Category Archives: Personal Development

what do if you have a homophobia brother and your gay

[Content Note: Homophobia]

The title of today’s blog post is based on a search term that someone used to find my site the other week. Strangely, I had a friend who was offering guidance to a young lesbian facing a similar situation ask me for any advice I might offer her several months ago. As such, I thought it would be good to talk about this subject.

First, I have a great deal of sympathy and empathy for anyone in such a situation. One should not have to deal with homophobia – no matter how minor or subtle – from one’s closest families. It can instill a real sense of betrayal and that you don’t belong. So to anyone who is reading this and is facing anything less than perfect acceptance from their immediately family, know that I would totally give you a hug right now if I were able to and you were comfortable with it.

To address the question, we first have to understand what we can do and what is our responsibility to do. For example, many of us – myself included at times – often think that what we need to do is convince our loved one to stop being homophobic. And in a perfect world, our loved ones would end their homophobia. (Well, in a perfect world, they never would’ve been homophobic in the first place, but hey.) But here’s the thing: we can’t make people change their mind or their behavior. It just doesn’t work that way. And trying to do it will only leave us even more frustrated and possibly (more) depressed and a lot of other things. In the end, we have to give our loved ones the freedom to address (or not) their own prejudices and their own actions in their own time.

So instead, we need to look at what we can do. And the thing I think we most need to focus on is the same thing we really should be focusing on anyway. We can and should focus on doing what it is that we need to do in order to feel good about ourselves. We can and should focus on making sure we like ourselves.

Liking ourselves and finding the good in ourselves can be difficult, especially when we have people saying or implying negative things about us. Doubly so when some of those people happen to be close and dear loved ones who are supposed to embrace, accept, and encourage us. In those cases, we have to struggle even harder to remind ourselves that we’re amazing people. (And if you don’t believe you’re an amazing person, please find someone safe to talk with about that fact as soon as you can!) Look at the things you enjoy and the things you are good at. Do you like to write? Write your heart out and cherish what you write. Treat yourself like you’re the next literary genius in training. Do you like to draw? Draw your heart out and treat your drawings like they’ll be hanging in the Louvre some day. Think of all the great qualities you offer the people in your life and the parts of yourself that you have to share with them. The sting of homophobia will never fully go away – especially when it comes from a loved one – but being able to confidently see yourself as a valuable and wonderful person does help.

Another thing that you can do is find the love, support, and encouragement you need. After all, that’s one of the really sucky parts about homophobic loved ones. Loving, supporting, and encouraging you is supposed to be THEIR job, and they’re failing at it in at least some ways. So it’s time to find people – and there are a lot of them out there – who would be happy to take on at least part of that job. Find and focus on other family members who are more supportive. Be honest with them and let them know that you need their support. Focus on friends – and make new ones if you need to – that will give you the support you need. When I came out nearly twenty years ago, I built an entirely new circle of friends. Oh sure, I kept in touch with some of my older friends and even have the occasional contact with some of them to this day. But my new friends were the ones who were both able and willing to walk with me through the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They were also the ones who felt safe to go through that process with. Those are the kinds of friends you need.

So if you don’t have them, find them. If you’re in school, see if your school has a GSA. See if there’s an LGBT community center or LGBT social groups in your area. See if there’s an active PFLAG chapter in your area.

Don’t rule out online friendships, either. For the first ten years after I came out, a lot of my friendships were online. Even the close and supportive friends I knew in person were people I mostly stayed in touch with via the Internet. An online friend may not be able to give you hug, but they can listen to you and tell you that you’re okay and that what you’re feeling is okay too. That’s extremely valuable.

You’ll notice that I talked about finding support after talking about learning to love yourself. There’s a couple reasons for that. The first is that while support is important and good, other people ultimately can’t make you feel good about yourself. That’s a gift you give yourself and you need to give it to yourself.

The other reason is because knowing what you like about yourself also helps you think about what you have to offer friends and possibly how to find them. If you’ve figured out you love to write, then finding friends that accept you for who you are and share that love of writing is an excellent plus. Maybe you can find a writing group locally or join a writing site online. The same is true of drawing or any other talent or interest you have. And the bonus is that they’ll encourage you and remind you that your talent or interest is awesome and valuable. Hey, other people can’t make you like yourself, but they sure can remind you of what there is to like about yourself!

The last thing to consider about finding love, encouragement, and support is to consider whether you want to and would benefit from talking to a trained mental health professional. If you have someone who is frequently – or even only slightly frequently – saying and doing things, that can really take a toll on you. It may be helpful to have someone in your corner who is trained to help you sort through that.

The final thing that you can do to take care of yourself in such a situation is try to limit your interactions with said loved one as much as possible. This can be tricky, depending on your circumstances. At 41 living on my own, I can get away and stay away from any homophobic relatives I may have as much as I want. If you’re a younger person who’s still living at home, you may be stuck living with a homophobic parent or sibling. If that’s your situation, you again have my sympathy. That totally sucks. It especially sucks if there’s more than one homophobic person in the house with you, or even if others in the household doesn’t see what the big deal is with the homophobic person’s behavior. Maybe they think you’re overreacting. They’re wrong.

In that situation, you can only do the best that you can do. If you can stay in your bedroom – and the rest of your family will leave you alone rather than barge into your room and try to force conversation on you – that may be what you need to do. You may need to find ways to keep yourself busy. (Again, this is where having those loving and supportive friends may be helpful – as you can go spend time with them whenever possible and get away from the homophobia.)

You may also want to consider calling out the homophobic person’s behavior when they’re being hurtful and disengage. “I feel what you just said or did was hurtful to me and I would like you to leave me alone now.” Then walk away if you can. Be aware that this can be a difficult thing to do. The other person is likely to get offended. They’re likely to try to get you to tell them exactly why you found what they said or did was hurtful – most likely so they can tell you that you were wrong to feel that way. If you decide to go this route, don’t let yourself be drawn into an explanation or an argument over it. Simply say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I need time to be alone.” Stick to your guns. Go talk to one of your supportive friends or loved ones, someone who will totally understand why you’re hurt and will tell you that it’s okay to feel that way.

At any rate, that’s the best advice I can offer to help anyone going through such a situation. My readers are welcome to offer their own insights in the comments. Maybe some of you found something that helped you. Please feel free and encouraged to share.

Moderation Note: All comments complaining about how “easily” the word homophobia gets thrown around will be deleted. Any commenter trying to open a debate about what does and does not constitute homophobia will be banned. This is not the space to get defensive over how your words and actions are properly labeled. This is a space for you to listen and carefully consider how your words and actions impact the LGBT people in your life. If you try to do the former rather than the latter, than you’re part of the problem, and likely a bigger part than you want to admit.

 

Coming Out Anniversary Post: The Need for a Relationship

Going to Hell Tee ShirtIt’s April 1st once again.  For those who have been following my blog for a while, you know that this is significant in that it’s the anniversary of my initial coming out.  Eighteen years ago, I quit denying that I was attracted to other men, quit claiming it was “just a phase,” and quit trying to change myself.  (Well, where my sexual orientation is concerned.)

I don’t commemorate or blog about the event every year (See the bottom of this post for links to older anniversary posts), though I decided I wanted to again this year.  This year, I want to consider how my attitude about dating has changed since I came out.

When I came out, dating was extremely important to me.  This is partly because part of the reason I finally came out was because I was tired of being alone.  I was tired of suffering, thinking I may never be able to find — or even allow myself to find — someone I could deeply care about and build a lasting relationship with.  So when I came out, finding someone to love was of grave importance to me.  To put it quite frankly, I was rather desperate at the time.

Consider that I was walking away from years of belief that being gay was bad and that the kind of relationship that appealed to me was strictly prohibited.  Consider that rejecting that belief required me to give up a lot of my identity (being an evangelical Christian — and most evangelicals still insisted that the phrase “gay Christian” was an oxymoron and an abomination at the time — was a huge paart of my existence and idenity) and to strain many freindships and relationships.  So the idea that I’d give all that up and still end up alone was terrifying.  So I ended up putting a lot of energy into the idea that I had to find someone.

It’s a mentality that lasted for years, over a decade and a half in fact.  In time, though, it’s a mentality that began to fade and is now more or less gone.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to find someone to build a life with.  Dating is still important to me.  Having a loving relationship is still important to me.  It’s just not my single-minded obssession anymore.  Now, it’s just something that I’d like to achieve when the time is right and I meet a great guy I’m compatible with and mutually attracted to.

I think I really began to notice this change a few months ago, when I ended my most recent relationship.  I ended it because I just couldn’t see myself being with him long-term, which was something he was definitely looking for.  In general, I’ve found myself far more picky about the guys I date and continue to invest time in, which I think is a positive thing.

I think part of this is due to the fact that once I quit spending so much time and energy figthing with myself over my sexual orientation, I was able to slowly build myself back up.  With the question of how my being gay affects my identity and worth, I was able to more fully explore my identity in all areas of my life.  I was able to build up who I saw myself as, and where I found my sense of worth and emotional strength.  As a result, that idea of a relationship quit being the life-vest I clung to out of desperation.

But that’s something that could only develop once I came out and accepted that one part of myself.

Previous Anniversary Posts

Also, be sure to check out Journey to Queerdom.

I’m not doing that anymore, Dave

Given that it’s the last day of 2011, I want to use today’s post to personally reflect on the past year, particularly my recovery with regards to being codependent.  It’s a topic that has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks, and was one of the contributing factors to a recent bad day I mentioned.

This isn’t surprising, as the events that led to me seek therapy and uncover my codependency unfolded around this time last year.  That was when things really began to spin out of control in my friendship/relationship with a young man I will call Dave, and I realized I needed to get professional help for some my own reactions.  Then when things fell apart completely and I threw Dave out of my life, I went into therapy and started to really learned what codependency is and why I’m codependent.

For those who may not know what codependency is, I’d like to start with Melody Beattie’s definition:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling the other person’s behavior.

My only problem with Ms. Beattie’s definition of what it means to be codependent is that devoid of any context, it sounds really awful.  That’s because being codependent is awful, in the sense that it’s hell on the person who is codependent and those who are around a codependent person.

What doesn’t come across in that definition very well is that “the other person’s behavior” is not minor behavior.  Ms. Beattie is talking about behavior that is truly out of control and usually committed by someone who does not wish to take responsibility for that behavior.  Codependent people end up taking responsibility for that behavior — usually out of a sense of obligation disguised as love — and trying to rescue the other person from their actions and their consequences of those actions.  We seek to control and “reel in” that behavior, to try to keep everything in that person’s life — and our own by extension — from flying apart at the seams.

Dave was the last person[1] I was codependent with before getting help.  He was out of control, not handling his own past well and acting out in ways that were self-destructive and destructive to those of us in his life.  And for the longest time, I made excuses for him and took responsibility — responsibility that Dave refused to take himself — for cleaning up the resulting mess.  As a result, my life fell apart — which is pretty common for codependent people.

So I went into therapy and began to examine my own behavior, why I tended to put other people’s needs before my own, and chose to attempt control other people who were out of control rather than taking care of myself.  I re-examined my self-perceptions, came to understand and appreciate my own boundaries, and learned to put far more of my energy into caring for myself.

Like recovery from most things, recovery from codependency is a process, and usually a never-ending one.  I still have moments where I slip into the old “care-taker” habits that marked my relationship with Dave and others.  In fact, Dave and I started hanging out again — and even started moving toward a relationship again — as I continued my therapy.  At the time, Dave seemed like a changed man, and I decided I wanted to give him another chance.

Unfortunately, I discovered appearances were deceiving toward the end of June, and that Dave was still up to his old games of deceit, manipulation, and using others (including me).[3]  So I eventually told Dave it was over again and told him I would not talk to him until he got help for his problems.

Before the second separation, I had felt the old patterns come back.  I had started to allow my life to center around Dave again.  However, I can proudly say that things hadn’t gotten as bad that time around than it was at the beginning of the year.  Plus, once I saw the truth about Dave’s continuing out-of-control behavior, I quickly cut it off.  For a codependent person, that is a victory.

I’ve heard from Dave since, and my response has been even stronger.  The last time I heard from him, I laid out the rules of what it would take to prove himself to me and convince me to let him back in my life.  Dave didn’t like the answer, said a few nasty things to me, and stormed off. I haven’t heard from him since, and while I’m a bit saddened he hasn’t changed, I will not accept an unchanged Dave.  I cannot change him, and I do not want him back unless he chooses to change himself.

I hope that Dave will be the last person I get into such a rough and out-of-control relationship.  I’d much rather find a great guy who understands and values his own integrity and a sense of responsibility.  But if I do meet another guy like Dave and even start getting involved with him, I now have the sense of self-worth and the tools to recognize it and put the brakes on.  And that is good enough.

Note:
[1]  It’s important to note that my codependency developed over a long period of time and is the cumulative result of taking responsible for many people over the many years of my life.  While Dave was a toxic person[2] and not good for me, it’s important to note that my codependency did not start with him.  Also, I am responsible for my codependency and my recovery from it now.  As Ms. Beattie also says, it may not be my fault that I’m the way I am, but it’s my responsibility to do something about it.

[2]  It’s important to note that toxic people are not worthless or irredeemable.  Saying a person is toxic simply means that they choose to behave in ways that hurt other people and are often unhealthy to be around.

[3]  The final straw for me was that we broke up and agreed to just be friends.  I was crushed by this decision.  While we were out together three days after the decision, a waitress asked if we had considered getting married, and Dave told her that we were actually engaged.  That was the moment that I realized that Dave would tell any lie that suits his purpose, even if his only purpose is to get a little extra attention from a random person in a restaurant.  I didn’t want anyone who had such a low regard of his own integrity.  Someone who can lie so easily for such a pointless reason cannot be trusted to treat others properly.

Raised Right: Missing Childhood

Today’s look at Alisa Harris’s book, “Raised Right:  How I Untangle My Faith from Politics” continues to look at chapter seven.  The underlying theme of this chapter — which I did not adequately explain in last week’s post, leaving my criticisms somewhat without the necessary context — is about how Ms. Harris’s conservative upbringing focused so much on politics that it consumed her whole identity and her relationships with other people.  I touched upon a similar phenomenon when I wrote about fundamentalist identity over at Confessions of a Former Conservative[1].  As such, I can identify with a lot of what Ms. Harris talks about in this chapter, though under slightly different conversations.

Harris speaks in the first paragraph of how her political leanings set her apart from many of her peers:

And while they were e-mailing one another about boys and fingernail polish, I was assuming the mantle of e-champion, which required two things of me:  an e-mail address to receive daily Bush campaign emails and the indefatigable conviction that I must forward to everyone I knew.

While I talked about how fundamentalist identity can consume one’s entire identity, I had not considered discussing how it echoes Ms. Harris’s own experience as described above.  Not only does such an identity consume a person, but it often becomes something that completely separates them from others.  In many ways, I imagine this is intentional, as fundamentalist and other conservative Christians find it important to identify themselves as separate from other people who are still “of the world.”  As such, this obsession with in-group activities to the detriment to other interests that one might have in common with their peers becomes an important sacrificial act demonstrating one’s “insider” status.

This is particularly troubling when one is young, as Ms. Harris notes that young conservative Christians — and I’d add fundamentalist Christians regardless of political involvement — tend to act like adults and associate more with adults.  There’s a certain sense where “fighting the good fight” becomes so important that simple things like expressing an interest in boys or girls, popular culture, and other things, which ultimately can rob such youth of their childhood.

I’ve often looked back at my own youth — and even my college years — and wished I had them to live them over.  I find that because I was so focused on being the perfect Christian, I put a lot of my personal development — especially emotional development — on hold.

When I finally addressed these areas of my life, I found myself trying to work through things in an adult world.  I found myself learning social skills and emotional coping techniques while holding down a job and acting like a responsible adult, as opposed to having the luxury of working through these things while still being able to rely more on my parents and having far less responsibilities.

This is one of the “holes” or distortions that Ms. Harris alludes to in this chapter of those whose politics become the whole of their identity.  It’s one that I felt she should have explored more.
 
Note:
[1]  As an aside, let me said that I’m quite pleased that Former Conservative has managed to rejoin the ranks of bloggers everywhere.  We missed you while you were silent, guy.

We all have our bad days

Today’s post is going to be somewhat personal, as it’s what I have the energy and mental capacity for today.  I’m still recovering from my FINE[1] day yesterday.  I get them every now and then.[2]

One of the things I’ve found over the past year that it’s actually helpful to acknowledge such days and even indulge in them.  Prior to entering therapy last January, I would fight hard against such days and demand that I “just get over it.”  After all, it was “just a feeling,” and I should be able to control them.[3]  I would seek to diminish my rough days if not outright repress them.

The problem with that approach is that they never really go away.  Things just build up, waiting to get out.  Eventually, when you can’t hold it in any longer, it all boils over, explodes, and makes a huge mess.

Yesterday, I actually had a much better day by acknowledging that I was having a bad day and allowing myself to do so.  I was able to both indulge in a bit of self-pity and make light of it.  It made the whole experience not great, but far more bearable and manageable.

As a society, we tend to encourage people to put on a happy face, to act like nothing’s wrong, and to think of people who “have it worse.”  The problem with this is that while there may be people with worse problems out there than what we are facing, our problems are still very real and we need the freedom to deal with them.  And we can’t do that if we can’t even acknowledge them or feel like we have to downplay them.

Notes:
[1]  FINE is short for “Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.”  An old coworker taught me that.  He learned it when he was in counseling years ago.

[2]  Right now, they seem to be happening every other week or so.  I think it’s the holiday season combined with the fact that a few “major events” happened in my life around this time of year, and my mind tends to gravitate towards the associated memories.

[3]  The need to be in control is a major issue for most codependents.  One of the big wake-up calls I faced when I finally acknowledged my codependency and got help for it was acknowledging just how much I needed to be in control of not only myself, but my circumstances and others in it and how I sought to exert that control.

Let there be equality, and let it begin with me

As I’ve considered thinking about Wednesday’s post about the way various women are portrayed in the book “Destiny,” I started wondering what I had hoped to accomplish with the post.  After all, it’s not like I expect future authors of the Rogue Angel series to read my post and try to improve the series’ portrayal of women.  I simply don’t have that level of influence.

In many ways, I think I was engaging in a bit of navel-gazing, though I consider it much-needed navel-gazing.  You see, I’ve never picked up a book and given much thought to how many female characters there were, how those characters interacted, how they were portrayed, or what other notions about women were being reinforced — implicitly or explicitly.

Having spent many months learning more about feminist thought and how society perceives and treats women from fantastic bloggers like Personal Failure, Fannie, Ana, and Mmy, I felt it would be a good exercise to step back, try to see past my own privilege, and consider my reading material in a different light.  In effect, I was seeking to become a better ally to women.

I must say, it was an enlightening experience.  In the course of seeking to recall the book and write a post about it, I found a number of problematic themes to write about — more than I even originally expected to find.  These are things that I would have overlooked normally.  Or if I had noticed them at all, I would have shrugged them off as minor things, rationalizing that with such a powerful, independent woman like Annja as the main character, such things couldn’t possibly matter.  The kickass woman made everything alright, right?

Well, no, I don’t think so.  Positive and negative portrayals of women — or any marginalized group, for that matter — are not mutually exclusive, and the tendency to ignore the latter when the former is present only allows the negative ones to flourish in the culture.  So learning to spot these problematic themes is important.

I think for me, the best example of my normal oversight of this sort of thing came from when I went to write the post and could not remember any women in the story other than Annja.  I had originally boldly declared that the book failed the Bechdel test on that grounds alone.

And yet, as I mined the book for quotes and details for my posts, I ran into two other women in the story.  One woman (Maria) I had forgotten completely.  The other woman (the unnamed server), my brain had surreptitiously rewritten as a man, demonstrating that I’m still perfectly capable of assuming that a man is the default human.  That was not a comfortable realization, let me tell you.  I find myself wondering how many other women in the story I have invisibilized simply by forgetting about them or remaking them into men in my mind.

It would be easy to blame the culture and say that I only did these things because it’s the way my upbringing and experiences have conditioned me to think and behave.  While that’s certainly true, I think that’s a terrible excuse.  After all, I am a part of that society and my actions contribute to the same conditioning of other people unless I do something about it.  And ultimately, I am the one person in the world I have control over.

So writing the post has further awakened me to something about the society and myself that I don’t like.  So now I’m looking to change things by changing myself.  I am currently in the process of reading “Solomon’s Jar,” the second book in the Rogue Angel series, and I’m choosing to read it more mindfully.  I am looking out for female characters so that I can remember them.  I’m looking for problematic themes while reading them, rather than thinking about them after the fact.  I’m keeping an eye out for whatever messages the book might try to send me.  It’ll be interesting to see what I have to say about the next book and my reaction to it.

If I can raise one or two other reader’s awareness, that’ll be a bonus.

Old Diary Entry: Tears of Gold

"Freya" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. T...

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I wrote the following entry and posted it to Bloopdiary (when I was still there) on 19 August 2005, when I was still processing through my breakup with Mike, who I had been with for four years.  I recently mentioned this entry to someone else and realized I no longer had a copy online.  So now it’s online again.  Enjoy!

As I’m getting settled into my new apartment and finding ways to establish myself in Rochester, I find myself realizing just how little I think of Mike. In some ways, I find myself in that strange state where it just doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve cried my tears, and while I feel the slight ache of being alone once again (and not getting any younger), I have a strange peace about having lost him.

It was a rough journey getting here. I found myself emotionally distraught about the whole thing. I cried so many tears. To be honest, I never realized I could cry so much over the end of a relationship when I was the person to end it. But there you have it. And I think I learned a lot about it. I came to understand one of Freyja’s myths a bit better.

When Freyja lost Od, she cried tears of gold. Indeed, according to Snorri, this is why “Freyja’s tears” became a kenning for gold. I always found the fact that her tears were gold a mild curiosity. Now I see it as an incredibly profound mystery. And I have a much greater appreciation for the value of grief. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that true grief is a sacred act in its own right. Hence the tears of gold.

I wanted to quit being sad over the breakup. I kept wanting to “move on already.” I didn’t want to shed any more tears. I was “wasting time.” But no, the tears, the sadness, the grief kept coming. And my sweet Lady kept telling me, “No, you need this. Cry your tears. They’re my golden tears.” So I did the only thing I could do, I cried, and I explored my grief.

Then I realized why I cried so much. I was experience true grief, the kind that only comes when one loves so freely and without reservation, only to lose that love. In effect, I wept bitterly because I loved fully. And there is a certain beauty in that.

You see, I think that’s the mistake we too often make. We’re too afraid of that kind of grief, so we avoid being so vulnerable. We only love grudgingly, often holding back and never truly letting go. We do that because we think that sense of grief is bad and to be avoided.

After the past couple months, I’ve come to a different way of thinking. As painful as such sorrow and grief may be, it is in its own way a celebration. My tears were bitter, but they were born of my precious love. I came to understand that as I cherished my love, I could cherish my grief which came as a result of it. In that view, they became bittersweet, and I could see how they really were tears of gold.

I’m not sure many people would understand that. But that’s okay. I guess it’s one of those things you have to experience and come to understand yourself. Me explaining it just won’t do. But for those who do understand, I can just imagine their reaction to reading this.

Video: Personal Power and Silence

I figured it was time for another video.  I took a break from ethics because I wanted to talk about personal power and silence.

Personally, I think that we as a society tend to forget that personal power comes from those deep recesses inside ourselves that usually get drowned out by the noise of the world around us and even that of the more active parts of our conscious mind.  By starting the journey from a place of silence (or by plunging into such a place), I think we have a much higher rate of success.

I also couldn’t resist putting in a bit of a plug for Psychic’s Thyme and mentioning the fantastic Ostara ritual held there last night.

A Bad Leadership Fit

I remember how frustrated Diane, our old IVCF staff worker, used to get with me my sophomore year in college.  I had decided to get involved in IVCF leadership that year and had taken a position on the chapter’s executive board.  It quickly became apparent that I was not well suited or that kind of leadership.  My outlook was simply more relational.

The scene played out several times, varying only in details.  The day of a meeting would roll around, and I’d be talking to someone.  The conversation would be deep and personal, as I was never good at small talk and people tend to spill their guts around me anyway.  I’d note the time and decide that continuing the conversation was important than getting to my meeting on time.  Often, I wouldn’t make it to the meeting at all.  This would frustrate Diane to no end, adn she’d try to get me to understand that while relationships were important, always breaking my other commitments for the sake of a conversation wasn’t entirely right either.  I don’t think she ever got very far with me on that score.  Eventualy, we agreed to muddle through the rest of the year.  We also agreed that I’d take a role the following year that would be better suited to my nature.

I’ve grown a lot in the fifteen years that have passed since then.  As a more mature person, I can now more readily see Diane’s point more clearly.  And I’m more likely to judge a relational need more carefully these days, taking into account how immediate the need is, how serious my other commitments are, and other such factors.  Today, there’s a real possibility that I’ll say, “This is important.  I care and I want to be there for you.  But can we talk about it in a couple of hours?”

But I’m still mainly relationally oriented.  I’ll keep my commitments to activities like meetings to a minimum.  The difference, however, is that I’m less likely to take on sucha  commitment in the first place, rather than taking it on and then breakign it later.  Because I’d rather have my time free so I can listen to people.  I understand that now.  And I allow for that preference reponsibly.

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Freedom to err

Statue of Mohandas K. Gandhi in Waikiki, Honol...

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Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err.

–Mohandas Gandhi

I never heard of the above quote by Gandhi before.  That’s a shame, as it encapsulates something I’ve been thinking and saying for a long time.  We have to be free to make mistakes.  We have to be free to be wrong.  Until we can grant ourselves that freedom, we cannot grant ourselves any freedom.  Because any course of action we might take will be bound up by fears.

When faced with a choice, there’s always that chance we will make a bad choice.  It’s a fact of reality.  We may do our best to make the most informed choices humanly possible.  But there’s no such thing as total knowledge.  There’s no such thing as being perfectly informed.  So sometimes, we make a bad choice on our imperfect information.  We either accept that possibility, or we rob ourselves of the ability to act at all, out of fear of doing exactly that.

And truth be told, why not allow ourselves the freedom to make a wrong choice?  Is making a wrong choice really such a bad thing?  Certainly, wrong choices can cause problems.  (But then, so can right choices.)  And wrong choices can hurt people.  (But then, so can right choices.)  But in my experience, there are few situations where the the choices and their results are so awful, so irreversible, that it would spell the end of the world, or the end of anything at all.

In most cases, a wrong choice leads to a mess that can be cleaned up.  So we clean up the mess, we repair the damage the wrong choice created, and we learn from the experience.  What’s more, we’re probably better equipped to make better choices in the future because of that learning experience.  That’s the gift of allowing ourselves the freedom to be wrong.

I would rather make a thousand mistakes then never make any choices because I’m frozen by the fear of being wrong.

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