Monday, October 17, 2011

Worthy of Love

“I’d rather be hated for who I am,
than loved for who I am not.”

~ Kurt Cobain

I’ve spent most of my life trying to please other people.   And most of this effort was expended in order to win and maintain the love of those people.  My mother.  My father.  God.  Religious leaders.  Others very close to me. 

As long as I behaved in the way that was expected of me, as long as I provided what was wanted in exchange for the love, I could maintain this love.  On the surface, this seemed to both work and be worth the effort.  But what I was only dimly aware of for most of my life - at least on a conscious level - was the corrosive effect this effort was having on my soul.

This was particularly true of what was a principal element of my identity, i.e., my sexual orientation.  Like most boys and young men of my generation, I was deeply ashamed of the attractions that I felt toward other boys and men.  This produced self-loathing and a desire to bury these attractions.  It also produced a feeling of deep shame and a feeling that I was not worthy of the love of those close to me, let alone God.  I could never, ever, be loved for whom and what I was, for what I was, was an abomination.  It was therefore imperative that I conform to and appear to be what my family, church and society demanded of me in order to be accepted and loved.  I had to earn love. 

This feeling, this need, to be loved for what I wasn’t, couldn’t help but eat away at and further destroy my sense of self, my sense of self-worth, my ability to tolerate, accept and love myself and, consequently, my ability to be tolerant and accepting of, and loving toward, others.

This desire to conform was exponentially increased when I joined the LDS Church at the age of 24.  I was told that I could be the person God wanted me to be; all I had to do was try, follow the path and trust in God.  I would be changed.  I could be straight.  I would be made whole.  I would be loved for who I was, because who I was would be made whole, acceptable.  But part of the price of achieving this state of grace would require me to completely and absolutely deny my essence – something that could be done, perhaps, on the surface but which I discovered – after years of damage – could never, ever be done on the subconscious level.

So, I spent years and years and years trying to be “worthy” of God’s love, of others’ love, even of my spouse’s and family’s love, convinced that I couldn’t be loved for who I, in essence, was.  I had to be someone else.  The problem was, there came a time when I could no longer do this; I could no longer pretend to be someone that I wasn’t.  And then the ax fell.  And it continues to fall.  I am reminded, from time to time, that I am no longer worthy of love because of who I am.  Who I am is not acceptable.  Who I am is deviant.  Who I am is immoral.  Who I am is not worthy of love.

This is painful.  It causes sadness, disappointment and suffering, both in me as well as others.  But, as Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh points out:  “Happiness is not possible without understanding, love and compassion.  Understanding and compassion are born from suffering … We should be able to hold our suffering and look deeply into it, hold it tenderly and learn from it … Without suffering there cannot be happiness … [O]ut of suffering, a lotus flower of happiness can open” [Reconciliation:  Healing the Inner Child]

Furthermore, by the grace of God, there are those in my life who love me for who I am; who see the goodness in me, unfiltered by “worthiness” lenses; who then in turn help me to see that goodness and to learn to love myself.  I am grateful for these persons, who help me to accept and see that it is better to be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.


  1. You have a uncanny knack of writing my story. Thank you for putting words to it :)

  2. I recommend the book Embracing the Exile by John Fortunato. He proposes that transitioning into a place of emotional health after rejection is akin to a process of grieving. It is possible to come out on the other side with a sense of peace, wholeness and love. I like his approach because he doesn't attempt to deny the brutal reality that rejection by homophobic family and church entails. The loss is real, but it can be transcended.

    Best of luck to you, IP. You're going to do well.

  3. It is hard to not be recognized as being "worthy" of love by people who deem themselves worthy enough to judge others.

    While there isn't justification for judging others, so many want desperately to have this false power and will do anything to justify their "worthiness" to have this power. This isolates, divides and separates.

    What seems to be missing here is the recognition that we are all humans, all here out of love ... by following our own individual paths and helping others and understanding others' paths and points of view is only advancing humanity, while judging and criticizing only blocks humanity's growth and vigor.

    Unfortunately, judging takes away one's vision. While one thinks that it enables to discern, it creates filters of fear and disdain ... and these filters cast shadows onto the the parts of life and people that they don't want to understand> this creates anger, hate, spite .... it attempts to make reality invisible in order to facilitate a dream world. We can only be loved and loved for being who we are and for who they are, no matter how much someone is hurting you. There doesn't need to be self-righteousness in this acceptance or putting one above the other.

    BUT ... you are there, in the light, not in the shadows, and this beautiful person you are is, like all creations and creature, "worthy" of love .... in a realm where "worthy" isn't a word .... you are love! Remember that we are all love. You don't need to live up to any outside measuring stick that determines your worthiness.


  4. What a powerful post. I'm just crying.
    I have spent my life trying to be someone I'm not, because who I am is just not lovable. And then one day, I just decided to try being me... and for the first time ever, I could FEEL loved. No more excuse, "If they REALLY knew me..."

    The past few days I have found myself falling back into old patterns of trying to please everyone... trying to be someone else, because who I am just isn't good enough.

    Thank you for the reminder that I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.

  5. Thank you, Jen. And thank you, Becoming. If we are trying to earn other people's love and acceptance, we obviously don't love and accept ourself. That is the lesson I've learned ...