Saturday, November 26

Am I Facing Up To God, or Do I Face Away?

There is more, I think, to authenticity, than being true to who I am instead of who others think I should be. For in my heart of hearts, who am I, but a soul in the midst of an eternal war of whirlwinds and a battle of desires... with battlefields where I am deeply drawn to either side? How then can it be more right to truly follow a deepest desire within me, and thus truly betray the other just as deep?

For what if I, in being true, betray my own divine?

I think, far greater than being true to the warring soul inside, is choosing who I truly wish that soul to be. For without that choice, I may be true to myself, only to find that I am no one at all.


I've believed that goodness was measured by actions. That by looking at my spiritual and physical resume I could determine if I was on the right path.

The important part, I thought, was the sum total of the things I had done. If I spent time in pornography, I could counter it with service and family and friends. The hidden deceptions of my heart I could expiate by making the world a better place. Every sin had a price that it could be bought, every guilt washed clean through the indulgence of a good deed.

I was wrong.

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Christ teaches that the determination of who I am, and not what I have done - and from thence my choice of eternal destination - is only based on one thing:

Which way I face.

It's the only thing that matters. That's the reason that apostles pray for strength in their dying days. Even men who have done miracles in the name of God can turn away from Him. It's the reason that God reaches out to those who sin. Those who have chosen darkness in the past can transform and exchange their lives for the light of Christ.

And I can only choose one.

"No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
- Matthew 6:24

If I sin and seek to hide or justify my actions, it doesn't matter how good I appear - if I work at the temple or hold a calling as a bishop or love my children or have made the world a better place - I am turned away from God.

And in the same breath, if I truly want to repent and choose to humbly submit my will to God, it doesn't matter what I've done or the breadth of my accomplishments. I am turned to Him, and His Grace can make me whole.

It takes incredible strength to submit to God. It's easy to take control of my life and to choose the path I take. It takes far more conviction and strength of soul to let Him guide my life and set the course of my faith. Those who submit to God are never weak.

It's my choice.

And, at the end of the day, it's the only choice that matters.

It doesn't matter how deep the pit
If I look towards the light
If I imagine sunshine
It breaks the darkest night

It doesn't matter how bright the light
If my face is turned away
In my shadow I cast darkness
And dim the brightest day

Both are always present
The darkness and the light
But I can only turn to one
Just one can be in sight

My resume of doings
My friends and my degree
Will never tell the truth
About the soul inside of me

At the end of life but one foundation
Shapes my day-to-day
Am I facing up to God
Or do I face away?

Thursday, November 24

Second-class Citizen

I remember once overhearing a conversation among a group of LDS women - singles and leaders from my YSA ward. A woman mentioned that she knew someone who had just broken up with a guy who was attracted to other men. The responses of the other women were telling. 

"Don't ever date someone like that..." 
"She got herself out of a bad situation..." 
"Promise you'll never marry someone who is gay..."

Something inside me broke that day. I had never realized that being gay was seen as a liability in some circles of the Mormon dating world beyond the simple fact that it made dating hard for me.

That experience was years ago.

Someone asked me if I'm at all interested in girls. And I just realized today that I still feel deep shame, and honestly, unworthiness related to that same issue.

But I don't know how to work through it.

There's a girl I know that was part of that conversation. I've had the desire to ask her out before. I didn't. She had a steady boyfriend, and while I'm an awesome guy in most fields, I feel woefully inadequate when it comes to this. Anyone would be a better option than I would... and she had plenty of options. She still does. Years later, she has another boyfriend, and I still haven't ever asked her out or even mentioned that I had wanted to.

Maybe that would be a good thing to do. Just mentioning it doesn't sound as vulnerable as asking. I could mention it.

But vulnerability is what I'm going for. Is putting myself out there so awful? What's the worst that can happen? I've already rejected myself as wholly undesirable, and I know my entire story. No one can top that.

And being ok with vulnerability is what I'm trying to achieve inside myself. While it's unlikely that anything would come of the conversation from a dating perspective, the authenticity (= courage to live boldly and have courage) gained on my part would be a huge boon regardless of result.

But where is the feeling coming from?

And here's me being vulnerable here.

I think it means that I have a ways to go in accepting myself and loving myself. 

I know lots of guys who are paranoid about their family or friends learning about their sexuality... or at least their friends who are also gay. Those I've tried to befriend kept me on the fringe of their lives - sometimes mutual friends are inevitable and they'll make up a story about how we met, but usually they'll go to great lengths to isolate me from ever meeting people in their other lives.

I know the feeling. I've felt, at least somewhat, the same way. I remember being afraid that people would learn I was gay and facing enormous, looming, unknowable-but-awful consequences... supported by a few bad personal experiences and some awful stories.

"What if it goes away? What if I can deal with it by myself? Why do I need to tell anyone? Won't it just make life harder?"

This isn't a post on coming out. That's a personal decision between one person and God, not between me or anyone else.

But I think that (breathe, David... it's going to be ok) this realization that I feel like a second-class citizen in the dating world means I am still at odds with being gay.

 It means that, somewhere inside me, *I* honestly think that being gay is shameful. That it's a liability. Even though I'm upfront and candid with family, friends, and the world about being attracted to guys, even though I've seen how much it has influenced my life and been a mortal experience that has shaped me, I've still bought into the feeling that it's an unsavory part of who I am... and that I'm less valuable as a person (or more specifically, as a potential dating or marriage partner) because it is something I face.


That sucks.

I didn't want to say that. It actually took me a few minutes to even write the last sentence because "sucks" feels like gutter slang to me. I don't say that when I speak. But it's also the only thing that hit the feeling. It's depressing, frustrating, angering, stupid, and a handful of other emotions all crushed into one.



And it's even worse because, likely, if I'm feeling that way, there are a lot of guys out there who feel the same way. And maybe even some who are reading this post and feeling the soul-crushing, gut-twisting shame that I felt while writing it... and wondering just like I am how to get out of it.

I don't know.

But I do know some things I can do to work through it.

I can make the commitment to treat the people in my life like the awesome people that they are - and to never, ever hide myself or them because I'm afraid of someone finding out about me.

I can talk to this girl (or call / write her) and share my thoughts. Not this whole post, but the thoughts I had about asking her out and how feeling second-class made it take so long to share them.

And I can ask God to help me really believe that I am worthwhile, and even spectacular, with all the things that I carry in life. Learning to love myself more is a process - not something I'm going to ever "reach"... but God *does* love me fully, and He can help me along the path to believing more in me.

Friday, November 11

Existential Crises

Most days I find myself facing existential crisis. I don't use that term lightly... and I'm only writing about it because I have finally realized that my daily dose of crisis isn't all that normal. And because being vulnerable - understanding my own weakness - is an important part of thriving in life.

The seed sprouts from a mild sense of disconnection. That can come from pretty much anything - when I misinterpret communication from a friend or even a stranger, when there are delays, and pretty much any time my expectations and reality don't match perfectly.

The sense of disconnection, if it remains and my mind has a moment to think, sensitizes me to one of my personal shame triggers - the deeply set belief that I'm not worthwhile in relationships... and that people would be better off without me in their lives.

My inner persona recoils with shame when the trigger gets flipped. It begins chanting positive affirmations in the hope that one will stick: "I'm not a worthless person. I've done lots of really good things. I make a difference. People love me for who I am... right?"

But in that moment all the things I've ever done don't matter. They're all in the past. They talk about the *past* me - not the current me. And then I am suddenly engaged in a war with myself, feverishly attempting to show that my life and life's activities prove my worth.

My day-to-day flashes before my eyes, from my distant plans for the future down to the things I did just moments before.

Everything gets weighed. Everything gets judged. Does this really make a difference to the world? Does this really prove that I am good?

And if I can't explain how something in my life is essential to the wellbeing of humanity, it gets tossed to the cutting floor.

Then there's free time - pre-existent or created through the culling - and, without skipping a beat, my internal urge demands that each moment be filled with a valuable, meaningful activity that will change the fabric of the world.

If I can do it, then the crisis fades. The shame quells. And the exhausting fear of being a failure quiets into the fear of failing.

But if I come up short - if I can't identify something meaningful enough, or if I lack the resources to work on it, or sometimes without any excuse at all, the feeling escalates to true crisis. Overwhelming shame fills my soul, and I find myself wanting, wishing I could do anything to get away from myself. Sometimes I have the foresight to drug myself with endorphins at the gym. Other times I down an entire jar of peanut butter, even on a fast day. Or I try (it used to work) to drown myself in video games or movies.

Eventually, no matter what happens in my internal war, the feeling subsides. I clean up the wreckage and start my life again.

Good things come from my sorties with meaning. I find myself pushed constantly - daily even - to better understand my role in the universe and how I can play a better part. I think about how I can be a better friend, a better brother, a better father someday, and I make real plans on how to fulfill those goals.

But I am realizing that these constant daily battles are deeply rooted in fear and shame. I am afraid that I'm not enough. I'm ashamed that I'm not good enough. I'm ashamed that I'm not worthwhile as a friend, as a potential husband, as a future father, as a brother and a son. And so many of the good things I do are an attempt to prove to myself that I'm good enough.

But it doesn't work.

Because while I may be able to convince everyone else, doing great and marvelous things will never make me accept myself. A resume full of glorious accomplishments won't take away my flaws and my weaknesses. Nothing will. And only humility, and compassion, could ever allow me to accept myself for who I really am.

I don't yet believe that I am worthy of love. I don't yet believe that I am worthy of friendship or compassion or anything good at all. I've done good things. I've spent my life trying to prove my worth. Most days I'm honestly happy. I spend my hours and minutes doing amazing things and connecting with people in ways I never would have thought possible.

But sometimes I still have trouble believing in me.