Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The rest of the story...


... My wife wouldn't let the issue die. When we got to the car after the meeting block, she was all over me wanting to know who I offended? or what did I say to someone? or who did I pick a fight with? Even these questions demonstrated her understanding that I'm a fighter and don't like to be pushed into a corner, and have been known to "stir things up a bit" in a church setting.


I just shrugged and grunted responses (I wasn't about to have this discussion in the car with the kids), which just made her more curious and anxious. Who knows what was racing through her head.


Finally alone for a moment at home the dialogue went something like this:


"So, are you going to tell me what's bothering you? You know you can't hide."


"I don't want to discuss it."


"But, I'm not going away so you may as well get it out now."


I saw the determined look on her face and knew she was now getting worried. So I began...


"A couple of weeks ago, Brother S made a comment about gays and gay marriage and how evil it all is and how they all need to be rounded up. I didn't say anything, and I felt terrible inside that I didn't. This really, really bothered me. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't remain silent anymore."


"So this is what's still bothering you today?"


"No. But it happened again. This time Brother D made a closing comment to his lesson about an editorial from Carol Lynn Pearson encouraging more compassion and understanding for our gay brothers and sisters to stop the onslaught of suicides. Brother D implied that this is sophistry - saying something good, such as love and compassion for all, but cloaking it in acceptance of sin."


By this time my lip began to quiver...


"And you are upset because you identify yourself as a "gay man", right?" she asked most solemnly.


"Well... yes..." I stammered. Even readmitting this to her remains difficult as I know it still causes her pain and worry about our relationship and her self-esteem.


"And so.." she encouraged.


"And so, I don't feel that showing love and compassion for gay brothers and sisters is sophistry. It is so ignorant to have such statements made in priesthood. I just don't know if I can go to priesthood anymore - and I'm in the leadership of the quorum!"


"So are you saying you're ready to make your declaration?"


I must admit that this word "declaration" shocked me a bit, coming from my wife. I wasn't expecting it and didn't know how to react. I haven't planned on making any declaration. I just wanted to speak up and check comments that seem to go unchecked and seem to be coming at a more frequent pace.


"No, I'm not saying I'm going to make a "declaration" to my priesthood quorum, though that would be fun to do in a certain sense to shock them off their seats... What I am saying is that I feel frustrated that such feelings exist and that they get away with saying hurtful, insensitive and unthoughtful things. I don't want to remain silent anymore and just take it."


"Well, you realize these are mainly older guys who are set in their ways of thinking and aren't going to change," she responded. "You'd probably never hear the same comments in the Elders Quorum."


"Maybe, but it doesn't make it right!"


"Do you think you can make a rebuttal in the quorum without getting too personal, too emotional, losing your temper?"


"I don't know... that's why I often just don't say anything. The spirit is prompting me to open my mouth, but emotions get the better part of me and I'm afraid anger will be the message they hear."


"Well, why don't I come into the quorum next week and set the record straight about their insensitivities?"


"What? You?"


"Yeah, why not? I can deliver the message that we need to be more sensitive to others and less judgmental."


"I don't think that's going to happen. No... but, since I'm conducting this month, do you think I should say something next Sunday, or is the moment gone and it will be out of context and out of mind by then and it's a lost cause?"


"Maybe you should talk to the bishop about it."


"What good would that do?"


"Well, he needs to be told that his HPs are old goats that are ignorantly spouting off judgments of things they know nothing about."


"I don't think I'm going to talk to the Bishop. I think he already knows their attitudes and opinions."


"Well, then how about the HP group leader. Do you want me to call him?"


"Why are you so proactive here?" I asked puzzled at the way she was taking this.


"I don't want you to be hurt."


"I appreciate that, but I'm okay. I just am tired of the fight. I don't want to go to Priesthood anymore. It's like I'm on edge waiting for the next sly remark that seems to come every other week now."


There was a pause.


"I just am tired of not standing up for what I feel is right."


There was silence.


"I love you," she finally offered.


"I love you, too," I countered and we kissed, and then the kids came in the room.


A while later, I could tell that she was deeply worried.


"You still have a problem with this, don't you," I pressed.


"Of course I do," she replied with a concerned self-absorbed kind of voice.


"I knew I should have never said anything to you... now you're all worried all over again, like I'm going to run off with a boyfriend or something. I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm not going anywhere."


She didn't say anything more and we haven't talked about it since.


***


My window of opportunity is gone. A suggestion was made to leave an anonymous note. My wife suggests I discuss it with the bishop or the HP group leader. The fire is gone. I was planning on reading my version of Mosiah 4 to the quorum next week, but now it feels out of place and petty.


I don't know. What do you think?


And what about my conversation with my wife? If you know us, we don't often talk about "the issue" as it causes her pain and feelings of doubt about our relationship and the permanence of our situation - that things aren't going to change. Should I have said anything? What do I do now?


For those who were anxiously awaiting a more dramatic conclusion, I'm sorry... I don't make this up... it's just want happens. It's real - not fiction. For me, this is drama to have had a successful conversation with my wife and not have it end worse than it did. Is that progress? Assess the status of my marital relationship and let me know what you see. I'm too close to judge what's going on...
I think I think too much. Too much contemplation... I need to get back to work and let it all go...

28 comments:

Superstar said...

Regardless of what you do or don't do, I couldn't help thinking while reading your post what a sweet wife you have and what a good guy you are.

As for my vote, a kind but anonymous note would definitely keep him on his toes. :)

Kengo Biddles said...

Beck, I would say that it's wonderful the reaction of your wife. You can tell that she loves you and cares deeply if you're hurt.

It's a hard thing when people make bigoted (and stupid) comments in any venue of the Church. I agree with your wife...maybe you should talk with the bishop and he can have a talk about what it means to be Christ-like.

...Or you could do an object lesson using the cut scene "Mrs. Rancik" from the movie Juno.

If you haven't seen that cut scene, you should. It's very funny, and it illustrates our point very well.

Dichotomy said...

A few things that stuck out as I read the story:

"So are you saying you're ready to make your declaration?"

This seems to indicate that she takes it as a given that you will eventually (when you are ready) out yourself to the ward. Is this something you've discussed with her? My impression is that you don't discuss "the gay thing" much at all, so I would assume not.

If you haven't discussed it, and she's come to this conclusion on her own, I wonder what other conclusions and assumptions she has made?

"'You still have a problem with this, don't you,' I pressed.

'Of course I do,' she replied with a concerned self-absorbed kind of voice.

'I knew I should have never said anything to you... now you're all worried all over again, like I'm going to run off with a boyfriend or something. I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm not going anywhere.'"


Now it sounds like you who might be leaping to conclusions here.

You established in the previous conversation that she wants to take a proactive role in helping you to resolve this situation with the HP Group because she loves you and doesn't like seeing you hurting. Is it possible that the "problem" that she still has is worry about your state of mind and how to help you, and not (as you assumed) worry that you're going to run off with a guy?

Obviously I'm viewing this from the outside and don't know all of the variables, but all I can do is compare your situation to my own, and when I do the main difference I see is in the level of communication.

My wife and I used to assume a lot. We would assume that we knew what the other person was thinking and feeling. I often assumed that innocent comments that she made were intended as criticisms, and she assumed the same of me.

When I came out to her, we committed to each other to be open and honest, not only in sharing our feelings with each other, but also in making sure that our perceptions of the other's feelings were true and correct. In learning to communicate we've discovered that much of what we used to assume was actually incorrect.

Communication isn't always easy, and honesty can be painful. When I came out to my wife I told her that I was not willing to promise her that we would never separate, because I have no idea what the future will bring and I don't want to make a promise that I may not be able to keep. That was very hard on her--harder than any other aspect of the coming out. She wanted assurances that I wasn't comfortable giving.

Over time she has come to understand my position and to appreciate the honesty of it. As we've communicated and discussed the matter, I have also been able to learn more about myself and determine what assurances I can make for the future. For example, I can promise her that I won't ever cheat on her. I can promise that if we do ever separate it will be a mutual decision that we make because we both feel that it is the right choice. As we've communicated we've been able to refine what the future might and might not contain, and she is much more at peace with the possibilities.

So that's my take on the situation with your wife, if advice from someone who has been alive only slightly longer than you've been married means anything. :)

As for the HP situation, I'm not sure what to suggest. I'm not sure it's too late, but you certainly would have to approach it a little more carefully a week later than if it had been addressed immediately. I don't think that it would be out of place to simply state that having read CLP's editorial you feel that the plea to love unconditionally is one that the Savior would approve of, and that it would be good for all of us to try to learn how to love universally and to find the happy medium between condoning the sin and condemning the sinner.

In our stake, the member of the presidency that conducts the priesthood meeting is supposed to also close the meeting, taking the opportunity to bear testimony or to clarify or correct a point from the lesson if necessary. We don't go straight from lesson to closing prayer. Often the person conducting doesn't do anything other than thank the instructor for the lesson and then call on the person who is praying, but the opportunity is there if needed. This doesn't do any good for last week's lesson, but perhaps you can suggest to the group leader that such a system be implemented in your group?

Dichotomy said...

Apologies for the lengthy comment. If brevity is the soul of wit I must be a nitwit. :)

zachary.whitney said...

It seems to me a talk with the bishop would be the most diplomatic route. He can address the situation as a non-partisan.

However, this may be the pessimist in be, but you should be careful who you do talk to about it. If those kind of attitudes exist already, who's to say they won't be directed toward you when certain comments are made. I had a similar situation in one of my wards (not about homosexuality, but along the same lines of compassion toward "sinners.") When I vocalized my concerns, many members of the quorum turned their ill feelings on the subject toward me personally.

As far as your relationship with your wife. I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from with that. I think my wife and I have only ever talked about "the issue" two or three times. She is the same as your wife. She will obsess about it and make herself sick. I know it's not healthy for me to not discuss it, but what do you do in that situation?

Abelard Enigma said...

I think you are correct in that this particular incident is a lost opportunity. Rather than beat yourself up about it, learn from it. Determine what a good, non emotional, response would be if/when you are faced with a similar situation. Personally, I don't agree with the anonymous note to your HP group leader - that just seems cowardly and will likely accomplish nothing more than give you emotional satisfaction while causing him to wonder who the gay guy is in his HP group. BTW, I also disagree with your wife that such conversations don't happen in Elders Quorum meetings.

As for the conversation with your wife - I think it's great! You need to have more conversations like that. Yes, it makes her uncomfortable and unsure; but, the more you talk about it, the more normal it will be for her and, hopefully, the more comfortable she will become. The fact of the matter is, she is married to a gay man. Life sucks sometimes and we just have to learn to play with the hand we've been dealt. Ignoring it and pretending everything is hunky doorey isn't helpful to anyone. Although, I'm being quite the hypocrite here since I don't practice what I preach :(

Dichotomy said...

I'd just like to add here, lest anyone think that I have some super-laid-back progressive woman for a wife, that she's probably really not all that different from most wives.

She's a chronic worrier with General Anxiety Disorder. Her biggest fear in life is that I'll die before she does and leave her alone. When I went on my mission (we had dated for 18 months previous) she suffered from separation anxiety that led to frequent panic attacks. She's the epitome of a dependent spouse.

She also reads this blog, so I need to be careful what I say. :) (love you hon!)

My point is, if anyone's wife could have been expected to obsess over the possibility of her husband leaving her for a man, etc., it would be mine.

I'm fairly certain that she still has concerns, but overall we're doing extremely well.

I also can't say that communication and openness have been the sole reasons she has been as understanding as she has been. We both believe that she's gotten help.

But of course that same help is available to everyone else, as well.

pinetree said...

If you're concerned with what's being said in your quorum, talk to the bishop. He's the authority in the ward. Find some way for him to set things right and be clear about what the church's position is on how we should treat those who identify as gay.

If this is triggering more of an internal dilema, it sounds like you're doing the right thing by sorting it out with your wife.

Abelard Enigma said...

I don't agree that talking with the bishop is the best solution. The proper chain of command would be to talk to the High Priest group leader who then takes it to the bishop (if deemed necessary). The High Priest group leader has a duty to ensure proper doctrine is being taught in priesthood lessons. If the bishop has to come in and correct that then there are bigger problems. The melchizedek priesthood quorums should solve their own problems where possible and leave the bishop to focus on his responsibility as president of the aaronic priesthood.

Beck, if you feel you need to do something then, since you are in the HP group leadership, perhaps you could frame it as a general concern about proper doctrine being taught. My standard is, nothing should be taught that cannot be backed up by a reference on lds.org. You could even use the brothers comment as an example of your concern, pointing to the "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet where it says "Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant." (p.9)

Dichotomy said...

My wife's at school right now, and the district firewall blocks blogger, but she asked me to email her when "The rest of the story" was available. I sent her the text of this post, along with comments up to pinetree's.

She wanted me to add (from the wife's point of view):

"Yes, the wife may obsess about it, but in my opinion it is easier to obsess and worry about it for a short period of time of open communication and worry and honesty instead of just thinking through all the unhealthy 'what ifs' in my head for an extended period of time. Yes, it is going to hurt the wife, and yes there will be pain and sadness and tears, but it must happen, so better sooner than later.

"... My opinion is that Beck's wife is ready [to meet] the next phase head on. She needs to read the book, get the pain going, and then let it go through open communication. Let her read the blogs, call and maybe meet other wives. She is strong. She will be fine. She has an incredible husband to help her get through it."

(I realize that we're kind of focusing on the "what about the conversation with my wife" part of the question. I hope that's okay. It seems that others are covering the "what to do about HP group" part okay.)

... while I was typing my wife sent a P.S. She says that her advice may be motivated by a small amount of selfishness--she would like some wives to talk to. Whatever the reason, I think it's sound advice. FWIW.

Beck said...

SUPER: Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it. Your assessment of my wife as "sweet" and me as a "good guy" are odd for me to take. I look at my wife as stressed over having to deal with me, and me being somehow a jerk for putting her in this situation in the first place.

KENGO: I've seen the movie Juno but I don't recall the scene you're referring to. I'll have to figure that one out.

Beck said...

DICHO: A few responses:

1. We don't talk much about "the issue" except when it becomes too big to ignore (and with years of practice, we can ignore pretty amazing elephants in the middle of the room).

2. To say she's thinking my "coming out" is immediate is something I don't see. But, we have taken one more step in reconfirming that I'm still a "gay man" within our conversation, which is something. Sometimes I feel (and I know it's my assumption) that she feels like somehow, I'll be able to let all this go and be behind me.

3. We do need to communicate better. I worry that she thinks I'm going to run off with a guy. She probably isn't really thinking about that at all, but is worried that I'm still "struggling" with who I am and doesn't know how to help me. The "boyfriend" thing comes from me, not from her, though in the past she has asked me if I would rather be with a guy instead of stuck with her.

4. I have NOT been married longer than you've been alive. I know you didn't say that, but give me a break here. I'm not THAT old! :)

5. It's funny, but we've been instructed to give the teacher the last word instead of summing up or making concluding statements on top of his testimony - same thing true for the bishopric and the conclusion of the sacrament meeting where they do NOT stand up again at the end. I guess, however, it would be appropriate if a correction needs to be made, and I failed to do that last Sunday.

6. Apologies not necessary for long comments. I love them!

7. I know your wife has received "help". To make the transition she's made in the short amount of time you've been out to her is nothing but miraculous.

8. As for my wife being "ready for the next phase" remains to be seen. Not everyone moves at the same pace. I know she is a very strong woman (one of the things that is so endearing), and I don't mean to hold her back (maybe it's my fears I'm dealing with), but I'd like to feel "prompted" to give her the book to read and so far I'm not at that point... I was near to that point during our conversation on Sunday (but I hadn't finished reading it and didn't want to give it to her until I had gotten to the end and was familiar with it all - and now I have finished it and must admit that I have become hesitant as it leaves MOMs hanging out there with no real hope - more on that later) and so now I'm debating whether it is the right thing to do - I don't mean to disappoint you, only that I need more time to think about this.

9. I'd love to have your wife have more company on this journey. I'm glad she reads my blog and I hope that she will continue to comment and join in the community. She can start her own blog and give voice for other straight spouses of MOMs. In fact, I strongly encourage her to do so. Her faith and courage and strength are inspirational.

Beck said...

ZACHARY: I'm not interested in talking to my bishop. I see no reason to.... My wife has made herself sick over this as well. You need to realize we've been at this now for four years. The subject comes up every few months. It definitely isn't a dialogue that is current and on-going. But, I've noticed that we are able to address it now without tears and emotion, anger and stress... at least for the most part, so it's getting better, right?

I'm sorry for your stressful non-communication in your marriage. I'm not one to speak, but gaining strength through this community has helped me to learn to "like myself" verses "loathe myself" and that has helped to allow me to feel sure of myself when we do discuss "the issue".

Beck said...

ABE: We're on the same page with the ecclesiastical roles here. I do like your suggestion though of being prepared with a comment similar to yours of quoting from the "God loveth his Children" pamphlet so that it comes from the brethren in a non-emotional way and I don't have to get so angry as I speak. I like that.

As for my wife, I need your encouragement to do more (as obviously you do, too). We're in this together and I need your insights to see what I don't see.

Beck said...

PINETREE: What an honor! You are a long-time icon of this community and I am honored with your comments.

This is a drama in my life. I feel the need to talk it out more, and I hope to keep it going with my wife as we move forward.

Please don't be a stranger. I need and cherish the "next generation" viewpoint more than you know!

robert said...

My practical side thinks that you should stop attending these meetings as they are hurtful to you. Isn't church supposed to be uplifting rather than punitive in nature?

At the least, if you stopped attending the meetings someone might take notice and wonder why. You might be approached about it. This would be the time to share your feelings (one on one) to the degree that it is comfortable for you to do so.

If your fellow parishioners recognize that their ignorant statements are hurting their own to the degree that you no longer feel comfortable in the meetings, perhaps, some of them would be forced to look at their own bigotry.

In the mean time, I am certain you have better things to do with your life than attend such meetings. Perhaps you could spend that time in service to others. Its practical advice. Sometimes the answer is just that simple.

Kengo Biddles said...

"Sometimes I feel (and I know it's my assumption) that she feels like somehow, I'll be able to let all this go and be behind me."

Miki went through this very thing. It's taken been a year since then...so sometimes it just takes time. At some level, she's grieving.

bravone said...

Beck,voglio parlare con te cuando hai tempo. bravonebello@gmail.com Grazie amico.

Beck said...

ROBERT: I need you to understand that in this blog I am emphasizing ONE aspect of who I am. As far as church attendance and service to others goes, I find so many rewarding experiences as I help others and feel the spirit work through me with others. I see so many positive experiences and motivational opportunities for growth and betterment through church service. I have become the person I am and have been able to do things I never would have done as I serve others in the Church.

Just because I have recently been feeling this negativity with this priesthood group does not mean I don't feel reinforced in other ways in other settings.

Your point is well taken - service to others (and I know you do a lot of good work) is where it is at!

Beck said...

KENGO: I know she's grieving, but it's less and less as time goes on. I just don't think that she will ever get completely comfortable with the inevitability factor no matter how much time...

BRAVONE: Ti ho scritto e aspetto il tuo risposto presto presto...

Samantha said...

First--I don't think it's too late to address the comments even if you wait six months to do so. If you offer a proper preface to your words, they should be welcome at any time. You don't have to say your gay. You don't have to personalize any of it. But you can let them know that you have close ties with people who are gay, that you love those people, and that you found the assumptions and judgments made in your quorum offensive (note: beauty of "close ties with people who are gay..." comment: You do have such ties, but so does your wife--no dishonesty, no revelations). I suggest you take your time, even write down your choice of words, then pray about them. If you speak with the Spirit, I guarantee, someone will hear.

Second: If your wife is willing to speak, you should let her. One of the ways women heal is through talking, and the more she is able to talk, the easier it will be for her to become comfortable with her situation--and that is possible. Perhaps it's not a good idea for her to come to HP meeting and chastise the brethren, but suggest that she bring it up in RS? Allow her a conduit for communication outside your marriage? I don't know--but it sounds as if she's ready to talk and needs to be allowed to do so.

Finally, Dichotomy's wife can find a number of women to talk to on the North Star site. They just had a retreat together which was an amazing experience for all of them. She might find some good friends with much in common with her. And no, I wasn't invited to the retreat--but Darrin was. I said he couldn't go...heterosexual man...retreating with heterosexual women...does no one else see the problem here????

Beck said...

SAM: You're right. I need to take some time. I need to think it out. I need to listen to the spirit. I need to allow my wife a voice as well. There are ways to do this without anger and emotion overruling the dialog.

I love Abe's council on using words of compassion of the brethren in the recent pamphlet. I love the idea of formulating another time for these ideas to gel together and a teaching moment to be had that is beneficial - instead of zinging a particular teacher out of spite or frustration.

Thanks for this advice. You are wise as always.

robert said...

I was not suggesting that you stop attending Church..."just" those meetings. I understand the importance of faith in your life.

I question why such comments would be happening in Church in the first place. It seems to me that these meetings are being used by some as platforms unrelated to spirituality.
That's all.

Beck said...

ROBERT: Thanks for understanding the spiritual component of the church. There is a great service aspect to it and a sense of strength that comes in giving. Part of that is "that meeting"... something I'm dealing with more and more as I put it all in perspective and see the whole is much greater than these individual vignette parts.

Ron Schow said...

Beck,

I just want to add my thoughts to this interesting discussion. Like Abe and Sam I agree the best strategy is to prepare yourself for the next opportunity and not try to revisit your lesson from last week this coming Sunday. In your HP group, another opportunity will probably come soon enough. And if you prepare several things you can say, you might even mention CLP's editorial sometime in the future as a good example of compassion, without trying to directly confront the teacher of last week. I see little to be gained by going to the Bishop or the HP Group Leader. All of us can work within our sphere of influence, and we don't really need an authority figure to make it happen. And, yes, let your wife speak up in her own group when the subject comes up, if she wants to, and you speak in yours. Having her come to the HP would really raise some eyebrows.

Quoting scriptures and using official pamphlets are good ways to avoid trouble and speaking without anger and with the spirit are important.

I agree that they need you in your HP group, and the Church needs many more like you. Please keep going if you can and just figure out how you can persistently and steadily balance out things in the future. Like you, I agree the Church is a great place to find opportunities for service.

Beck said...

RON: I was on the verge of asking to be released. I just didn't feel good about being in a leadership position where I'm struggling with what is being said or taught in almost every other lesson.

But, I realized that would be quitting. And quitting doesn't do anyone any good. So, like the story of my life, I'm sticking it out.

And I've decided that the moment has passed and it doesn't make sense to make a point tomorrow. That will seem vindictive and petty and I don't want to be either. I want it to be appropriate to the spirit such that real teaching and learning and touching from one heart to another can occur. I am searching for that opportunity and feel it will come sooner than later.

Wisdom flows from your words!

Neal said...

Beck,

I have a suggestion, which worked out well for me.

On month's where we have 5 Sundays the Church allows the Bishop to determine what is being taught that day - nothing from the manuals. Its an opportunity for special instruction. In our Ward the Bishop uses it as HIS day to discuss things with the Ward in a combined meeting with all adults present. Sometimes he has all adults and youth present (even better!)

So when I was frustrated by the same kind of thing you're experiencing lately, I met with the Bishop and asked if he would cover SSA and the recent statements of the Church on the topic in a 5th Sunday lesson. I'm happy to say he agreed to it, and he did do it!! The conversation wasn't as positive as I had wished for, but overall it was indeed good.

With all the political controversy surrounding Gay Marriage and the Churchs' involvement in the political fray, this coming Sunday - a 5TH SUNDAY - would be the perfect time to ask your Bishop to do what mine did. He can bring up the subject without fear of suspiscion or self incrimination. He can address the attitudes, inuendos, and misperceptions as only the guy at the top can. People will listen.

So I suggest you go to the Bishop and discuss this with him - and soon - and ask him to speak to the membership on what bothers you. Think about it! But you only have a week..

Neal

Beck said...

NEAL: Thanks for the suggestion. Our Bishop does the same thing. I will be out of town this next Sunday, but it doesn't preclude a "planting of the seed" hint for him to take it up at some future 5th-Sunday lesson.