21 September 2011

THT: I love you, but

Can we modify love? I feel like it is something that is there or it is not. "I love you, but..." pretty much means that it isn't there. That there is some limitation on that love... and if it is limited, can it be love? I mean real love. Isn't love limitless? Isn't God love?

I have been so lucky to have a supportive family. My immediate family has been wonderful. Obviously there are certain bumps in the road that cause some friction, but for the most part- things have been great. My extended family has also been really good about continuing to include me. I do feel though that many of them are of this "I love you, but" mindset.

One relative said, "I love you, but I don't agree with your choices." On the surface, a statement like this seems fair... but it has some pretty negative effects on the person to which the statement is directed.

Imagine this: As a man, you fall in love with this girl. She is the world to you. She brings meaning to your life. She's the reason you wake up. Now say you want to marry this girl. You go to your parents and tell them your thoughts and they say, "We love you, but we don't agree with your choice. It is a bad choice and we will not support it. But we love you." What do you do at this point? Do you break it off with the girl and tell her, "sorry, but my loving parents don't like my decision?" NO! You would marry that girl despite your parent's disagreements. Why? Because you LOVE her! Because you know that what you feel is REAL and MEANINGFUL and that it fills your world with color and excitement you never thought possible. Now fast forward. You bring the girl to family gatherings, but your family makes no attempt to recognize her as your wife. They continue to hold the opinion that you made a bad decision, but they always let you know they love you and welcome YOU as always. On the other hand they just love your sister's husband. Would you feel loved? Is that love? Let me ask this instead.... would you continue to go to those gatherings? NO. Why? Because you would feel unequal. You would feel like your decision on who you love is unrecognized. You would not feel welcome and loved because you are connected to your wife. She is a part of you and you of her.

Alright, perhaps now you may begin to see what it is like for a gay individual whose family (immediate and/or extended), friends, church, and communities insist on these "we love you, but" ideas. "We love you, but we don't agree with your choices." What does that mean? That you don't agree with their love? That their love is somehow illegitimate? That what they feel is not as real as the love you feel? What is there to disagree about? Is it any wonder that gay individuals don't feel welcomed, don't feel included, don't feel equal, and don't feel loved by the people who should love them most? Why are people so insistent on not recognizing love between two men or two women? Could you imagine someone not only telling you that the love you feel for your spouse isn't real love, but then making it so that you couldn't possibly legitimize that love and be recognized by society as a couple who shares a loving bond and commitment? Are gay people wrong to feel unequal? And yet it is God who is blamed for the reason society is so instant on making gays inferior. God, whose love is endless and everlasting and without any kind of modifier. Jesus did not say, "thou shalt love thy neighbor, but don't include them lest they feel their actions are condoned."


Freddie said...

You are right to question people's integrity concerning love. It is often not love at all, but a conventional response in a social setting. Speaking of “love” in those situations is as unfortunate as it is confusing. It would be more precise to say, “I care for you because of your conformity to our shared beliefs.” When the uninformed speak of gay people's choices they unknowingly refer to their own choices. Gay people require straight people to compromise on what they may have considered inviolable truth. Their humanity is conflicted and they are faced with the choice of compromise and tolerance, or rejection and condemnation. When they choose the former, they feel magnanimous because they have not been harsh the way rigid people still are sometimes. But tolerance alone is not love.

Abandoning broader institutions that denigrate gay people is probably a healthy act, but love is proper to intimate groups such as family (shared DNA) and friends (shared experience). Continuing to interact with family and friends as a loved one gives those who are conflicted renewed opportunity to choose to learn and love. By doing so, both parties grow to the point described by St. Paul: love is long suffering.

I think love arises spontaneously: a living force beneath consciousness. One's choice to continue on the path of love is what brings your fuller conception of love to fruition. Love ultimately becomes a series of choices validating its earliest manifestation. The healthiest of loving relationships are conflicted at some point, which necessitates those choices. We are sustained by love partly because of its complexity and dynamism; revel in it: it can be as satisfying as the simplicity that we long for love to be.

jen said...

"I love you" is a complete sentence. When someone tries to add more to that complete sentence with a "but", that isn't love. It's called control, which is the opposite of love.

Why should anyone have the right to tell you what THEY think about YOUR life?

Liz said...

From now on, whenever you hear the phrase, "I love you, but", your mind will automatically change the phrase to, "I love your butt." There. Now go forward with a smile planted firmly at both ends. ;)

jimf said...

> Can we modify love? I feel like it is something that is there or it is not.

You know, I feel like a lab-coated geek among flower children
for saying this, but there **really, really** isn't such a
thing as unconditional love.

It's not a particularly pleasant fact to contemplate, but it
does accord with common sense, after all.

I'm sure he doesn't say what you'd be completely comfortable
hearing, but maybe you should read, or listen to, a bit (just a bit!)
of Dan Savage's "Savage Love" columns and/or podcasts,
to get a feel for what he calls "deal breakers" in a

Here's an extreme example of a deal-breaker. A young, smart,
handsome, just-out-of-college guy is engaged to be married
to a beautiful girl. In a tragic automobile accident (in
which the guy isn't even driving the car -- he's on holiday
with friends), the guy becomes a quadraplegic,
wheelchair-bound for life. Does the girl still marry him?
Not bloody likely -- that's not what she signed up for. They
split up, and the guy (at least retrospectively -- who knows
what bitterness he harbored in his heart at the time?) thinks it was
a perfectly reasonable thing to do. This isn't hypothetical --
I know the guy.

> Is it any wonder that gay individuals don't feel welcomed,
> don't feel included, don't feel equal, and don't feel loved
> by the people who should love them most?

"Should" -- what a loaded, slippery word. You know, you're coming of age
in a time in which it's not inconceivable for homosexual children
to come out to their parents and (after a bit of trauma) still
expect to have a decent relationship with them. In my time, that
would have been absolutely inconceivable -- the best one could
hope for is that they wouldn't ever find out.

I was an only child -- a shy, timid, athletically-hopeless,
easily-bullied kid, but pretty smart and academically gifted.
In spite of my talents (which were never quite enough)
there was some kind of terrible cloud that hung over my
relationship with my parents from the time I hit puberty
right through to the end of their lives. I never really knew
what that was all about until -- quite late in life! -- it
struck me: of **course** they knew (on some level) that they
had a queer son. They may not have put it that way to themselves
(or they may have had bad moments when they thought that
very thing), but they knew **something was wrong** -- and
they didn't like it one bit.

At least you've got the issue entirely out in the open, and
you can actually argue with them about it. ;->

Andy said...

This is what I am dealing right now with my friends and family. Hopefully...they will really learn how to love me and accept who I am and who I love.

Anonymous said...

well I love you too, cousin Judy, but you are a small minded biggot

Post a Comment