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I have recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a very sweet, caring man who has been living a heterosexual life for as long as he’s been alive until very recently. He has always known there was a sexual attraction to men, but never felt comfortable pursuing it.

He has been a supportive husband, a caring and nurturing father, and has provided helpful encouragement for countless members of his church. He has a successful career, grandchildren, and tons of community friends. Unfortunately, he also lives in environment were his sexuality needs to be hidden away for many reasons and he has chosen to sacrifice a core part of who he is to live his life safely.

This description may seem melodramatic to some, but these struggles happen more frequently than we want to believe.

Now he is being faced with an uncomfortable and terrifying future of either being true to himself and potentially destroying the life he has worked so hard to create or attempting at to cram his desires back into a closet, even though it would hurt him emotionally and could potentially destroy him.

This description may seem melodramatic to some, but these struggles happen more frequently than we want to believe. The outcomes of these types of internal conflicts can have dire consequences. Not only can feelings of isolation, depression, self-loathing, anxiety, and hopelessness develop, but people may become so overwhelmed that suicide might even seem like a  good option.

For my new friend, one of his most significant sources of negativity at this point in his life started out being the most positive. As with most of us, he grew up in a church that discussed the importance of family values, love, and acceptance. Religion also taught very strong perspectives on what activities were acceptable and which were considered dangerous or disdainful.

Although the concept of “unconditional love” is presented to us, there are so many times and situations that make us feel like conditions need to be met in order for us to be accepted and loved.

When these expectations are not met, judgment and rejection can happen quickly. Those who we may have felt were our support network can easily choose to turn their backs on us, leaving us feeling punished and alone. This feeds into our fears that we will be abandoned if we rock the boat too much by expressing ourselves in ways that go against a set of pre-determined expectations.

It is totally understandable to see how people can be terrified of change, especially if they feel that they are risking the loss of relationships, support, love, status, family, and their life as they currently know it. It is not as easy as just being true to yourself. It’s much more complicated. Although it may be easier to identify what we want, the ramifications of pursuing these desires may be disturbing to the point where these yearnings are locked away or hidden from most of the world.

Related article: Heinzesight, Another Brick in the Wall 

This struggle is a convoluted combination of fear of rejection, loss of stability, devastation of our current lives, and the terror of an uncertain future. The negative outcomes can appear to be significantly more horrific than most of the positive results. This leads people into feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and desperation.

For many of us, we grow up with some form of religion or spirituality that may have had some negative impacts on our acceptance of ourselves. There can also be other people, organizations, and influences that can have equally negative impacts on our lives. Any of these situations that hurt us emotionally can also be directly to blame for the devastation they cause in the lives of good people who don’t deserve to be hurt.

There is significantly less tolerance in our culture for bullying, but for some reason it is not considered as abusive if this messaging comes in the form of morality. There are many hurtful outcomes that have been caused by vicious ideas which are hidden within supposedly loving and supportive comments. These are directly to blame for numerous concerning circumstances including those resulting death by suicide from people who simply want to feel good about living their lives honestly.

As much as we want to feel that we are living in a society that is so much more accepting of personal differences such as the variety of expressions of sexuality and gender, we also need to be aware that there are many people who continue to be surrounded by negativity.

These types of situations and people who intentionally or unintentionally cause pain in other people’s lives need to consider their messaging and how it can potentially affect others. Building faith and trust should be about empowering people, not making them feel terrible about themselves and forcing them to make decisions between being true to themselves and risking alienation. Putting unreasonable expectations on others should be considered equally unreasonable.

It is time to hold those people and organizations accountable for causing this type of devastation in others’ lives.  As much as we want to feel that we are living in a society that is so much more accepting of personal differences such as the variety of expressions of sexuality and gender, we also need to be aware that there are many people who continue to be surrounded by negativity.

I hope my new friend finds the encouragement, wisdom, courage, and faith to face his future with confidence and hopefulness. He is a beautiful man whose only crimes are not being surrounded by those people who accept him for who he truly is and growing up feeling that his internal drives were wrong and needed to be hidden or eradicated. In our lives, we should strive to find connection, affection, understanding, and passion.

Be careful of surrounding yourself with judgement, conditional love, or cruelty. Stop letting others make you feel badly about yourself. We are all amazing in our own ways and need to strive during this lifetime to be the best people we can be, regardless of how it may look to some. Being true to yourself is the most important gift you can give to yourself.