Thursday, January 21, 2010

Acceptance Won't Save Us

Many gay men and lesbians long for acceptance in their religious and/or cultural communities. We've been through the phase of self-annihilating self-hatred and self-rejection. We've painfully achieved the self-knowledge that enables us to distinguish between the lies our culture has taught us about ourselves and the reality of who we are and what's in our hearts. From self-knowledge we've graduated to self-acceptance and healthy self-love, which includes acceptance of our limitations and recognition that it is legitimate for us to seek to meet the basic human need for intimacy and relationship. Now all we ask for is acceptance from our communities. Is that too much to ask?

What we've learned if we've been on this road long enough, is that you can't force acceptance. More importantly, you can't force love. Isn't that more the crux of the matter? Because what we long for is not mere tolerance, not mere acceptance, but true love, true communion. We long for the kind of unity that is the highest and best aspiration of our religion and of our community. We long for Zion, where we are all of one heart and one mind and dwell together in righteousness.

Here's the rub: the community we long for doesn't exist. It wouldn't exist for us even if we were straight and conformed perfectly to every expectation that the culture has of us. The true community we long for exists only in our hearts and aspirations. And it will be realized only through our determination to make it real, to make it more than a dream.

The way I look at it, our community's rejection of us is its greatest gift to us. Someday we will thank them for it, and they will thank us for helping them find the solution to the great human problem at the heart of that rejection.

See, all they need is the kind of love that enables them to look beyond convention, beyond the surface, beyond their worst fears about themselves -- which they project on us. They're not motivated to find that love, because they think they don't need us. They think we're the ones who need them, and they think they're on the inside and we're on the outside, and they're content to leave things that way.

But it's not like we have the kind of love that they need. We do not have it. We still have only the kind of love that they have. The love that looks at convention, that looks at the surface, that is as much a reflexion of our fears about ourselves as it is about a true giving of oneself. But what we have that they don't is the hunger, the pain of rejection, the knowing what it means to be on the outside. That is their gift to us, because the hunger and the pain motivate us.

At first we take the direct route. We join Affirmation. We go to the Prop 8 protest in Salt Lake City. We shout, "Accept us!" That doesn't work.

So now we have an option. We can get stuck and angry and go back into the self-pity. We can make ourselves enemies of the people from whom we once wanted nothing but love. Or we can dig deeper within. We can find what it is in ourselves that will give us the strength to love truly and deeply, not looking at the surface but looking at the heart, not caring about convention but loving truth, not being afraid of anything in ourselves or in the other. We can learn that kind of love and then we can give it.

And whether they accept it or not... Well that is their choice. That is the nature of love. It must be freely given and freely received. And when it is given and received, true love for true love, there is nothing greater and nothing more divine in all the universe.

Isn't that better than acceptance?


Anonymous said...

There is a definite theme going on in my life right now, and this post just gave me a gentle addition to it. Once again, you have hit the mark.

Mister Curie said...

Very deep post - thanks for sharing. I loved the line, "beyond their worst fears about themselves -- which they project on us".

Anonymous said...

So, in a nutshell, you are saying that to be loved, we have to show our love to them first?

J G-W said...

Joned - Stated that way, you make it sound so simple and obvious! But yes, it all boils down to that, doesn't it?

Bravone said...

Excellent thoughts. Thank you.