Most days, I wonder if I’m loved or even liked by others. I never really thought about it much as a kid because none of family members, including extended family, ever uttered the phrase, “I love you.” My mom didn’t start saying it until she became a Christian in the early 80’s, and after reading that post you’ll understand why I never believed those words were true coming from her.
I recently spoke with a couple fellow YOBBERS, sharing about my bulimia while I was in the Army. I was determined to keep my size 32″ waist back then. Every Friday for two years I did this purging ritual so I could look good for guys in the clubs, bars, and bathhouses.
One of the guys asked me, “Why didn’t you just not eat for the weekend?”
I told him, “Because this was faster. I basically gave myself a colonoscopy every Friday. It definitely took its toll on my insides.” I won’t go into everything else I did with my body, because I don’t want anyone else to do it, especially knowing we have readers who suffer with body image issues.
Like I told these guys, I had to hide my bulimia from the Army because I’d have ended up in the psych ward. I ended up going anyway, but for a whole different reason.
All I wanted was to live a fantasy every weekend: to believe that some man wanted me. That he loved me just so I could take my mind off all the negative things I felt about myself.
After 29 years of living that life and never once finding happiness or love, God in His own way brought me back to Him and the church. However, I also started experiencing added health issues.
At first, it seemed like something different was happening to me every month or every other month, and doctors couldn’t figure it out. Sometimes I’d miss a couple weeks of church or Bible study, but no one called, texted, or came by to check on me even though my house was only two blocks from the church office. I already had low self-esteem, and this worsened it, increasing my doubts that no one cared for me or loved me, other than my brother.
One of my health issues since I was seventeen has been migraines. My shortest migraine has lasted four days; my longest one, 547 days. Then I had my first stroke, and I was hospitalized for thirteen days. Nobody from my church came to see me until the tenth day, and that was only because my mom had called the church office asking why no one had visited me yet. That afternoon both the lead and associate pastors saw me; the lead pastor was on his phone the entire time.
Other people visited me over the next two days, but they seemed like pity visits; by that I mean they came because of my mom’s phone call. If they’d truly cared, they would have been there way before my tenth day in the hospital.
I blame myself, though. If I hadn’t come out to my pastor and my Bible study group months before, telling them about my past, maybe things would’ve gone differently. After my hospital stay, only one couple brought me food. It’s funny, this couple practically broke their necks to sign up for hospitality when other couples just had a baby. They’d go over and do their chores and take care of meals for two weeks.
None of that happened for me. I ended up having three more strokes (a total of four over a ten-month period), and no one ever came by to check on me, bring me food, or help with chores.
What was I supposed to think? My low self-esteem kept plummeting, and I continued receiving confirmation that I’m not loved by anyone — even people in the church.
Last year I shared with some YOBBERS that I’ve already paid for my cremation because I figured no one would attend my funeral. I think that’s pretty sad when you’ve lived six decades with no friends or nobody who cares enough to check in from time to time.
Though I’ve since left that other church and found a new one, my low self-esteem, doubt of care, and lack of love persist. My health issues have gotten worse over the past few months, and I’ve been missing more church, Bible study, and serving in the church. And yet only two members have checked on me regularly. One is the first person I came out to at this church; the other, a guy who attends men’s Bible study when he can.
It feels obvious that I’m the common denominator here. I’ve always thought I was a likable person. I’m easy to talk to. I don’t judge (unless you’re wearing something hideous). I’d like to think I’m fun to be around because of my dry humor, so I just don’t get it.
Why do people keep telling me they love me when it’s obvious that the majority of them don’t?
I had a conversation with another YOBBER, and we were talking about the word love and how people overly use it. I told him that I only say “I love you” to my mom and my sisters to make them feel good. But when I say that sentence to men (and my sister-in-law), I genuinely mean it because I have personal, emotional connections with them.
I’ve never had that connection with the women in my family. I understand not all of them feel the need to say it back, at least not right away, and that’s fine. And in some ways I respect that more than their saying, “I love you, too” when there’s no sincerity behind it.
I know I should be content with the love of the Father, but sometimes I just want to be invited over for dinner or hang out for some one-on-one time — something that’s never happened to me without being asked as part of a group . . .
I’m sorry, guys. I try to give some positive spin on what I write, but sometimes you also just have to be real.
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
— 1 John 3:18 (ESV)
Do you also struggle with body image or self-worth? When was a time somebody “reversed the script” and loved you in an intentional, meaningful way?
Wow Michael…I am so very sorry for all that you have experienced in life. I can feel the pain in what you wrote…and I am glad you shared your heart. As Christians we are called to care for one another, but so many times it seems like that is in short supply.
Until recently, I often felt the same way as you. However, I have made the most amazing, beautiful friendship with another guy and it has been life-changing. I feel blessed beyond measure and what I deserve. We’ve built a relationship on building each other up, encouragement, and praying for each other. I wish everyone could experience such as our conversations are so edifying. How we met is an amazing story and only God could have orchestrated it all. He knew what I needed, and provided above and beyond all I could ask or think.
I trust the same will be there for you, brother.
I want to thank you for reading my latest blog piece. I can’t help but write the truth about my life despite how much it hurts.
I’m so happy that you found yourself a great guy to befriend. My brother is the only person who I can match your companion. I really want male companionship. I don’t know how or if God will ever give me someone like He gave you, but I sure hope so.
I feel for you Michael, I too have been the ‘invisible friend’ in a group of guys, and because I am a quieter speaker, I OFTEN get talked over when I eventually get a chance to speak. I walked away from 2 such ‘church friends’ prior to the pLandemic when, after trying to get a say into the discussed topic, I was once AGAIN interrupted by a ‘loud mouth’ so I walked – nay STORMED out to my car. Thinking one of them at least, would come and ask what was wrong, I sat in the car park for 10 minutes; NONE of them came out. One DID call me after I got home on my land line, (I had already blocked him on my cell phone) but even then kept interrupting me. I hung up, he phoned again and in a minute into the call he interrupted me AGAIN. I hung up and then left the receiver off for a while. The other guy DIDN’T call me but a few months later, texted me “Hey buddy” as if nothing had happened. I replied with “Oh, hi” – he got the message and hasn’t tried to speak to me since. Over 2 years now since I have seen or heard from them and now don’t miss them at all. The old adage – “There are friends for a reason and friends for a season” the reason can be fulfilled and the season often ends.
I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I think your hanging up wasn’t the best thing to do. We have to extend grace. I forgave those people. I only wrote this piece because I know others deal with this kind of thing. Last week I was telling people in my Bible study group that people, including Christians, like to be around others just like them, but they keep forgetting that Jesus talked to everyone DESPITE where they came from or what they did. The Church has got to do a better job of being like Jesus.
Hey Michael. Thank you for this post. I’m Michael also. I’ll be 60 myself in a few weeks. I relate to a lot of the emotions you shared. Self-hate, poor body image, my favorite phrase used to be “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”.
And the reason I liked it was because I had never loved at all. And yet… I was, the whole time, surrounded by an ocean of love. Growing up, I failed to see love in others because I was seeking the perfection in others.
Last week a pastor shared a hopeful message with me, that really made me think!
After a lifetime of looking back on how I got the ‘short end of the stick’, assuming rejection at every turn, He convinced me to count my blessings throughout the day. If I couldn’t think of anything earth-shattering, I would say something like “this is what the Lord is doing in my life today, today Jesus gave me another day and he gave me breath, and the sunrise.”. After doing this for several days I noticed a habit of Thanksgiving becoming much more natural to me! For example, I thought I had a disastrous grade school and middle school experience and the whole time I lived in this town seemed to be a curse. But now, I tried to find the good in those experiences and you know, I found a whole bunch of good, for the first time!! Because I started to see how God was loving me -but back then, I didn’t have the ‘grateful antenna’ to detect it at the time, because I thought I was human dirt. And human dirt can’t be blessed.
I learned the key, for me, was being grateful for.. myself.. being grateful for me, for my existence. And when I framed it as “this is what God has done for me”, (like David and Mary did in Scripture) how could I not appreciate both the gift AND the recipient??
I spent a lot of my life telling others about what I’ve done for God.
Now I want to tell others what he’s done for me.
and it’s a lot more fun…almost like a daily scavenger hunt to find the blessing. For the first time in my life! Suddenly everything has been turned inside out.
I’m not saying this is a ‘done deal’.. and I’ve ‘arrived’. I know myself better than that & I still get hurt pretty easily.
I’ll lift you up tonight, Michael. Pray for me Michael that I can continue to see things ‘inside out’! I thank God for you Michael and for your testimony. I’m glad you shared. May Jesus remind us that we are surrounded by an ocean of love…. some of which you’ve shared with me tonight.
Like you, I’ve never loved anyone.
Yesterday I shared this with the guys from YOB: “Dear God, I just want to thank You for giving me another day.” I told the guys that it occurred to me in my 43 years of being a Christian, I’ve never thanked God for this. I don’t know why, I think it’s because I hated Him so much for the things I’ve been through. But now I look at them differently. They help me grow.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
I know you know you’re quite loved in our community, Michael. I truly can’t imagine the last few years without you involved in YOB! Praying for you today that you feel the love in the non-YOB world around you. If you’re even a tenth of the gift there as you are here with us, what a gift indeed you’d be to so many.
Thank you for your beautiful words. YOB has been a such joy for me and made me feel loved. I hope the non-YOB community will be some day make me feel needed and loved and much as YOB does.
Na minha vida, muitos foram os sinais de amor recebidos, embora nem sempre eu consegui apreciar isso… Me faltava estima por mim mesmo!
Mas “Ele nos amou primeiro”! Então também posso me amar e respeitar!
Vamos fazer isso juntos? Abraço para todos do YOB!
I hardly ever receive complements for 2 reasons: 1) I don’t get that many and 2) I also have low self-esteem. I just hid it well. I’ve had many years to practice.
On behalf of YOB, thank you for the hugs. 😀
Understand this feeling as a 43 year old seemingly invisible man. Even when I served in various churches, people would rarely speak to me or even bother to ask me how that things were going. I was valued for my service and faithfulness, but not for being a person. After finishing up a term of ministry service in a local church, I was still attending the church. I confided to several trusted men that I was struggling. They completely ignored me. That’s just how it is in churches. People love you when you serve them and do what they’re not willing to do. Yet when you need a word of encouragement, they just ignore or minimize your pain. For this reason, I write encouraging blogs to encourage others as Christ encourages me. Thankfully, God truly loves us! The more I meditate on the depths of His grace, mercy, and love for me, the easier it is for me to be kind and gracious to others. I write articles at http://www.wordsofencouragementinChrist.com and also make vids on youtube same name.
I feel you Michael. I’m a 26 years old homossexual guy, and have many self esteem problems too, specially related to body image as I have some torso bones deformations and am very skinny, almost skeletical.. I’ve been feeling alone for some time, and from the looks of it will continue doing so for very long. There’s an additional problem with me that is the fact that I have many doubs about the very existence of God, I hope He exists, I really do, because that would be a beautiful reality to live in, but I’d be lying if I say I’m sure He does, this, of course, only makes my problems worse since most of the time I’m afraid to trust His love because I’m not even sure He is there in the first place, it also affects how I deal with sexual desire, most of the time I fully give in to lust because “why not? I can’t be sure anyways, and I only have this life”, it’s hard.
I’d like to be more positive, but, just like you, I’m trying to be as honest and real as possible here. Reality isn’t looking very bright in my eyes, and when I look into the future it still seems to be dim.
Many times I have thought about ending it all so I could finally, with 100% certainty, see the truth and be free from debilitating doubt; maybe, if He’s there, He would receive me in his arms and loneliness would be out? I wish this is the case.
I’m sorry for the long text and possibly for english mistakes (it’s not my mother tongue), I wish the absolute best for all you guys, and I hope you find peace Michael!
Matheus, one of the most wonderful things about God is His Perfect Love. He loves us as we are not as we should be. You don’t have to end your life to experience Him. You are worthy to be loved because Someone greater than us loves you. Doubt is part of the journey and you don’t have to be alone. Even as a believer for years, I still have doubts and fears. Yet, I find peace and hope knowing that all my struggles and brokenness have been redeemed. That’s what God offers us! He offers to give you hope and walk with you as you struggle in life. He will transform and redeem you if you will trust in Him to save you from the darkness. This doesn’t mean that your pain will go away or cease, but that your pain can be redeemed.