Dancing to your own beat

I never used to think I was a judgmental person, but lately I have begun to realise that sometimes when I look at people around me, from strangers to close friends to old school mates that I bump into for the first time in years, I readily jump to conclusions about their characters and their lives, based on what I can see of them. I think, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not in that situation,” or, “Man, I wish my life was like that.” And that is not okay. It is like judging an artist’s music or character based on sensationalised stories you’ve read in the media.

Judgmental opinion brain

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In fact I have no idea whether they are content with their circumstances or not. They probably don’t want the same things I want from life or have the same goals I have. They probably wouldn’t miss the same things from their lives as I would. They don’t see themselves the way I see them, as failures or successes, because they are not measuring themselves against the same set of criteria for success. I have no right to make that call. They have made different choices to me, but that does not mean either of us is right or wrong, or that either of us have done the right or the wrong things. We are just different. The scope for acceptable and desirable lifestyles is relative and much wider than I once believed.

What is love?

Recently my psychiatrist asked me about a romantic relationship I had been in a while ago. Before long I began telling her about all the ways I thought I had failed or fallen short. When I said that I wanted to do better at my next relationship, she told me not to say “better”, but to say “differently”. A phrase that I constantly apply to myself is “not good enough”, but my psychiatrist says one should not think of life in terms of “good or bad”, one should rather compare situations as simply “other/different”.

Good/Bad/Other

Baby don't herd me GIF from DudeLOL.com

A needy sheep in a field.

The reason I have an issue with this is that if I can’t define something, or put it into a box marked “good” or “bad”, then how do I make sense of the world? How do I live up to someone’s expectations? How do I get full marks? How can I fit in and be accepted and win approval?

I told my psychiatrist that I have now been worrying and pondering whether I had really given my ex love or if I had just been needy. She replied that “it felt like love at the time”. But love can’t just be a feeling that is whatever you say it is because you want it to be so. Lusting after someone isn’t the same as loving them. Idolising someone isn’t the same as loving them. Etc.

Disillusioning definitions

The Oxford English Dictionary defines love as “a strong feeling of affection”, but I have a feeling many a married couple would rile against such a simplified synopsis of a lifetime together. As a romantic at heart, I certainly hope to get a commitment of more than “strong affection”. Or am I a fool, believing in something that may not exist?

After this conversation with my psychiatrist, I realised that I was comparing my attitude and behaviour during the relationship to the definition of love I had learnt years ago at church:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Does this mean that to love someone we must be all of these things all of the time in equal measure? Can I be patient today and kind tomorrow? Can I protect a little and trust a lot? It is humanly impossible (in my humble opinion) to truly love anyone in our lives if this is what we are aiming for. But if this is not love then what is? At which point can we accept that we love each other enough? What is good enough? Or do we just realise one day that this is different and it feels like love?

Introducing … me! (and my sexuality)

One cause of the depression that led to my failed suicide attempt was my homosexuality. I was bullied at school for being gay and I fought an internal battle for years because my same-sex attractions and my religious values were in conflict. I used to pray that God would “fix” me and make me straight, but the more I prayed the more it seemed that my sexual orientation was an inherent part of me.

I came out after many years of internal conflict, because I finally realised that my sexuality was never going to change and that I could not live a life of honesty and integrity if I could not accept myself for who I am. Many of the most talented, caring and brave people I have ever met are gay and I am proud to call them my friends.

LGBT Pride Flag

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I no longer believe that God is going to be angry with me because I love the “wrong” person; He is far more concerned about my relationship with Him. Love remains the most important commandment and, in the eloquent words of Rob Bell, “love wins“.

It is still important for me to identify myself as both gay and Christian, because I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. I know that many LGBT people have been hurt and abused by the Christian community, but there are also many Christians who have been treated unjustly by gay people. Tolerance and respect goes both ways. The world would be a much better place if we all stood together to eliminate discrimination, violence and poverty.

Even though I am now open and honest about my sexuality, I am sometimes aware of how my behaviour and personal presentation are governed by the mistaken stereotypes and prejudices my bullies held. Sometimes I find myself reigning in my mannerisms and the pitch of my voice in order to not appear too “camp”, as if that is a bad thing, which it of course is not. I believe that every person should feel free to be wholly themselves and I hope that we are preparing the world for future generations to have that freedom, but I am afraid I often still care too much what other people think of me. Like the world, I am a work in progress.