How should I respond Part 2Part 2 of 2

Ryan’s memories of grade school consisted of flashes, snapshots of insignificance. Or were they? On the playground, he was hesitant to play with the other children. He watched the other boys tag and tackle each other. “I can’t do that”, he thought, “I will fall and they will laugh at me.” He was a little awkward and he didn’t want to appear foolish. He wanted to try but was convinced that his hands and feet wouldn’t work at just the right moment. He felt detached from his body. He was even more detached from the other boys.

It wasn’t much different with the girls. He felt a little more comfortable around them but still spent much of his time alone in his own world. He often ate lunch alone. Sometimes the other outcasts ate and talked with him. He liked them and they would be friendly towards him – even throughout middle and high school. Yet he always kept them an arm’s-length away.

By the time he reached 7th grade, Ryan felt more capable and comfortable relating to the other kids: but only on an intellectual and academic level. Socially, he was independent but also indifferent and inept. Then one day he saw him for the very first time across the lunchroom and everything changed. “Who is that?” he wondered. He closed his mouth (he quickly realized it was open) and he turned his head aside (but just for a second). He didn’t want to look like he was staring but he just had to linger his sights upon him for a moment before he had to go to class.

The older guy was wearing a blue polo shirt, blue jeans (both a snug fit Ryan noticed) and white sneakers. He had to be 17 or 18. He had short brown hair, dark eyes, defined jaw, a great smile, a muscular build and was slightly tanned. At the center of a group of guys and girls, he seemed so at ease with himself. He was everything Ryan wasn’t. Ryan had always avoided the school’s restrooms and locker rooms but now he thought, “I wouldn’t mind seeing him again before P. E. class. . .” The overhead bell rang. “Why is that bell so loud today?” he mumbled as the stranger disappeared into the hallway.

“Michael, can I talk to you?”

It was 2 years later and Michael was a youth minister. He and Ryan were the last two remaining after youth group.

“Sure Ryan, what’s going on?”

“Well … um … I need to talk to someone about some stuff. I know the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, but what is someone supposed to do if he has those kind of feelings? Even if he doesn’t have sex with anyone, he is still gay, isn’t he? Just being gay is wrong, isn’t it?”

“Different people struggle with different sin”, Michael replied. “All of us are sinners. Someone who struggles with homosexuality is similar to someone who struggles with premarital sex. Ryan, you’re asking a lot of questions about homosexuality. Do you know someone who is struggling?”

Ryan started to turn a little red and took a big gulp.

“It’s not someone I know. It’s me.”

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Some of Ryan’s experiences described here were actually my experiences. And along with a wide range of positive and negative experiences, how we perceive and respond to our experiences go a long way toward shaping our identity and reality.

In Part One, we summarized some pointers to keep in mind when learning about or responding to someone’s homosexuality or concerns about SSA. In today’s post I outline brief thoughts regarding (a) teens, (b) coming out and (c) the cliche “love the sinner, hate the sin”

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If it is a teen who is questioning or struggling. . .

He may be struggling with misinformation, self-labeling or sexual identity formation (but not always). Teens may inaccurately believe they are gay for several reasons including name calling, sexual abuse, a poor sense of identity, gender role or identity issues, exposure to pornography, sexual experimentation, emotional vulnerability, gay friends, gay advances, etc.

Several of the suggestions in the previous post would apply to teens as well. The four suggestions below are not meant to be all-inclusive but to further stimulate your thinking. . .

1. Be aware of your own feelings and attitudes. Among other things, a young person needs an adult who is secure in his or her own sexuality. Ask yourself questions such as. . . “Am I secure with my sexuality?” “Am I comfortable talking about things such as sex, masturbation, molestation, incest, etc.?” “What is my attitude toward those who experience same-sex attractions?” “What are my personal hangups?”

2. Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal responses (and reactions). Expect the unexpected and do not overreact or jump to conclusions. Communicate acceptance as a person and not with a let-me-fix-you attitude. Don’t panic if the young person expresses sexual feelings for you.

3. Affirm the individual. Be sure to look at the whole person, not just someone who is rebellious or acting out. Affirm the teen as a one who is valuable and worthy of respect; a precious creation of God who is loved and gifted by God. Encourage each person in his masculinity or her femininity.

4. Invite open communication. Are you approachable? Do you invite honest discussions? Mentioning several tough issues lets teens and young adults know that you are willing to listen regardless of the situation. Listen more than you talk. Don’t pry but ask questions tactfully and sensitively. Reassure them for confiding in you and honor confidentiality (an exception to this would be suspected abuse). Encourage them to talk with their family and other trustworthy people. Help them stay connected with godly people who will encourage them to make good choices.

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A Few Thoughts About Coming Out:

If you are a teen struggling with SSA, I understand many things may be confusing to you. When I was a teenager, I was confused and scared when I realized I was sexually aroused by and interested in other guys.

Weird emotional and physical changes, vulnerabilities and an unclear sense of your personal identity and values characterize this stage of your life. After years of excruciating pain, you want to experience a measure of happiness, freedom, and relief.

You may be ready to be more honest with yourself and others around you. If so, I would suggest that you not “come out” the way our culture defines the process – a final, definitive declaration and revelation that you have embraced a gay identity; that you are gay (with all of its implications).

I would urge you to use (and think about) more descriptive language. Instead of saying “I’m gay”, think within yourself and talk to others about your feelings and experiences using specific – and descriptive – terms. For example, “I’m attracted to guys” or “for a long time, I have had strong feelings for other guys and not girls.”

If you’re reading this and need more clarification about what I mean, ask your question in the “Comments” section below. You are not alone. Others have similar concerns and questions like yours.

You may find these two links related to coming out helpful . . .

Listen To Him: Encouragement for Parents

How To Write About Your Experience With Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions

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My Thoughts About “love the sinner, hate the sin”

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” – many Christians have an idea of what this phrase means. But it’s Christian lingo; words in a foreign language that comes across as insincere, insensitive and disrespectful. Oftentimes we are very quick to forget that people are people. People are relational. They desire companionship and intimacy. They have needs and desires. They want love and to be loved.

Well-meaning spiritual platitudes don’t address core problems and issues. Don’t ignore how this phrase may create more pain in the very people it is intended to help. Demonstrate love, grace and truth.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is so overused, I would recommend that you make the conscious decision to stop using it. Before we approach others, let us hate our own sin, ditch our moral superiority and get rid of our pride. Let us be humble. Acknowledge and affirm the other person. Relate to him or her as our equal. Listen and learn from him.

Consider what goes through a person’s mind when someone says to him, “I love you but not your sin”. That individual may interpret what is being said to him as

  • “you must remain celibate”
  • “you must go through life without a special someone to love”
  • “you need to leave and abandon your loved ones – most of the relationships and connections with others that you value”
  • “I am treating you, speaking to you and judging you based on your sexuality”
  • “I am discounting you as a unique and complex individual”
  • “my acceptance of you is conditional”

It’s like telling them they are hated because of who they are. In their minds, disapproving or hating any expression of their sexual identity is the same thing as hating them. When this phrase is used (or their sexual behavior is questioned/challenged), they perceive their person-hood and identity as being under attack.

The help we give should always be based on a Christ-like response to their needs and not our feelings and attitudes. Treat your friend or loved one as an individual. Respect him the same way you would anyone else. Treat him with dignity.

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In summary. . .

  • Protect your own position in Christ.
  • Keep seeking the Lord’s will for your own spiritual life.
  • Pray carefully and continually.
  • Confess and seek forgiveness for your own faults, sins and prejudices.
  • Continue to be empathetic, humble and gracious.
  • Be available, sensitive, adaptable and vulnerable.
  • Endure with patience and long-suffering.
  • Let God’s love flow through you into the lives of others.

Those who are dissatisfied with various aspects of LGBT culture and those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions tend to be more receptive to the gospel message of salvation, redemption and healing. However, we must reach out to all people; especially those most often overlooked. Notice the people who are overlooked, shunned or outcast.

There will be struggles, doubts and fears that must be worked through.

But there is also hope.

No one is beyond the reach and love of Jesus.

Recommended / Related Link:

Why “love the sinner, hate the sin” Fails: By Shawn Harrison

Question: What can we do to create a positive and safe environment where LGBTQ kids will feel welcome and we can deal with issues of sexuality in a healthy way? Your comments are welcomed below.

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© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2012.

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