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