Monday, May 25, 2015

Overcoming My Perfect, Normal Self

I'll introduce myself as Jim.  I have become friends with Brad and have started writing some of my thoughts and feelings down.  In sharing my writings with Chef Brad, he's invited me to contribute to his blog.  Here are my thoughts from this week:

Too many times those of us who consider ourselves to be spiritual men, and who experience same sex attraction (SSA), or say we are gay, focus on the ideal person we think we should be - be that physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  I know in my experience I have obsessed over being more physically attractive, or more active, or that I do everything perfectly.  I have pined to be someone else so many times in my life.  

While I think everyone probably goes through this to some extent, I can speak for myself that I feel I have gone through these scenarios more often than not to an unhealthy extent!  And in speaking to men in similar circumstances, I don’t feel this is uncommon. For myself, much of that was brought on by the fact that I was trying to ‘overcome’ my attractions, and felt that I had to be ‘perfect’ in order to be ‘normal’. 

There are three issues here and they are all in quotations in the paragraph above: ‘Overcome’, ‘Perfect’, and ‘Normal’.  Let me start by giving the overused quote of the century (I love hyperbole), ‘Normal is a setting on my washing machine’.  Perfect, in the modern English sense of the word, is unattainable.  And to overcome something, you must have something ‘wrong’ to overcome.    I’d like to explore these three concepts. 


I’ll start with ‘Overcome’.  While I cannot speak for everyone, I am a pretty good authority on myself.  I was three or four when I started to know I was attracted to men.  I can’t remember a time I wasn’t.  I also can’t remember a time that I was ever attracted to women.  I don’t come from a background where people would think there would be a ‘reason’ for me to be gay. I didn’t look at pornography at all through my youth or even as a young adult.  It wasn’t available and I didn’t feel drawn to it.  I wasn’t abused or mistreated.  I never had a sexual experience until I married my wife (Yes, I am married - that is another paper).  I am simply a gay man.  It’s that simple.  Say what you will, I feel I was born that way.  And it’s a part of who I am.  What, then, is there to ‘overcome’?  

I believe the biggest thing I need to overcome is the sense of shame and desperation I felt for decades before finally coming to terms and being honest with myself.  I don’t need to overcome the attractions.  I would never tell some man who has always been attracted to women that he needs to overcome that attraction because it’s perverse.  To me it’s unnatural to be attracted to women, the same way it’s unnatural for him to be attracted to men.  Our attractions are the exact same thing - attraction, plain and simple - , just focused on different genders.  But for some reason, society has said that the attraction in and of itself is something that should be overcome; that it is shameful.  Because of that, too many people have lost hope and fallen away.  Some have forsaken family and friends and others have, in desperation, taken their lives.  I feel much of this heartache is done to ‘overcome’ something that, in the case of many like myself, could never change.  

I know that my attractions are not going to change.  They are what they are. However, I can determine what I will do with my attractions, and I can overcome the temptations to go beyond the bounds of my marriage.  However, the attractions are there.  I have learned that while I need to overcome temptation, the attractions are not to be overcome.  

I should rejoice in the fact that because of these attractions, I am better able to empathize and sympathize with my fellow humans.  Because of my own inner struggles over the years, I see things in a more open and loving light.  My understanding of the whole world is broader because my attractions made me think beyond just myself.  They helped me to grow into a better person than I could have been without them.  I have learned the true meaning of sacrifice.  I have learned the true meaning of kindness, understanding, forgiveness, and love because of my attractions.  Is that to say those who don’t experience what I do can’t have the same understandings?  No!  Of course they can, but they have to go about it a little differently than I’ve had to. 

In the past, too many times I felt I needed to overcome the attractions.  I focused on the wrong part of what it was that I needed to overcome.  I feel we need to teach our brothers that overcoming is not to overcome what I believe God has given us.  It is to use what we are given to make the world better!  It is the world, after all, that we are to overcome.  I invite myself to find out why I was given this amazing opportunity to experience life in a different way than so many others!  It’s not something to overcome!  It’s something to embrace and understand. 


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the scripture found in the New Testament book of St. Matthew 5:48, that reads, ‘Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ is misunderstood at best and mistranslated at worst.  I think too many people misinterpret the scripture and don’t understand the true meaning of it.   I know I didn’t.  All my youth was wracked with torment and guilt for not being able to be ‘perfect’.  

I idealized that perfection meant that I would get straight ‘A+’, would look like a model, would be good at everything I tried to do, was perfectly gracious and kind to everyone no matter how much I didn’t like them, and generally had everything in complete order.  In other words, I should have been made out of plastic and my name needed to be ‘Ken’.  No offense to those who are actually named Ken by the way…. 

No one, and I mean NO ONE can or should live up to those expectations.  I however, felt that in order to ‘overcome’ my attractions, I needed to be perfect.  I somehow had the distorted sense that if I could only do everything perfectly, God would somehow take it all away.  Of course I know better now.  I know that isn’t God’s plan or his way.  But I didn’t understand that for a very long time. 

Let’s look at the word ‘Perfect’.  Over the past years, at church, I have heard the word perfect translated as ‘whole’.  The scripture would read, ‘Be ye therefore whole...’.  That is nice, but means little without further thought and research.  

As I looked up this specific scripture, I ran across an interesting reference that I would like to bring up here.  It is found at:

This reference indicates the word in Greek actually means ‘Love’.  Love as God would love, without partiality or justification.  In other words, love unconditionally.  Wow!  It may be easier to be perfect than to love unconditionally.  We may say we love unconditionally, but do we?  I know I don’t.  I judge.  I don’t have complete compassion. I don’t help everyone in need.  Would I help an old lady trying to cross the street alone if I could help her? Yes!  Of course I would help her.  And society expects me to.  It would be a soul-less person who didn’t help her!   But how about the crazy homeless guy without teeth, who smells, is yelling at everyone, and might try to rob me?  I would most certainly think twice, or even fifteen times about doing that.  

When we read it in our modern terms as ‘be ye perfect’, the scripture is very self-centered.  But reading it in the terms that I believe it was meant to be read - love without prejudice - that turns it upside down!  That is the opposite of worrying about one’s self.  The scripture is very unselfish when you put it into that perspective.  When you love - truly love - unconditionally, you don’t think of yourself at all.  You aren’t concerned with your problems.  You don’t feel down because you aren’t ‘perfect’.  

When we love unconditionally, we feel compassion for the homeless man.  We desire to help him as much as we would help the old woman who is trying to cross the street.  God loves us all.  He knows our beauty.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, because we are His.  I’m not saying that we all go out and help the homeless man - that’s up to you.  You could be putting yourself in danger.  Prudence is needed in today’s world (yet another paper).  I am just using this as an example.  But it does make me stop to think about what I am thinking when I pass up the opportunity to help and from whom I keep my distance. 

Once we can love others without concern for ourselves, then we have found a place where we can be closer to ‘whole’ in my opinion.  We stop thinking about ourselves and do what we know will make the world a better place.    

I challenge myself to stop worrying about being what the world sees as ‘perfect’.  I am not going to be a Ken doll nor do I think God wants me to be.  That doesn’t stop me from wanting to look my best and be the best I can be.  The difference is that I do it for higher reasons: health and longevity, etc., and not for vain reasons.  I challenge myself to do what I can to love others to the best of my abilities, and the way I imagine God would. 


All my life I wanted, and worked to be ‘normal’.  I consider many people ‘normal’.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The world needs all kinds. Those perceived as normal and the eccentric.   But if we looked into the lives of the ‘normal’, they are far from boring and they are no where near normal.  No one is ‘normal’.  And I have learned that outward appearance has little to do with what is inside. 

Everyone is unique.  Everyone has so much to offer the world.   I however, don’t want to live my life under the radar - or as ‘normal’ - any longer. I spent too many years trying to do everything NOT to be noticed; to be ‘normal’.   I want to experience life as the person I am.  I don’t feel God wants us to hide our true character.  

I know someone who had a great saying that I feel fits this situation perfectly.  ‘No matter how much you try to hide it, the real you will always come out’.  Ain’t it the truth?!  I am not saying we go out and do crazy things that could jeopardize our lives or the safety of others to make up for never doing crazy things as a kid. I am not saying I want to go out and yell from the rooftops to everyone about every ounce of my business.    I am actually a very private person - that’s just my nature.  I am not going to be the kind of person going out with rainbow banners, marching in a parade just because I need to ‘come out’.  That would not be authentic to my personality.  I am not against those who need that in their lives.  I just need and want to live my life authentically.  I cannot be the person I am supposed to be if part of me is hiding in a dark corner of my soul.  

Over the last three years, I have worked on brightening up that dark corner and letting the true me shine forth.   As I have done so, the old ‘normal’ me has started to vanish. Sometimes the true me is not very pretty.  Other times it’s marvelous.  In the end, the most important thing is that it’s me without any apologies 

I have done things I never thought I could do.  I have made friends with men on a level I never had before, and never thought I could.  And guess what?  I am happier and more fulfilled because of it.  I have felt grief and loss more deeply than I ever did before.  This might sound like a bad thing, but I had lived my life guarding myself from feelings in order to maintain a facade to keep people thinking I was ‘normal’.  Now I feel.  I never understood or felt like I loved anyone or was able to be loved.  Now I know the joy of love on multiple levels and enjoy the knowledge that I am loved.  

I argue that ‘normal’ is unauthentic.  At least my idea of what normal is.  None of us is normal.  

We each have a light inside that shines differently from everyone around us.  Together the mosaic of light from each individual creates an amazing and beautiful picture.  My light was dim for so long.  My part of that picture lacked it’s true beauty. I hope I can continue to find what it means to be authentic to myself: That I never stop growing into the person God, not the world, wants me to be.  I am a beautiful work in progress.  I am not perfect, but I hope to love without bounds - this includes loving myself.  I no longer desire to overcome my attractions.  Now I want to overcome my weaknesses.  I no longer feel a need to be normal.  I want my ‘abnormal’ light to shine as a positive beacon. 


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