Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Self pity or . . .

"I can't ever let anyone find out that I'm not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me. They might even want to beat me up. And my family? I've overheard them. They've said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. Gays are bad, and God sends bad boys to hell. It really scares me when they are talking about me."
- from the diary of Bobby Griffith (Prayers for Bobby)
The last three weeks I've only attended Sacrament meeting. Ostensibly because I wasn't feeling good - which is true. I'm having a bit of a health problem - nothing serious, but enough to make it very uncomfortable to sit at church for extended periods of time. (sorry if that's TMI).

But, the truth of the matter is, I wanted to go home - I didn't want to stay for sunday school and/or priesthood meeting. People are friendly, but I have no friends; and, like Bobby, I increasingly feel like the people at church would hate me if they knew who I really am. Somebody just has to mention the words "gay" or "proposition 8" and, without any further elaboration, everybody nods in agreement. Because, everybody knows that the gays are out to destroy the institution of marriage and family - and to force their debauchery upon all of society.

Or, perhaps I'm just being overly sensitive - perhaps the pressures of not being able to find a job is taking it's toll on me and manifesting as self pity.

Wikipedia defines "self pity" as
Self-pity is the psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor ability to cope with it. It is characterized by a person's belief that he or she is the victim of events and is therefore deserving of condolence. . . . Self-pity is a way of paying attention to oneself, albeit negatively; it is a means self-soothing or self-nurturing ("I hurt so much").
Is that what I'm doing? Am I feeling so alone and inadequate that I am having to self nurture? Is this all a state of mind. Are things at church really just hunky doorey and it's me that has the problem?

Or, is there some validity to my feelings? Is mormon culture a hostile environment for gay folk? Is remaining closeted and pretending to be something I'm not the only way to "fit in"? Am I no longer fitting in because I'm overcoming my shame in my queerness?

Whatever the cause, church is more and more becoming something I do simply out of a sense of duty and not something that I enjoy or look forward to. In church leadership meetings, they sometimes list out 3 things that every member of the church needs
  1. testimony
  2. calling
  3. friend
On #1, I have to confess, my testimony is beginning to sputter. The problem with Mormon testimonies is that everything is so intertwined - a testimony on one thing (say, the Book of Mormon) logically leads to a testimony of all things (like Joseph Smith and his successors being modern day prophets). But, what happens when you have an anti-testimony on some aspect? Is it possible to maintain a testimony of other things? If A is true then B must also be true and if B is true then C must also be true - what if I sincerely believe C is false, what does that say about A & B? If you have an anti-testimony about C then does it all come crumbling down like a house of cards? Is a mormon testimony all or nothing?

On #2, I have a calling (seminary teacher); but, I'm on summer hiatus right now with just a monthly inservice meetings; so, not much to do. And, I'm beginning to wonder if I should ask to be released because of #1. Or would that make things even worse?

On #3, I have no friends at church. People are friendly - they smile and say hello. But they're not friends - does that make sense? Of course, to have a friend you must be a friend - and how can a social retard like me be a friend?

Am I wallowing in self pity? Or does life just truly suck for me right now? Does it even matter which? And, what can I do about it?

11 comments:

Philip said...

Abelard,

One problem piles on top of the other and each problem makes the other one worse.

I know it's difficult but keep the problems separate and work on them individually.

Regarding your sexuality...

Are you a social retard or are you closeted?

Do you have few friends or are you self isolating because you are gay?

If this virtual community of gay people is your sole support and validation then my guess is that you are very closeted and isolated.

And if you have been depending on this virtual community for a long time then my guess is that the support and validation you receive from this community may no longer be enough.

What do you say?

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

Regarding #1, things are very interrelated. It is hard to be half-way with one thing, no-way on another, and all the way on another still. Instead, it is implied "all or nothing". But, having stronger feelings about one thing and disagreeing about another thing doesn't mean you don't have a testimony. Nurture what you do know and remember the feelings and personal communications you know to be true and go from there.

Re #2: Your calling isn't very engaging right now. I've found that when I am not engaged in a calling, I tend to slip into the dulldrums. Maybe you can take this downtime and find something meaningful you can do for someone or some group... neighborhood gardens? volunteering at a senior citizen center? the homeless? an AIDS center? meals-on-wheels driving? street performing at a city arts festival? :) That has helped me to feel better.

Re #3: I think Philip is right. This cyber-community may not be enough to fill the friend-quotient you need, particularly noting your remote location. Don't know quite what to suggest here. I know from personal experience that social retardation and self-isolation have a lot to do with closet-dwelling.

Well, this isn't much help, but I still want you to know that I love you, and there are many, many here who do as well.

J G-W said...

Abelard - Wikipedia hits it on the head, when it includes in the definition of self-pity: "and does not have the confidence nor ability to cope." Doing something concrete to address the problem will instantly dissolve the self-pity.

You are a good person -- a very, very good person. If people knew who you really are, they would stand in awe of what a truly amazing person you are. So put that nonsense out of your head about everybody hating you if only they knew. But, as if you weren't already aware, this is the price of the closet. This is why the closet destroys us.

The closet destroys your Church friends too. The reason their small-minded views about homosexuality persist unchallenged, is because the one man they know and truly admire and love and respect who happens to be gay, doesn't respect them enough or give them enough of the benefit of a doubt to come out to them.

I promise you, if you were out to your ward, a number of incredible things would all come to pass:

1) You would begin to feel a sense of self-empowerment and self-confidence because you are finally doing the one thing you need to do in order to alleviate the main source of your angst;

2) The attitudes of people in your ward toward homosexuality would be transformed; it wouldn't be easy at first for everybody; but on the other hand, you would find friends in unexpected places, I promise you it;

3) These people who don't feel like real friends to you would become the friends you always hoped and longed for; because there is nothing like this kind of honesty and vulnerability and these moments of truth to forge friendships that will last a life-time and into eternity;

4) Your testimony will grow; if you come out, you will see unprecedented opportunities for the Spirit to work in your life and in the lives of your family and friends.

Or you can wallow in self pity.

Ezra said...

I like what JGW said, even though it's really hard, and I never did it.

TGD said...

I concur with J G-W.

The closet is a very lonely place.

If you don't come out of the closet you will never know who your true friends are.

It's not perfect. There will be people who turn their back on you if you don't go back in the closet, so to speak. But the friends who stay with you are the ones who are worth having.

That's been my experience at least.

And so what if you're are loosing your testimony. It happens. Don't let that shame you. You'd be surprised at how many Mormons don't have a testimony but are too ashamed to admit it.

Evan said...

I love JGW's comment.

The time I felt closest to the Spirit was that hour or so I spent coming out to my parents. It was also a period where I felt their love the most. I will admit there has been some fallout due to Prop 8 and just the subject of homosexuality in general. And I still struggle with discussing the subject when necessary. But that moment a year and a half ago was a positive experience I will never forget.

As much as some members may deny this, I really do believe the Church needs us and is/will be better because of people like us. Members need to be aware of us and need to understand that we are in their elders quorum, relief society, and sacrament meeting.

While I am totally supportive of JGW, my main question and concern is how we go about letting people in our ward know? Is it appropriate for us to come out during a testimony meeting? Is it appropriate for us to speak up when the mere mention of Prop 8 is made up? That is something I struggle with and have a lack of confidence doing.

Abelard, you are an amazing guy. I love reading your blog, like many others. And I feel like you help and inspire your readers in so many different ways. I'll keep you in my prayers.

MoHoHawaii said...

I agree with all the good things the previous comments have said about coming out, but the problem in Abelard's case is that he would bring his wife out of the closet with him and disclose his sexuality to his children. The decision to come out is not entirely his.

Plus, I'm not sure I'd recommend destabilizing one's social support system during a job crisis. One thing at a time is easier to deal with.

Philip said...

Abelard,

How remote are you?

Is there a mid- to large-size city relatively close by?

Regards,
Philip

Scott said...

I'm not sure I've seen all of the results JGW suggests will come from coming out to your ward...

I've definitely gained self-confidence, and I've gained a greater appreciation and testimony of some aspects of the Gospel...

But I'm not sure how much evidence I've seen of changing attitudes and strengthened friendships. I have to constantly reassure myself that (as JGW said) it will be a SLOW process, and it's only been eight months, and I shouldn't give up hope.

But to be honest, I've actually lost some of my faith in the "Christianity" of the members of the Church (in general). There have been exceptions, and I'm grateful for the few that have made obvious and visible efforts to understand and to love and to grow, but by and large the feeling I've gotten from the members of my ward is that they'd like at the very least to forget that I ever said anything about being gay, and if they can't do that, to not have me around as a constant reminder of something that they aren't prepared to deal with.

I don't regret coming out to my ward, or being out in general, because the confidence it's given me in myself more than outweighs the confidence that others may have lost in me. All I'm saying is that someone who's considering coming out to some close-knit community (like a ward) shouldn't expect any miraculous conversions or overnight changes of heart/mind.

Then again, the more of us who are out, the faster those changes of heart/mind will happen.

Bravone said...

Abe, I'm not feeling very inspired at the moment to say anything that might help you. Just know that many of us love you and admire the man you are.

Introspection and doubt can lead to humility, which can be a great teacher if we allow it to be.

Sarah said...

@ Evan:
While I am totally supportive of JGW, my main question and concern is how we go about letting people in our ward know? Is it appropriate for us to come out during a testimony meeting? Is it appropriate for us to speak up when the mere mention of Prop 8 is made up? That is something I struggle with and have a lack of confidence doing.

My answer to your question is to follow the Spirit. And then also keep in mind that what the Spirit tells us to do is not always the easiest or the most rewarding, but it is what God desires for us, and will have consequences and results that may take a long time to recognize, or that we might never know about. But it is part of God's higher plan for us, and that is what is important. He does not have the same plan for everyone, so we must be willing to listen and wait for the moments that are right. (Easier said than done! All I know is that Scott and I do not regret the times that we truly felt like we were following a prompting, like telling our children, or coming out to the ward.)

Good luck!