Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

And By This They Will Know You Follow Me: A Pride 2019 Love Letter

This is Love

I had a friend in high school who was– among other things–overly friendly with all the girls and an endless tease. He was funny, exuberant and had a large, fabulous personality. My boyfriend, now husband, was often irritated by his presence only because boundaries were foreign to this guy. But I loved him.

For example, he had driven me up to Summer Christian Youth camp one year where we were both on staff. On the first night while we were hanging out by the rock where everyone was going for a midnight swim he grabbed my hand and placed it on his genitals. He laughed and thought my irritated reaction and immediate retraction of my hand from said genitals was hilarious. I think I punched his shoulder and called him a jerk, but I laughed too. It was the 90’s, and discussions of body autonomy and consent were foreign. And besides, he was harmless (at least in my opinion). I chalked it up to teenaged antics. I was proud to be his friend.

A year later he stopped me in the hallway at school and said he had something to tell me. We sat down in the cafeteria and he confessed to me he was gay. No pretense. No build up. Just like that he came out to me. It didn’t make sense to me because when I saw him, I saw my friend the flirt and the one who loved all the girls. 

My first response was to say “No you’re not!” I then belittled and mocked what was to become the most defining characteristic of his life in a way that was ignorant and cruel.  I’m sure he was hoping for a more measured and understanding response. My Christian teaching had told me that being gay was wrong–a sin. He was a Christian, I was a Christian…surely he was joking. He wasn’t joking.

I can’t go back in time and do-over my response. I can’t go back in time and tell him that I am happy for him, proud of him, or even supportive in the face of what I can only imagine was certain rejection and shunning of peers and church leaders–including me.

It has taken me almost 20 years to work out my belief systems where same-sex relationships and identity are concerned. I had nearly 25 years of indoctrination to wade through, and that was no small thing. But questioning the foundations of belief regarding things such a same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships was necessary to suss out the contrary characteristics that attracted me to Christianity to begin with.

The mantra of “Hate the sin, love the sinner” rang hollow the first time I can recall questioning the legitimacy of the doctrine that told me homosexuality or gender identity was a sin. I looked back on all of the people I knew growing up who today were out and living happy and productive lives as their authentic selves with their same-sex partners. The conclusion that seemed obvious, though perhaps not at the time, was they were always gay. They were born that way. So then how could I say I loved someone when I was rejecting or judging a fundamental part of who they were? And then I watched news reports on the ongoing court battle regarding a gay couple who couldn’t get a wedding cake because the bakers had a “moral opposition” to participating in their marriage celebrations based on religious grounds. It felt eerily familiar to signs in windows that would proclaim “whites only” or “no coloreds allowed” from the days of the Southern US. And it certainly didn’t have the ring of Christian love that the mantra espoused. But Christians I knew and respected gleefully celebrated the business owners’ who discriminated on the basis of a religious precept. It felt mean-spirited and contrary to the Jesus I had often read about in the scriptures.

And then I thought about my children. Not only did they have friends who already knew their sexual orientation in elementary school, but what if one day one of my sons came to me and told me they were anything but heterosexual? What would my response be? Would I try to tell them their feelings and their identity was anything but normal and natural, or would I try to convince them they were somehow “less than” or sinful. Would I try to convert them to a way of living and loving that fit an ideology rather than love them unconditionally? Loving them unconditionally means letting them know they are loved for exactly who they are. It means accepting their partners, whoever they bring home, as one of the family. It means supporting them and providing guidance and compassion the same way I would if my children were strictly heterosexual. Anything less would feel hollow and insincere. And that was the point. The mantra that tells someone who isn’t heterosexual they are sinners, tells them they are hated for something they cannot control and is something that impacts nearly every facet of their existence. That mantra tells anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum that their personhood is wrong. Doesn’t feel very loving.

But yet today there are still countless people who are shunned by their parents, their families and their religious communities because they came out as LGBTQ. They face endless shame and discrimination. They are loved and accepted so long as they live the philosophy that homosexuality and all its constructs are forbidden. But once they come out the silence can be deafening, or the attempted conversion is damaging. Suicide rates are high still among these demographics solely due to a lack of ample support during a very confusing and difficult transition. A society that for generations has lauded heterosexual unions as the only “normal” way has institutionalized an ideology that has excluded an entire sub-group of people who have never and will never fit into that category. And though there have been remarkable strides to erase such prejudice, we still have so far to go as a society.

I am proof positive that hearts and minds and ideologies can be changed. I was once a staunch opposer to anything LGBTQ and I once parroted the same philosophies that are so damaging and hateful. I recall the boy who was best friends with one of my high school boyfriends. He had always been “stereotypical” of what one would assume a gay man to be. And my friend group in high school would openly mock him for it. I openly mocked him for it. It was the 90’s and we were insensitive Christian kids, what did we know? But after knowing him for years, when he did finally come out to my then-boyfriend, my reaction was again less than supportive. He knew it. I reacted like it was somehow contagious. This friend was in love with my boyfriend. They had several sleepovers during the course of their friendship. They shared a bed. He viewed me as competition. I started  panicking like this was somehow an affliction for ME. My reaction was selfish and wrong. From that moment on, his then girlfriend (Who he had because he was taught he needed to have and was “normal” in an effort to fit in) and my boyfriend were the only ones he would speak to. He didn’t want me knowing anything. In hindsight, I completely understand his reaction. I wish I could go back and change my reaction. I wish I had taken the time to understand and show compassion, rather than judging and condemning.

So many examples have given me hope that the hearts and minds are changing. Pastors who are affirming of LGBTQ people in all areas, even though this still has a long way to go. Entire denominations that are not only willing but endorsing same-sex marriage. Pastors who openly and publicly embrace, support and affirm their LGBTQ children. Christian writers, teachers and worship leaders who are leading the way in understanding and compassion for LGBTQ rights. (RIP Rachel Head Evans) Christian churches who show up at Pride parades to offer “Free Mom and Dad Hugs” to people who have been rejected by their parents. (Looking at you Jen Hatmaker) But where there are glimmers of hope there are far too many accounts of rejection and shunning. Parents who reject their children if their partners are with them, citing they have to maintain a standard of righteousness and can’t stand for sinfulness in their homes. Entire congregations who don’t acknowledge or show signs of support when a long time congregant not only announces his same-sex relationship or his engagement. Couples who are asked in church not to show affection for one another in church because “children are watching”.  Church leadership who post public messages that speak to their prejudice against people of LGBTQ and engage in heated public debate denying the legitimacy of LGBTQ struggles and persecution. Business owners who refuse to serve patrons based on sexual orientation because it offends their religious beliefs.

And even I have received the silent treatment because I have been outspoken about my conclusions. It’s hurt, but I’m sure it can’t compare to the pain and rejection others have felt as a result of my own hateful stance over the years or the complete and utter rejection LGBTQ kids have faced from family and friends.

I refuse to participate in a culture of belief that would erase and delegitimize an entire group of people simply based on who they love or have sex with. (And it should be noted that LGBTQ definitions are far more wide-ranging than that simple generalization, but for the sake of this blog post I am over-simplifying.)  And I refuse to participate in denying them the same rights and privileges I have as a heterosexual woman. And I will welcome my sons’ friends and partners into my home with love and acceptance regardless of gender or sexual orientation. To do anything but is unloving and is antithesis to everything I know about Jesus.

And to anyone in my life who I have judged in the past, I humbly offer my sincerest apology. I wish I could go back in time and show greater love and support for my friends. I wish I could erase my own prejudice and ignorance.  

So on this first day of Pride Month, I offer this as my first step to restitution. Apology. Affirmation. Acceptance. Equality. Love. Support.

HAPPY PRIDE!

Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

A Facebook Post: It’s Never Been About the Sanctity of Life

Written by: Adventurous Kate

It’s not about the sanctity of life. It never was.

I’ve known many people throughout my life, including friends and family, who consider themselves pro-life activists. For them, as soon as conception takes place, that clump of cells is equal to a human being and must never be harmed.

But you know what? My entire life, I have NEVER heard ONE of these people voice a single complaint about the thousands of clinics around the United States that create and discard embryos on a regular basis.

Not a word. Isn’t that interesting.

I mean, if it were about preserving the clump of cells, wouldn’t fertility clinics be knee-deep in protestors, just like Planned Parenthood Centers?

And, I mean, let’s expand that. If they truly found the value of life to be sacrosanct, wouldn’t they be providing free healthcare for all? Or increasing food access for the poor? Or ending the death penalty? Or doing everything they could to prevent gun massacres in schools?

They call themselves pro-life. They are not. I call them advocates of forced childbirth.

Criminalizing abortion does not end abortion. It only ends safe abortion for the poor. The latest moves by the legislatures of Alabama and Missouri are about controlling, shaming, and punishing women. Particularly poor women and women of color, who have the least access to safe, legal abortion.

Because, believe me, the mistresses and daughters of Republican lawmakers will always be able to get safe abortions.

But you know what does decrease abortions and has the proof to back it up? Better sex education. Increased access to affordable contraception. In Colorado, offering low-cost IUDs led to a 64% reduction in teen abortions over the course of eight years.

A 64% decrease in teen abortions. Isn’t this what you wanted, forced childbirth advocates? If you cheer whenever a woman walks out of Planned Parenthood (where she was far likelier to be getting a pap smear or a birth control prescription than getting an abortion), why not cheer for the reduced abortion rate? Isn’t that something you should be celebrating?

This is simply another panel in the Republican Party’s consolidation of power. The Republican Party only works when a privileged minority maintains power. That’s why they fight against universal healthcare. That’s why they purge black voters from rolls. That’s why they give massive tax cuts to the wealthy. That’s why they start wars in which the poor die and the rich profit. Republicans stay rich and powerful only as long as the poor stay disenfranchised.

Reproductive rights, including access to contraception and safe, legal abortion, are the strongest tool in increasing economic equality for women. And that is what truly scares Republicans.

At the present moment, the current Republican Party is unsustainable. By demographics alone, the party will be dying out. Which is why, like a cornered animal, they are at their most vicious right now.

I’ve never had an abortion myself — I’ve never been pregnant. Hell, I don’t know if I CAN get pregnant. But if I had needed one, I wouldn’t have hesitated to get one, and if I had, I would be shouting it from the rooftops now. It’s a complete myth that nobody wants an abortion. Plenty of people do. I know so many people who were able to have the lives they wanted to have — as leaders, as spouses, as creatives, as adventurers, and yes, as parents — because they had access to safe, legal abortion. I stand with them today and always.

You are not going to change the minds of the forced childbirth advocates in your life. Don’t waste your time. Instead, support organizations that fight for reproductive rights.

There is going to be an intense fight ahead. Please join me in donating to NARAL, who have always been on the front lines of this fight.

Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

How I Learned to Have Boundaries Written by: David Sutcliffe

“I used to have a hard time saying no. And being direct about what I wanted.

I often found myself accommodating others, doing things I didn’t want to do. This would lead to lingering resentment, and if it persisted, an explosion of blame and victimization.

If I finally confronted someone the response was usually, “Well, why didn’t you say something?!”

It’s a good point. People are not mind readers, nor should we expect them to be.

Read More

Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

#CanadaStrong and Mighty

Media is releasing the names of the victims of a senseless attack that occurred on the streets of Toronto, ON Canada on April 23, 2018. 24 hours later and the world is learning the names of the 10 people, and 15 injured after a mid-day attack on a busy street in the heart of one of Canada’s most diverse cities.  The impact of such a tragedy is being felt around my country. These things are not the norm for us Canadians. We don’t have experience with this level of sadness and loss. Not when it was intentional, callous and with discriminatory intent.

Our instinct is to try to make sense of what can’t be rationalized. Our instinct is to point a finger and provide an explanation that fits what we are comfortable with. Because the alternative is a world that is chaotic and frightening. It’s a world where the unimaginable can happen, at any time and in any place to anyone.

Public response was immediate. Conclusions had been drawn before law enforcement could conduct a thorough investigation. And the preliminary assumptions were formulated around two theories that are predominant in our rationalizations of violence: terrorism or mental instability.

The nuanced assessments—even by seasoned professionals—about the perpetrator of any mass casualty event, cause damage to the mental health community.  When they immediately assume that the crime was motivated by a person who was mentally ill, they spark a discussion. They tout past record of instability, inability to connect with others, past history of mental break downs, history of medications, and history of violence—all in an effort to lend credibility to the theory that mental health was the mitigating factor behind a senseless tragedy. And in that context, the attempt to thwart the stigma of mental health issues in our Western culture takes a giant leap backward.

In the aftermath of such tragic events, anyone taking medications like Cymbalta or Celexa, Risperdal or Ativan, are viewed with suspicion and fear. Anyone who is brave enough to own their anxiety or depression is judged as if to suggest they are seeking attention or being lazy. The ones who suffer with the debilitating mental health diseases such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder are deemed unsafe for society. Anyone hospitalized or formed are stigmatized as crazy or nuts. The correlation between uncontrollable mental health disorders and violence are no longer up for debate, they are now a concrete reality in the editorializing of steadfast pundits. And every time another occurrence of violence disrupts our civilized society, the same arguments are touted over and over again until that mantra is cemented into the minds of our culture.

I spent the better part of my weekend on Twitter in a heated debate on an unrelated topic. And even when discussion broke down into insults and abusive assaults on my character, the reason mental health is still so stigmatized was staring me right in the face. We use harsh and sometimes prejudicial remarks about someone’s mental state when attempting to disparage them. Even though i attempted to remain above the fray and refrain from using insults and cursing to establish my narrative, I did at one point say “Are you off your meds?” It didn’t strike me as wrong until a day later when I watched as users on Twitter did the same thing when debating the motivation behind a young man driving a white rental van down a sidewalk filled with pedestrians. It was horrifying for multiple reasons, not the least of which was a reopening of further prejudice against anyone and everyone who has ever suffered from mild, emotional distress to a full blown psychotic breakdown. And I propagated the stigma. I contributed to the  ignorance.

Stigma and fear don’t need a propellant in order to enact their wounds. We need to begin reassessing how our culture examines tragedy without immediately casting dispersions toward an entire group of people. And mental health does not discriminate. It affects all ages, races, genders and professions. And it begins by making a conscious effort to understand all of the motivations behind premeditated violence, whether it be mass shootings, attacks using motor vehicles, or even bombings. When mental health is instantly attributed to the accused, all discussion shuts down and the truth matters little.

When these events take place in our communities and our nations, we can begin by having discussions among the people around us; families, friends, co-workers and neighbours. We need to ask ourselves if these kinds of generalizations make us sad, for more then the reasons apparent. Do the accusations thrown around so mindlessly make us stop to think? Do the discussions around mental health make us feel like we need to hide the daily struggles each of us face? Is mental health the underlying mitigating factor to senseless violence, or is there something we’re missing?

Mental health issues do not correlate to violent acts. Millions suffer with mental disorders on a daily basis and they don’t resort to committing mass murder. So we as a society need to do something. We need to change the conversation. We need to change the beliefs. And if we are successful, the stigma can end.

Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

Status Anxiety: Keeping up with the Joneses to the Nth Degree

One of my best friends suggested I watch Alain de Botton’s video Status Anxiety (2004), and it placed a spot light on some of the philosophical questions I have been pondering over the past few weeks and months.

In the opening few minutes of the video, Alain describes what he perceives to be the foundational reason why our culture suffers so much from anxiety, and it relates directly to the expectations we place upon ourself, or the expectation we think society places on us.

Two-hundred years ago when European settlers came across the ocean and began colonizing the Western Continent of North America, they left behind a class society or hierarchy and aristocracy. In the new land they were building, anyone could become anything. It was a clean slate. In today’s culture, where we live in a class-less society and everyone is deemed “equal” there is a pervading myth that every opportunity and every advantage is available to all of us in equal measure. Men and women are equal and are afforded the same opportunities. Blacks and Whites are equal (and every other race) and have equal value. Rich and poor are just as equally important as one another. But even reading over this list, anyone can admit that this is just simply untrue. But that is the nature of our free, democratic society. The belief that if we work hard enough, persist long enough and continually make choices to be a “better” version of ourselves, then all of the above is true for anyone. We can be the best we can be.

But the flaw in this belief is that it creates an unending cycle of striving to be something we so desperately want to be, and we are NEVER satisfied.

These are the questions I have been asking myself:

  1. What if I don’t have as many friends as my friends do, does that make me unworthy or unlovable?
  2. What if I am never recognized for my accomplishments? What if my dreams are never realized?
  3. What if my house is not the nicest or the biggest? Does that make me a failure?
  4. What if people don’t like me, does that mean that I am a failure?
  5. What if I can’t lose the weight? Does that make me unattractive?
  6. What if the things I write are never published, never read by anyone but me and never appreciated?
  7. What if I never have the latest and greatest toys and gadgets like the people I know?
  8. What if I never get to travel to the places I so desperately want to see?
  9. What if I am not as successful as the person next to me? AM I STILL VALUABLE TO SOMEONE?

The above list is only a portion of the questions I have been asking myself, and I can’t be alone. But the underlying question is Do I have value as a human being? The politically correct version of that answer is yes. But the realistic version that culture subliminally pushes on us is, no I do not have value if I am not “successful”. If I am not striving to be the next best {insert thing here} then I am failing. If I don’t adhere to the latest parenting fad then I am a failure. If I don’t make x amount of money then I am a failure. If I don’t drive the newest car, or I don’t wear the latest clothes then I am a failure. If I don’t learn the latest hobby then I am a failure, if my house doesn’t look like a Pinterest ad then I am a failure, if I don’t subscribe to the latest political ideology then I am a failure. The list goes on and on. But who gets to define success?

The problem exists when we begin to compare ourselves to our peers. The people within our closest sphere of influence are the ones we equate our identity with, and so when one or more of our “peers” advance in a stage of life we believe that we too should be advancing in the same way. A co-worker gets a promotion over us, or a friend inherits a large sum of money or has a job where they make more money than we do, a friends child receives an accolade for something they accomplished, or a friend buys a larger house–it creates a jealousy that makes us look at our own life and think, “I don’t measure up.” When we do that it creates a problem in our relationships that didn’t exist before. I nearly created a problem between a friend and myself when I admitted to my own jealousy that they were selling their house when I had been wanting to sell mine for almost as long. (When I developed cancer last year it put my life on hold and I was forced to put all of my life’s plans on the back-burner). My jealousy prevented me from being able to effectively communicate how happy I was for her (which I was) because all she heard from me was my unhappiness in my own situation. That wasn’t fair to her.

But it made me realize that her accomplishments do not diminish my own successes. It also made me realize that the things I don’t achieve are not a direct reflection of my character or my value.

If I never accomplish another thing in this life or acquire any more wealth, and simply live every day like I am now, would I be satisfied? And if the answer to that is no, then it begs the question as to why? Is it for my own satisfaction or because I am too preoccupied with a deeply ingrained cultural myth that I have to achieve certain things or do certain things in this life in order to be satisfied?

In the past few decades our culture has seen and experienced such a vast accumulation of technological advancements and wealth, has been given access to great knowledge at our finger tips, and has seen the development of a globalized economy. But in those same years we have seen a steady increase in mental illness, anxiety, depression and overall dissatisfaction. Is it because as a society we have become more adept and more open about discussing mental illness or is it because there has been such immense pressure placed on us all that we are constantly trying to attain a lifestyle ideal that is unattainable?

If you have a couple hours to kill, I highly suggest watching Alain de Botton’s video. It is long, and his voice is soothing so don’t watch it if you are tired. But his views are worth pondering, and while he doesn’t provide any answers, he allows us to consider that our happiness is derived from the things we already have and not from what we desire.

Click the link here to watch his documentary.

Reflections To Help Me Be a Better Person

Embracing My Inner Psychopath (And Keeping Her Safely Locked Away)

There are moments in life where I really want to control other peoples’ behaviour, even though it is humanly IMPOSSIBLE short of brain washing. (I know, I know, we CAN’T control other people, we can only control ourselves…THAT much I do know!) But there are instances where people say and do things that hurt us and all we want to do is make them apologize, or make them pay, or punish them relentlessly until they cower in a corner and beg for mercy. We WANT to do that, but in reality, we can’t…mostly because it is against the law and any rational, law-abiding person would see the difference.

Now admittedly I am a rather “high-spirited” individual which can be a credit to my personality. I am usually over-the-top when it comes to celebrations and creative ideas, and I have been known to be a time or two, incredibly impetuous. While that can be an admirable quality for the good things, it can also be a very dangerous quality to have when confronted with conflict.

A few years ago I had a situation with a woman who violated my personal life in such a way that I was broken and angry for a long time. I had friends who, very lovingly, offered to help me drive past her house with a baseball bat so we could teach her a lesson. On more than one occasion the offer was made, and while tempting as it may have been, it was also highly illegal and I declined again and again. (Was hilarious to talk about in the moment) I did however resort to very unChristian-like behaviour that involved some very nasty emails and texts. I was unapologetic about it at the time, and I felt very justified in my behaviour. But at the end of it all, it was wrong on every level. As justified as I may have been, it did nothing to alleviate myself of the very real pain and anger I was in. Eventually I had to learn to let it go and move on. The only person I had been hurting was myself, and my reputation.

As a Christian, everything I do has the potential to hurt my reputation, and in turn hurt the church. All negative, sinful actions validate the accusations the world hurls at the church because in all honesty, it makes us look like the hypocrites they accuse us of being. When we retaliate in anger, whether it be through violence, hateful comments on Facebook, stalking people, yelling profanity at other people, sending scathing emails, spreading malicious gossip about another person around town, or maligning someone else’s character it greatly decreases our credibility as representatives of Jesus. There have been moments where I have wanted– DESPERATELY– to lash out at people, or defend a friend who has been treated unjustly by taking on their offence, or send that scathing email, or defend myself when I have had those offences done to me, or spread horrible gossip about someone else, or (and this is extreme) hit someone, but to do so would not only cause me to suffer great personal consequences, it would hurt my testimony as a Christian.

Some would argue that it is because of my sinful nature (inner psychopath) that I need Jesus, and they would be correct. My need of Jesus does NOT validate my willful and selfish destructive behaviour against another person no matter how justified I believe I am.

I have been thinking about this today because a friend has had this behaviour perpetrated upon her. My gut reaction was to rush to her defence, trash the other woman and suggest all sorts of ways that she should retaliate. To my friend’s credit, she turns the other cheek far better than I ever could and she is a great example to me of what it means to endure “hardship” gracefully. I want to defend her. I want to shout from the rooftops the horrible treatment she has endured over the course of a year. I want to write all sorts of scathing things on Facebook and create all sorts of drama…even writing this blog is border-line, passive-aggressive, drama-creating stuff. But writing is my catharsis. I process better when I can get words to paper and think it through. If I were to do the things I described above, I would be no further ahead and I would have accomplished NOTHING. (My inner psychopath still wants to though…I have her tied to a wall in the farthest recesses of my brain and I refuse to feed her) What I would end up doing is damaging my witness as a Christian and damaging my own personal reputation as a human-being.  So what I can do is admit that I am human, and I struggle with those demons that we all struggle with…and admit that for these reasons I need Jesus.

What I am finding is that turning the other cheek is not a sign of weakness, but a great act of the will and it requires an enormous amount of strength. But giving in to my weaknesses and exhibiting horrible anti-social behaviour only keeps me locked in a cycle of anger and bitterness. The result of that would rob me of my joy. The hardest thing to do is forgive a person that will never admit they were wrong, and accept that you may never hear “I’m sorry” from someone who has truly hurt you. I don’t think that anyone is able to do that with ease, but when this life is over it is more important to reflect on the people we loved rather than the people who let us down. If I died tomorrow, I would rather people remember me for how I loved them and contributed to their lives. I don’t ever want to be remembered for the people I “hated” or the actions I made as a result of that “hatred”.

With that being said…I never want to live in “hate”, and I pray every day that the person I am becoming reflects the character of Jesus rather than the inner psychopath that threatens to come out of hiding every now and then.