Acceptance is one of the most basic human needs, and in fact, I would say it is near the top of the list. I watched two little kids at Church today, and even from the youngest age we want acceptance. Example: One of the kids draws a little picture, and they want the other one to like it and think its cool. They display it and explain it and may even embellish it on the spot if they think some part of it isn't being appreciated. They want to fit in. They want to be accepted. I guess acceptance is where a sense of security and self-confidence begin. To a large degree, then, we measure ourselves by gauging the responses of acceptance (or rejection) we receive from others. Our expectation is acceptance - its what we're counting on. This kind of acceptance could be called 'social acceptance', and the need for it is a key motivator of human behavior. Think of all the people who go on diets, have plastic surgery, or spend a fortune on clothes; all so they will be "cooler". Hipper. Prettier. More accepted.
Then there is the concept of self-acceptance. The concept of understanding who and what you are, your talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, looks, limitations, etc.; and in spite of this, still liking yourself for being YOU. Being OK with it. Comfortable with it. Not stressed out about it. In general, we human beings are pretty hard on ourselves, and I think a lot of us have a difficult time with self-acceptance. We're always wanting to be more perfect, more talented, more - whatever than what we currently are. Its OK to have a desire to improve and grow, of course, but there's a healthy approach to that. Its easy to start putting conditional criteria on our self-acceptance. "I'll be happy when I lose 20 pounds." Maybe what we're really saying is that we can't accept ourselves as we currently are. Or that we're afraid others won't accept us as we are.
And last is the concept of Divine acceptance. The concept that God is OK with us and what we're doing. That we're worthy of God's love. His blessings. His Spirit. His salvation. Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about Divine acceptance. Measuring up, so to speak, to all the commandments and requrements we hear about and read about and 'fulfilling' our various callings in the Kingdom.
My observation is that we MoHos are quite frequently caught at the intersection of these three types of acceptance, with negative consequences:
- Being gay is still not TRULY socially acceptable. Maybe socially tolerated best describes it. Its definitely better than it used to be, but we have a long way to go before gay people are treated like everyone else. Its still fraught with dangers, prejudice, stigmas and stereotypes. Witness the recent bullying issues in schools if you have any doubts. And the social acceptance of gays in the Church is about 20 years behind the rest of society, to say nothing of the ostracism and alienation from our families (including our Church family) that many of us suffer as a result of our homosexuality.
- Then we have the issues of self-acceptance. We have many MoHos who suffer in quiet desperation for years (I was one of them), trying in vain to pray away something that's simply a part of them. Endless self-loathing. Coutless dollars spent on therapies and programs. Shame. Guilt. Depression. Anxiety. And for many if not most, where does it all lead? Nowhere!
- And finally we have acceptance issues with God. We simply feel like we can't be loved, especially by Him. And how can we "measure up" if we don't feel attracted to the opposite sex? How can we feel worthy? If we don't have an Eternal Marriage, then we have utterly failed, right? That's the goal, the prize - the ultimate fulfillment of life's purpose, right? Its easy to feel like a failure if that's not where we're headed.
So in my mind I'm thinking this intersection combines to create a crisis of acceptance for many of us. This failure on three levels of acceptance sets us up for depression, anxiety, heartbreak, conflict, and in the worst cases, suicide. We wind up in a situation where the basic human need for acceptance is stunted or absent from our lives, and it has profound effects on us and on those around us.
I don't have all the answers to this dilema. So many of the answers would be personal and customized to the individual situation. In general, I think God is more accepting of us and our situations than we ever give Him credit for. He knows out hearts. His love is unconditional and greater than we can possibly imagine. What I believe we can do as individuals is to be accepting and supportive of each other in this community. To bear one another's burdens. To listen. To serve. To empathize. Support. Sustain. Encourage. And most importantly, to love unconditionally. We must accept ourselves and each other - just as we are. For some of us, that may be the only real acceptance we experience.