Over the years I’ve been privileged to counsel many clients who have issues surrounding their sexual orientation. Not because they don’t know or accept they are homosexual or bisexual, but because of societies stigma about different sexual preferences. This specific work has been gratifying because I’ve been welcomed by clients into their scared emotional space, sharing their deepest fears, pain, trauma, vulnerability and insecurities. Most have shared society’s attitude has made them feel like outcasts. Without a well grounded sense of belonging, the discomfort and unease creates anxiety, panic and stress, which is unsettling and exacerbates those unwanted outcast feelings. It’s a vicious cycle that can so easily be resolved.
In general, society with all its criticism and judgements can be so unbelievably cruel. However, some family members can be really heartless and ruthless; whether this mean streak is intended or not it is deeply painful to be on the receiving end.
My role in helping clients through this painful quagmire is to also help them understand that a family’s painful treatment is so often misdirected. The typical cliche, ‘when you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back’ couldn’t be more relevant in the healing process. After all, people react to situations (positively or negatively), based upon their own perceptions and internal fears, trauma, grief or loss. Everyone views the world from their own internal framework, and these veils of perception are deceiving. This is why many people struggle to accept truth; it simply doesn’t fit into the ‘reality’ created by perceptions.
Let’s take this a step further; people who continually criticise and judge others, are often the worst critics and judges of themselves. People can only see in others that which they see in themselves. Their outer world is a mirror reflection of their inner world. Once that is grasped and internalised, the pains caused by hurtful remarks or verbal attacks can be let go of, healed and then forgiveness becomes automatic. There is a saying, ‘we hurt the one’s we love’. Although hurting others is mostly unintentional, our boundaries become blurred through familiarity, so family members are more likely to lash out at those within the immediately family circle easily. To be on the receiving end of such an attack may be painful but this also causes guilt, remorse, regret, shame, fear and so on.
Decades ago, my own family went through a total upheaval when my younger step-brother ‘came out’ about his sexual preference. His truth literally caused all hell to break lose at home. I was stunned by the family reaction, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. From my point of view, and growing up together, it was obvious his mannerisms and behaviour was different from his brothers. Surely my family were all awake and aware to this reality? But no, the news was clearly a shock to the family. I believe the core issue was that this ‘event’ triggered deeply held dogmatic religious beliefs that had never been challenged, or put to the litmus test. Suddenly the family had to look themselves in the mirror, and confront their innermost fears and demons.
According to their own rules (biblical interpretations), he was suddenly doomed to hell and damnation as a result of speaking his truth. This was a stark contrast to their belief that God is love, and Jesus loves everyone unconditionally. I couldn’t believe nor understand the hypocrisy. What a harsh judgement and sentence to pass on anyone, let alone one’s own family. Fortunately, from a young age I was a free spirit with an open mind, which was embellished by traveling overseas where I met colourful personalities with different sexual orientation. During my years in the textile industry I had the privilege of mixing with some of South Africa’s top designers, most of whom were homosexual. I adored these larger than life characters, their humour and the quality friendships developed. Sadly my family didn’t share my sentiments, and left me gobsmacked by the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. Witnessing firsthand the callous judgements from within my family, I naturally developed empathy and compassion for the plight of folks with a different sexual orientation, and who else may be considered ‘different’ as defined by the shortsighted, hypocritical societal standards i.e. ‘different’ culture, race, religion etc.
In hindsight, my family’s reaction was such an invaluable lesson learned long before I started my counselling practise. For years my step brother was subjected to interrogation, but fortunately the family calmed down accepting him for who he really is, and all is well today. Ironically another decade or so passed, then one of my nephews ‘came out’. By this time the family were compassionate, caring and kind. What a totally different reaction he received, and quite rightly so.
I firmly believe when one develops self respect, respect for others is natural, and this is the greatest honour one can bestow upon another human being. With respect, acceptance, tolerance and love automatically follows, and there is no room for criticism or judgement. Live and let live is a very simple motto to follow, besides life is far easier without negativity, judgement, criticism and so on.