Pushing through the Pain
Gary is the youngest of four children. His father was an Italian-American longshoreman who worked hard to provide for his family. He married Gary’s mother, a native of Puerto Rico, even though his family wanted him to marry an Italian girl. Unfortunately, Gary’s mother never felt accepted by her husband’s family and this caused tension at family events. Trying to raise four children in a small apartment added to the already tense situation. At times she would scream or cry. She found it hard to focus on others’ pain because of her own. Verbal fights were not uncommon and Gary felt uneasy when these altercations broke out. Gary’s father dealt with his wife’s complaining and occasional hysteria by leaving the apartment to sit in the car for hours. Since Gary’s brother and sisters were older and critical of him, he felt disconnected and alone at home.
As Gary entered school he found it difficult to concentrate and exhibited signs of dyslexia. At home, his father grew impatient as he helped Gary with his homework. Often he would slap his son in the face and say harsh things if he didn’t give the right answer. Gary was terrified of going to school for fear the teacher would call on him and he wouldn’t know the right answer. Adding to this fear was the teasing from his classmates. They called him names like “stupid” and “fatso”, and this left Gary feeling alone with no friends.
At home, the only person Gary felt close to was his mother. She was home more than his father and so he had more interaction with her. He loved his mother but her irrational behavior upset him. He tried to help keep the house in order and be a good boy so that no outbursts would happen. By the age of ten, Gary was emotionally overwhelmed with feelings of fear, shame, loneliness, nervousness and rejection. One day when he thought no one would see him, he put on some of his mother’s make-up. He had seen her do this and wondered what it would be like to apply it to his face. As he was doing this, his father unexpectedly came into the bathroom. He flew into a rage and beat Gary, accusing him of doing something queer, deepening Gary’s sense of humiliation.
Because of poor diet/lack of exercise or genetic predisposition or a physical disorder known as gynocomastia, Gary began to develop large breasts. He was very embarrassed by this and didn’t want to go to school. His mother tried to help by wrapping a cloth tightly around his chest and knotting it at his back. When the some of the boys at school saw the knot under Gary’s shirt they said that he was wearing a bra. They teased him mercilessly about being a girl. Gary felt mortified and ashamed, and felt even more weird and unacceptable. More and more he felt that he was not a normal boy. These feelings didn’t go away. Since he spent so much time alone, it really felt that nobody loved him or wanted to be his friend. In isolation, his pain intensified.
Gary did not emerge from puberty with self-confidence or a strong desire to date women. He felt insecure around guys and this sapped his courage to approach girls even though he wished he could. Woman scared him and he was convinced that no girl that he liked would think he was masculine. Since he didn’t date, he felt even more abnormal around his classmates who had girlfriends. His father died unexpectedly when Gary was ten years old leaving him with no one to teach him how to relate to girls. Gary was awkward in social situations and felt nervous that others would reject him because he acted like a girl. He began to experience involuntary erotic attractions to certain guys that he felt were more masculine than he was. Even though he envied them, he was scared that they would reject him. The buried emotions of shame, fear, rejection and loneliness connected to his sex drive causing a craving for inappropriate sexual contact with other boys as a way of feeling included, loved and normal. The only place he felt safe and in private at home was in the shower. He began to masturbate while taking long showers. A vicious cycle began as Gary turned to masturbation and fantasy to try to make his pain go away.
Today, Gary is in his 40’s and is a member of a local gym. He spends several days each week working out and socializing with a few of the other male members. While he doesn’t feel the need to be with them all the time, he does like the camaraderie he feels when he is with them. But when he is around one of these guys whom he really likes, Gary feels insecure. He worries that if he says something wrong or behaves strangely, this guy will think he is a girl and reject him. Since he hasn’t had many girlfriends, Gary feels less of a man when these guys talk about having sex with the girls they are dating. Gary is very self-conscious about not having a job because he is staying home to care for his ailing mother. Furthermore, he doesn’t feel like God is with him if He allows these bad situations to occur.
It is apparent that Gary is experiencing as an adult the awful power of buried, lying childhood emotions that resulted from trauma in his early years. When triggered, these feelings overwhelm him and he feels unacceptable to other people and God, just like he did as a young boy. Gary still joins in with the lie that he is not a normal man. These feelings are painful and the message unyielding. The curse of words put on him by unkind peers and a quick-tempered father has not been broken. Gary still seeks approval from other guys he considers “real men”, and when he feels he can’t get it resorts to fantasy and masturbation even though he has no real desire to do this.
Here are a few suggestions to help Gary push through the pain of these lying emotions and to throw off the false identity.
- Realize that your fears are based on the cutting words or devilish cruelty of people who didn’t love you or who were in severe dysfunction. You are not by nature weird, girlish or unacceptable. You feel that way because others made you feel that way, and because you acted on a lie you believed as true. As a hurt, isolated boy you didn’t know how to counter the harsh words of classmates or stop your father from yelling and hitting you. The words they spoke over you went deep into your spirit and became part of your identity. They branded you as unacceptable even though you were not, and you came to believe it yourself. This pain and message it speaks is real but not true. The children who teased you didn’t take the time to get to know you nor did they show compassion on you. Their words carried so much weight because as a lonely child you wanted to be accepted. Refuse to receive their words any longer. Write out the names they called you and have a trusted friend or counselor pray over each one as you renounce it as part of your identity. Then have the other person pray the true names of who you are in Christ into your identity. Tell yourself that you are not really what your painful emotions and bad impressions say. You are not unacceptable!
- Realize that the situation has changed drastically since childhood. You have done a great job learning to love and cherish your body. You are trying to eat better and work off the excess weight. In response, your have slimmed down and toned up. Additionally, you are no longer a helpless child, unable to deflect harsh name-calling and physical abuse. Ask the Lord to help you praise yourself and reject the untrue words of others. Before you go to the gym, remember your real purpose for being there is to develop a healthier body, not to impress other guys. You are already a man! Going to the gym has nothing to do with your true identity! Take some time to put yourself in the right frame of mind before you leave your house. You are already acceptable to the Lord and many people love you. If you are asked to work out with the other guys, remember to keep your mind on your progress. If you are too distracted by their physiques or banter, opt to exercise alone.
- Lighten up! Learn to laugh at the little mistakes or clumsy things you do. Don’t see each imperfection as proof that you are unacceptable or weird! We all mess up sometimes, and it really doesn’t diminish our glory as children of God! Pray for the Lord to help you stop scrutinizing every move you make and word you utter. A foolish statement is only a lapse in your true character and intelligence. You are still a great person even if you make a mistake. You don’t have to be perfect or make others like you to be a genuine man of God! Just because other guys razz you, it doesn’t mean they reject you. Even they do/say dumb things now and then!
- Refuse to compare yourself with the other guys. Another man may have bigger muscles and more body tone than you but that does not diminish your manhood. The essence of true masculinity is spiritual, not physical! You heart’s desire is to obey the Lord and forsake homosexuality, and this is supremely pleasing to the Father. He abides in your spirit because you have received His Son by faith. This sets you apart from many other men who have said in their hearts that God does not exist. Furthermore, you are willing to pattern your life after the Lord Jesus who modeled true masculinity in His love of the Father, priestly concern for His disciples, faithful provision for the needs of those in His care, true companionship and single-minded devotion to the will of His Father. These are attitudes of the heart that you are endeavoring to imitate, and in God’s eyes this sets you apart as an extraordinary man. He is well-pleased with you. Pray that He will open your eyes to your true glory as a man. God does not compare you to anyone else. Tell yourself every day that the Father is proud to call you His son!
- Stop fantasizing about having a better body or being sexually approached by one of these guys at the gym. These are demonic images that feel good only because they groove with your false identity. But no matter how good they feel, they are foul and destructive images that will keep you in bondage to the lie that you are not a real man. If you will make an effort to put these images out of your mind and turn away from masturbation, you can begin to make a place in you for the glorious truth that you are acceptable in Christ. Your body is not the true measure of your manhood. As a child you were traumatized by comments about your body and became fixated on how you look. You felt that if you looked more like a man you would be more of a man. Ask God to help you love yourself as He loves you. This may not be easy to do when you are in a funk, so practice rehearsing the truth about your acceptability before the bad feelings stir. Write in a journal when you are doing well and drive the truth deep in those places where you once felt rejected and alone. Pray that the love of the Father will fill the place in your heart where you feel unacceptable and ashamed. Devote your body and mind to the Lord.
- Tell yourself that having sex with a man or a woman is not the sign of a true man. Stop envying the sexual escapades of unregenerate men. Remember, the Lord has not given everyone permission to have sex but only those who have committed themselves to their spouse in holy matrimony. Sex is never an acceptable way of proving your manhood. Instead of wishing you could have a sexual record like these guys at the gym, thank God that you haven’t. I know that your feelings will balk at this kind of statement of truth, but you must try to override your feelings with truth. You cannot step into your true God-ordained manhood while you envy the ways of the wicked. Their “sexual prowess” is, in God’s eyes (and the eyes of many women, too) offensive and a sign of sexual narcissism and abuse. Give up pursuing this kind of “acceptance” and instead choose the purity that brings God’s favor and the love of a godly woman. Believe that if you turn from this worldly way of thinking, God will bless you and give you genuine self-acceptance and the love of a Christian woman.
- Consider staying away from the gym for a time. If you are too upset or distracted at the gym, or if you regularly leave feeling rejected, then you need to separate from that environment. You can find other ways to exercise at home and you will be taking a big step toward ending your dependency on other guys. You will probably feel upset and worry that they are thinking bad things about you, but this is the very emotional condition you need to break. Try to write your feelings out and then to turn to what the Lord says is true. Pray to find peace in loving yourself as you more and more choose to believe that God loves you.
Working the Emotional Roots of Homosexuality – Part 5
by Robert Schaeffer