Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sacrifice

“Gerald talked nonstop about how happy he is and how much he’s learning.”

“ Did you believe him?”

“Not entirely. He’s chosen a position now that he has to defend.”

“Chosen? Okay, Mario, just how much of all this did Gerald choose?”

“Not his homosexuality. I don’t believe he chose that. That part just came. Homosexuality is not a sin. But unchastity is. I know people who are as homosexual as Gerald is who have made other choices and are working out very satisfactory family lives.”

“Have they changed? Really changed?”

“Changed. Adapted. Made deliberate choices. I don’t know. But there is more than one way to deal with all of this. I love Gerald. You know that. I’ve always considered him a very great man. He taught me some of the most important things I’ve ever learned. I have thought about him—about both of you—at least once a day for the last ten years. But everything he was telling me about having to follow the ‘real’ him… I don’t know, I just can’t buy that. Listen. I have watched someone close to me go with the ‘the real him’ all his life. And in order to be ‘true to himself’ he destroyed lots of other people along the way. Sacrifice is sometimes not a bad principle. Sometimes it leads not to death but to life. When you don’t ‘follow the music that’s in you,’ if there’s a noble reason for putting it away, maybe you will find an even richer music. I will always love Gerald, but his light is not as clear as it once was. He’s dealing with a lot of sadness and guilt and confusion. I’m sorry.”

Carol Lynn Pearson,
in Good-bye, I Love You

So, which is it then? Be true to yourself, or forget yourself? I'm certain there are times when both are appropriate goals. Which is appropriate in the case of sexuality?

I was alarmed at the phrase "waste and wear out your life in service" when I was young, but it has grown on me like a fondness for ever darker chocolate. But there's also something hugely comforting in the words a friend of mine offered today: "you have to allow yourself the experience of being human."

I think the "real me" took a backseat when I got married. I signed up to give myself away. And I think the promise that, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it," rings true in this instance. I'm very happy even when I suck. Even when life sucks. My wife and my son make me so.

But I still wonder about the conflict between Emerson's, "See how the masses of men worry themselves into nameless graves, while here and there a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality," and Holmes', "Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out."

True to yourself, or forget yourself?

I really think God wants me to sacrifice certain things, and I'm game. Game to keep trying.

19 comments:

Scot said...

Seems to me this could be a false dilemma? Either you partner up with a man or you’re not true to yourself…

Weren’t you being true to yourself by following your religion? That’s part of you too. You were honest with yourself and your wife going in, and got what you wanted in that choice, it seems. And by sticking with it, aren’t you also being true to yourself? Seems to me it’s brought you joy, and you’d not want to sacrifice that life, God or no, gay or no.

On one hand, you’re gay and that gives you a certain set of motivations. On the other, you’re LDS and that gives you another. Seems to me they, each with their benefits and drawback, conflicted and you choose to be true to the LDS part of you, that music inside, rather than forget it.

-L- said...

Yes, an apt assessment on all counts. I do think the notion that one can only be true to themselves by embracing their natural sexuality is a false dilemma, but one apparently employed by Gerald.

The post was pretty rambling, and I was thinking about more than sexuality through most of it. Actually, who knows what I'm thinking? I don't. I like some of those quotes a lot though.

Beck said...

I like these quotes very much... I'm coming to the conclusion that being "true to oneself" does have more meanings than embracing one's sexual identity. It has a lot more to do with thinking beyond oneself.

Samantha said...

Thanks, L ... for making me think...

johngalt said...

I am now in the middle of fighting this "be true to yourself" battle and it is ugly.

Like you, I chose the "real me" when I got married. But at 25, did I fully understand what I was giving up? I knew the end game, the goal, the expectations, the promises and the responsibility. But until I actually met my Isaac 5 years later, and now have to put HIM on the alter, not a feeling or a longing but HIM, two years of my life with him, that is when I discovered, am discovering, the reality of my sacrifice. It overwhelms me. To look it in the face, everything I want and need and feel and then to walk away, my heart is breaking. When I was first married I was so confident, full of faith and courage. 3 kids only made that stronger. I felt like Ty Mansfield. And still, it only took ONE moment to destroy all of it. I keep looking back to that moment, two years ago, meeting him and knowing instantly that this was my Isaac. I ask myself...could I have walked away? Of course the answer, in reason and doctrine, is yes. That I wouldn't be tested beyond what I could bear. But I truly don't know. In the end it doesn't matter anyway because I didn't bear it. I gave in.

And even now, in the eye of the whirlwind, fighting every nano-second to give him up, to breathe, to re-build, would I turn back the clock and have done it differently? I want to say yes but it's a lie. Because my life without him does not seem like my life.

I realize I've done this to myself. Made it harder than it could have been. I let him into those sacred deep places that I promised to keep hidden forever. My wife could not go there so no one ever would. That's what I was promising to the Lord in the temple across the alter. And yet when my Isaac came, I gave him everything.

I know, I'm disgusted too.

Ok, I've digressed... sorry. My point was that only now do I see what the Lord is really asking of me. Not that the sin was admissable, because it wasn't. But the sacrifice has become real to me now.

I need your prayers. You sound like you and your wife have it worked out. There seem to be so many of you, relatively speaking, who are winning. More than I led myself to believe there were anyway. People that ARE doing it. It's comforting. Especially for me now as I am literally fighting the worst drug, the worst dependency, the worst doubt I have have ever faced in my life. Everything inside of me screams to go back. But somewhere inside, I know my Father won't let me. He believes in me. In my "real self". And my wife believes in me. She always has. I don't deserve her.

santorio said...

sacrifice is so.....so..... so unamerican, so unmormon. marriott can be rich and humble too. steve young can bash heads on a sabbath and be a top draw at a fireside that night. and we can fight a war without slowing down on the economic freeway, or so we think, looking at the world one quarter at a time. all our lives the message is clear--we can have our cake and eat it no. no wonder that when we want to be parents, husbands, faithful latter-day saints, and true to our identities, we balk at thinking of it as more than just a matter self-discipline. fuck, no, it's hard, something has to be given up that leaves us feeling empty and lonely, on the edge, as one of our fellow bloggers puts it. always on the edge. it's not a once won the war is over. maybe this battle won, but the war will never end.

Scot said...

Of course :-), my view of those quotes may differ:

Certainly I may be too touchy here; the crosshairs may only be on gay men with wives, and clearly Gerald made mistakes. But I may pop if one more politician tells me I’m selfish because I want the legal tools to take care of 3 additional people, and be liable if I don’t. I fear this passage is promoting that popular idea of gay = hedonistic and careless.

Difficult personal sacrifices are made on both sides. For the gay man following his attraction they may range from financial and legal gains, to deeply cherished religious ideas and associations, to the ability to procreate in a simple manner, to social acceptance, sometimes to much more.

Still, many gays make such sacrifices successfully because it’s more important--in their lives, with their history, and for those around them--to have a loving, intimate, familial relationship with the sex to which they are innately drawn, and they want their partner to own that particular piece of them. I bet most straight people would feel the same.

Is that selfish, and the other choice not? Once the terms couching our rigid calculus of sacrifice and gain, like “following my music”, are removed, sure, it can be. It can also be selfless. It can also be selfish for gay and religious groups to ask another to make the sacrifices needed for either choice in the first place. There’s plenty of targets for finger wagging :-).

To me, it’s far from surprising “the real” Gerald suffered in both worlds, nor is it inexplicable why others would not want to make his sacrifices. I bet he was “dealing with a lot of sadness and guilt and confusion.” and I bet that made a healthy partnership near impossible when he went to check on the greenness of the other grass.

It’s a problem I think we’re both hoping to end; when gays sacrifice so much of both their worlds they’re unable to find any peace in either.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Scot, I absolutely love your last paragraph.
Well spoken.

johngalt said...

that paragraph rings true to me too, completely. every side is sacrificing something. my gay friends who have comitted partners are sacrificing a life they do truly want... mostly children and security. they are also sacrificing peace. i too made the decision that "true love" and being with the man i want and need are more important than peace. but after a few years, i thirsted for it more than anything. and now, as i'm finally finding it again, i underestimated how badly i missed it and needed it. so now i am sacrificing him instead. and though it is breaking my heart, my soul is feeling better. i could not feed both the natural man and my spirit at the same time. i had to sacrifice one or the other.

TK said...

When one talks about being 'true to themselves', in terms of sexuality, is sexuality (gender?) not an eternal element of one's soul? Is the spirit homosexual, or is that only a mortal, physical challenge?

Maybe I'm way off, but I tend to see it like someone who's born blind, in the sense that it's not part of their 'real selves' which will always exist throughout eternity, but just a challenge they carry throughout mortality, for which purpose only God may know; a part of their physical body, but not a part of their soul?

IF SSA is more of a physical challenge, which will NOT still be present when the body is in it's perfected state, then would 'being true to one's self' for someone with SSA REALLY be to live a homosexual lifestyle? Do you see what I'm saying: Are we talking about being true to one's eternal nature or only to one's physical body which is experiencing mortal challenges?

Please forgive me if I sound insensitive or rude b/c I certainly don't mean to be. And I don't mean to make it sound over-simplistic. It just seems like challenges are always easier to understand when looking at them from an eternal perspective. But maybe I'm ignorantly mis-applying things here. I'd really like to know.

TK said...

I got so carried away with my thoughts/question that I forgot to tell you that I really liked your thoughts on 'Sacrifice'. Thanks for sharing.

-L- said...

I'm not sure how valid a distinction this is, but in my mind there's a difference between the sacrifices we make deliberately and the things we lose because they are taken from us. And perhaps there's a distinction between choosing between two mutually exclusive options (and therefore "sacrificing" the other) and giving up on something even when we believe we should or could "have it all".

I do think situations suck on all sides for the various concessions society/life demands, but I also think there's a difference between resentfully fighting the injustices imposed by politicians and the self-imposed agony described by santorio.

Ty, nothing you've said seems rude to me. I agree with your assessment that a person's "true self" depends on the eternal perspective you're willing to accept. I'm with you, but many gay folks (for example, see Chris' comments in this post) believe being gay is an eternal part of their identity.

Chris (hurricane) said...

johngalt wrote: Like you, I chose the "real me" when I got married. But at 25, did I fully understand what I was giving up?

I guess this is the heart of the matter for me. I got married when I was 23. I thought I was doing the right thing and I worked hard to do the right thing for the better part of 10 years. I sacrificed. But the sacrifice did not bring me happiness. The two years before I came out and decided to end my marriage were increasingly miserable for me--and for my wife.

There are worse things than starting over.

santorio said...

l said 'self-imposed agony' describing my comment. i'd rather have it read as a cynical or even resigned acceptance of life as it has given to me/shaped by my past decisions. agony implies pain which i don't feel. depressed occasionally, lonely at times but not pain. self-imposed--yes without question. years ago i could blame ignorance or denial or social pressures, but now all the decisons are mine, eyes wide open.

Unusual Dude said...

-L-, your quote, "I'm not sure how valid a distinction this is, but in my mind there's a difference between the sacrifices we make deliberately and the things we lose because they are taken from us," is fantastic. I couldn't have said it better myself.

I know that some people have made the decision to marry and have ended up unhappy. They say they know that it was the wrong thing to marry. I don't discount anything they are saying. However, I can say without any reservation that I am happy with my decision to marry a woman. Yes, making and keeping a covenant like that means, essentially, that I have "given up" the option of living a gay lifestyle (at least, I've given up that option if I want to stay true to my covenant), but what I got in return is worth more to me.

I've heard it said that a sacrifice is giving up something of value for something of greater value. To a gay man, giving up the option of acting out on his feelings is definitely something of value (otherwise we wouldn't want it!) but I truly feel that I have something of greater value, for me.

Scot said...

"I'm not sure how valid a distinction this is, but in my mind there's a difference between the sacrifices we make deliberately and the things we lose because they are taken from us,"

Are you saying gays don’t give up those things knowingly?

It’s pretty clear what the two choices mean in what you’re giving up, and they’re both made deliberately and (most often) knowingly, right? Are you saying it matters if the consequences, the things taken away, come from nature or man? (Regardless, there are tough natural consequences for both choices)

John, I just want to say, I’m glad you’re gaining back what you lost (not that I don’t respect Chris’ other sort of rebuilding—complicated bunch of situations here :-) ). I worried after posting that comment it may be construed that I was saying people in your shoes may not ever be able to find “peace in either world.” I’m sure it’s tough, but I’m sure you can. As I’ve posted, I encountered this problem very early on in coming out and it really made an impression on me. I just hope no one gives up and all the anguish finds the happiest resolution for all involved, in whichever world that may be.

johngalt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
johngalt said...

Unusual dude... you're right. It is of greater value. But that is hard to see without spiritual eyes. And the more we give in to the "other side", the more we want it and the tighter we close those eyes. I've read and re-read the comparison between idolatry and adultery in Ty's book the last few days. I'm going to write my next post on that when I have a sec. When I started wanting him more than Him, that is when I started to lose it. I can see now that he (my partner) became my God, my idol. And from that moment, I could rationalize away 30 years of profound spiritual experiences... because he became worth more to me... he had taken the place of God and thus my wife, my children, salvation, everything. And once I had lost all of that, I craved him even more because he was truly all I had. Which is why now, giving him up is literally a chemical cleansing of the most powerful dependency I have ever experienced. My Isaac.

Every time I used to imagine leaving him, returning to the light, the thought was so emotionally & physically painful. I rationalized that he needed me, I needed him, I would die without him, God would not expect me to leave him, my other half. He would make an exception. And if He didn't, well then He didn't love me because He made me this way. Unbelievable that I expected God to save me when I had abandoned Him. I made myself think that leaving him hurt so badly because I was giving up "true love", being asked too much. I believed in Brokeback Mountain. I believed in Romeo and Juliet. Because he had replaced everything which I held as valuable... that is true idolotry.

The real loss and withdrawal I am feeling now is giving up my "idol". Everything I was became dependent on how he thought of me, how strong our love was, how great the sex was, how intimate and close we were, how we were best friends and shared everything, my other half, etc. etc. He validated me. Nothing else mattered. He felt the same. Everything was built on that "lustful worship"... between both of us. If this is not screaming idolatry then what is?

Inside I could see it happening but I hid the truth from myself because the alternative felt impossible. That was Satan saying "You are a son of Man". I debated with myself that giving him up while I felt so strongly would only drive me insane. I was so afraid of waking up without him. I would pray that somehow I would fall out of love and then I could give him up. Could you imagine Abraham praying not to love Isaac anymore so that sacrificing him wouldn't be so difficult???? What a coward I was.

But I am doing it now. And every day, every second, I pull further away from him, I am stronger, I see more clearly, I feel the Spirit, I feel myself, I feel peace. Anyway, I've rambled for too long now. I just wanted to say thanks for your commitment.

-L- said...

Scot, maybe it's willingly giving something up vs. having it taken from you. You would, I assume, have no problem accepting the social benefits you mentioned having sacrificed? Maybe there's nothing qualitatively different at all, but there sure seems to be.

And I don't mean that to be offensive. Your course is perhaps the most prudent--take the best appearing of two options. No virtue missing from that. I guess I just see the other course as perhaps taking the less desirable of two options only because I believe the sacrifice itself makes it the best option... or something like that.

As you can see, I don't really know. It's all interesting though.