Saturday, July 16, 2011

Choice Responses & Helping Hands

I've always been fascinated about the order that seems to be a part of life. I'm not the only one of course who has noticed the phenomenon of something unseen and unknown which imposes, or at least seems to offer an order of sorts to our lives.

Theories abound. Some call it God. Some call it karma.  Some say it is merely coincidence and some say it's just an illusion. There is no order at all, they say, because when you get down to the basics all is chaos throughout the universe. I'm certainly not the only one to struggle with the question of whether or not there is God or karma or just humanity which by some cosmic accident possess a rather fantastic ability to reason at times and at other times possesses a rather unsettling ability to chain his brain and refuse to reason at all.

I can comprehend God, barely. I can understand the concept of karma; and to tell the truth, I usually try to act with the idea that it is what I put out into the universe that will come back to me. My experience in life has been that more often than not good begets good and evil begets evil. Personally, I cannot understand and do not believe the theories of randomness or chaos. There is just too much in the world, even in my mundane little world, that fits together too perfectly for there to be only chaos in the world and nothing of order and symbiosis.

Recently, I have been pretty involved with a couple of guys who are dealing with their sexuality. Both guys have been dealing with it in their own minds and in their own lives for many years. Neither has ever had the courage to mention it to anyone else until very recently. As "fate," whatever that may be, would have it, both came across the BisexualBuddies Group on line. There they came to realize, "at least I'm not alone." It's an important step. One came to the group having first found this blog site and the other came to the group at the recommendation of a friend of mine.

Talking with these two guys has been an enjoyable experience. And, as it always is, a learning experience for me. I'm never completely comfortable in "interfering" with a guy's life. I have enough difficulty keeping my own life between the lines. I tend to get nervous when I find I've become somewhat involved with helping some other guy I don't even really know keep  his life between the lines. I know enough to know that the only way I can help him is to guide him into making hard choices that will necessitate other hard choices along the way and that at any one of them he could stumble. I hate the idea of being in any way responsible for that stumble, yet I recognize the need for one to get beyond his present circumstance. I also understand the rewards which come with solving problems and coming to feel good about one's self. I'm glad others helped me along the way to get beyond the pain and guilt I once felt.

But, nevertheless, talking with and helping guys to reason out the mysteries of their lives has becomes somewhat of a norm for me over the last 15 years. Only in a few cases in which the guys become personal friends do I get any long term feedback. But the short term feed back is always overwhelmingly positive. That means a lot to me; and I always hope that short term gains will be turned into long term gains. In the case of guys who have become personal friends, I see them as they continue to rebuild their lives or build their lives around new ways of thinking. I see them continue to be happy and continue to grow in the new sense of self they have established. It is unspeakably rewarding for me, as well as them, as they were miserable and unhappy guys when we met years ago.

So anyway, I'm trying to help these two new guys. They're involved. They're motivated, so I'm motivated also; but as always I'm worried about saying the right thing and not saying the wrong thing and such. And in the middle of this worry, without my having said anything to her about it all, my wife hands me one of her professional journals and tells me she's marked a couple of articles I might want to read.

In one of the articles there is a dissertation on Choice Responses. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but it reiterated to me what I already knew in a concise and bulleted format.

The dissertation reasons that when one is faced with threatening realities of life, there are, at the basic level, only two responses, Choice responses and Non-choice responses. Choice responses lead to responsible choices and actionsNon-choice responses are ultimately self-defeating and destructive.

The dissertation goes on to point out that there are ultimately only two Choice responses and likewise only two Non-choice responses. They are as follows:
Choice responses:
  1. Struggle against and try to change a threatening reality that we perceive to be changeable.
  2. Accept and use constructively a threatening reality we perceive to be unchangeable in order to gain new resolution and clarity.
Non-choice responses:
  1. Try to ward off a threatening reality through denial, rationalization or fantasy.
  2. Perceive (perhaps exaggerated)  reality but become paralyzed or crushed
I'm not the sharpest tack in the drawer, but having spent almost 30 years in what are described above as "classic" Non-choice responses to my bisexuality, the article got my attention. Needless to say, many married bisexual or married gay guys are still deeply invested in their own Non-choice responses to their sexuality. Homosexual guys deny they are homosexual. Perhaps, they think, "I'm just bisexual." Bisexual guys deny everything and try to rationalize it away or construct elaborate fantasies to explain it all.

In the end, faced with no resolution of the problem because they have invested fully in Non-choice responses to the  perceived (exaggerated) threat to their masculinity and the very real threat to their marriage and family, they end up in a paralysis of fear, self-hate and depression. I know because I've been there.

Human nature is such that it is not always obvious to us what we must accept and what we can possibly change. Human nature is certainly such that in many instnces we resist change until all else has failed. It is in this impasse that help from some where outside ourselves can become very valuable. Someone who has traveled the road before us and is willing to share with us new possibilities can go a long long way toward helping us meet the challenge of  thinking in terms of a Choice based response to our sexuality in spite of the threat which might be a part of it.

The challenge of this new way of thinking is summed up in the "Serenity Prayer" which everyone has heard: "God help me to have the courage to change the things that can be changed, the grace to accept the things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference."

It is important to keep two things in mind. Just because one has the knowledge and the will to face a threat with a Choice response does not mean the issue is no longer a threat or a problem. The threat or problem can still be very real in a variety of ways. But at least one is on the path to doing something constructive about it. At the same time, it is possible and really quite common for one who has responded to a threat in a Non-choice response to consciously or sub consciously exaggerate the threat. Building the threat up in one's mind gives one easier permission to remain immobilized in a do nothing stance. At least if I do nothing, I know what is happening. If I do something, I don't know what might happen in response to this terrible threat.

The heart of this Choice/Non-choice response to our common situation of being a married bisexual or married homosexual man is impossible to miss. The men in this situation who have found peace of mind and have mitigated the threat have correctly evaluated (often with help) the issue in terms of their choices. They have correctly perceived that their sexuality cannot be changed and they have proceeded (often with help) to make difficult choices about what they can change - their attitudes and their responses to their sexuality.

By the same token, those guys who have not made the Choice responses are still locked in denial or paralysis (sometimes in spite of offered help).

I found it interesting that the dissertation did not portray the helping process as just a matter of social science. Rather it hinted at deep truths that are part of the universe itself. And because the writer felt that helping one another is part of the fabric of the universe he very specifically points out that helping does not have to be tied up with Christianity or any religion or any form of spirituality.

At the same time the writer points out that the helping process is dependent on certain values and assumptions about the nature of man and the world that are not supported by all world views and all belief systems.

In the United States, the most common belief system is Christianity.  Almost all non-Christians and many Christians themselves tend to think of Christianity as a set of common beliefs and ideals no matter what particular denomination one might be a part. Nothing could be further from the truth. A Christian is not just any Christian. As a member of a specific order or denomination, he has a set of beliefs and a world view that is influenced or in many cases mandated by that denominational group. Some of these belief systems and world views are friendly to and supportive of Choice response and to helping one another as a part of the greater universal value system. Some are quite hostile to Choice responses and are fully dedicated to Non-choice responses and, indeed, require such responses of those within their spheres of influence.

At least in their "press handouts" all Christian denominations promote themselves as loving and supportive of the individual and his problems. The reality is not quite so pretty a picture. Both Capitalistic and Puritan assumptions along with judgementalism, works righteousness and worldly definitions of success have distorted Christian belief systems. One need look no further than Kansas and what has emanated from one small church there to catch the attention of the whole United States to see that all Christians, or so called Christians, are not loving people.

In the United States, the hundreds of Christian denominations can be identified and placed within three broad categories. These are Christians of Grace, Morality or Law.

I'm fairly familiar with many of the major denominations that exist within the United States and I could, I feel, pretty accurately distribute the major denominations among these three categories; but I won't. If you're a Christian, I'll leave it to you in the honesty and the privacy of your own mind and heart to place your denomination in the correct category.

If you're not a Christian be aware that you don't have to be to be either a helper of others or one who accepts help from others. Accepting or giving of help can be based on the most pragmatic of grounds. The principles at work in the universe can be seen in religious sources, but they are also seen in humanistic and agnostic groups which actually can show far more ability to understand and practice the processes of help than those who possess and work within some categories of religious faith.

If you are a Christian, it will be helpful to you to determine the category of your particular denomination and its world view. There should be no motivation to be anything but truthful with yourself. This is not something you have to share outside the privacy of your own mind. But within the privacy of your own mind, a realistic assessment can be a major step in helping you to reach the point at which you can accurately determine what you can and cannot change and help you to summon the courage to change the things that can be changed, the grace to accept the things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference through the power of a Choice response.

Christians of grace are characterized by a sense of gratefulness. They respond to the gospel (the good news of unmerited redemption) of Christ with gratitude and a genuine desire to share the joy they have found in knowing that they are children of an unmerited yet nevertheless bestowed grace which causes them to see themselves  as, in spite of everything, people loved by God. These Christians try to emulate their feelings of gratefulness with other people.

Christians of law are fearful. They are also grateful; but because they focus on the law and not on grace, they cannot be sure that God has forgiven them their sins or will continue to forgive them in the future. These Christians are like people who do not know when or if their next meal will arrive. There are laws they don't understand, can't always observe and can't change that affect how God sees them and how He provides for them. They fear that He will invoke the law to punish them (perhaps eternally).

Christians of morality tend to be self-righteous and controlling. These Christians started out as Christians of law; but unlike other Christians of law, they have come to see themselves as having met the requirements of the law and they have thus promoted themselves to God's staff and see it as their responsibility to help God keep the rest of the people around them, who have not achieved their level of morality, from sinning. They feel quite justified in using the most unloving means to accomplish this end. Christians of morality are the face of Christianity in the United States today. Especially when non-Christians think about Christians, they think of them in terms of Christians of morality as described here.

Obviously, only Christians of grace are capable of making Choice responses. Christians of law or morality simply cannot make such a response. Yet all Christians are not Christians of grace. Far from it. Here are a few more things to help you see where your denomination falls among the three categories. Christians of grace do not pass judgment on others. Christians of grace see sin as sin. They do not see special categories of sin such as divorce, homosexuality or abortion as greater and more significant in the eyes of God than any other sin; and their pastors do not single out these "special" sins for particular emphasis. Thus Christians of grace see themselves as sinners and are uncomfortable judging others.

Christians of grace will not focus on evangelism. They understand that people rarely change and grow because they are told that they have to.  Secondly, they understand people who need help the most often don't have a lot of trust in anyone or anything. Nothing in their lives has encouraged such trust. Requiring them to suddenly trust in an unseen Lord is not often going to be of much help to one who desperately needs help. For these and other reasons, Christians of grace will not focus on simply spreading the word. Instead they focus on sharing themselves and what they have to offer.

Christians of grace will not ignore material help for only spiritual help. As a Christian and a nominal (in the 3rd sense of that word) Republican that brings to mind very quickly the Religious Right's stand on abortion, i.e, "abortion is always wrong and we as Christians are always right in doing what ever we can to force every woman to give birth to unborn babies, but once we do that we've done our duty. We have no need of social programs, can't afford them. Cut them all out. Let those women take care of their own babies and bring them up to be educated and productive citizens. We did our spiritual thing by insuring their baby's birth. We have no material responsibility for the kid."

Christians of grace may not support abortion either, but they don't often judge a woman whose shoes they have not walked in and whose circumstance they have not found themselves. They see abortion, like all possible sins, a matter between the individual and God.

Christians of grace never ask themselves if someone deserves help. Christians of grace see no one as deserving before God, including themselves. What we deserve is simply not at issue. What we can do for one another is.

So, no matter who you are in this group of married bisexual or married homosexual men, the issue of Choice and non Choice responses has something to say to you. If you're stuck in the mire of Non-choice responses to your sexuality you need to come to the realization that non-choices will never lead to solutions, and they will never lead to peace and self understanding and happiness.

If you're ready to make choice responses you have to understand they will not be easy. The mitigation or the resolution of one threat or one aspect of the problem will lead to other threats and problems about which you will also have to make choice responses. Life is a constant progression of choices if you are growing. You have to resolve or mitigate each new threat and resolve each new problem. In reality, each new challenge is a new opportunity.

If you've long since mastered the ability and the wisdom to make choice responses, you can help others to do the same. To do that you don't have to be a humanist or a Christian or anything else.  All you have to do is not look for bad; but instead look for good in a person. You'll always find something good to build on in any person. Embrace reality and gently lead the person your helping to embrace it too. Life isn't fair. It isn't always pretty. But people do make choices to overcome even the most horrible of circumstances. Respect the freedom of the individual to make choices you would not make. Always examine and reexamine your own motives for helping. Don't be afraid to be a little tough. Always offer help with a genuine humility. Be wary of pridefulness. Even in our successes, we remain fully human.

If you reached this paragraph, congratulations. You're an exceptional man. There is hope for you and for what you want to be and where you want to be in life. No one ever told you life would be easy and if they did, you're well aware they lied to you. Be willing to make the hard choices and to keep on making them. Resolve threats or mitigate them. Be open to opportunities to help others along the way.

Jack Scott

No comments:

Post a Comment

I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott