By: Lori Heine
"I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"
-- Sally Field, accepting her Academy Award for 1984
That has become one of the most-quoted Oscar acceptance-speech lines of all time. As a matter of fact, it's often misquoted. Sally Field didn't really gush, "You like me! You really-really-really-really-really-really like me!" What she actually said wasn't nearly that silly. Nor, as I recall, was there anything particularly pathetic about it.
We tend to think there's something pathetic about wanting to be liked, being dejected about it when we aren't and feeling joyful and triumphant when we are. But really, why should we think so? Isn't it absolutely human to want to be well thought of? What's wrong with wanting people to like us?
LGBT people especially seem to need to be liked. We often struggle with low self-esteem, and we long for acceptance. Again, what's wrong with that? Of course it's about the most easily-understandable impulse in the world.
The problem begins when we let our very-natural desire to be liked block our ability to like ourselves. When other people's opinions -- or at least our perceptions of them -- become more important to us, more real to us, than our own. When we suffer from that common human malady, Like-Me-Itis, we tend to be driven to behavior that isn't good for us. That particular airborne contagion is one to which nobody -- no matter how seemingly secure -- is immune. But for us, it can prove especially deadly.
I have noticed a particular abundance of this disease in us during election seasons. I have some gay conservative friends who scoff that gay liberals are somehow more prone to it, but I disagree. Though they seem blissfully unaware of the fact, they suffer from it, too. On a blog I often read and comment on, people have recently been very righteously trumpeting their moral superiority to those in our community whose politics are to the Left of their own. I keep hearing assertions, from them, that their more-liberal brothers and sisters are "deluded," that they are "being kept on the Leftist plantation" (whatever that is) and that they long for Big Daddy Government to coddle them and give them goodies. But I fail to see where their uncritical acceptance of politicians farther to the Right is based on anything nobler.
Some people simply disagree with others; that's a fact. The world would be a dull place if all of us thought exactly alike. We don't all believe alike, either, which accounts for the rich variety of religions on this planet. But if you happen to witness a religious disagreement between two LGBT folks, you're likely to see them tear into each other like piranhas in an aquarium full of raw steak.
It matters very much, to many of us, whether the Pope approves of us. Or whether the President thinks we should have equal rights. But the Pope is only one person, and so, too, is the Chief Executive of the U.S. Regardless of what either one thinks of us, there are bound to be millions of other people who disagree. What really matters, to each of us, is not what a lot of other people, outside of ourselves, think of us. It is what we think of ourselves.
All we can really do, in a healthy context, is use other people as a sounding-board to help us form our opinions of ourselves and for ourselves. That is something every sane person does, at least to some degree. It only becomes insane when we let the importance of what others think overwhelm our own common sense. When it overrides our self-respect. When our desire for warm-fuzzies from others leads us away from trusting in our own judgment.
Nobody knows you better than you do. Nobody, that is, except God. Every once in a while, when I'm particularly down on myself in prayer, I will get a sudden and very uplifting sense that God is telling me to lighten up. That really, "He" quite understands why I'm feeling low, or discouraged, or less than absolutely charitable at the moment. Jesus was, truly, one of us in every way, and He felt every emotion, every temptation, every pain, that we do, which God certainly intended us to understand meant that God is one with us in all our sufferings.
One of the LGBT Christian community's favorite gospel songs, Marsha Stevens' "For Those Tears I Died," expresses this very well. It touches something deep inside of us, some inner knowing, when we hear it. It reconnects us with the core of confidence God has bestowed on every one of us. Somewhere in our hearts, we know that the condemnation of ignorant or self-interested people really doesn't matter, that it doesn't reflect who we really are. It can be hard to remember that, in the struggles of day-to-day life, but there's a reason that song makes us cry like drunken sailors every time we hear it, and it is that every reminder of how totally beloved of God we are is crucial to our spiritual survival.
Regardless of which side of the fence of Church or State politics straight people may be on, when their primary objective is power they tend to exploit our vulnerability. Some do it by demonizing us -- turning us into cartoon villains to scare people into voting for them or obeying their directives. Others do it by demanding our unthinking allegiance. Either way, it can enslave us, harnessing us to forces that care little about our best interests. Only by remaining in touch with who we are at our center can we rise above petty attempts to manipulate us and stand strong in convictions we have reached for ourselves.
For LGBT Christians, this is accomplished by staying in touch with the Ground of our Being: God, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ. "I praise you," says Psalm 139, "because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (NIV). And "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," as we are assured in Romans Chapter 8 (NIV). These are two of our favorite scriptural passages, for much the same reason that so many of us love Marsha Stevens' wonderful hymn.
We want to be liked -- to be loved -- because God made us so likable and lovable. Sometimes other people see that, and sometimes they don't. But God always sees it. In this season, when we celebrate God's gift of love to us in Jesus Christ, let us especially remember it.
Lori Heine serves on Whosoever's board of directors. She maintains a blog called Born on 911 and also contributes to the Whosoever News Blog.
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