Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reaching out for the right kind of support

Support is a tricky word and it can mean a lot of things to different people. From personal experience I've learned that before I look for it, I need to first decide what I want it to be.

Within the church it's often taken to mean unconditional love and encouragement to stay faithful to the doctrines and commandments. Forgiveness of our weaknesses while at the the same time encouragement to keep going. Understanding and comfort. This is all good and is what I consider support to be. To walk next to and hold up a friend. Someone to talk to and trust and confide in. In theory this should be easy to find within the church. In practice its often not.

I sometimes see myself falling into that trap. It's hard to find support when everyone around you seems perfect and able to stand on their own. In a culture that holds perfection as our goal, reaching out often feels unconformable because we feel unworthy to ask for help or worse we feel those who are striving for perfection may not understand or worse reject those who need help. And those who struggle with SGA may not want the world to know of their struggles so they suffer in silence afraid or unwilling to bear to their burdens to others because it would mean having to admit them. Ironically it means putting on the facade of perfection where people look at you at you and feel the same way.

Support from the world outside the church can be just the opposite, and at times the short term pseudo positive effects feel good. This is really dangerous when we are weak and searching. For some support means helping someone step away from what they view as repression. Helping someone "be themselves," helping someone be "true" to who they really are. Removing the conflict. Isn't that what gay pride is all about? To them this means leaving the church and acting out. This can often come from people who have little or no knowledge of the church other then what they have heard or seen in a movie or how the church is portrayed in the gay media. This is almost always bad. Because they have never had the real effects of the gospel they only see the rules and commandments, they don't understand the blessings. They only see someone who is not happy because of what they are denying themselves to make others happy and for them the pursuit of happiness is the goal of life. For them this is being a true friend is helping the person be happy.

Now right off the bat I want to state that some of these people are genuine and well meaning. In their hearts I feel they think they are doing good because Satan has deceived them and they do feel that those of us who are trying are repressing ourselves. Part of this is the loss of the influence of the Holy Ghost that confirms truth to them. Lets face it, its hard to make a good choice when you don't have that anymore.

Next to support, the term Safe is also one that can be misused or twisted. It's tragic but also telling when people who are in the world so to speak say they feel "unsafe" in environments that truth is taught and the Spirit is strong. Are they confusing the feeling of unease with the Holy Ghost? Ever attend a FHE or a Sacrament meeting, walk away full of strength and enlightenment and then hear or read a blog later from someone who also attended who felt "unsafe" and "attacked?"

There is of course one type of support that is the most dangerous and that is support from someone with an agenda. It's most dangerous when it coming from someone who is a former or ex member of the church who has an ax to grind and sees bringing down another member as a way of striking out at something they feel has hurt them. Often times these people still deep in their hearts love the church, but have been hurt and want to punish or hurt it as badly as they feel. They often have horror stories about how badly they were treated and how unsafe they felt in church.

A few years ago I came across a guy like this that had grown up in the ward north of me, I was feeling alone and searching and found myself on one of those websites. I started chatting with this guy and found out he was LDS or used to be. I thought cool, he'll get it. And at first he was very nice, very supportive and very cool with the church. But then he started to hammer away at it, just a little bit at a time. I was also happy to find out he was LDS and thought that maybe I could help him come back home.

After a while he started to tell me horror stories about how terrible he had been treated and how he was almost violently kicked out of the church. I don't think he knew that I was familiar with the ward he was talking about and knew many of the same people. Out of curiosity I asked some these people and found out that they had bent over backwards for this guy. He had been baptized when he was was in his late teens. Members literally gave this guy everything he could ask for in order to help "bring him up to speed" so to speak in the gospel. Even to the point of offering to pay for his mission and his schooling. He had several members families who loved and supported him and even opened their homes to him.

The truth was that the horror stories occurred when he choose to turn his back on the church and started to act out and he soon became a really negative influence on the other youth. Of course the parents where concerned. He had also developed a fascination with anti-Mormon items and was always in the mood to debate things and share them with others at times when it wasn't appropriate like in lessons. Apparently after talking to some of those involved the bishop asked him to cool it and he took that as rejection and moved in with a guy in the next town who was much older and started a relationship. There is always two sides to every story. Since then he's been really active in anti-Mormon, pro-gay groups and acts against the church as much as possible targeting those who are in search of support. To this day he works with a group in the next largest town south of me that serves as an outreach to young gay teen Mormons. For him its a ministry.

Of course when I found this out I knew I had been called to save him. But sadly, once he found out that I wasn't going to be converted to his way of thinking he didn't say goodbye, he just wrote me off. I found myself rejected as a friend and blocked on his social networking deal. And I found out that he had bad mouthed me to mutual friends to try to discredit me. This hurt, but I also realized that after a lot of prayer that the Lord would never expose me to this kind of stuff when I was weak in order to save someone else. Yes, I guess I could have been a good influence on him, but when I tried it seemed to chase him off. I never preached to him.

From personal experience the fact that I even met that guy online shows that to me how easy it is to find bad support. Brothers and Sisters, it is out there. Don't fall for it.

Yes, the internet is a powerful tool, I've learned to be very careful about the places you look to make friends. A good rule is that you will almost always find the type of friends in the type of site it is. I know I always try to convince myself that there may be just that one other guy who is there to find friends, but that's also self deception and justification. I should know if I reach into a snake pit, I'll more then likely end up with a handful of snake.

I also know that when we are down and low we often sometimes loose our judgment because we want to be around someone who understands so its easy to fall for these wolves in sheep clothing. We often will resent those who are really trying to help, we may lash out at those who have our best interests in mind and justify it by saying they just don't get. This has taught me a great deal. Real Christlike support will never end up with one person getting hurt or losing their faith. It will build not tear down. That's a good thing to ponder.