Saturday, August 18, 2007

Doing yourself violence

An interesting comment from a therapist who works with families shattered with domestic violence has got me pensive. Apparently, my blog and the comments therein contain all the familiar verbiage. I'm not sure what this means, but I've noted the assessment is not a favorable one.

Came across your blog recently. Not LDS here. I'm a therapist that works with families affected by domestic violence, (broadly defined to include not only physical but psychological and emotional abuse.) I found myself drawn in recognizing posting after posting echoed the voices I hear daily in my practice. The voices of the abused trying to make sense of abusive relationships. Why do we stay in relationships that love us back so poorly? Beliefs. About self, about relationships, about God and the nature of Divine Love. Eerily, I have heard echoes of the comments I find in your blog coming from the victims with swollen lips and eyes nearly blinded by the abuser. "I know he loves me, I just need to be a better person." Yikes!! I could parallel any number of these comments similarly to the sad, sad mental contortions people make to live in abusive relationships. What is it but abuse to call someone an abomination?


And, as you may know, if you know me at all, I'm prone to apologetics when I'm not given a favorable assessment. ;-)

Truth is, I've had my share of swollen lips and eyes nearly blinded by an abuser. But the abuser has never been my faith or my family. The abuser has been pornography. Why do I go back, I wonder? Happily, I haven't gone back for quite some time. Maybe those 12 steps are paying off. Maybe my new found accountability system is working. Maybe I've parted ways with my abuser after all this time of dependence and humiliation.

As for the comments on this blog, many of them reflect places I've been on my journey. I see their views as views to defend as my own. I don't agree with them, necessarily, but I sympathize with the value of struggling through the issues; I know the importance of fighting the good fight, keeping the faith.

On the other hand, larger parts of my fight seem to be winding down, and it's odd to me that the commenter seems not to see it. I've felt more and more like blogging is a chore. It's not that I don't have anything to say; I still get ideas all the time for interesting ways to discuss relevant topics. But it has become so progressively less of an issue in my life that it feels at times distracting to revisit it. That's not to say that I've passed some wondrous benchmark of progress, because I cycle through these issues all the time, and it's too early to say how the long-term prospects look. But it is to say that I can understand how many people who have "overcome" SSA don't spend a lot of time debating the issue... because more than ever before I can believe that I may soon be one of them.

However, now that I've said that I feel dramatic and manipulative. It's not that I'm trying to get lots of comments telling me that I'm important and have important things to say. I believe there ought to be folks speaking up whose lives defy conventional wisdom, and I'm fairly certain I'll be trying to be one of them for a good while yet. And in so doing, I'll try to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, those who have been done violence by evils in the world (whether sophistry, pornography, intolerance, actual abuse, or whatever), and defend the source of truth and peace from being mischaracterized as an abuser.

20 comments:

Chedner said...

I'll be honest, I have often felt like my relationship with the Church has been rather abusive, constant harpings and whippings of "You're not good enough! You're not doing what you're supposed to be doing!"

-L- said...

Other than a pervasive and consistent call to repentance, I've always felt real and undeniable love behind all the church's messages and efforts. At this very moment, my son is sitting across the room feeling very abused because he's having a time out. I assure you, he's not abused. :-) That's not to minimize any injustices you've felt in church, but not having specifics, I can only speak to my collective experiences in dozens of wards over my life.

Brady said...

I think it would be a little inaccurate to deny the fact that the church has at times been like an abusive parent to homosexuals, blacks, women, and others (mostly through conference talks and literature that has been demeaning and ignorant). The key is to remember that the "source of truth and peace" is God, not the church. I'm assuming that's what you meant when you said that as well.

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm trying to lessen the value of the church. I recognize it as the instrument God uses to instruct and care for his children.

Chedner said...

I really can't say I've ever been put on time out by the Church, but I have very often felt like less of a person because of some of the things said about same-gender attractions.

I hope I don't sound insulting (I honestly don't mean to) when I say that you did follow what one is supposed to do in life: you got married, you had kids. Of course the Church wouldn’t devalue you; they can use you as an example as to how I’m supposed to live and what I’m supposed to choose in my life according to my same-sex attractions. You’re like the older brother who isn’t getting whipped because he’s getting A’s.

(P.S. I would honestly love to hear your further thoughts on what you feel I could do. Although, if it involves a means whereby I can work on becoming attracted to a woman, I guess I’m not too interested... such frankly seems so arbitrary at this stage in my life.)

J said...

First let me say that I don't know -L- any more than you can know someone by reading their blog, so I don't pretend to speak for him. But I do find what you (Chednar) say about him being somewhat of a "good son" to be insulting. To me, your comment belittles his struggle and makes it seem like he's somehow taken the easy road that you can't manage to follow. I think it's pretty safe to say that it's taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get where L is and I think it's unfair to minimize his struggle to make your point. But I'm speaking out of turn, here, since the comment wasn't directed at me. Feel to put me in my place, L. As far as the church being abusive, I think that some of things that certain church leaders have said in the past have been hurtful. But I agree that the church's overall message has always been one of love.

Chedner said...

Again, I certainly don't intend to be insulting. It is because of -L-'s blood, sweat, and tears that he's getting an A.

J said...

Chednar, I'm sure you've put in more than your fair share of blood, sweat and tears as well. Don't feel like you're not getting an A, too.

And L, I know this isn't a public debate forum--sorry to hijack your post :(

-L- said...

No, no, no, this IS a public debate forum. Nothing makes me happier than comments. ;-) I appreciated them all.

I was indeed referring to God and not the church when I spoke of "the source of truth and peace," but I do think this church is indeed God's and we'll be best off by far by following God's chosen leaders.

As for getting grades, I once wrote a post using that same analogy, and I do think that the outcomes of our life situation (of one kind or another) is no accident, even though that's not necessarily a popular opinion. But it's important to remember that the grades aren't conventional--they're not just based on results, they're based on intent, faith, obedience, and determination to follow God. I know I've got a long way to go in those terms, but I think I'm on a favorable path. Thanks for your kind words.

Ron Schow said...

Chedner

I'm trying to consider how your feelings about the Church could be improved. Suppose your Bishop or someone came to you and invited you to reach out to other gay (SGA) persons over the coming year and then report to him with interim reports and a final report a year from now.

Your job would be to minister along with an older active LDS brother who has an interest to help in the SGA situation. The two of you would be asked to find 5 or so gay men in any situation and get to know them well enough so you would fully understand their situation. You wouldn't always need to makes contacts together but you as companions would confer with each other to decide how best you might be helpful. Maybe you would try a few different persons and some would not make you welcome but you would keep looking until you found a group that seem to welcome your interest. These 5 or so persons could be in or out of the Church. They could be in or out of a marriage. They could be in a gay relationship or living celibately or not. You would try to be helpful and to fully understand their choices and then see what you could do to help them maintain their LDS ties without preaching or being overbearing in terms of what you think they should do.

Would you feel good about something like that? In other words, you asked about something you might do, that wouldn't involve work on getting attracted to a woman. This is one suggestion.

Forester said...

I think most of us can relate to both L and Chedner. Often, the church doesn't know when to show compassion and when to show judgement. The church does both in a tricky balancing act. I too feel more judged than loved, but that's just human nature.

Chedner said...

Ron: The whole concept and intention behind what you said is magnificent, and I wish all members could think the same, namely: if one does not feel inclined to change one’s orientation or seek marriage because of one’s orientation, let’s find something productive one can do instead. Bravo, and thank you – if the Church had the cahones to offer me something like you suggested, I would be ecstatic.

Chris said...

But it is to say that I can understand how many people who have "overcome" SSA don't spend a lot of time debating the issue... because more than ever before I can believe that I may soon be one of them.

I think the same can be said of those of who have concluded that homosexuality is not something that needs to be overcome. As I have become more comfortable with who I am I have experienced a corresponding diminished desire to debate the issue.

It's a bit of a relief.

iwonder said...

I think it's cajones. But I'm not entirely sure.

J said...

actually it's cojones :)

J G-W said...

-L- A year or two ago I might have jumped onto the bandwagon with your anonymous therapist friend, but now I am inclined to jump to your defense against these comments. Having gotten to know you better through your blog and through the comments you've posted elsewhere, I actually found myself getting angry when I read it.

Here's what I wrote on this subject in the paper I presented at Sunstone a week ago last Saturday:

"I once would have insisted it was impossible for a gay man or a lesbian to find wholeness and peace in celibacy or in heterosexual marriage. In returning to the faith, and in coming to know gay men who are committed to their wives and who have committed to lives of celibacy, I have come to know men for whom I have the deepest possible admiration, respect, and love. Some of them feel conflicted and struggle a lot; but I could not describe one of them as "unhealthy." They have come to places of deep self-knowledge and understanding; they are men of love and courage; they have made certain choices and commitments, and like the general in Christ's parable, they have counted the costs of war and have made the requisite preparations. The costs of marriage can be high. But, as Jesus said, where greater forgiveness is required, there is also greater love. Where greater effort is invested, greater reward is forthcoming. I trust that these relationships, while difficult, have rewards that most of us can't fathom."

For what it's worth... People who jump to conclusions like this don't know. Nobody knows what your relationships mean to you -- with your wife, or with the Church.

Ron Schow said...

L

I also want to commend you for sharing your faith, your journey, and telling others about your marriage and how you have approached it and are working to make it successful. I don't see anything amiss in the way you conduct yourself online.

As a center point in the blogging going on here, I admire your honesty and your sincere desire to be helpful.

I know a number of persons who are in MOMs and I believe what you have been offering to those in that situation is very valuable as an example of a couple who are making this work.

I, of course, think every person needs to sort out carefully if they can do what you are doing and I believe that the Lord does not expect everyone to do so.

Marriage and a family are wonderful, however, and when the circumstances are right, I hope those like you who can do it, a most successful journey.

I urge you to keep being a presence here for those LDS who experience this issue and I also thank you for having an open forum where a variety of LDS views are encouraged.

gentlefriend said...

My abuse came not from the Church, but from myself. My self-abuse was not masturbation, although it played a role. I kept beating up on myself. No one from the Church ever called me an "abomination". The Church was my refuge. My parent's marriage was in trouble. The Church taught me about a loving Heavenly Father who, though disappointed with my sins, loved me in spite of them. Only He and a bishop just before my mission knew of my SGA. I was blessed with compassionate bishops and other male leaders who gave me ammunition to win the war that was going on inside me.

Kalvin said...

Wow, that's hilarious. I've never heard that a viewer of pornography was abused by it. That's like saying the drink jumped over the counter and forced itself down your throat. Whereas the church come on, be honest for a second, has gone further than abuse and has done torture. Why are none of the moho's grappling with the LDS's torture of gay men? You all know it happened. And for the love, no cop outs like the church is perfect but the members aren't, because that's just logical laziness. Although, I'm not sure how much you listen to reasoned argument given the exceptionally poor therapeutic organizations you've listed on your sidebar. (Come on, seriously, do you really know anything about NARTH and those guys? Or the founders of places like Exodus, or John Paulk? Has there ever been a penile plethysmograph done on people who claim to have "overcome" being who they really are?)

-L- said...

Kalvin, it would be wonderful if the nay-sayers who disbelieve the church could be as supportive and kind as they accuse the church of not being. Unfortunately, they are more often than not, jerks, as you have evidenced here. When a guy is musing about his struggles and the pain in his life, the appropriately sensitive response is not to call it hilarious and compare him to a drunk. But, you know that, and don't care.

You also know, I imagine, that "logical laziness" is a bitterly ironic accusation within a comment with as little substance as yours. If you venture further than my sidebar, you will find I'm fairly well acquainted with the data on reparative therapy, and that I don't support NARTH. But, I suppose writing a nasty and insulting tirade is much more fun than putting a lid on your self-satisfaction and hypocrisy and instead going for some restraint and empathy.

playasinmar said...

Wow. Putting the "L" in unLeashed! Nice.