To be understood I would venture to say is one of the main reasons we as human being choose to do anything. If you look back across history, we can see numerous instances in which one culture or belief was not understood, and in which efforts were taking for that culture or beliefe to become understood.
Think of the Crusades. At the time, a certain religious belief was not understood by the people of Europe and the Middle East. So what did England choose to do? They chose to MAKE people understand through a war.
Think more recently of September 11. I believe that our nation was attacked because we chose not to try and understand the Muslim culture. In an effort to force us to understand them, we were attacked. In an effort to make them understand our point of view, we retaliated.
What is the goal of an argument? It's to win right? No. It may appear that you are "winning" an argument, but what it seems you are really trying to do is persuade someone into understanding your point of view. If we go into an argument expecting to win, and striving to win, there will be a loser. There has to be a loser if there is to be a winner. However, if we were to enter more into a discussion, rather than an argument, and discuss our points of view, and really push ourselves to try and understand where the other person is coming from, we can foster a greater feeling of camaraderie and peace. Then, there would be no losers. Only understanding.
My heart was overjoyed this past week. I felt like I finally made a huge leap forward in my quest for others to understand me. In my coming out, I have had many people who simply don't understand me. Many people can't see why I've chosen to stay in the church. Many don't understand why I have chosen not to pursue a relationship for so long. And still others do not understand why I am gay at all. I too don't really understand why I'm gay but that's ok. This last week, I have made a huge stride in being understood by my parents.
Let me tell you about them.
My mum and dad are some of the most charitable people I know. In all of our family struggles, my parents were the first ones on the scene to show us compassion, wrap their arms around us, give words of encouragement, and offer their assistance. To them I am infinitely grateful. Their love and service to others is a constant reminder to me that I am no better than anyone else, and that I MUST serve my fellow men because they are also children of God. To ignore the needs of others reflects personal selfishness, immaturity, and a lack of empathy.
I wish to share with you some excerpts of a letter my father and mother wrote to me. They are currently in Europe and I am amazed that they would be so kind as to take such a long time to sit down on their vacation, and write to me to express their love, concern, and understanding.
The letter begins with my father (he was the main composer of the letter but my mother helped him as well) saying that he did not find any "startling new revelations" but rather that it helped him understand the "agonizing decisions that you face as a committed young Latter-day Saint."
When I first came out to the world, my parents were very hurt. They didn't understand why such a personal issue should be broadcast to the world. My father now believes that my decision helped curtail the "self-loathing that afflicts so many gay men and women from religious backgrounds." To hear that from my father gave me so much hope for myself and others like me. I pray that those who struggle in silence will soon be able to struggle as part of a family--whether that be their actual family or a family of friends.
My fathers next paragraph touched me beyond measure. I feel like I must share it word for word:
"You did not make a choice to be homosexual, God made you the way you are. Why you should have been given the challenges associated with being gay in a straight world, I do not understand. Perhaps it is not a test being place on gay people. Perhaps it is a test to see if those of us who are straight can live up to the challenge to 'love one another as I have loved you'."
The tears could not be held back at that point. I was amazed at the insight my father had about my situation even after such a short period of time of me coming out. Yes it has been two and a half years but when I think about it, many parents do not come to that conclusion after twenty years if at all.
"I cannot comprehend the possibility that God with His perfect love will deny his gay children re-entry into His presence. Just as people in all ages have created clubs, schools and associations that excluded people of other races, social classes and norms, so too have religious people created a heaven that excludes people who make them uncomfortable. Man's heaven is exclusive. God's heaven is inclusive."
Obviously I cannot share with you the whole contents of the letter. It is special, and I hold it dear to my heart and will forever after treasure it as a miracle. I am now confident in my parents willingness to understand me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have fought SO hard to come to where they are today. They have done everything in their power to understand me.
And now it's my turn. I feel like I am generally a very understanding person. I don't think I've ever been "weirded out" by anything anyone has told me about themselves. But there have been times when I have been more concerned with being right than being understanding. I choose to be more understanding. I choose to place myself in the other persons' shoes before trying to persuade them otherwise.
I hope and pray that others will do the same. So now I have a new affirmation to make about myself.
I am understanding.