Working Through Love not Guilt

Author: Robert Massey, YYC Campus Ministry Team

Let me start by saying, I do not want to write this post. But, as our summer student told me, “you know you’re writing about the right thing when it’s difficult to write about.”

This is an admission of guilt. I know I have been guilty of having used homophobic slurs in the past. Whether it was on the playing field being thrown at an opponent or during a heated argument or just when I got angry. I know I have made fun of those who were questioning their sexual identity. Those who may not be as ‘manly’ as I thought that a man should be. I know I’ve ridiculed people for their looks when obviously they were going through a difficult transition and a time of questioning. I am deeply embarrassed by the way I acted, particularly as a teenager. It was easier to make fun of other people than it was to stand up for them. It was easier to become a part of the crowd than to stand up and speak out. I misappropriated and misused terms and I am certainly guilty of using terms that no one should utter in this day and age.

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I’ve worked very hard to remove those words from my vocabulary and to encourage others to stop using them as well. But that doesn’t make it excusable that I did use them at certain points in the past. I’m embarrassed that I have used those kinds of slurs in my past and by what my church has put people in the LGBTQ+ community through. But just because I’m embarrassed does not mean I should back away from my mistakes, and trying to work as an ally. Honestly, backing away now due to this is selfish. If I truly wish to make right for what I have done in the past then I cannot allow my embarrassment to stop me.

Part of the work that we’re doing as a Campus Ministry is to build towards relationships with the LGBTQ+ community, and one of the steps towards that is by admitting to the faults that we have had in the past. This is one of those admissions of fault.

So why does this admission of fault matter?

To me, it is part of the healing process. This is a way of accepting that I was a part of the problem. This means owning up for what I have done and, beyond that, overcoming the guilt I feel associated with it. I have a responsibility to be a part of the solution. I can’t speak as to what this admission means to anyone else if it means anything at all, but this is what it means to me.

Overcoming the guilt, and seeking to forgive myself but not forget, is a huge part of this process. I firmly believe that we should act out of a place of compassion, understanding, and love. If we feel guilty about how we have mistreated people, and we do not come to terms with this guilt then we are acting not out of love but out of shame and fear. We never do our best, most honest work when acting out of shame or guilt, because this is a selfish endeavour. We are attempting to make ourselves feel better, to fill a hole in our own sole, by seemingly doing work for others. But, if we admit to our guilt, accept it and forgive ourselves but never forget, then we can begin to work from a place of love. It is from a place of love and compassion that the best and most enduring changes occur.

I don’t know how my use of slurs and bullying people in school affected them. I don’t know the outcome of any of the situations that I was involved in when I bullied people for their sexual orientation, their gender, their clothing choices, and for things I obviously did not understand or take the time to understand. But to those people I affected, to those who I bullied and demeaned, I am deeply sorry. I cannot ever take back what I said, nor can I take away the pain I caused. But I truly wish to apologize for what I said and did. And I wish to work hard to ensure that other people don’t act the way I have in the past. To use some of my learnings and experiences to help prevent more pain in the future and possibly heal a few wounds along the way.

So, now that you have read all that, why did I bother writing all this and publishing it?

Firstly, to be open and honest with myself, those we are working with, and anyone else who may happen upon this blog post. Honesty is at the foundation of working through love.

Secondly, I hope that this blog inspires more people to understand the wrongs they have committed and admit to them. Then, they can begin to move past guilt and they can use the memories of how they acted to help others move past their negative actions.

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Thirdly, if I can leave you with anything from this, it would simply be that how you acted in the past does not dictate who you are in the future. Everyday you choose how you act and you can choose to act out of hate or fear or out of guilt, but I would encourage you to act out of love. Act with compassion. Act with acceptance. Act by listening and learning. Take action with love in your head and in your heart. And it is action that we need today. Stand up for those around you. Don’t denounce others just to make yourself feel better. Don’t let your fears and worries about things you don’t understand guide how you act. Let your feelings of compassion for others guide your actions. Use your courage and stand up when others are being pushed down. Be willing to learn. Celebrate difference and diversity, don’t attempt to squash it. Let acceptance be your guide. Let compassion lead your head. Let your heart have a say.

Let love win.