Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A very typical form of selfishness...


In Northern Lights, I recently read this quote in one of the comments:


Have you explored the possibility that the cause, when found, will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness? … If one could even experiment with the possibility that selfishness of a very subtle nature may be the cause of this disorder, that quickly clarifies many things. It opens the possibility of putting some very sick things in order. … Consider this: One cannot procreate alone. And this: One cannot procreate with his own gender. These are absolutes. And there is a third: One cannot procreate without yielding or giving. … I repeat, we have had very little success in trying to remedy perversion by treating perversion. It is very possible to cure it by treating selfishness. -- Elder Boyd K. Packer


I am familiar with this quote, but had forgotten it and now that I've reread it, I am concerned with it still being quoted, particularly with words such as "cause" and "disorder" and "very sick things" and "perversion" and "cure" and "treating" - all of which seem to be in contrast with more current speech from the Brethren.


But, this post isn't to argue these points (as they've been argued at length on NL and other blog posts) - instead, it is to address the underlining principle of selfishness.


Abelard says that my real problem is that I "want my cake and eat it too". Well, if that isn't the epitome of selfishness, then I don't know what the word means. I mean, when I say that I long for a hug-buddy, a bromance, a platonic boyfriend on the side, while still sealing my heart to my wife and remaining faithful to covenants - isn't that ultimately the most selfish want or desire you've ever heard?


I've been missing my "cake eating" of bromances lately and feel longings for these relationships while I'm sitting here at home trying to strengthen the emotional ties of my marriage. Isn't that self-centered or selfish?


Which leads me to question the true intent behind my "friendships" with these recently married young guys. Of course I love them and want the best for them, and I would do anything to help them and encourage them to be their best selves - but I also want their intimacy. Isn't that selfish?


Feeling bad about the distance of time and location and circumstance, and longing for some connection, I individually wrote four of them the other day, and to my pleasant surprise, three of the four wrote me back wonderful, warm, welcoming emails, expressing their desires for me to be a bigger part of their lives. I can portray that my motives are extensively altruistic, yet, none of them know (though they may suspect) of my ulterior motives. So, again, isn't that the definition of selfishness - seeking contact to ease my longing gay heart?


I've blogged about this before, but like all things in my life, I just spin my wheels and come back to the same place where I was before... * sigh *


Maybe, as much as it pains me to say it, in a certain sense, President Packer has nailed it!

25 comments:

Dichotomy said...

Depends.

Your desire for a platonic boyfriend is a desire for something that pleases you.

But your desire to stay faithful to your covenants to your wife, "sealing [your] heart to [her]"? What's the root of that one?

If that one's all about you, too (e.g. "I love that my wife contributes ... to my life and am not willing to lose that") then yup, I guess maybe you're being a little selfish.

But I suspect that it's more likely only partly the above, and mostly "I love my wife and want her to be happy and I am willing to sacrifice some of what I want for the sake of her happiness". That's unselfishness.

Personally, I don't believe that we're supposed to be entirely selfless--that is, putting everyone and everything else above ourselves. In EQ a couple of weeks ago the instructor asked "Taking it as a given that we put God first, who comes second?". I answered that we need to put ourselves second, and got some funny looks.

But the commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves, i.e. as much as ourselves. We're supposed to put other people's needs on an equal footing with our own, neither above nor below (in my opinion).

If we look at it from a temporal standpoint, if we're not meeting our own needs (shelter, food, etc.), we can't expect to be able to do a very good job of meeting anyone else's needs. I believe the same thing applies spiritually and emotionally as well.

So (1) I don't believe you're being entirely selfish. You're considering the wants and needs of your wife and kids in addition to your own. And (2) even if there is some selfish motivation behind your desires and behavior, I don't believe that's a bad thing, as long as you're not paying more attention to your own needs than to the needs of others.

Beck said...

Okay, I get that we can't be selfless all the time, or that there isn't a sub-selfish motive in everything we do (including shelter, food etc.) and that we aren't any good for others if we aren't good to ourselves, and that we need to love ourselves as we love God... I get all that.

And yes, I am "willing to sacrifice some of what I want for the sake of her happiness". And, yes, I am trying to keep it in balance...

but don't you think there's a fundamental selfish flaw in the "cake and eat it too" path?

Abelard Enigma said...

Abelard says that my real problem is that I "want my cake and eat it too".

Actually, I misquoted the idiom. It should be "To eat ones cake and have it to." - the idea being that once you eat it then you can no longer have it because it no longer exists. The reason for the clarification is that I don't equate this with selfishness necessarily. I think it describes the dilemma we find ourselves in. Now, it's true that we may create the dilemma by our selfishness - but I don't think that is always the case. Selfishness comes about when we are willing to sacrifice others in some way for our own wants and desires.

You are gay - you like guys. You experience a physiological reaction when you are around guys - a reaction you have no control over. This reaction is strongest with guys you find attractive (and not just physically); and, the reaction is even stronger when there is some sort of reciprocal reaction. This reaction brings with it a certain amount of pleasure.

You are also married - to a woman. You may not experience the same physiological reaction when you are around her - but your love for her is deeper and able to transcend the lack of physical attraction.

Is it selfish to want to find ways to experience the pleasure that comes with attraction in ways that do not hurt your wife? I'm not convinced. The dilemma is that it may not be possible to have both.

Now, if you were willing to put your desire for pleasure ahead of your wife THEN you would be selfish - but then you'd also probably be out having sex with guys behind her back. You're not doing that - which says your love for her and respect for her needs is greater than your desire for pleasure. So, explain to me how you are being so selfish. Are you equating merely having a desire for pleasure with selfishness?

Kengo Biddles said...

Beck. You're Human. Human=Selfish. Anything "selfless" that we do, there is some sort of emotional gratification that takes place, even if it's not something that's spoken by another person. We get a certain endorphin rush when we do something for someone else.

In short, we're all junkies. Some of us are just junkies to our own endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds--and some of us (albeit many, many less) have chosen exogenous opioid polypeptide compounds (ie drugs).

The point is, you have to decide if you can make your relationships with these men more about your friendship and your platonic love for them and less about the sexual urge.

And I don't think you have to be perfect at first. How many of my friends that I've had have started out as me getting to know a guy just because I think he's hot?

Kengo Biddles said...

..and no, I won't answer that last question, and don't even think of guessing.

Dichotomy said...

Really, wouldn't "having your cake and eating it too" (or the other way around) mean completely indulging your homosexual tendencies and still expecting to have a loving nuclear family? That would be selfishness.

The very fact that what you "want" is a "platonic" boyfriend shows that you've raised your family's needs above your own desires by quite a lot.

At the moment, you're not even indulging that "want". You've placed your wife and family first in every respect. I might consider that a potentially unhealthy level of selflessness.

Living the life that you're currently living and "wanting" something more (note: not something different, just something in addition to what you have) is not selfish.

Actually acting on that "want" and finding that platonic boyfriend or getting that massage or doing whatever it is that fits within the boundaries that you set might start to edge toward selfishness a bit. But it's really just bringing the pendulum back toward the middle and balancing things out a bit.

As long as you don't go too far the other way, and start putting your wants above your family (and from what I know of you I honestly can't imagine you doing so) I don't think you need to worry about being selfish.

Kengo: um... 42?

Silver said...

In the Spanish language there is little use of posessive pronouns. Beck, is it the same in Italian? They simply refer to "The Wife" or "The Girlfriend" (La esposa, La Novia) not the typical English expression of the posessive "My Wife" etc..I think this is indicative of our tendency in western culture to proudly take pride in posession and to be quite jealous when it is threatened. We are indeed a selfish culture.

In Latin culture, they don't generally express posession of even personal objects, which leaves almost anything open to the use or benefit of a friend. It is mearly viewed as an object. In fact, I think I only heard personal expression used with reference to body parts (my arm etc..).

Could it be that our culture limits our interaction socially by the posession that we take of each other and our relationships? I think those relationships are sometimes very confining and smothering. Could this be a root of codempendent relationships? I think it restrains our expression and creates a pent up need in us for a more balanced life. I feel and believe that expression of love for our own sex is natural, but far too supressed.

My theory is that a more balanced life demands expression of love and companionship in a broader sense with a variety of individuals of both sexes.

I don't espouse disrespect for the marital relationship or the covenant. I see the covenant and sealing ordinance as a very dear committment between individuals that opens doors reserved for expression only between spouses, but I think our culture is far too limiting in it's paranoia with regard to the supposed threat poised by other relationships.

I also wonder when we leave this veil of tears, could love be less exclusive? Could there be room in our eternal souls for expression of love for others without this baggage of jealousy and suspicion that we carry here and this desire or "selfish" need to own someone exclusively?

Hmmmm....I kind of like that thought.

Some Like It Hot said...

I'm really glad 3 of the 4 young men wrote you back so quickly and were so at ease in affirming you as their friend. As my male therapist would say, a desire for a connection with other males is normal. And it is encouraged, as long as it is non-sexual.

A few years back in my early twenties, I went to a couple of out door retreats with a men's group. Some were straight, some were not. Anyhow I remember very fondly there was some older guys there that treated me like their son. They looked out for me and I will always remember that experience in a positive way.

For what it's worth, I don't think you are selfish. I trust you know where healthy boundaries are.

Philip said...

I would just reject "to eat ones cake and have it to" if what's being talked about are needs that can't be met within the marriage. It's not selfish for a gay man to need same sex intimacy anymore than it's selfish for a straight man to need opposite sex intimacy. I think most people would find it ridiculous to even try imagining a straight man married to another man because off all the inherent problems involved in such a relationship. Yet it doesn't seem to occur to a lot of people that the same inherent problems happen when a gay guy marries a woman. So the needs are not selfish because after all you are a sexual being. However, how you behave is a separate consideration.

Regards,
Philip

Bror said...

I don't think you are being selfish.

Beck said...

DICHO said: "At the moment, you're not even indulging that "want". You've placed your wife and family first in every respect. I might consider that a potentially unhealthy level of selflessness."

Okay, so instead of feeling an unhealthy level of selfishness for wanting a platonic boyfriend on the side, you think my priorities have put me in an unhealthy state of selflessness? Wow, that's a twist. I was looking for some dialog that told me to stop be selfish, and instead, I'm being told to wake up and get things a bit more in balance...

I've got to think about this.

"Actually acting on that "want" and finding that platonic boyfriend or getting that massage or doing whatever it is that fits within the boundaries that you set might start to edge toward selfishness a bit."

So, what you're saying is if I continue my relationships with my young married guys, and get a nice massage from someone other than "Helga", I'm just bringing myself back into proper equilibrium?

I've got to think about that one as well...

Beck said...

SLIH said: "I'm really glad 3 of the 4 young men wrote you back so quickly and were so at ease in affirming you as their friend. As my male therapist would say, a desire for a connection with other males is normal. And it is encouraged, as long as it is non-sexual."

Yes, 3 of the 4 wrote back almost immediately and with enthusiasm and excitement as they shared their updates with me. I'm not sure if I have the correct address of the 4th one, but, yes, they wrote and they lifted my spirits and I am grateful that time and place and situation have not changed our feelings and friendship for each other. Still, doing this long distance through email letters doesn't replace the need for that physical contact, but it does lighten the heart.

"For what it's worth, I don't think you are selfish. I trust you know where healthy boundaries are."

Thanks for your confidence and trust in me. I shall try to not violate it. Thanks for joining the conversation!

Beck said...

PHILIP said: "It's not selfish for a gay man to need same sex intimacy anymore than it's selfish for a straight man to need opposite sex intimacy."

That point is often lost on me, too, as I function in this hetero world. I appreciate that perspective as I seek boyfriend intimacy within my self-imposed limits.

Beck said...

BROR: Welcome to this community!

I appreciate your confidence in me as well, and I look forward in learning from you.

Foxx said...

When I came out, this is one of the talks that appeared on my pillow one day, and I spent a lot of time considering that I was just being selfish. The recommended course of action, was, of course, to a) not talk about my "problem," and b) date and marry a nice LDS girl.

Both of these expectations seemed to grow from the belief (and the desire to have the belief confirmed) that homosexuality does not exist. I think Packer's words stem from this same belief. If the cause of homosexuality is selfishness, then there is no homosexuality at all, only as an expression of unholy and impure selfish desires.

I asked myself then: what is more selfish in this case - to hide, and try to live a normal Mormon life or to come out and find my own way? What do I gain by hiding? What do I gain by coming out? And what of my future partner, am I putting myself above their needs? I came to the conclusion that it was more selfish to hide, to protect myself from the social ridicule and shunning than it was to face it and actually be honest about how I feel and what I've experienced, because I was putting my desire for safety above more honorable traits like honesty and integrity. I realized that my choice to marry a nice girl would be to create an intimate relationship based on a lie, or at best a half-truth, and that would undermine my human need for emotional intimacy. Sexually speaking, I was worried that my lack of ability and desire to perform would unduly cause her emotional distress, for I feel that women deserve to be loved in the way they need to be loved, in a way that straight men find natural and desirable. My choice to avoid that course of action put the potential wives' needs above my own "need" for salvation.

Ultimately, I think that the quote from Packer draws a line between two things that are not at all related. He sent me on a wild goose chase to see the connection in my own experience, and I came up empty-handed. It's only a reasonable possibility if homosexuality doesn't really exist, and people believe it because they want their straight homogeneous world to exist.

Beck, I don't know if you are being selfish or not, but how can sexuality be created (perverted, if you will) from selfishness? Is it out of a selfish desire to have hot, unbridled, possibly anonymous sex with anyone you want without running the risk of pregnancy? Does it arise from a rebellious attitude? Perhaps there are people who believe this, but this has not been my experience. Homosexuality just is for some people, and our selfish/selfless choices are made unrelated to whether we are homo- or heterosexual.

I think that Packer has missed the mark here, because his statements are based on a foundation of fallacy: that a) homosexuality does not exist except as a result of or form for selfishness, and b) that procreation is the sole purpose for sexuality to exist.

Abelard Enigma said...

Foxx!!! You're alive!
It's good to hear from you.

Of course, we all know the real reason we're homosexual is because our dad's didn't go out and play ball with us enough. I read that in a general conference address - so it must be true.

Beck said...

FOXX: I'm thrilled that you commented! Welcome back to my world. I'm sure you've moved on the many great adventures, and here I still sit spinning my wheels.

I concur with what you say about the quote trying to 1) deny homosexuality exists, and 2) hang selfishness on not being able to procreate. I totally have no problem with your response negating these claims, nor pointing out how wrong the quote is.

However, my feelings of selfishness sprang from my desires for male bonding in the form of intimate / affectionate yet platonic friendships WHILE still being married and trying to seal my heart to my wife.

I've concluded, with the helpful insight of others here, that I'm still gay and still attracted to guys and always will, and that some kind of balancing act to keep these unequal forces balanced in my life for the good of all cannot be considered selfish.

So, there's progress in that, I guess.

So what's happening with you? You owe us an update!

Dichotomy said...

At one point yesterday I was going to comment that the talk you were quoting was thirty years old and that Church leaders have developed a greater understanding of homosexuality in the last three decades.

Unfortunately, while it's true that there has been some improvement, the official word from the Church is still that homosexual relations are is rooted in selfishness...

From "The Divine Institution of Marriage" (less than two months old):

Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act: legally protected because only a male and a female together can create new life... Societal recognition of same-sex marriage cannot be justified simply on the grounds that it provides self-fulfillment to its partners"

In other words, straight people get married to selflessly bring children into the world. Gay people want to get married solely for selfish self-fulfillment.

... Which is why so many straight couples either have a baby nine months after the wedding or abstain from sex until they're ready to have kids, right?

...And why no gay couple would ever dream of adopting children, who would interfere with their selfish gay sex?

But I've veered off the topic a bit.

Beck, from your replies it sounds like you've decided that you're not selfish after all. Yay!

Now when can we expect the next angst-y post, and what's it going to be about?

:)

Abelard Enigma said...

Now when can we expect the next angst-y post, and what's it going to be about?

I remember this blog used to be titled "Beck's Angst" - are we slipping back into that mode?

Beck said...

DICHO: I knew this was an old quote and wasn't trying to raise it as a current argument - only that in my angst-filled and guilt-complex mode, I revert back to feeling selfish and beating up on myself when I reach out to these feelings inside me. I know the quote is NOT the current thinking, but your point of "Divine Institution of Marriage" still has a holdover of selfishness in it.

I've never understood that argument as marriage is selfless in same-sex partnerships as opp-sex. It's giving your commitments, and yourself to your partner. I don't think any church leader will say (though I'm sure at one time they did) that sex is only for procreation. And don't even get me started on infertility, adoption, etc... as I've done it all, and it's all selfless.

But as you say, those weren't the point of this angsty-post. So, where do you want me to go next?

Beck said...

ABE: Yes, it once was called "Beck's Angst" for the first year, but I felt after a year of blogging that I was coming to grips with accepting and being comfortable with being gay and not hating myself for it. Once I stopped hating myself, I dropped the "angst" name.

Does that mean I still can't have angsty posts? I post was comes up in my life or what I'm currently experiencing or thinking. I've been true to that formula for the whole 2-1/2 years now! I do it for a source of self-therapy to discuss these things with caring friends who help me to see through my cycles.

Yes, I'm spinning my wheels, but I'm staying true to my core beliefs, my core boundaries and my commitment to NOT HATE myself for having these feelings, these attractions, these desires (as noted here to have a boyfriend). That doesn't mean I don't feel angst as I have to stop and remember the compromises and accommodations that we make to stay healthy and faithful and sane!

And besides, who wants to read that "all is well in Zion" when you surely know it isn't?

I am who I am. I don't feel like my angst is throwing me into a downward cycle of self-destruction or self-hatred. But, it's still there. I'm still not completely through this journey of a gay guy in a marital partnership that he loves, with a testimony with which he feels at peace, that is angst-free.

I really don't feel that is possible... at least not here and now for me.

Dichotomy said...

Oops.

I Didn't mean to start anything with the "angst-y" comment. I should have made that smiley face bigger...

I'm finding that I learn a lot about myself from all of the comments that invariably follow one of your "angst-y" posts, and I was trying to make a lighthearted comment indicating how much I appreciate the discussions that you manage to initiate. I hope it didn't come across the wrong way.

As far as I can tell, none of us is angst-free yet--you're just better at or more willing to open up and express what we're all feeling. That's why your blog is so popular.

Beck said...

DICHO: No "oops" required. If the truth be known, I'm a bit of a drama-queen deep down (aren't we all???), and love the attention a bit of saucy angst can stir up! But, it is what it is... you can't make this stuff up! Don't know about the popularity-gig, but I enjoy the discussion and your contributions.

Philip said...

Beck: That point is often lost on me, too, as I function in this hetero world. I appreciate that perspective as I seek boyfriend intimacy within my self-imposed limits.

I use to have that problem too. One thing that helped me was to repeat the question after substituting gay terms with heterosexual terms. Sometimes that's all it took to clear things up.

However, sometimes I had to go through several iterations before I got the substituations right.

For instance, take your question -"Is it selfish for a married gay man to want intimacy with another man?" Substituting heterosexual terms the question becomes "Is it selfish for a married straight man to want intimacy with another woman?" Right away you realize the substitution is not enough because the straight man is being monogamous but not straight-celibate while the gay man is being both monogamous and gay-celibate. So the initial question has to be revised. "Is it selfish for a married gay man to want intimacy with another man if he is being gay celibate?" Then the substitution becomes "Is it selfish for a married straight man to want intimacy with another woman if he is being straight celibate?" The questions are getting closer but the substitutions are not enough because the straight man still has a relationship with the right gender.

So the initial question has to be revised again. "Is it selfish for a married gay man to want intimacy with another man if he is being gay celibate and doesn't have an intimate emotional relationship with a man?" Then the substitution becomes "Is it selfish for a married straight man to want intimacy with another woman if he is being straight celibate and doesn't have an intimate emotional relationship with a woman?" Now the questions are equivalent. I found it was easier to answer the straight question first then apply the same rules when answering the question for the gay person.

Regards,
Philip

Damon In CO said...

Hey Beck,

How's it going.

First off, let me say that I agree with just about everything Dichotomy has said and I'm envious I didn't have the chance to say it first.

Let me say that I do not believe you're being selfish. There are certain basic things we all desire in life....food, oxygen, love, connection etc. For me personally, I could better give up good food than I could connection to people and the love of my family friends etc.

I personally believe that homosexuals are typically hard wired for love and affection from the same sex. We naturally desire it. We yearn for it the same way the straight man does for woman. When we see a 16 year old boy eager to date, do we call him selfish? No. But isn't he trying to fulfill a natural desire within himself?

I firmly do not believe that homosexuality is rooted in selfishness.

now, the choices you have made in regards to your sexuality and your marriage are intricate and unique. I don't think anyone can presume to know your true heart toward the decisions you've made to your wife.

I believe that in part you make an enormous sacrifice in order to honor your covenants. You decide that you will not seek the emotional and physical fulfillment you naturally long for. I also think that perhaps you MIGHT be selfish in a small way because you attempt to fulfill the need for fulfillment and connectedness is other, more appropriate ways. I say this because is does mean you don't completely give yourself to your spouse.

I also firmly believe that without some outlet for your natural sexuality that you would ultimately fail in your covenants...the desire building unchecked until it manifested itself in uncontrolled, inappropriate actions.

So...I would ask you, Beck. Is it selfish of you to honor you covenants and that as a part of that you find a more appropriate outlet for your natural sexuality? And consider that without these outlets it is reasonable to imagine that your endeavor to honor your covenants would be much more difficult, if not impossible?