have just to learn these lessons, it would have been worth it.

Чао мој најценији друж. Увек ћемо један други подржити. Увек

Ti voglio tanto bene.
Stefano

Robert said...

Robert - Thank you so much for your comment. You're obviously a wise person as what you say really is true. Thank you. :)

Calvin - If you're willing to believe me, I do agree with what you say. There is love and that needs to truly be unconditional. We would hope that our loved ones would be willing to support us no matter what...but I don't expect that they would support me if I was robbing convenience stores (just as an example...not even wanting to imply that gay equals robbery). So, support is something that we hope for and I hope that my family would support me whether I had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Regarding consequences, they are the results of our actions. They're sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes they're neither. I don't find it injust that certain choices can lose me my membership in the church. My involvement is voluntary and they have conditions for their community. If I was a member of PETA, then I'd probably need to stop hunting. Haha. While I agree with you in these ways, I really wish that things were different. I wish that familial support could continue even if someone had a boyfriend. I wish that there was a different way for the church to deal with actively homosexual members. And I wish that love would prevail in questionable situations. Love you Calvin. It was soo cool to see you the other week. :)

Alan - I love you man. I really hope to be able to see you here at the end of December. Love you man.

Andy - You better know how I feel about you Andy. Love you.

UTMOHO - I do and will continue to love talking with you. You're an example to me and I really am so grateful that we've been able to share our stories. Love you UTMOHO. Hope to see you soon. :)

Bravone - I agree. My compassion and empathy are the consequences of the hardships I've had because of this. Love you Stefano. :)

Kengo Biddles said...

"To truly love someone, you desire the best for them."

I think if you look at your parent's and sibling's comments from their perspective, you would see that your quote above applies.

They see you as their brother, and with their understanding of their faith, choosing to live a homosexually active life would deny you the blessings that they believe are promised to the faithful.

Thus they want the best for you - on the eternal scale of things.

So let that leaven any frustration you might feel toward them, and understand that they just want the best for you, although there may be disagreement between you about what's best...

And your cousins are just idiots.

"How can a society of "saints" indoctrinate its young disciples with such horrible messages that they believe they are sick, wrong and hated of God for being gay?"

It's the whole damnèd John-Wayne-America culture - it's not the religion, it's the local culture.

And you're 100% right that this thing should not be taught further.

Robert said...

Kengo - I was SO VERRY HAPPY to see you the other weekend. I love you man. Yes, my cousins are just being idiots. True, true. I do believe that my family loves me mostly unconditionally; and not that I am chomping at the bit to get a boy friend, but I wish they could say (like I can honestly say) that their greatest desire for me is that I find health and happiness. I wish they'd trust me. But, What you say is totally right. They do love me, but I wonder how far that would go if I did something that they disagreed with. You're right about the culture thing too. They're all just so damn conservative and traditional. Just because it's the way things have "always" been, they're fo that and nothing else. No dialectic thought or dialogue at all. That's so sad.

2Mod4U said...

I'm sorry for your family & church frustrations, Robert.
That's often a cost for being willing to liberate oneself from that overcoat of shame. Sometimes that hurts, but most of the time I'm simply feeling free & well.
One of my favorite cousins is distancing herself from me.
This year, I wasn't invited to a family Thanksgiving, for the first time in my life. Happily, I spent it with new friends at a gay friendly church, where I'm simply loved, without condition (I've found two wonderful churches for me to enjoy, one in Ogden, One in Murray.
One thing I can offer, is that I started having wonderful epiphanies, After I stopped going to the LDS church. About two months later, I started gaining greater understanding, but I also craved to go to church: So I asked God to help me find places that I can get closer to him, & that will strengthen & bless me in my personal journey with him, in my life, in a healthy & high functioning setting.
One thing I'd ask you to not do, is to hurry into a church court over your membership. I came to realize that my life is not my Bishop's business. Many of the church leaders can't even agree on the causes of homosexuality, yet they often think that they are qualified to judge us. I know that I am not interested in putting myself into a church court on a matter that the church is not prepared to be just, fair & impartial, etc. Why should I set myself up to be judged when I know that I am right with God & striving to do all that he has commanded me to do?
God made me as I am. I am whole, & I am good. 'His prophet' has not been receiving revelation; Further light & knowledge for me (& what of the 10's of thousands or more that have turned to suicide in desperation within the church over these issues).
Just a few of my thoughts. I hope they coherent at this late hour.
Pete

BB said...

Just remember that we care for you unconditionally and those that don't just need to start following Christ who loved unconditionally!

Katrina Reinert said...

One time I asked my mother if there was anything that would get me kicked out of the family. I loved her answer and I think it is true of all parents whether they know how to say it right or not. "Even if you killed one of us or got a sex change you would still be in this family. We love you. I love you. There is nothing that you could do to stop that love. It was born with you."
For awhile I was lost from God and thought that I wasn't deserving of His love or forgiveness. I had to have a disiplinary counsel and everything. It was awkward, it was hard and it got me back on the path I wanted to be on.
I don't know how hard it is to be a MOHO. I don't fully understand how hard it is to talk to a church authority about things. But I do know that the Lord has told us how to come back to him and I think that you have to take the steps. even if they worst case scenerio still happens and the bishop turns out to be a human being who doesn't react with perfect Christ like love, you can still know that Jesus Christ loves you and you are doing the right thing to return to him.
You aren't a sinner for being born who you are. But when you sin, you need to go back and start over. The Atonement is a beautiful thing. But you know that, don't you?
Andy is right, you are always loved. It was born with you, when God created you, just the way you are.
Thanks for letting me put in my two cents.

Mark Johnson said...

On a related (but really un-related note) I love your caboose.

Keaton said...

Love ya Robert,

As one who works on the fringes trying to help young Ladder day Saints survive rather than look for detrimental alternatives like suicide, drugs and orgy. I put my membership on the line for being Christlike. I have been called in to the Bishop and partially judged.
Callings no longer come my way. I am now "at risk" because I support gay young people. I support their right to choose wholesome lifelong relationships but always let them know they still have a place at the table of Christ. I have found many compassionate and wise Bishops who see these young people as simply living the way life is intended and created. Family centered, committed and spiritual. These Bishops are sometimes forced to deal with membership issues. I guess at this point one lives by faith that members will be Christlike and welcome them unconditionally into activity. We have a hope that someone will go to the Lord with this unjust circumstance. Much as Spencer Kimball did with the Blacks and the priesthood. It was never intended that they not have the Priesthood. It was wrong. The Lord was patient and requires our faith and action. So I work on the fringes supporting those who have huge conflict in their lives knowing full well that the Saints may or may not embrace them. I am but one voice in a small place but continue to reach out. I know this is rather disjointed. I know your heart. It is pure. Easy it is not. Live by faith and listen to your heart. Judge not those who struggle with prejudice. Your light will begin to change them. Living is not temptation.