Tuesday, August 21, 2007

COMPASSION FOR THOSE ON ANOTHER PATH

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." (Longfellow) Jesus told us to love our enemies. Who are our "enemies"? They are people different from us, those who make us uncomfortable, whose lifestyle or behavior is emotionally or physically threatening to us. They may be members of the Church or members of our own family. They may be people of a different gender attraction or people who have chosen a different path than we.

Some in our blogging group have chosen or are considering leaving the Church or at least entering a gay relationship. Some are terminating their temple marriages. My first reaction is to say, "Don't do this. You'll go to hell! The Church is the only true way for you. God doesn't want you to do this. You will lose contact with Him." I have a personal testimony of the Gospel. I experience the good that the Church and Temple marriage and family have brought into my life. Shouldn't I warn people that they are going to lose all of this and much more?

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that each our lives are very complex and unique. Is what is best for me always what is best for someone else? Can I really know what is best for another person in a specific situation? Do I have the right to judge and condemn someone's actions? Yes, I must speak out against what I interpret to bring abuse, exploitation and unrighteous pain to others. I must warn against the dangers of addiction to porn, or gambling, or anything else.

But I find others with very different lifestyles non-judgmentally blessing the lives of others. Some of my Catholic friends who believe in lifetime celibacy excel me in community service. Some of my Muslim friends (some of whom have more than one wife!) have taught me a lot about devotion to God and being charitable to others. Some of my Protestant friends (who drink alcohol and coffee!) have taught me to have a greater love for the Savior. I have gay friends who excel me in community service and compassion for others (and are living in sin by my standards). Should I rush in and tell these people they are wrong in not living and believing as I do?

I believe that many of these people are currently more righteous in many ways than I, and will go farther in the next life. Am I not arrogant when pointing a finger of scorn at them? A bumper sticker read, "Hate is not a family value." Another read, "Jesus, please save me from those who believe in you."

I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who wants to lift us, lead us and bless us all. If we but open up to him, He will embrace us. (Yes, even me with SGA and all my weaknesses. I know this because I feel His love right now!) He will take us from where we are and lead us to "something better" if we but follow. Everyone is unique. The challenges He gives to each of us is different. "Something better" may be different for you than it is for me. I cannot understand my own chemistry, let alone someone else's. My responsibility is to listen to His voice speaking to my uniqueness and to follow. Do I have the capacity to understand another's choices. No. If someone chooses to follow a path divergent from mine should I condemn him or her or write them off as evil sinners? It is too easy to focus on our "strengths" and others' "weaknesses". A minister friend of mine is has SGA. Some of my LDS friends ignore all the good she is doing, wrinkle their noses and write her off by saying, "Well she is a lesbian!"

When I see people following another path, doing good, blessing others, sacrificing for the common good: basically living the teachings of Christ, whether they believe in Him or not, I am humbled. I have enough weaknesses in living the law of love myself to spend time beating up on others for choosing a different path.

It is not easy watching another take a divergent path from mine. Jesus has commanded me to love them, to listen to them, to see the good that is in them, to encourage them to stay close to God. I help them best by trusting them to make their own choices and staying in touch in a loving way. The Father lets His prodigal sons and daughters take their inheritance and spend it as they choose and then learn from the consequences. He does not condemn, but rejoices when his child returns. Although I am a Temple recommend carrying Latter-day Saint, I am prodigal in many ways as you have seen in my previous posts. I am grateful for my other prodigal brothers and sisters who share their intimate thoughts and insights in this blogging group. I have learned a lot since joining you.

7 comments:

Chedner said...

Beautiful and inspiring.

iwonder said...

If only more people thought the same way.

It is very difficult for me to understand why people feel the need to attack and denigrate someone else's opinion, feeling or action.

There are many people I disagree with, or whose lifestyles I find as unattractive to me, but I try to understand it from their perspective.

It is just so sad to me that so often people decide to ignore the commandment to love everyone , and rather focus solely on judgement and condemnation, forgetting the beam in their own eye.

J G-W said...

Thank you for sharing that incredible quote by Longfellow. I have discovered how true this is in reading the "secret histories" my fellow gay Mormons share in their blogs. When we see others' experience through their own eyes, it becomes less easy to condemn or write them off.

I must confess that I experience a lot of loneliness. I often feel that, while I have many friends, few fully understand my choice to both remain committed to my same-sex partner of 15 years and affirm that I have a testimony and try to nurture a relationship with the LDS Church. I've experienced some wonderful connections through the blogs, but far too often I feel profound and painful disconnects as well. I could say more, but I'll leave it at that.

Thank you for this post. I really long for a community of Moho bloggers where we really, truly can let go of all our judgments and just each encourage each other in the various paths each of us has chosen, even when they are divergent.

-L- said...

This may seem unrelated, but your post reminded me of my respect for Mitt Romney. He has some policy positions that are controversial, of course, but in general I think he's in favor of letting people live their lives according to their own conscience (and that's why he doesn't see his faith as as significant to the campaign as others do).

You've described a view that I struggle toward as well. It's a fine balance defending one's own rights without impinging on others'. Tolerance is a perennial topic I wish I understood more fully.

Beck said...

What a fantastic post! You have embodied my desires for compassion. I used to think that "gay" and "mormon" could not exist in the same world. If you were gay, you were certainly not Mormon. If you were Mormon you certainly couldn't be gay. They were mutually exclusive. Putting them together was an oxymoron. And trying to go down a path where aspects of these two words co-mingled would be inconceivable and intolerable...

Maybe I have come a long way from then to now!

Thanks for your wisdom and example!

GeckoMan said...

Thank you, Gentlefriend for continuing to inspire me. I loved your words here:

"I help them best by trusting them to make their own choices and staying in touch in a loving way."

When people do this for me given my divergences, it indeed strengthens me and sets me up to love them back more fully. Trust is the most tangible of intangibles in my life.

GeckoMan said...

I wanted to go back and re-read your beautiful post. I'm glad I did. I like your idea here:

"Do I have the capacity to understand another's choices?"

Your answer is "No." I agree in the judgemental sense.

However, if we take the time and energy to embrace others, to hear them out, then the answer may be "Yes." I notice you said "understand", not "agree with." Our capacity is something that grows slowly with experience and desire for empathy; I love your posts because they reflect your capacity.

Thanks again for being here, Gentlefriend.