To paraphrase a song from the album American Idiot, “wake me up when November 8 ends.
We’ve seen the posts and heard the words. “Thoughts and prayers for Orlando.” The same sentiments were shared after the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere. While the words are meant to comfort, too often they anger the people who need the comfort the most.
Why do they create so much division? I have often wondered; I always considered prayer a gesture of empathy. If somebody says they are praying for me, it’s proof that they care. Others, however, don’t see it that way. Prayer, to them, is just and empty gesture that won’t do anything to solve the problem. It comes across as a hollow gesture when many feel that religion has played a role in creating the problem. I get that, and I don’t want to downplay those feelings; being let down too often can lead to those real, raw emotions of abandonment.
Prayer for me, however, has always been more than just words. I was taught to pray for understanding. When I see a person offering prayers for the people of Orlando, I believe they will be searching for understanding. They want answers of how something so horrible could happen and what more they can do to help. Those are tough questions to answer without some sort of prayer or meditation.
When I was taught to pray, I was told to pray for guidance–to discover what I should do next. It was up to me, however, to search for ideas and meditate on which of the proposed solutions would be best.
Whatever the answer, prayer requires me to follow up with action.
So, when people offer prayers after tragedies like Orlando, I have hope. I have hope that people who don’t understand the pain and anxiety this has created in the LGBTQ community seek to for empathy. I hope that they pray to find out what they can do to help the victims of this horrible crime. I hope they search for what they can do to avoid more tragedies.
Their prayers give me hope that there will be at least one more ally joining our fight for acceptance and equality.
When others get angry because of your offers of prayer, don’t despair, just pray to understand their hearts. Yes, prayer does have a way of softening hearts, but it usually changes the person who prays first. As we pray, we will learn how to better reach out to those who are in pain, and that is what we all need.
I had some strong impressions last week to do some writing for this blog. Over the past year, I had witnessed an increasing number of rants against LGBT people posted in my social media feeds. Whether I saw hateful memes or links to other angry blog posts about public restrooms, boycotting businesses or how confused and sick we are, I remained quiet. I fooled myself into believing that those authors of hate would stop if I choose not to join in the argument.
My urge to write again began last week when I saw several people repost a rant about our local Pride Festival. The author of the rant was upset about the rainbow flag flying higher than the U.S. flag at city hall. Although he was correct that this should not have happened, his rant was really a chance for him to go off on how we as LGBT people are ruining the nation. Every friend who passed on that verbal tirade silently confirmed that they do not consider me an equal.
I wanted to write something to respond, but I couldn’t find the right words. I wanted to let them know that every time they pass on an angry rant against any group of people, they are in an indirect way giving support to the lunatics who intentionally hurt those same people. When we say that we agree with somebody’s hateful ideas by posting them in our social media feeds, shouldn’t we think that we are also giving permission to somebody who sees those messages permission to physically harm others?
We suffered a national tragedy yesterday. My heart aches for the lives that have been lost and the many families who now mourn. I am not sure I can do much about this growing problem, but I know that I can influence my little part of the world. From now on, I will speak up whenever I see hateful messaged passed amongst my friends. I will stand up to the hate when I can. My silence didn’t help.
It has been quite some time since I have written anything for this blog. A lot has happened in the months since I last posted–to much to go into here, but I would like to catch up a little bit. Instead of focusing on the big news, I would like to focus on some more personal details of my life. Quite frankly, I have been conditioned to believe that nobody really cares about my struggles, so I have kept them to myself; that is not good for my emotional, spiritual, or physical health.
The burden of debt
Just a few short years ago, I felt like I was invincible. I had just completed my masters degree and started a new career. At the same time, I was finally seeing the fruits of my efforts in starting a side business with a partner start to pay off. My mortgage refinance was approved, and I would be paying a lower rate. I was even ready to start dating again, and the thoughts of being in a relationship were exciting.
Well, things came crashing down around me within a few short months. My business partner decided he no longer wanted me to be a part of our company, I soon discovered that I was a victim of identity theft, and to top it all off, I was involved in a car accident that totaled my car. Oh yeah, I was still trying to pay off my students loans when all of this happened. I was ruined. To make matters worse, a friend joked that God must be punishing me for some bad choices that I have made, and I believed her.
I will go into the details of my soured business relationship in another post, but it left me with some financial obligations that I have worked hard to resolve. Unfortunately, the identity theft ruined my credit, and I have been spending the past few years trying to fix a problem that will most likely take several more to clear up. The debt and car accident sent me into a downward spiral that resulted in fatigue and other physical problems.
The good news, however, is that I am finally finding ways to combat my health issues, and I have cleared up many of the debt obligations. Unfortunately, my credit rating is still suffering from some poor businesses choices I made and the dishonest actions of somebody else I have still not been able to identify.
Mid-March I got the news that a long-time friend had passed away as the result of cancer. She was actually more than just a friend, but she was the woman with whom I had shared some of the most heart-wrenching details of our lives. We instantly clicked when we first met, and at one point we thought we could wind up getting married. Of course, I eventually came to admit that that was not meant to be, and we even survived that difficult breakup and still remained best friends.
I wound up morning her death on my own because of several reasons–the main being that she was able to move on in life, marry, and have that family that would never have been possible with me. I didn’t know who to turn to; many people who knew the both of us still blame me for the heartache caused her, but I know in my heart our choices were for the best.
Just short weeks into the mourning process, I went on a road trip with a friend. I thought it would be a good chance to get out, stop pitying myself, and enjoy exploring a city with somebody else. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a miserable time with two people in a car who wanted to do different things the entire time.
I’m still standing
In the past ten or so months since I last wrote, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my life and my interactions with others. I now realize that through all my struggles, I have tried to get through them all on my own. Yes, I have shared the most intimate details of my life with a few select people, but when they exit your life, it can be devastating. As I struggle to be more open with people, I am finding that so many people are willing to love and offer hugs and encouragement, wipe away my tears, and cheer with me through my successes.
Like many members of the LDS church who grew up feeling like we have secrets that we need to hide deep within our souls, I allowed those secrets to damage me for too long. Dialogue is finally happening among congregations throughout the worldwide church that are finally allowing us to be open and heal the wounds created by our own insecurities. It’s time I start healing; it’s taken to long to get started.
I am disturbed by the increased use of a certain adjective I see and hear in conversations, social media posts, and even news articles recently. Perhaps there hasn’t been an increase, but I am noticing it more frequently. Students are using it in conversations; websites use it to express how much they love something; celebrities repeat it in interviews to appear cool; grandmotherly comediennes blurt it out for laughs; authors and screenwriters use it to represent reality.
… read the rest of my thoughts in a new blog.
labels that pull us away from the real issues
I have been thinking of some of the divisive issues that I read and hear about on a daily basis. While there are numerous reasons they are so divisive, I noticed something that they all had in common. Each one of the issues I have listed below have terms or labels that distract the audience from the real issue. These labels all have negative connotations that stop the dialogue that I believe is necessary to bring both sides—and those in the middle—together and work out rational solutions.
It’s LDS General Conference this weekend. Growing up, these two weekends each year were my favorite. I looked forward to them because it meant that I didn’t have to go to church; I could escape the quiet tormenting some of the boys around my age caused. Later in life, it became a time to take a break from the busy weekends I had serving in church callings.
The past several years, however, I have entered this weekend with the hope that church would make a major announcement that would shift the way my LDS neighbors treat anyone who doesn’t fit into their tidy definition of worthiness. I have wanted somebody to talk about our homosexual brothers and sisters and call members to repentance for the way we have been maligned, but that hasn’t happen.
It hasn’t happened, and, as a matter of fact, Boyd K. Packer has been allowed to continue sharing his misunderstandings of homosexuality. Church members continue praising him for standing firm, and they make sweeping comments that they don’t realize are so hurtful. In many ways, I dread this weekend now because I hate to see what controversial and hurtful comments will be made.
I have heard rumors that the church is waiting to make a policy change about homosexual members, but we know how reliable rumors can be. The people in the know claim that leaders are just waiting for Boyd K. Packer to pass away, and then announce that they have received more enlightenment about the matter. They claim that the leaders don’t want to offend the long-term leader and announce that he has been wrong for so many years; they would rather alienate thousands of church members and millions of men and women to appease this one man. I am not sure I believe this, but I have heard the same ideas from several different sources.
I have often wondered why Boyd K. Packer has taken such a strong stance on homosexuality. Sure, faithful members will say that it isn’t Packer who has declared his disapproval, but he is speaking for God. In my mind, if that were the case, wouldn’t comments from other leaders support him? Would the church make an effort to edit his comments from a previous conference when they printed his talk? President Gordon B. Hinckley and others have now admitted that they believe that homosexuality could be an inborn trait that one cannot change, yet Boyd K. Packer sticks to the old ideas that it’s a choice that can be fixed.
I really hope that the church leaders are sincerely praying for a solution to this conflict. I hope they take bigger steps to heal the wounds and bridge the gap that has been created. I so wish that my LDS neighbors will soften their hearts and see that their misunderstandings about us do hurt and make us feel like outcasts within our own communities. Will this happen this weekend? Of course not, but I can always hope.