March 2, 2011
Last Friday, I was speaking with an old friend, Cory Lawson. We’ve kept in touch over the years, though I haven’t always been the best at calling. But that didn’t seem to matter. When he answered the phone on Friday, we spoke as if there had been no time in between us at all. We began talking about my struggles being gay. I asked him if he knew of anything I could do to relieve the attraction I have for the same gender. And what he told me opened my eyes to a whole new way of going about not only this problem, but virtually every problem.
He said, first of all, you (meaning me) have to come to realize there is no conquering anything. I was confused and almost in objection, but I let him talk. “Think about it,” Cory said. “When in your life have you ever conquered anything? You haven’t. You only outgrow it. Before you joined the Church, you had these feelings, right?”
“And they’re still there, right?”
“Yeah…” And I thought, ‘I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you if it wasn’t so.’
“But you don’t have sex with men anymore, right?”
“Then you’d say you’ve improved, right?” When I agreed, he said, “Just from what I know about you, I’d say that you’ve improved in this department by about 90%. Now the other 10% is what you’re trying to work out right now, right? It’s the basic attraction plus the every now and again dwelling on things that you know you shouldn’t dwell on.”
“You’re right on so far,” I told him.
“So basically what you are telling me is, you’ve improved 90% of the way but since you are focusing on the 10%, it seems like you haven’t improved at all.” There was silence on the other end of the phone. I was speechless. He continued, “Then my advice would be to stop beating yourself up. I’ve noticed that there are times when I find myself trying to be perfect in a certain thing and the more I try to work at it and stress over it, the more it seems to be out of my reach.”
“Yeah,” was my award-winning response.
“Michael, when you think a lot about something, especially weaknesses you might have, that something grows into an exaggerated version of the truth. It begins to define you, because all you can see is this one thing. You probably struggle with a lot of things, don’t you? What’s one thing you struggle with other than same-gender attraction?”
“Uhhh… I… uhh…” Just then, a massive list of faults began to pile up, but before I could answer, he just continued right along, as Cory sometimes does.
He said, “That’s exactly my point! You really have to think about other problems you are facing in your life. Have you ever had a problem with lying?”
“Sure,” I confessed. “But it was mainly before I joined the Church.”
“Do you still struggle with that now?”
“No. Well, sometimes I catch myself lying or about to lie, and I quickly correct myself.”
“In other words, you’re still tempted to lie, and sometimes you are about to, but you fix it.” Another one of Cory’s habits is repeating things I’ve said. “You probably don’t sit around all day and think about not lying, huh? You probably don’t tell yourself that you’re a liar and that you need to be 100% perfect at not lying, ever. Is that about right?”
“I guess. No, no I guess I don’t.”
“See! That’s my point! Do you think it’d be any different with this other struggle you’re going through? Or any struggle you are going through, for that matter?” He didn’t wait for my response. “I don’t think so. So why focus on it so much?”
“It is probably the most important issue in my life, at present.”
“It could be, yes. I’ll give you that. But think of it as being like diabetes. For a diabetic person, they have certain foods they have to stay away from, regardless of how tempting they may be. They are always aware that those foods are dangerous for them, but they don’t obsess over not being able to eat them otherwise it’d just make them want to eat them even more. Instead, they go about their life, doing whatever it is they enjoy doing. They have diabetes, but they don’t let it control them. They don’t completely ignore the problem either. If they were to stop taking their medication, they would face some serious dangers. They might even die. So you see, they have to be protecting themselves continually, while not allowing themselves to think too much on the subject. Do you understand?”
I was feeling slightly overwhelmed, but I was seeing the symbolism. If I were to keep doing the things that I know will keep my safe, I will most likely be fine. Like the diabetic who stops taking their insulin, if I stopped doing those things that protect myself, I’d be facing some serious problems. I need to take care of myself, but if I let my problem control my life, I’d be placing myself in unnecessary jeopardy.
Years ago, Cory taught me about steps. He said that everyone has steps that lead them places. No one becomes an apostate overnight. Nor does anyone wake up and magically become saintly. It’s a process of steps. Step one isn't looking at pornography. That’s like step six or seven. Step one or two is encountering something that is tempting, and then allowing that thought to linger in your mind. “So instead of combating pornography, perhaps you should be identifying step one and then avoid it.”
“So, to answer your question about relieving the attraction you feel towards the same gender, I don’t know if that’s something you can change. But what you should be focused on is obtaining an attraction towards the opposite gender, and somewhere along the way, you’ll slowly grow out of your former attractions. You can’t conquer it on your own, and the more you think about it, the harder it will be. But if you honestly believe that Heavenly Father wants you to be happy, then you should stop making yourself miserable by focusing on the 10%, which is pretty much out of your hands anyways.”
When I got off the phone with Cory, a scripture came into my head. It’s a pretty popular one, so I’m sure you’ve heard of it: “Ask, and it shall be given you…” That scripture was followed up by another. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss…” Perhaps I’ve always been asking for the wrong thing. Maybe the reason why I’ve been struggling for so long with this problem was simply because I was going about it the wrong way. I was asking the wrong question. So I prayed right then for the ability to become physically attracted to a woman, that I may one day enter into the happiness my Father has prepared for me. And although I won’t get into the particulars, my prayer was answered.