My friend Aaron, a faithful Christian and devoutly gay man, recently broke up with his first boyfriend. I asked if he would like to share his story on this blog. He said yes, and then promptly wrote the following sarcastic, witty, and beautifully sad essay.
If you read what follows as carefully as you should, you’ll find a myriad of lovely and provocative ideas.
When reading this story, however, I think I was most struck by the realization that a gay man talking about a difficult break-up sounds just like a straight man talking a difficult break up.
Too often, when people talk about “gays” and “Christians,” the assumption is that they’re taking about two separate groups of people. The conversation too easily becomes one that’s about “them” and “us,” as if the Christian community and the LGBT community are egg throwing, cross-town rivals.
Stories like Aaron’s remind me that in the midst of us and them, so much of our common experience still binds us all together as we…
“Eating crow… a full-on murder of them.”
To borrow from one of my favorite bands, “Humility is so proud.” Nothing is Innocent by Over the Rhine.
What does it mean to be for something? Are you a fan? A fanatic waving your foam finger? Are you an admirer? A devotee? A follower? A supporter? A lover?
What are you for?
About 3 weeks ago my then boyfriend came to the conclusion that we weren’t a right fit for each other. While I felt differently I can’t be in a relationship by myself (at least not a healthy one) so I have had to attempt to close that chapter, as well. He was my first boyfriend. And it was my first breakup. A process that, at 31, has made me feel much more like I am 13 from time to time.
We didn’t even make it past our first fight.
It turns out I’m really good at fighting. I’m articulate and logical. And very even sided – finding every possible ugly side of the situation and using them all evenly in my attack until the other is silenced with an inability to respond. Think Bush era “Shock and Awe”. It’s very effective (as noted by the conclusion of “us”).
And of course I could see all of these ugly sides because I am so humble. I spend hours thinking about “how best to love my neighbor” and “how to give dignity to those around me”, so it’s clear that I am justified in my use of “Shock and Awe” to help others see that they are failing at those two ideals. I mean, clearly.
Ok so 1) I really hope my sarcasm is coming through in this post…
and 2) I don’t recommend the use of “Shock and Awe”. I really, really don’t.
The ugly context: A lot of BIG issues came up very early on in our young relationship that seemed to bring out things that neither of us wanted to admit. I felt like he was (situationally) asking me to be deceitful to his friends by corroborating something that was untrue. Spending as much time as I do thinking about what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” and how to “give dignity to those around me”, alongside my belief that we can’t even begin to approach things until we know what’s true about them, this situational request made me very uncomfortable.
This is where the story gets a little unfortunate. And unfortunately ironic. After our guests left I proceeded to tell him of my discomfort with the situation. He came up with some plan to “fix the problem” that I didn’t really think would fix anything and, on his asking how to fix it, I simply replied with “STOP LYING TO YOUR FRIENDS!!! IS THIS WHAT OUR RELATIONSHIP IS GOING TO BE BASED ON?!?!”
Conversation done. There was nothing left to say. He had no legs to stand on in the dialog.
(Dramatic pause to absorb the sarcasm of those last 2 words).
Though my concerns were valid and needed to be discussed, my failure to continue to Love my ex in this context (capital “L”) seems to be as big of a failure as his.
“How?”, you ask? “Where you not justified?”
But it’s the existence behind the scenes that truly dictates that, I think. Knowing the heart of the matter. It’s a if-a-man-lusts-he-might-as-well-just-sleep-with-him type of thing.
While I believe that my desire for these things (loving, dignifying and knowing) is good, my intense obsession with achieving these things is actually the very reason that I failed to do them. Deceit and moral arrogance were only the symptoms of deeper issues of self image and insecurity but, with my gaze so firmly fixed on the “how to achieve”, I lost sight of the “who to Love” that was standing right in front of me at the time. And in that blindness I used the true object of my desire (achieving) to humiliate and shame the one that I should have been loving and dignifying and knowing. The pride of my humility caused me to humiliate the one I cared about and ended something that I was excited about.
And really, really unfortunate.
So back to my original question…are we still for each other? It’s tough to know how. We screw up, make mistakes, ask people to enter into things that they aren’t comfortable with, ridicule, deride, and humiliate. Situations are complex and it’s hard to know how to navigate them well. We have our goals and aspirations, our code of ethics, our experiences that shape our understanding of the world. So how can we be for someone else at the same time when it often competes with all that?
Well…I don’t know the answer. It’s clearly difficult. I’ve seen that it doesn’t take winning. In this case I may have won the argument but I lost the one that I was hoping for. I think it goes back to that whole losing-your-life-to-gain-it thing. Perhaps If I had carried the genuinely humble capacity to approach this man with a gentle and loving spirit, rather than a brutal focus on achieving my own “humility” at any cost, we could have both grown in our humility and healed from our engrained insecurities and fears that rooted the situation so deeply. We may have even had a bit more life left in “us”.
Perhaps if we all could do that a little more we would soon find ourselves in a world where we were genuinely for everybody. And everybody was for us.