Yesterday, I read this post about the often cold or flawed nature of the welcome that conservative churches give to LGBT people, even those who embrace celibacy. It wasn't a new story to me because there are some depressing attitudes around and conservative LGBT Christians can get the worst deal from churches as they can feel uncomfortable theologically and personally at "affirming" churches but do come up against an insidious prejudice in some conservative churches. One person told me that the church he went to told him that they were quite happy to have him there as long as he wasn't in a relationship, but then, a few months later when he offered to be more involved in church life, announced he would not be a "good role model." I want to hasten to say that there are conservative churches who do manage things much better than this, equally there are "liberal" churches which still manage to be crass or insensitive.
So what can you do if institutions or the people within them make you angry, bitter or hurt? Well, you can leave, or you can stay, or you can work to change them from the inside. It doesn't matter which of these options you choose as long as you recognise that being angry/ bitter/ hurt is not generally a realistic proposition as a long term emotional state. There are always a few individuals, of course, who thrive on their anger or outrage and use it to galvanise them to work for change. This can be admirable, although they can also run the danger of being one track crashing bores, but it does not suit the average person.
Over the summer I read Anthony De Mello's How to Love which was a book recommended on the Available Light blog. There was a lot about the book that I struggled with, didn't agree with or thought was too simplistic... and yet... there was something in it. I went back to the book several times and found myself in the strange position of either fervently agreeing or fervently disagreeing with almost every idea in it. I also found that it helped me cope better with a colleague with whom I had had a disagreement- and we were at a bit of an impasse. De Mello says that a lot of our unhappiness is caused by our ideas and expectations about the world around us and our need to try to arrange the world to our liking. He writes,
" Yet another belief: Happiness will come if you manage to change the situation you are in and the people around you. Not true. You stupidly squander so much energy trying to rearrange the world. If changing the world is your vocation, go right ahead, but do not harbour the illusion that this is going to make you happy... as well search for an eagle's nest on the bed of an ocean as search for happiness in the world around you."
De Mello does take this idea to the extreme and advocates a kind of asceticism in thought that even extends to a lack of concern at the thought of losing those closest to you - I have to say I have not reached this point yet! However, his ideas about letting people be themselves, not worrying too much to change them but just accepting them is good advice. It moves you from anxiety to peace. We all seek the approval of other people, but De Mello helps you to see that the only place really worth seeking approval is with God and within yourself, your own conscience. And once you have reached that place external things such as people and institutions will no longer have the power to make you bitter, angry or hurt.