As i worked with my mentor team, one of the things that became clear is that a major problem in my life — and one the factors that allowed me to fail and fall the way I did — is that I had spent 17 years (and really more than that) hiding not just a secret, but also pretty much all of my emotions. ?And not only did I hide my emotions from others, I hid them from myself and became numb to them.
Simply put, the only way to live with a hidden secret for so long is to pretty much shut down a major part of your emotional life. ?To hide that I was gay from most of the world meant that I needed to learn to ignore my feelings and hide my feelings. ?Because "gay is bad" had been hammered into my mind, I learned not trust my feelings from a very early age. ?
I also learned to?intellectualize?the world. But by?intellectualizing, I also depersonalized the world — and ultimately dehumanized myself and at times, others.
I remember when JR or Kit or Joe or Paul would ask me "how are you feeling" during a session or phone call, I would honestly be stumped to answer. ?"Feelings" were not a paradigm I had ever embraced nor a world I ever lived in. ?My answers could explain where I was at in the process, explain what I should be feeling, discuss the importance of certain feelings — but I couldn't answer the question because I had become blind and deaf to my feelings… and dumb in terms of my ability to articulate them.
To say the least, this is an emotionally unhealthy and unsustainable way to live.
From the age of 19, when I first shared with some other Christians that I was gay, the message I was told (by people in authority over me and people I respected) was that I had to keep it secret and had to deal with it privately. ?Taking that advice — that was repeated over the years — put me on a crash course for disaster.
Given that context for my fall, I realized that I had to learn how to feel again. ?I had to rediscover my emotions and feelings and learn to trust my heart again. ?I also needed to live without secrets. ?While everyone is entitled to a private life, no one (especially a pastor or leader) can have a secret life.
So I embraced transparency.
I was open with my own story, I shared honestly in my small group (and trust me, that was harder than it sounds), and I started to share my feelings and emotions.
And ultimately, this blog (as well as my tweeting, Facebook, use of Google Latitude, etc) were all ways to begin to live a transparent life.
On this blog, I journaled and shared what had really happened, how I was really doing, what I was really feeling… hoping… praying. ?It was often ugly, messy and rough around the edges. ?I wasn't blogging to "present myself" but to simply be myself publicly.
It was one of the best decisions I made.
Quickly, my heart began to recover and soften. ?I learned a new language, a new world of language, feelings, emotions. ?I could finally answer the simple question "how do you feel."
Probably no decision I made was more criticized — nor as misunderstood — as my decision to stay public, to blog, stay on facebook, etc. ?Many at the church simply wanted me to disappear. Or to at least present a "cleaner story". But no decision was better. ?Ultimately for me and for the broader community.
In the aftermath of what happened — when people were rightfully angry at me for having secrets, hiding truths about me, and pretending to be something I was not — people were angry that i wouldn't keep certain things secret, keep other details hidden, or pretend that the process was better than it was.
But I was done with secrets, with hiding, with pretending.
And when you have no secrets, there is great freedom. ?There is no shame or guilt. ?You can actually be comfortable in your own skin and actually like yourself — something I had struggled with my whole life.
Transparency saved me.
It melted my heart.
It made me human again.
It taught me love more deeply — to love myself, to love God and to love other messy and broken people.
And not only did it transform me, I discovered through email, comments on the blog, and other conversations that being transparent was actually a gift to others. ?It gave them permission to take off their masks and to share. ?It made it okay not to be perfect or super-spiritual or anything other than what we are.
Not only did I experience freedom, it brought freedom to others.
And I will never go back. ?I will never go back into the closet, into hiding, into secrecy.
My life is an open book… for better or for worse. ?