A few weeks ago I received a comment on one of my articles, “From Sissy Boys to Straight-Acting Gay Men.” The person shared the following:
“I don’t agree with the premise of this article that gay men have to learn to forgive themselves. The act of self-forgiveness is often promoted as a panacea for life’s ills, in this case self-shaming as a gay man. Self-forgiveness suggests that some wrong has been perpetrated (by me).”
His message was well-intentioned, and I suggested that there is a subtlety in the understanding of what I meant with respect to “forgiveness”.
I explained that to overcome any kind of shame, we need to understand where that shame comes from. Gay shame is perpetuated outside of ourselves. We are taught to feel bad about who we are as gay men. When we observe these social norms as children, without being told otherwise, we may end up closeting our true selves to fit in and to pass as heterosexual.
That damage is something we need to forgive ourselves for, not because we did something bad to ourselves, but for having been taught to buy into that prejudiced model without the intellectually capacity to question it.
This is the subtle aspect of forgiveness I’m espousing
Forgiveness in this sense is a form of being able to let go of the attachment to the shame, especially when shame feels like one’s fault. Herein is the need for self-forgiveness: to recognize that how we felt/feel within shame is not our fault. We internalized that it was our fault for many years before we faced the root of our shame.
Think of forgiveness as a much deeper way of letting go, in particular letting go of the labels associated with our ego. If we hold onto the anger associated with our shame we will always be attached to it.
When we forgive ourselves for past shame — not because we were the transgressor, but because forgiveness is freeing of the burden — this act of letting go by accepting what has happened, and not condoning it, we can more easily and actively evolve.
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Originally published at https://darrenstehle.com on July 27, 2020.