I heard on the radio today a Bob Marley song: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” It started me thinking of the many voices in my mind that have chained me down. The most insidious ones are those negative recordings that I am not fully conscious of, that repeatedly play in the background of my mind. They are often manifest through my feelings. These feelings influence my behavior.
For instance, my wife says something and I snap back at her. Usually I then justify my response by blaming her. But sometimes, I pause and say to myself: “That was inappropriate. Why did I do that?” “Well, I have felt crappy this afternoon, ever since I listened to ‘This American Life’ on NPR.” There was an episode that reminded me of a stupid, embarrassing thing that I did many years ago. I began reliving that incident with all the feelings of embarrassment and shame and guilt I felt then. Like a nuclear chain-reaction I recalled one related incident after another from other periods of my life, until I felt pretty crappy. I wasn’t snapping at my wife, I was kicking myself for being such an idiot in the past. It took introspection for me to realize this. Usually I would just go on being grumpy and blaming someone else for my feelings. But this time I recognized that I was a slave to those negative voices and started cutting the chains.
“WAIT A MINUTE!” I said in my head. “WHY ARE YOU BEATING UP ON YOURSELF FOR THINGS DONE IN THE PAST!” I recognized that background voices are telling me that I am a stupid, inadequate person because of the past. I could feel my Grandmother’s voice from the past saying, “Bad boy! Bad boy!” Flooded by feelings of shame, I was subconsciously punishing myself. Depression is anger turned on yourself. I turned my anger on the voices: “I AM NOT THE SAME PERSON AS I WAS THEN. THAT’S WAY IN THE PAST!” They speak back, “YES, BUT remember last week when you did such and such. And also remember when you did. . .” (They can always find lots of YES BUTs to throw at me.) I can give up and let them handcuff me and lead me away to depression.
Or I can emancipate myself by saying, “I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU. GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN. THOSE THINGS ARE PAST. I AM FORGIVING MYSELF. I AM FLUSHING THE TOILET AND WASHING MY HANDS OF THIS STUFF. I AM FORGIVEN BY GOD AND CLEANSED THROUGH HIS SON. DON’T THROW THIS CRAP AT ME AGAIN. I AM NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO YOU ANY MORE!” I then pray to God for peace. I focus on my strengths and the good things that have happened in my life. With the help of God I emancipate myself from these chains. It doesn’t come easily. I have to work at it prayerfully.
But if don’t take the time to recognize the voices, they can enslave me. They become so much a part of my background music that I don’t notice them. Like the frogs in a shallow pot of gradually heating water don’t realize what is happening until it is too late I assume there is nothing wrong and blame someone else. Or I assume that there is nothing I can do. When I am feeling down is when I am most tempted to escape through porn or other addictions. This just enslaves me further.
But there is something positive we all can do. Take, for example, the repentant multitude after King Benjamin's sermon: "And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come.” (Mosiah 4:3) I know of people who have repented and been forgiven by God but still are beating up on themselves because of the past. The negative voices are telling them that their past sins have made them second-class citizens in the Church. They can at first fight those lies with the truth of the powerful cleansing and healing power of the Atonement. And then, they can identify and crowd out the negative voices by dwelling on the good stuff in their lives as Nephi did in 2 Nephi 4:17-35.
Society has infused many of us with self-punitive voices that say that we are “queer” or “fags” or “sinful” because of same-gender attraction. I bet if you listened carefully that each of you would find that those negative recordings are part of your background music. I certainly have them. I recognize them and then refuse to listen to them when they start replaying. I find it hard to erase them, but I can choose what I focus upon. I can focus upon the fact that SGA is not an action. It is a condition. It is not a condition that I chose. I am not evil or sinful. There are lots of things in my life that I didn’t choose and the challenge in life is to make the best of what is. I have many unique positive qualities in my personality because of SGA which I have mentioned in previous blogs. With God’s help it has given me the motivation and the capacity to understand, care and help many people. I focus on my strengths and God’s blessings and crowd offstage the negative satanic lies that would enslave me and drain me of the strength to be a powerful influence for good in the world.
The booklet, God Loveth His Children, says, “God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.”(p. 4) The Savior of mankind said, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”(Moroni 7:33) Ultimately all of these negative voices can be erased and we can fully enjoy the Good that we have become through God’s help. In the meantime we strive to increase spiritual emancipation in the world and in our own minds.