Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Love Really Means

     I found this song a few months ago on my way to work listening to the radio. I was only able to hear a couple lines of the song before I arrived at work, but I had already been touched and had decided I was going to buy the song
P.S. If you're on a mobile device, for whatever reason, the video may not show up. Click here to visit youtube to view the video.

"What Love Really Means"

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He's the kid with the story
No one would believe
He prays every night
"Dear God won't you please
Could you send someone here
Who will love me?"

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done
Or what I will become
Who will love me for me
'Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She's the woman whose husband has run away
She'll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would've stayed
And she says...
Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done
Or what I will become
Who will love me for me
'Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means
What love really means

He's waiting to die as he sits all alone
He's a man in a cell who regrets what he's done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
"Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home"

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said,
"I know you've murdered and I know you've lied
And I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you'll listen I'll, I'll tell you that I..."

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done
Or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew
Love you for you
Not for what you have done
Or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

     What Love Really Means is composed of 3 stories; of a young boy who has already lived a hard life, a woman who recently lost her husband, and a convict who's awaiting the death penalty.
     There are many reasons I love this song, one of the most prominent being that I relate to each story. I also love the message sent through the song about the importance of not judging others, and even more so, the infinite love Jesus Christ has for each of us.
     The first story of the boy really speaks to my young self. As a child, I was bullied and made fun of. I was an easy target because I was different than everyone else. It was easy for me to be friends with girls, and I had a hard time talking to guys. I was shy, emotional, awkward, and sometimes just plain weird. Confusing and hurtful things were done and said to me. Boys scared me. I had been betrayed, rejected, hurt, and abused. I used to cry to God to send me someone who could love me & be a friend to me. My prayer was answered and I was given a best friend.
      She and I had a lot of fun together, and when we were hanging out, we didn't worry about what others' thought. We were best friends, we did most everything together, and were as weird as we wanted to be. Part of me, however, still needed something more. I longed for a male in whom I could trust and love as a best friend. It wasn't until much later in my life, when I was 18, that God truly answered that prayer, and when He did, I was answered with an avalanche of blessings and changes.
     The second story, of the woman, spoke to me regarding the rejection I had experienced in life, and the mask I used to wear. It touched me regarding my body image issues and self-worth. Sometimes I don't feel good enough. Something happens in my life and I look inward and try to determine what I did wrong, even if it wasn't my fault. I beat myself up, try to change things I can't change about myself, and sometimes I wish I was someone else. "Maybe if I was thinner, better-looking, kinder, stronger, heterosexual, not an addict, etc. then they would've stayed. Then life would be easier, then I would love myself."
     If I could understand that to Christ, those aren't qualities that qualify me for love, that the people who really matter in my life lift me up and love me, not tear me down and judge me, and that I need to be a good friend to myself. I often put up a mask to make people think I was someone I wasn't. People used to ask me if I was "gay", to which I would quickly and sharply say "No!, Gross, Never, etc.". I was ignorant, I was a liar, I was scared. I used to be the nicest, quietest, most obedient person on the outside, which I'm not saying the nice and obedient part is bad, but I'd get into trouble behind the scenes, and when someone found out, I would deny my involvement, and the blame would be passed on someone else because adults didn't believe someone so "well-behaved" and "respectful" could ever do something wrong.
     And the final story of the convicted man awaiting the death penalty. I loved this one because it truly highlighted someone at their lowest point, at their 'rock-bottom'. In the lowest moment, the man in the story opened his heart to be touched by the Savior. In his lowest moment, knowing what would soon come to pass, he longed to feel loved, he wanted to go home. Our real home. Living with our Heavenly Father. "When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change." -Avatar Aang
     I remember my lowest point, when I was absolutely broken inside. I couldn't rely on my own will-power anymore, I had to somewhere else, to someone else. Someone whose strength and love was infinite. I had to turn to God and Christ. Though I would continue to fall and make mistakes through life, Christ would be there to pick me up, hold me, and guide me through this life. He would love me and forgive me, even when I made mistakes, even when I made big mistakes. He could show me What Love Really Means.
     Just today while I was on my way to lunch during work, I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations, and I was reminded of His love, and the importance of forgiving others. What I got from it: If I'm a believer, I have to forgive, no matter what, no matter who. I'm just as guilty no matter what someone does to me. I need to forgive myself too. Christ forgave His murderers, Christ forgave us all.
     If there's a story you feel you connect to, feel free to share it in the comments! I think interaction would be fun, that is if you'd like to post a comment ;) Love you all!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What do I Mean to You?

     I want to talk about something today, something that has been run through the news and media, been the topic of political decisions, had lots of attention in the courts, and been a subject of conversation among certain people, and it is the subject of same-sex (gay) marriage. I want to talk about it today because it has been ever present in the world around me, and today I've decided to take a different approach on it. This post will be controversial, this post will be direct and from my heart. I will do my best to be kind, careful, and aware of others' needs and feelings, but I can't make any promises.

     I wanted to write somewhat in the form of a letter. A letter addressed to everyone (as everyone is affected in some way by this topic) but most especially to people of authority over others, people who advocate or are on the fence about advocating for gay marriage, and anyone and everyone else it may concern.

     Dear sons and daughters of God,

     I have something on my mind I need to get out and explain from my own personal standpoint and experience. Over and over I hear gay marriage brought up all over the news, all over public and social forums and communities, and strewn over various other media and social situations and sources. It is something that, despite my stance on it, does still affect me greatly.

     How, you may ask? Or perhaps you know how. It affects me because whether you realize it or not, you have an influence on me, but even more important to know, you have a big influence and impact on every single person who hears about it, and especially those who deal with SSA or who know someone directly who deals with it. You may not realize it, but your decision to advocate for or against marriage equality may greatly affect someone's choice to advocate for it themselves, or even affect their life choices. Maybe your choices and actions were the driving hit that sank the wedge into their decision regarding it, for good or bad.

     Now do people still have free agency? Of course! And God recognizes that. Blame for another persons actions can not be pressed in full against you. Everyone, no matter who or in what circumstances, has free agency and will. However, outside forces, including and especially peers and authoritative figures can have a great impact on one's thoughts and choices.

     What I want you to know is that if you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or even if you're not, and you advocate for marriage equality, you affect me, you hurt me. The sad thing is that many LDS advocators for marriage equality are in direct contact with someone who has SSA, and as a result, they have a strong influence on how said person thinks and feels. Again, I emphasize free agency, but there can always be influence to choice.

     One thing I've learned in life is that there is a difference between enabling love, and true love. Enabling love is when you care more about how someone feels about you, or how you perceive they will feel, than who they are as a person and what they actually deserve. It means you put the way they treat you above their own well-being. For example, I learned about this in my treatment center. There were drug addicts there who talked about their "friends" who would sell them drugs, and that in that way, their "friends" "loved" them. Selling drugs to an addict is not love, it is enabling them to pain, suffering, destruction, and in some cases death. If someone asked you to go against what you know to be right in order to show them that you "love" them, would you? Or would you realize your salvation, as well as theirs is more important than worldly respect or "love"?

     True love, on the other hand, means that you love someone enough that you put their well-being above all else. My parents, for example, loved me so much that they sent me to inpatient treatment. It was a very hard decision for them, and a very very hard thing for me, but my parents did it to keep me safe. They did it because even though I was very upset with them, they knew it would help me and save me.

     Christ is the ultimate example of true love and real friendship. True friends to not let you continue in bad behavior, they do not enable you. Christ does not enable anyone to make bad decisions. No, He does not take our free agency, but He shows us the way and teaches us to improve our lives and choices.

     Anyway, I'm getting a little off topic. Back to my letter. 

     I want to emphasize as well the devastating effect you can have if you aggressively and cruelly oppose gay marriage. I personally oppose it, and I myself have SSA. What I mean, however, are the people who dehumanize, demonize, and attack gays and lesbians because of it. I personally have been hurt by ignorant comments from people towards gays. Making fun of someone is never ok. Being cruel and needlessly angry and offensive/defensive is not a good choice either. Be cautious of your words and actions, but don't let caution override truth. Do not deny the truth in a moment of fear or pressure. 

     As is the story of Peter the apostle in Matthew 26, "69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came into him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

71 And when he was gone out to the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.

72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.

73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for the speech bewrayeth thee.

74 Then began he to curse and swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crew, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly."

     I know I have been guilty before of denying truth. Denying what God has given me, and my faith in Him because I feared the judgement of others. Luckily that isn't often the case for me anymore. I've been able to find confidence in standing as a witness of Christ and His teachings.

     I recognize that everyone has free agency, that what I say/write may have little to no affect on you or your choices and beliefs. What I hope to accomplish in this post is to open eyes to the affect you can have on others even if you don't realize it. We all have a responsibility to love those around us, not with enabling or conditional love, but with true and righteous love turning always to the Savior. Christ's law WILL NOT change, and allowing people to more freely break His eternal law is not right, is not love, and is not fair to those you influence. 

     True love; pointing others to truth and righteousness, is what we should be showing to everyone we come in contact with.

     I'm definitely far from perfect, but I'm trying to improve and learn. I'm trying each day to be more Christlike. 

     With love, prayers, and hope; a young son of God who hopes to influence others for better,

          -Mitchell C.

Just one more thing I want to note: while I appose gay marriage, I do not hate those who advocate for it, nor do I hate or show disrespect to people in same-sex relationships. I love them as fellow sons and daughters of God, and I mourn for them in their trials and pray that they may find happiness and truth.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Beauty in the Unknown

     There has been a lot I've learned these past few weeks. Things I've learned about myself, things I've learned about others, things I've learned about God and my relationship with him.

     One things, which to a degree I knew before, but hadn't really had it hit me as hard as it did this week is that I accepted this life, knowing I would have trials, maybe even knowing I'd have these specific trials I face. I knew to a degree what I would potentially face, and I accepted it. I willingly came here because I followed God's plan in the pre-mortal life. I fought in the war in Heaven. I earned my place here on this earth.

     I might just be all over the place in this post, so I apologize, but I want to delve into a topic that was brought up in this months' CES fireside with Brother Russell T. Osguthorpe. He had a lot of great things he talked about during the fireside, but for now I just want to focus on one specific thing he spoke about; agency. There was a lot he shared about agency, in fact it seemed to be the main topic of the fireside. One thing he said that particularly struck me, that we do have agency, we do have will. We can change our desires, our very nature, through the healing power of Christ. But I had questions rise after he said this. What did he mean? Did it apply to same-sex attraction as well? Could it really be changed? Should it?
     As I sat there in deep thought, questioning what he meant, something clicked inside my brain. I've known and accepted for some time now that same-sex attraction is very likely something I will deal with for a long time, probably my entire life, but maybe.... maybe what he meant was a slow process. Not an all at once *boom* you're changed. Maybe not even a full change in this life, just a "lessening". I started thinking of it more from an addict point of view. That does not mean that I'm comparing same-sex attraction to an addiction. Let me try to explain...
     I know heterosexual people (AKA "straight") who are sex addicts. They see a good looking person of the opposite sex, and almost immediately an unclean thought can pop into their head. Then they have to choose to dismiss the thought, or entertain it. I can see a good-looking guy (trust me, it happens), but I can choose not to objectify him. I can choose where I take my thoughts.
     Going off that same topic, I've seen people, heterosexuals, feel a lessening in their attraction through the healing power of Christ and trusting in Him. Does that mean they aren't attracted to the opposite sex anymore? No. Does it mean their attractions just displace, and suddenly they're attracted to the same-sex? Definitely not. They still have attractions to the opposite sex, but their ability to cope, their wandering eyes and risky thoughts become less and less frequent, and when they do resurface, they're easier to conquer. It's like the scripture Ether 12:27 27 "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
     Maybe it's not a matter of losing the attraction, losing the addiction, losing the behaviors, whatever the trial may be; perhaps it's a matter of trusting in God and Christ to make that which is weak into a strength. I know that for me, my same-sex attraction has, in so many ways, gone from a huge weakness to a huge strength. A great blessing I am eternally thankful for. my same-sex attraction once caused me to question the worth of my life, caused me to question God's love for me, I questioned my worth to others. Now, however, I realize I am worth more than I could ever comprehend here on this earth. My same-sex attraction allows me to love and empathize with people in ways few people can. I am able to be humbled more so than I would be without it. I know my Savior in ways some people don't while here on this earth. What was once a curse, a weakness, is now a blessing, a weakness, that I rejoice in God for.
     Does it come with hardship still? Sure! I have accepted that I cannot be with a man romantically if I desire true happiness, and sometimes that can be hard, though ultimately I am happier without romance with the same-sex. I still deal with rejection and exclusion. There are still people who do not understand and do not accept me or others like me. I deal with pressure from others, even members who claim to be "active and faithful" in the Gospel, to just live out life following my desires. To get with a guy. That's one thing that appalls me: people who claim to be active, faithful, God-fearing members, yet actively seek to lead people astray. That openly and actively oppose such an important teaching of the Church and God, the institution of the family. True love is not enabling, but pushing others in a loving and Christ-like manner to repentance and truth. But that's a topic for later. Point is, I still have struggles.
     As a very wise Apostle once said: "Doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf

     Ultimately I truly know God loves me. I know I have divine potential. I know I have worth. Christ's love is eternal, the atonement never ends. I truly love you all, and I know Christ loves you all perfectly. God bless you continually!