Love the sinner, hate the sin. I support you but I don’t support your lifestyle. I love you but I can’t use the right pronouns for you. You are welcome in my house, but you and your partner can’t share a bed. I wish you every happiness in your life but I won’t be attending your wedding.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Have they been said to you by friends or family members? On the surface they seem nice. I mean, yeah, a little offensive maybe, but kind. Polite. No one is calling you names or telling you you’re going to hell. They are communicating with you and not cutting off contact. You are still welcome to family gatherings. You can maybe even bring the person you are dating/married to! Sure it’s not perfect, but nothing is entirely perfect, right? They are trying! It’s better than it could be. And you’re right, it’s definitely better than it could be. And depending on how long it’s been going on it could also be a step in their journey, one that will improve and get better.
Quick interjection: if this is you, and if you could use some extra support, we put together a free, three-part guide to self care for LGBTQ Christians. It’s videos + workbooks to help you navigate the issues we’re talking about in this article in a healthy and life-affirming way. Click here to get it for free here
But these statements and actions aren’t actually kind or benevolent. They aren’t actually welcoming or accepting. They aren’t actually loving. Because real love says, I love you, just as you are, in all of your complexity. I love you with your faults and flaws. I love you, not the image I have in my head of who I want you to be. Now, some will say that real love doesn’t excuse bad behavior, or let people off the hook for wrong doing, and I would agree but in this case what you’re saying is that my transition, someone else’s same gender marriage ceremony, or sharing a bed with a partner are sinful and wrong. And that’s where it all breaks down. When someone thinks or believes that something so fundamental to who you are; your core identity, the way you love, the person you love, is sinful and wrong there is no way that actual love can exist. Certainly tolerance can exist. You can be acquaintances. You can maybe share meals or even holidays. But there will always be a wall between you because your full self isn’t welcome at the table.
That’s not your doing. It’s not on you to make yourself more palatable to someone else. You don’t have to hide your love away. You don’t have to not hold hands or pretend to be friends. You don’t have to put up with being called by the wrong pronouns. Certainly you can choose to do those things; whether out of a sense of familial loyalty or to protect your own safety. Just know that you choosing to do those things makes you the bigger person. It makes you a giant in the face of hateful requests and expectations. And you can choose to do it but you don’t owe it to anyone.
We make decisions for any number of reasons, I get that and I’ve done it myself for many years for lots of reasons. But what I urge you is to do it knowing that you shouldn’t have to. Know that it is an unfair request. Know that it diminishes you and that diminishment is the fault of the people who refuse to do the work of learning about your life and actually loving you. That’s on them, not on you.
Don’t be fooled by hateful ideology wrapped up in sweet slogans. Don’t be fooled by tolerance naming itself as love. Don’t let your heart be troubled by people who try to blame you for their bad behavior.
Find people who will love you, truly love you. Surround yourself with those people and let them drown out the voices of those who pretend to love so long as you acquiesce.
You are good. You are loved. Your love is pure and holy and worthy. Your pronouns deserve to be respected. Your life deserves to be respected.
If you could use some support navigating unaffirming friends or family, we have a free resource just for you.
We put together a 3-part video on series on self-care for LGBTQ Christians. It’s all about identifying what you need to feel safe and respected, setting and maintaining boundaries, and finding ways to take care of yourself. We get it, it’s really hard to be around people who don’t fully accept you, even—or sometimes especially—when they’re kind to you, when they reach out and make some small “progress.”
You don’t have to go it alone, we’ve got your back.
This article was published by Fr. Shannon Kearns
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