Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged
This year, National Forgiveness Day is celebrated on October 25. It’s a day to forgive and be forgiven. It’s a chance to set things right, to put aside old differences, move beyond grievances and hurts.
Human nature is quick to criticize others, find fault to make us feel superior and to emphasize whatever inadequacies we perceive as the truth. Whether Christian or Agnostic, it is often easier to hold “a grudge” than to admit to ourselves that we are wrong.
As a parent, we often lash out at a child who disappoints, who doesn’t lead his/her life as we expect them to do. A parent who envisions grandchildren produced by a heterosexual marriage is going to be nonplussed when his child announces that he/she is gay. The life-long dream is now dashed by the words “Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”
When it comes to homosexuality within their family, many liberals, who think it’s fine for others, react viscerally to their kid’s “coming out.” Suddenly, the news is not fit for their backyard. Common responses include: “you’re too young to know,” “you can’t be, you’re so masculine,” “you’ll change, I know!”, “what have I done to you?”, “Are you sure?”, “You’ll go to Hell.”
Many blurt out those inappropriate remarks because they have not adjusted to the news and its meaning to the entire family. They have split-seconds to react, and surveys have reported that it’s usually not in a loving manner.
What comes across in those angry exchanges is I don’t love you unless you change. A straight parent of the religious-right will most likely regard his child’s sexual orientation as sinful. However, in reality, there is nothing sinful about being gay. It’s not a choice, a lifestyle, but an integral factor in their being.
Because there is nothing sinful, there is nothing to forgive.
However, your child, who desperately wants unconditional love and support, may have a tough time forgiving you. What he/she wanted to hear is “I love you, no matter what.” Remember this is the same child you’ve always loved for his humor, kindness, and intelligence.
To Err is Sinful, To Forgive Is Divine
To forgive is actually in your hands. First, forgive yourself for making insensitive remarks. It’s hard to think clearly when you brain goes into denial mode.
How can you recover and readdress the situation?
• First apologize. For example, you could say, “you know you really caught me off-guard the other day when you came out. I reacted badly and should have conveyed my love and support for you.
• I’m always here for you. I hope to learn more about what it means to be gay and would be grateful if you educate me. How long have you known?
• Please feel free to bring any gay friends to my house. They are welcome.
• How have you been treated at school? Whom would you like me to tell in the family or friends, if any? Does your sister/brother know or any friends?
By opening up a dialogue with your gay child, you are forgiving yourself, trying to set things right. In turn, he/she will forgive you as he will know you care enough to admit your past wrongdoings and your current willingness to have an open mind and heart.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.