“But for you who have found peace or at least commitment to this [Side B] life . . . why? And how do you do it?”
Again, “Side B” here refers to those of us following a traditional belief on sexuality, as opposed to “Side A,” which refers to those affirming of same-sex relationships.
Last post I said that the first part of “how” we thrive in this life is realizing our acceptance in Jesus. I asked you, the reader, to accept this premise:
You are accepted just as you are.
We looked at how Jesus loves those whom other people ignore. We also acknowledged that this life is hard and our hurt is real.
However, I also raised a second premise, which we will now examine in this post:
You need to do better.
Jesus calls us to himself and accepts us, but he does not leave our lives unchanged. And change is hard. For too many of us, change has been tied with acceptance. We were told that if we don’t change and don’t measure up, we will lose our acceptance.
But in Jesus, change comes as a result of acceptance, and our ongoing acceptance does not rest on our change. There is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God, in and through Christ Jesus, and that includes our failures (Romans 8:38-39).
We’ve already acknowledged that change is hard. But we cannot stop there. We cannot allow this fact to keep us from changing; that’s the difference between surviving and thriving.
Living this life means recognizing that there are some hard elements to this journey — some of which may always be hard. If I can’t make these things any less hard, then I need to have tools to stand up and continue forward, learning, growing, and changing, rather than get beaten down, stagnate, and cease to grow.
I need methods to find peace and joy, even in pain.
In my last post I said that my answer to thriving begins in Jesus, and I would add that it continues with Jesus as I work through the areas of my life that need attention, healing, growth, and change.
In short, I needed to do better.
In counseling, I have found some personally helpful tools and methods. One of the main tools in my “toolbox” is cultivating an attitude of acceptance coupled with a desire to change.
How do I thrive in this life?
With Jesus, I seek to practice mindfulness and acceptance in each moment, feeling each moment (good or bad) and facing each one rather than minimizing or avoiding. Jesus sees me and what I am experiencing. I don’t have to avoid facing what I experience. I can accept these feelings and moments knowing that ignoring or minimizing them will not help.
I accept me as I am in this moment, just as Jesus does.
With acceptance comes a certain measure of control. I control when I feel, and with processing, also what I feel. And then my emotions don’t control me (as much!).
My actions don’t have to be controlled by my emotions. Neither do I need to ignore my experiences, no matter how hard, as if they are irrelevant to my mental health.
What I too often see in the Side B world, and elsewhere, is people’s attempting to ignore or avoid their trauma, mourning, and emotional work, as they instead try to cover those things with happier experiences. When we ignore doing our emotional work, those things come back later and often cause more pain and trauma.
It’s time to deal with the baggage.
Carrying unresolved baggage usually leads to more baggage. I speak from experience. We do not get better or grow by stuffing down our emotions and trauma.
There is a mindset in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) that says:
“You are accepted just as you are, and you need to do better.”
Dialectic means two thoughts that appear opposing, yet can be both true at once. These two ideas appear to contradict, but let’s reconcile them.
You are accepted just as you are.
Given everything you’ve been through, it makes sense you are where you are in your life’s journey. There’s no blame over where you are — only radical acceptance.
This is also how Jesus loves us. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up and make ourselves presentable before he came and died on the cross for us (Romans 5:8).
We are seen, known, and loved as we are. We just have to accept where we are before we can move forward.
You need to do better.
Anything living continues to change and grow. If you want life to be better or get better, you need to do the work necessary.
You need to seek the tools and relationships that will help you get from here to there.
You are responsible only for your own choices. You cannot control what others say or do; instead, seek what you are able to do.
Embrace the dialectic.
Jesus calls us to come to him and lay down our burdens. He also calls us to carry our cross and follow him (Matthew 11:28-29; Luke 9:23). We need to lay down our burdens, even as we do the work to follow Jesus better.
The Christian life is a life of dialectics.
I have peace in Christ. I am accepted and loved. And I am also working toward greater health and well-being. I have a life worth living.
Jesus plus counseling plus a healthy dose of DBT skills training has been incredibly helpful to me.
If you want your life to change and be a life worth living, you need to make changes. It likely won’t be easy. It will take hard work and courage, and it will be a lifelong process.
Remember that when you fall, Jesus sees you. He accepts you as you are and invites you to rise again and keep walking with him.
Remember, there is nothing in all creation that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus — even your own mistakes (Romans 8:38-39).
I am not a counselor. Neither YOB nor myself is equipped to provide medical/mental health advice or treat anything. The views expressed here are my own and of my experience only.
That being said, many sexual minorities find counseling helpful for addressing trauma and navigating the stressors of life amid disconfirming environments. There are different types of counseling, and looking for a counselor might feel daunting.
However, there are resources available for finding a counselor well-versed in LGBT+ issues. This site answers a lot of questions about finding a good counselor as a sexual minority.
First, don’t let the verbiage of “affirming cognitive behavioral therapy” throw you off. “Affirming” here means that a therapist is trained in counseling methods that help process and validate the experiences of sexual minorities.
Second, counselors have an ethical obligation not to impose their own beliefs or values on clients. If you want to pursue life in a Side B manner, a good therapist should not impose a Side A approach on you; similarly, if you want to approach life in a Side A manner, a good therapist should not impose a Side B approach on you. If a therapist does push such opposing beliefs and values on you, that person should be reported.
Lastly, if you just don’t “click” with your counselor, it’s okay to ask to be referred to someone else.
My experience is descriptive, not prescriptive. Counseling has been helpful for me and many others in our community. You might be in a good place with your mental health and not feel a need for counseling, or you may not be ready yet. That is okay.
Regardless where you are, I pray that you grow in your understanding of Jesus’ love for you and your ability to thrive in this life.
If you need help, just know there are tools out there to help you make sense of how to thrive in this life. May you live a life worth living!
What has been your experience with counseling? What experiences have been helpful or harmful for working through pain and trauma?