Monday, September 29, 2008

I challenge you to comment on a non-angsty post!

In this blog, I tend to emphasize my "angst" as I "struggle" with who I am. As I've come to accept who I am, this angst level has decreased. This blog has been, for the most part, an expression of that angst above and beyond all else in my life. I suspect, as such, for those who view me only through the eyes of this blog, you might suspect me as always being angsty. This isn't so... for the most part, I'm at piece and am comfortable being me.

In this blog, I also tend to shy away from testimony bearing, and the thought came, that maybe some may question my spiritual convictions. I often don't blog about these things (because I have several ways to express myself in other contexts outside the blog, whereas my gay issues have no other contexts but this blog), and maybe that isn't good. Yet, when I have blogged about them, I typically get zero comments or feedback. In other words, DICHO nailed it when he said that my "angsty" posts generate more discussions to the point of increasing his jealousy of such banter.

So to make a preface even longer, and at the risk of receiving no comments, I want to share something that happened yesterday in church...

Is it appropriate to cry in Church? I mean, there are those that gush each and every Sunday and you just want to say "get a grip on reality, man!" I mean, real men don't cry, right? And men who tear up at the drop of a hat (I'm a sucker for a good tear-jerker movie), should be shot and put out of their misery, right? Sometimes when you see a certain brother or sister come to the podium, you know the tears are going to gush and you hang your head in embarrassment for them. (I've been known to wear my emotions on my sleeves, but sometimes those emotions are also cynicism, skepticism, and frustration). But, when was the last time you had tears swell up in your eyes in all three meetings of the block? It's been a while for me.

1. In priesthood, we were discussing the meaning of testimony, and the spirit triggered my mind to the countless testimony meetings I held, conducted, and observed while serving in a Branch Presidency at the MTC. I was prompted to share the incredible experience of seeing new elders and sisters pour into our branch every other week and "seasoned" elders and sisters pour out and onto their missionary service eight weeks later. The thought of remembering this flow of missionaries through the doors of the MTC flooding tears of emotion in me that are still very tender and precious. How many times did we welcome in a group of missionaries in a kickoff testimony meeting and undoubtedly there would be one or two or more elders (typically not sisters) who would stand and say they weren't sure of why they were there or what they believed, but that by putting into practice the principles of the Gospel, eight weeks later would stand and bear testimony with heart-felt conversion and tear-filled personal conviction. As I shared this with the quorum, tears swelled up in my eyes and in my heart of the feelings I still have of those experiences of testimony some 25 years later.

2. In Sunday School, I was teaching my little class of "misfits" and we came across the scripture in D&C 18 where the "worth of a soul" is discussed, and the "joy" that comes from touching another for good. And tears swelled up in my eyes as I shared a personal experience of the "joy" that comes from just "one soul" and how my life has been blessed by being a part of just this "one". It wasn't planned. It wasn't scripted. It just happened and my little class of "misfits" and I all started tearing up together.

3. In Sacrament Meeting, I sat next to a young, recently widowed sister who has the most beautiful voice. I hadn't spoken with her for some time and so we chatted for a bit and reconnected. The meeting was powerful, but the spirit was felt more strongly as I felt her pain, her joy, her loneliness, her strength, as she sang the hymns with me. By the closing song, I was in tears again (count them - three times!) and had to stop singing as I listened to her voice express her spirit and her struggle and her pain and her joy and her testimony as she sang. After the closing prayer, I reached over and gave her a big hug and told her: "I don' know that you realize the feelings of the spirit that I have felt as I've sat here with you and hearing you sing". She broke out crying in my arms and we held each other for a moment.

Sometimes, I'm judged as an emotional boob. Sometimes, emotion is confused with the spirit. But, yesterday, I felt the spirit confirm within me that God loves me, that triggered memories are "tender mercies" from Him, and that we are here to touch each other for good, because of our "struggles" that make us who we are.

Now that this gaggy and sappy post is over, I'm inclined to hit the delete key as no one will comment anyway, and I promise I'll return to my normally cynical, skeptical, and angsty self.


Abelard Enigma said...

You lose :)

(i.e. you have, at least, one comment)

Dichotomy said...

Okay. Here's a comment, but it's not so much a reaction to your post as a question about my own experiences that your post brings to mind...

You wrote:
Sometimes, emotion is confused with the spirit. This is something that I've struggled with my entire life. How do we differentiate between emotion and the Spirit?

I started writing a lengthy version of this question, but it was getting too long and too detailed, so I decided to move it to my own blog so that I don't derail your inspiring post with my own angsty questions. :)

Philip said...

I see the angst and emotion as related.

At first the anxiety or angst or whatever you want to call it that I felt seemed to come from nowhere and I interpreted it as something in the marriage was wrong. In my male mind that meant that something in the marriage was broken that needed fixing. I would then obsess about what was broken and I could always find something that I thought might be it but everything I came up with was never really it. Finally one day I realized there was not something broken that needed fixing but instead something missing. From that day forward, what I had interpreted as anxiety, I now saw as a need so vital that I could not be at peace without it.

As for the emotion, for whatever reason I cannot connect with my wife in a way that allows me to express certain emotions. It is not that I don't want or wish it to be otherwise but that the reality is I don't seem to have the capacity to connect with her in that way. So I think these emotions that don't get expressed build up over time until I get overwrought and find myself bursting into tears over the stupidest things.

So as I see it is natural to feel this directionless anxiety and out of nowhere emotion and the two are related to the same thing - a need not being met.


Kengo Biddles said...

Warning: While the above and below appear to be comments, they're not really comments.

At least you're crying over good things...

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I'd go one step further and say that I think that emotion is ALWAYS confused with the "Spirit".

Even before I left the church I had exactly the same type of "spiritual" experiences about things that don't only have nothign to do with the church, but things that directly contradict the church's teachings, and yet the "Spirit" "witnessed" to me of their truth the same as I felt the church was at one point true and at one point believed in most to all of the church's claims.

That's at least been my experience with "the Spirit".

Public Loneliness said...

You're a good man. No disrespect for your beliefs here, I've been there in the past...

I used to think that all the feelings like this always came as a reassurance of the still-small voice of the HG--that's what I was taught and never thought of anything else until a professor in college (who was also an institute teacher-go figure) warned me not to confuse emotion with the spirit--two very different things--this threw my entire world for a spin.

But aside from the spirit, I belive you may just be one of those very tender and sentimental people who can feel other's pain, heck I've been known to cry listening to the national anthem, don't show me the scene where the older brother is crying by the side of his younger brother's grave, the one he couldn't save in Legends of the Fall because I lose it completely...

Beck said...

ABE: At least I got you to take the bite!

DICHO: So, you have to steel my ideas and adopt them as your own and turn a sensitive, touching post into an angsty question? :) Good points by the way to your discussion and I'd like to keep this going and explore it a bit.

PHILIP: I'm an angst-filled, overly sensitive and emotional guy. Some of it may be from my mixed-oriented marriage, some of it from my own attractions not being fulfilled, some of it from the fact that I'm just the way I am. I would like to believe that most of it is just because this is who I am - take it or leave it.

KENGO: I didn't really burst out crying in any of these, but "tears swelled up" to the surface. And yes, they were good things! Let's not oversee that all is good here.

Beck said...

KREIG: I know from where you speak and I respect that. I do feel, however, that the Spirit has communicated directly to me on numerous occasions. Impressions that come to my mind to seek someone out, or to say or relate a particular memory to someone who needed to hear that, or a kind word to a recent young (my age) widow are, in my opinion and experience, whisperings of the Holy Ghost working through us. Am I naive to believe such - maybe, but for me these are more than just emotions. Each had a purpose - each had a message of witnessing connections and extending comfort and reaching out for others. I am convinced that the Spirit whispers these things to us as we listen for ways to help and lift those around us.

In none of this was I testifying of the "truthfulness of the Church", which I recognize you have left and see no reason for it in your life. I get that. But, whether the Church is true or not (that is another subject), what I'm posting about is how we can be prompted to use our sensitivities for good in others - and I attribute such sensitivities to what I call the "whisperings of the Spirit", and not just emotion.

Beck said...

PL: I've been taught the same thing of the still small voice working within me. I also tear up at a particularly touching movie (don't even get me started on "Life is Beautiful" where I outright gush and embarrass everyone around me). And I've been known countless times to tear up at the playing of the National Anthem as well.

But, these occasions aren't surrounded by promptings and impressions and whisperings to specifically say something to someone, to reach out and find someone at a particular time who is in need, or to bear witness of an event in my life that serves as a teaching moment for what a particular person needs to hear at that moment. These "reasons" for the touch, the connection, the sensitivity, I feel with my experience, come from the HG. And if emotion comes with that message, so be it. But it is that message of comfort, connection, teaching, etc. that makes it moreso than a great touching scene in a movie, or a patriotic moment. Though both have tears swelling up, I think (just my opinion here - and it is my blog)there is a difference.

bravone said...

Interesting conversation. As one who had pushed himself so far away from God and the church over the past few years, I have wrestled with the concept of the whisperings of the spirit and emotion a great deal. I came to believe that I could not trust my feelings and emotions. I rationalized away the prior times in my life when I thought I had felt the spirit as pure emotion.

While I don't have a complete understanding of the difference between emotion the promptings of the spirit, I have a few thoughts to share. I think the Lord uses means that we understand and recognize to reach us. One of these means is emotion or feelings. If something is good or
'persuadeth' one to do good, it is of God. The HG bears witness of truth where ever it is, in movies, songs, etc.

I also have come to believe that sometimes our feelings or emotions are the only things that we can trust. We judge between choices constantly and a lot of the decisions are based on our feelings.

Sometimes I have a hard time expressing myself, so I don't know if anything I have said makes sense to anyone else.

I do know though, that since I have started opening my heart to the promptings of the spirit, I have been happier and filled with a peace that I have not had in a very long time.

Yesterday I surprised myself by bearing my testimony in sacrament meeting. I told the folks that it had been a long time since I had even wanted to be there, but I do know that God lives and that Jesus is my Savior. It felt good. It felt right, and I am grateful to "feel" again.

Beck said...

As I know you know personally of the examples I brought up in my "example 1" in my quorum meeting, I'm grateful for your commenting. Thank you Bravone for your example and testimony. I know it isn't easy for you to come forth as you have, but it means an awful lot to me that you are.

You talk about being "open" to the Spirit. I think we all can learn from that. I know many times I don't ask to be open and so how can I expect any answer or communication, be they promptings or emotions?

The GOOD that comes from these things does come from God - we can be assured.

Bror said...

What an awesome experience to shed a genuine tear from deep within your soul with others. To feel totally connected in sharing the joy or pain of the moment. Such a rare thing in life but so good.

Some Like It Hot said...

Beck: Great post topic...this past sunday, in my singles ward, it was by far the most emotional I've felt in a really long time.

I don't even feel the spirit most Sundays (that's a sepearte topic), but this past Sunday was an especially special day for one of the brothers in the ward. I felt the spirit so strong, I teared up, my buddy next to me teared up too, and I saw anther guy friend sitting near by and he teared up too.

I don't like to cry in front of other people, but I do think to cry is to be human. Anything spiritual experience that can make me cry is something worth remembering.

Beck said...

BROR: These tears were genuine. I wasn't necessarily feeling weepy or emotional, yet each setting with different people and different purposes brought the tears - heart-felt genuine tears, and it felt good to be connected, and it felt good to be alive!

Sometimes we are taught that such moments should be suppressed as if they are inappropriate or somehow wrong.

I'm glad I'm not "beyond feeling".

Thanks for your comment.

Beck said...

SLIH said: "I felt the spirit so strong, I teared up, my buddy next to me teared up too, and I saw anther guy friend sitting near by and he teared up too."

I love it when that happens, particularly with your buddies and guy friends who wouldn't necessarily "cry" in any other setting - and yet, in that spiritual moment of connection, it's nice to know that they, too, are touched in the same way at the same time!

"...I don't like to cry in front of other people, but I do think to cry is to be human. Anything spiritual experience that can make me cry is something worth remembering..."

We need to "remember" these experiences where the Spirit is close and is confirming things to us. Often, life gets in the way, and we so quickly forget as the stress of the day clouds our minds. All the more reason to record these experiences so that we may recall how tender He has been with us.

Serendipity said...

I have always been one of those people that you mention that can't get up and bear testimony without feeling like a blabbering idiot.

It seems, lately, though, that my emotions have not been as out of control regarding spiritual experiences. I bore my testimony at the beginning of September, and I don't recall ever having my emotions so under control when doing so.

But overall, I am not less of an emotional person, just less emotional regarding spiritual things. Does that mean that the spiritual experiences I am having are less meaningful? I don't think so, but I worry that it might.

I have been feeling numb to a lot of different things in my life since Dichotomy came out to me, and I think spirituality might be one of them.

Silver said...

Just talked with a dear friend about this last night.

I've been troubled of late because I don't seem to be able to cry. I've always and I mean ALWAYS been deeply emotional and have cried very readlily. I couldn't bear testimony without a flood of tears. The last few years of coming out to my wife and being out with many issues that were previously suppressed has brought a flood of tears, even grief.

Now I seem to be locked. The tears just don't come. I am very much at peace compared with previous years. I'm no longer grieving, but why can't I cry? Have I put up a shield? I wonder if anyone else has experienced a change like this. I'm not sure I like the new tearless me.

I am still moved by the spirit and occasionally I shed a few tears, but there is a marked change.

I can be in situations where my wife or another man is in tears and feeling deep sadness. I previously would have had tears of empathy. I still feel the pain of others and I care deeply, but it troubles me when the tears don't come. Any ideas for me? Have I moved on and past the grief and adjustments or am I defensive, gaurded and self protective?

Beck said...

DIP and SILVER: Both of you bring up an interesting take where sometimes our emotions are not as much manifested on the surface as at other times.

Again, I don't believe that "tears = spirit". Often times "tears = emotion" pure and simple. In other words, the spirit can be accompanied by emotions and be manifest with tears; emotion can be manifest with tears, but not be spiritual; and the sweet whisperings of the spirit do not require accompanying tears... it's an interesting biproduct.

The key is in listening. The key is in still feeling. The key is in not letting ourselves get into the pattern of being "beyond feeling". The key is to recognize good when we see it and have confirmation of the spirit inside us.

Many times I can bear witness of things without tears. Many times I can share my love without tears. Do those times have less value or significance than those with tears? I don't think so. Why the difference? I don't know - maybe it's the "time of the month"?

I wish I knew the difference. I hope you don't worry too much about the difference as worrying about staying in tune. I know that's my challenge.

Anonymous said...

After reading this entry I was very glad you didn't hit the delete key. It was beautifully written and I enjoyed seeing this other side.

Beck said...

DON: Welcome to my blog and to the community! Thank you for posting and I hope to see more of you around.

When you say that you're glad "to see this other side", know that this "other side" expressed here is really the major part of who I am. My angsty side is just one part of who I am.

We are multi-dimensional beings and I hope all who read this realize that my blog is not my entire being. Being gay is something I'm still coming to grips with. It is an essential part of who I am. But it isn't all that I am.