Monday, August 04, 2008

Let it go...


There is a classic Peanuts comic strip where Lucy finds Charlie Brown at the shore of a lake. He picks up a rock and throws it as far as he can into the water, whereupon, Lucy reminds Charlie Brown how long it took for that pebble to become a pebble and find its exact resting place on the shore and now he's tossed it back to do the journey all over again... and then she walks away, leaving Charlie Brown to say: "Everything I do makes me feel guilty".


My previous post makes me feel guilt. Looking at eye-candy makes me feel guilt. Meeting fellow MOHOs on the side makes me feel guilt. Not telling my wife about my blog makes me feel guilt. Hanging my head in silence at the feet of intolerance in recent quorum meetings makes me feel guilt. Everything I do makes me feel guilty... I am Charlie Brown.


In teaching priesthood meeting yesterday, I struggled with what to teach. So often, we are assigned topics or manuals are handed to us and the prescribed course is established. I hate the curriculum coordination that seems so controlling and limiting, and often wonder why we can't have a bit more autonomy in what is taught. Yet, yesterday, I was given that autonomy... an open book to teach whatever was pressing on my mind that I felt inspired to discuss.


So, I chose to discuss an overriding theme of my blog (tempted to have the brethren just go find me on the Internet and they'd understand me better - wouldn't that be a joy ride!). That of carrying our guilt with us and not letting the full power of the Atonement take hold of our lives. We can accept that Christ pays the penalty of our sin, but do we allow him to take upon himself our guilt? If we have to be innocent like little children to enter the Father's mansion, can we do so as penalty-free individuals only and not guilt-free as well?


Jesus Christ did not just assume the punishment for our sins - he took the guilt as well. The sin, the experience itself with all of its negative consequences and ramifications, and not just the penalty for sin, became his. This is a crucial distinction. In the Atonement, Jesus does not just suffer our punishment for us, he becomes the guilty party in our place - he becomes guilty for us and experiences our guilt...


If Jesus had assumed only the punishment for our sins but not the sins themselves, then when the penalty was paid, we would merely be "guilty but forgiven", instead of being sanctified through the Atonement, being perfect-in-Christ, and being innocent and worthy of the kingdom of God and the presence of the Father. Part of the good news of Christ's atonement is that it renders us sinless, innocent, perfect, and celestial, which could not happen if we stubbornly insisted on suffering for our own sins. In that case, while our sins might eventually be paid for, they would remain ours, like canceled checks. Without the atonement of Christ that removes guilt as well as pays its penalty, we can never receive the innocence necessary to dwell in the presence of God.


-- Stephen E. Robinson "Believing Christ"



Guilt should lead to repentance and remorse. Never feeling guilt would lead one to be "beyond feeling" and having no conscience at all, and thus no feeling of right or wrong or the need for repentance or remorse and sorrow, and thus, no need for improvement or progression.


Living with guilt is damning, is anti-progress and is debilitating. It is not part of the Gospel plan. Feeling guilt for something where no guilt should be harboured, is anti-Christ.


Why, then, knowing this, can I not let it go?


Oh, that I could learn that lesson...

24 comments:

Silver said...

Beck: Thank you for these wonderful thoughts. I need this to start today. I came to work feeling especially weary. I asked our receptionist if it was possible to be "hung over" when one is not a drinker...Life is going along okay, better than last week but, the hot summer days and a very hectic schedule are taking their toll on my energy level.

In testimony meeting yesterday I bore silent testimony (time ran out) in my heart to the fact that we need to surrender our will and our burden to the Savior. We just try to carry too much ourselves. In our pride we start our days doing what we thing is best and often without seeking His will for how we should plan our activities and who we are meant to touch and be taught by during a particular day. I have to keep re-learning this lesson.

This morning I talked with a dear friend about the difference in tone between Robinson's "Believing Christ" and "The Miracle of Forgiveness". The MOF, having been written in 1969 in many ways is reflective of a different generation where one earned his salvation by the most strict of obedience. If a sin is repeated, all guilt and past sin returns.

The tone of Robinson's book allows for a kinder, gentler Savior who bears out guilt, carries our burdens, forgives with grace and heals the scars where we are unable to heal our own wounds.

The principles in the MOF are true, I don't question their validity but, I believe that the stresses and heartbreaks of our modern world have brought us individually and collectively to our knees in humility; at the feet of the graceful and forgiving Savior; in the realization that we cannot carry these burdens alone. He is "the way".

Beck, none of us feel good enough. We all are weak and broken when strict standards are applied. You have stated so well our need for the Savior. I'm grateful you shared this.

Take hope in the fact that to me, and others, your heart is very obviously well grounded in truth and you are good enough, even in your struggle with guilt.

Public Loneliness said...

Beck,

I like 'out of the book' lessons. You must give good ones for them to let you do this and they usually tend to be the ones people remember the most! With that being said, we live demanding lifes (work, family, church, keeping up with the Jones', community--heck even this community takes time, when do we sleep?!?!). At some point we have to accept that we can't control a lot of stuff; put it on God's hands and just let things sort themselves out--even our weaknesses and shortcomings.

Thanks for making that point. It is already too hard to add more burdens to our already spent souls.

Philip said...

Beck,

For a very long time I felt guilty about not being the type of husband my wife deserved. I felt I had denied her the chance to find real love and happiness.

For some odd reason I don't think I ever told her or maybe I di and just don't remember how she responded.

Regardless, I carried this guilt with me all the time.

It was such a burden that I brought it up at a bi conference I attended several years ago. Amity Buxton was there and she said to just accept that my wife was OK with it. I guess I looked at her like I didn't believe it because Amity softly said it several more times.

There were several women in the front and and they were looking at me very intently. I could feel their concern and compassion.

For some reason I got flustered, apologized and left but I accepted that my wife was OK and I haven't felt guilty about it ever since.

I wish I understood what happened but all I can tell you is that I realize now the guilt was coming from me; not from anything my wife had said or done. It was my issue not hers.

When those ladies were looking at me it was like my wife was standing there saying "I forgive you" and then I forgave myself.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

SILVER: My main realization yesterday was that I was accepting the part of the atonement where I allow Christ to "pay" for my sins, but I was /am still holding on to the guilt, not willing to give that up. It's my guilt after all... and you can't have it.

Sometimes it's just guilt of omission. Sometimes it's triggered by esteem issues, I'm sure.

Thanks for your belief and confidence in me. It means a lot.

Beck said...

PL: I appreciate your confidence in my "teaching abilities" but I'm in a position of leadership where the leadership takes turns teaching. I actually love to teach - wish I could do it more. I love to make people think and stretch - for it makes me think and stretch with them.

Yesterday I did get several comments afterward, some were moved to tears and quite touched in ways that stunned me a bit. But I don't feel like I really connected. I didn't have the spirit going with me on all cylinders. It's interesting when someone says "that was just what I needed". I still doubt that I made the connections I wanted to make... Oh well.

Beck said...

PHILIP: I have a really hard time forgiving myself. I ask forgiveness of the Lord, but I won't reach down deep enough to forgive myself. And so I harbour the guilt and hold onto it like a badge of courage.

In reality, it's not courageous at all to keep holding on. I've got to be willing to let go and move on.

I think my wife has accepted me. And you're right, as I refuse to completely accept me, I feel like she isn't as well, which may most likely not be the case at all... it is centered in me forgiving myself.

Thanks for posting a comment.

Mark said...

Beck,

Have you read, "The Velvet Rage" by Alan Downs, PhD? If not, I highly recommend it. What you describe as guilt may, in fact, be rage and shame masked as guilt. Certainly all gay men raised in an this heterosexist, homophobic society suffer from it.

When we're "splintered" as the book says, it's no wonder we feel torn. We're living two lives. We're not being authentic. Your post from Sunday was a good example. You felt one thing but did another. I'm just as guilty - I've done it and will do it again, sometime, I'm sure.

As for Silver's discussion about the Miracle of Forgiveness, I'd like to quote Bishop Stan Roberts of the San Francisco Singles Ward who said, "As far as I'm concerned, that book, (the Miracle of Forgiveness) should be burned. That book has done more damage and caused more harm to members of the church, particularly gay members, than any other piece of literature in Mormondom." (quote-unquote)

Bishop Roberts then went on to remind us that SWK was not a prophet when he wrote that book, nor has that book ever been stated to be prophetic utterance. When I heard this, I decided never to reference it again, except as an example of seriously bad counsel.

Anyway, don't let your guilt get the best of you. You're a good guy caught in a challenging situation.

Take care,

Mark

Beck said...

MARK:

I feel guilt when I feel one thing and do another. I feel guilt when I keep secrets from my wife and family. I feel guilt when I live two lives.

Call it rage, call it shame, call it guilt, it is what it is.

I don't know what "authentic" means. I hear so many in this community and the homosexual community at large use that word. Authenticity is overrated. What is it? How can it be the overall governing theme of life? Isn't living life the best way that one knows how in the circumstances he's in as he tries to hold sacred the love he feels for his loved ones - an authentic life? Don't we all have duality in our lives? I can't be the only one who feels one thing and does another - and does so for noble and good reasons. How can that not be authentic?

We're all splintered. Don't tell me that we're not. There is always an internal debate going on within each of us, even those that are "truly honest" with themselves. I'm honest with myself. I may not be honest with those around me for my own reasons and purposes - but is that really dishonesty? And what does that have to do with authenticity?

To me, being authentic means being real. I'm real...

robert said...

As a concept, "authenticity" can be pretty slippery but has a very long philosophical history. One proponent was Sarte as he wrote extensively about characters and antiheros who lived their lives and based their actions on external pressures.
Most writers on inauthenticity in the twentieth century consider the predominant cultural norms to be inauthentic; not only because they are seen as forced on people, but also because, in themselves, they required people to behave inauthentically towards their own desires, obscuring true reasons for acting.
It seems to me when one espouses one action and does another this state lacks authenticity for the actor. Usually, the state is self-evident and not very difficult to discern. In other words, it is a self-validating state. You know if you are authentic or not.
It is plausible that most of us are inauthentic at various times, because to be otherwise would demand constant courage, internal honesty and limited regard for the consequences.
It is a difficult state to achieve and often involves perceiving oneself, other people and institutions in a radically new way. For some, the very search for authenticity makes for the richest of lives. For others, it is a battle or even inconceivable. Charles Taylor in his book "The Ethics of Authenticity" defines it as "the unimpeded operation of one's true or core self in one's daily enterprise."

Beck said...

ROBERT: With all due respect, I see much of what is being said as psychobabble.

"the unimpeded operation of one's true or core self in one's daily enterprise," doesn't mean anything to me. I can't live this way. My life and connections and responsibilities and circumstances do not permit me to live this way. My own internal feelings do not impower me to live this way. So does that make me inauthentic?

How does one operate his daily life true to his core self? And what if that is contrary to everything that one holds true and dear?

Maybe I'm one of those where such a thing is inconceivable or at least a constant battle.

Beck said...

More questions:

Does authenticity require the abandonment of right and wrong?

Does authenticity require no moral compass? Whatever feels good "in one's core" is the way one should live, and doing anything else for external reasons, teachings, ideals, morals, is living an inauthentic or conflicted and dishonest life?

What about finding authenticity by striving to work toward living higher governing principles?

Is authenticity just another way to say "anything goes" and "complete self-rule" and "freedom"?

Doesn't true freedom come from obedience to laws and principles known to be true, even if contrary to one's true core?

Help me out here... ANYONE!

Philip said...

I am exhausted but I want to join in on this discussion...

What is authenticity?

For me, it's when my inner and outer realities align.

By that I mean that what I think and feel inside is reflected on how I live my life.

For instance, when I was closeted, my focus was on protecting my secret and being someone I was not. Later, when I came out, my focus shifted to being myself and interacting openly and honestly with others. It was a process. For years, I could only be myself a couple of hours once a month. Then later I came out enough to have supportive friends. Slowly I started to feel normal without having to venture out into the gay world or be around supportive friends. Somehow I internalized that normalcy and now I feel normal all the time. But I think how I feel now has a lot to do with no longer being afraid of others finding out.

I haven't really changed all that much in behavior, belief system, how I go about living. The main difference is that I undid a lot of damage done to me and that I did to myself while in the closet and now the ME that went into that closet all those years ago has returned to the world except this time on my own terms.

For instance, I went to see a Priest about returning to the Church. I was told I would only be welcomed if I stopped being so militant. I asked what he meant since I hadn't done anything except to say that I was gay. I learned the Church considers anyone that is openly gay a militant. I'm a good Catholic but I'm not going back into the closet for anyone not even the Pope.

That is how important authenticity has proven itself to be.

Regards,
Philip

MoHoHawaii said...

Beck,

I'm going to weigh in and recommend a book, Carl Rogers' On Becoming a Person. It's really meant for therapists, but I think it has a very good and readable treatment of "authenticity."

robert said...

Sorry, Beck...but what you refer to as "psychobabble" is really just philosophy. It has been around far longer than Christianity. I would tend to agree that by the moral standards you apply to yourself and to others, it is unlikely that you can or even "should" be authentic. Authenticity requires an internal compass and self confidence that few who are mired in any doctrine possess. It "seems" that you live by comparing yourself to others and to a written doctrine.(I should also say that I have NO idea how you really live) When the way you feel doesn't agree with either doctrine or the opinion of others, it creates discord for you. You know well which parts of your life are inauthentic (like lying to your wife or children). Its self-evident. Any effort to correct this is entirely up to you and you must bear the consequences of living your truth, whatever it may be. I like Roger's book as well. :)

robert said...

I want to add that it is fascinating to me that Mormons appear to spend so much of their time with other Mormons and when a non-Mormon attempts to speak to them, they often respond like we are speaking a foreign language which they do not understand. It happens a lot and I wonder why that is?

Beck said...

PHILIP: Thank you for you explanation. I am really trying to understand this. It is taking some effort to shift my thought process enough to embrace these ideas.

ROBERT: Thank you for your efforts as wells. I am not belittling what you are saying. I'm truly trying to get my mind (and spirit) to understand this. Yes, I don't get it. My mentality is anchored in what I feel are core beliefs of Mormonism and these religious principles are supposed to be universal and eternal and "predate Christianity" as well. Though philosophy may predate Christ, we still have the "philosophy of men" and "truth", which may or may not be the same. I do not profess any great insight in philosophy and am wanting to learn.

I am not excluding non-Mormons for contributing to my enlightenment - in fact, I encourage it. Just because I don't "understand" doesn't mean that I'm not trying, nor willing to do so. It interests me enough that I'm willing to read (gasp) a non-Mormon book to gain understanding.

As you said, you don't know me. I'm not looking for easy Sunday School answers.

Yes, I know when I'm inauthentic. I know when things aren't in harmony and I have a battle going on between these external and cultural and social pressures and my internal self.

But, I still feel that authenticity has something also to do with truthfulness, commitments and being true to those commitments, sincerety, devotion, loyalty, and intentions. Does it not? It has to be more than just being true to one's core self. No?

With decades of indoctrination into thinking a certain way, be patient with me as I try to grasp a concept that may seem so self-evident to you, yet foreign to my mentality.

Please don't be offended and help me here, okay?

Beck said...

More questions:

Can one be authentic to one's core self and still be religious with beliefs in God and organized religion? Or are the two mutually exclusive? Since religion is an external source of influence and pressure to one's core self, just like culture and social norms are, then doesn't it require one to be areligious to be authentic?

Can one believe in a God (which implies obedience to a higher source beyond oneself) and still be an authentic person, living life fully with authenticity?

I've witnessed some in this blogging community move from one to the other, but in the process, having to give up one for the other. Is that the way it has to go?

Why do I feel this philosophy of authenticity wants to destroy my known beliefs and replace them other beliefs?

Can they co-exist?

Can someone like me be authentic?

Beck said...

MOHO: Thanks for the recommendation. I will seek it out. Though I'm skeptical of therapy, I want to learn about how to get my pieces put back together.

robert said...

It seems to me that you are asking if it is possible to be Mormon and also be authentic. I say that it largely depends on what "being Mormon" is to you..

One cannot be devoted to any faith doctrine which places that doctrine ahead of one's personal truth and still have authenticity.

Unfortunately in many religions (not just Christian), a difference of opinion is not simply a difference of opinion but is treated as a revelation of moral inadequacy on the part of the member. They can also be sanctuaries for those who have an appetite for unrighteous dominion. These issues and others run in complete opposition to authenticity.

It is plain old interesting that most religions ask one to pray about various things in order to "see" if they resonate as the truth. Over time, religions become organized, heirarchial and less merit is given to the member's
"personal truth or revelations" and more importance is given to the rules, codes of conduct and the like which pressure people to "stay true to the church" in order to insure the survival of the church itself.
I think LDS is particularly difficult in this regard because so much emphasis is placed on life long indoctrination, eternal families and the insulation of its faithful from outside sources (presumably from Satan or evil).

The net result for the LDS faithful is a somewhat limited worldview which does not endorse the concept of "thinking outside the box". Authentic people are always thinking outside the box, because the box could be wrong, or too small, or burn to the ground. Authentic people prefer to walk in the world, see what it is all about, listen to differing points of view, explore the reality of life without a something or someone reminding them what they should believe.

Authenticity implies autonomy of a sort which does not align easily with an organized religion regardless of its origin. This does not mean that fully authentic people do not believe in God. If they do, their concept of God and even belief are vastly different than one who follows a strict religious doctrine.

Authenticity requires personal reflection and an increasing awareness and evolution of self-knowledge throughout life's journey. While an authentic person may attend church they do so for the strict purpose of prayer and reflection. The "sermon" may or may not resonate as the truth. We enjoy the service for its original intended purpose and not the "constructed" purpose imposed by a church or pastor.
Authentic people are deeply moral but not in the conventional sense presented by doctrine laden religions. They accept that people are flawed and hope all are doing the "best we can with what we have". While they may see "evil" in the world, they lack the need to propel themselves into a mode of self-defense. Remarkably, they are rarely confronted with it as a result. It is developed intuition which maintains security not a dogma. Authentic persons do not wear their spiritual beliefs on their sleeves.

While this is hardly a debate, I wish to say that you could be completely right about everything you believe. The LDS, or any other religion for that matter, could be completely right about everything they represent, say, do or believe.
I am comfortable in my uncertainty.

(I should also say that you have shown great courage in allowing me as a non-Mormon to comment on your blog. I have been censored on some other moho blogs. I have no particular opinion on the religion other than its political stand against gay marriage which I disagree with and that is how I got here in the first place. Most of the mohos seem like nice guys, but I really fail to understand the SSA/SGA invention and that some mohos support?? the church's position on the CA amendment)

Beck said...

ROBERT: I don't know if it's "courage" that I show in allowing your comments. In my over 2-years of blogging, I've never edited or blocked comments. I encourage them from any and all. I try to be open and to learn as I admit that I don't know what I'm doing here as I come to terms with who I am and who I am doesn't necessarily align with the world I have created for myself or my "core beliefs", be they inculcated or hard-sought self-revelations.

I do consider my belief system something that I've discovered on my own, through my own research, planting, nurturing and watching the "seed" grow into a fertile tree of good. That having been said, I have a core self that doesn't align with cultural and social, and political movements of the LDS Church. I also have commitments and obligations to a family unit of wife and kids that I need to be 'authentic' to as husband and father. All these things are disjointed and don't come together congruently, and make me wonder where I fit.

I am trying to "think out of the box" from my inculcated orthodox Mormon religiosity in order to learn maybe another way to view what is full of contradictions. But, I'm doing so trying to hold onto my own personal convictions that I hold as "truth" - and maybe that's the biggest hurdle of all - I can't seem to let go enough to mentally switch my view, and so I can't get there from here. I can't grasp the concept of "authenticity". It's too vague, it's too aloof, it's too all-encompassing. It doesn't compute.

Please keep commenting. I enjoy that you've found this little community of MOHOs and you are always welcome at my table.

Kengo Biddles said...

My two cents on Miracle of Forgiveness:

Spencer W. Kimball seems to me to have been horribly guilt ridden--and through Miracle of Forgiveness he has passed his guilt complex on to us all--the gift that keeps on giving.

Don't get me wrong, he was an amazing man when it came to fulfilling his calling, but in his personal life, I think he was in some ways crippled by his guilt for things.

Yeti said...

Beck....I'm an married LDS but thinking of having at least 1 fullfilling encounter that I ache for...just one fullfilling moment before I become decrepid/ What do you think?

Beck said...

KENGO: SWK was an amazing man, a man of God, the prophet who called me on a mission. I have known him personally - sat on his lap as a child, etc... He was very sweet and very kind. But I must say that I gravitate whole-heartedly to Stephen E. Robinson's view of the atonement.

When I taught the repentance process and the atonement, using Miracle of Forgiveness (at the Bishop's direction), it was as if I was "taking away the hope" from the YM I was trying to reach - sucking every last drop of hope out of their souls. It became a joke - that there was no hope - that we are all lost and might as well quit... I ended those lessons with Moroni 7:41 and emphasized how hope only comes through Christ. It is interesting to see how guilt can totally destroy us if we let it. I have allowed too much guilt to destroy too many years of my life.

That isn't the Plan of Happiness that I want to be a part of.

Beck said...

Not quite sure what you're proposing there, Yeti. Good luck with that.