There are many things in my life of which I am not proud.
One of these things is that 99% of my friends are, more or less, exactly like me:
They are, more or less, me, and I am, more or less, them. It begs the question: what kind of a person is friends only with themselves? And why, when the world offers such diversity, would someone choose to spend time with mostly people who are just like themselves?
Is it because I like to have my own opinions spouted back at me in new ways that reinforce my own, existing, opinions? In other words, is it because I like to be right and for other people to confirm my rightness?
Do I hang out with only people like me because we are naturally drawn to people like us?
Or, as I suspect, am I afraid? Afraid of what could “happen” to me, afraid of how I might change, if I spent time with people who are different than me, people who disagree with me?
As you may begin to see, I am a question asker. Answers? Not so much.
* * * * *
I grew up in a time, in a place, where being gay was seriously frowned on. Let’s be honest: in many ways, and by many people, it still is. It seems to have a special place in many evangelical hearts: never mind that the Bible speaks harshly, and more often, about divorce or pride or lust. Fear can be a powerful motivator, and people’s fear of a gay or lesbian sexual orientation put it at the top of the “do-not-do” list. The “do-not-interact-with” list. The “disown-if-they-are-family-members” list.
The people in my area were not overt gay-haters – we were no Westboro Baptist. But most of the adults had left the Amish community, where hate is not practiced or accepted as much as shunning is. In my town, and from my outside perspective, gays were not hated as much as they were shunned. Excluded. Ignored.
But is there much difference between being excluded and ignored, or being hated?
In the midst of this, a boy grew up. Me. And I thought it was just the way the world worked, and would always work.
* * * * *
Why do I know so few gay people?
Am I scared of how I might change? Am I frightened I might enter into a tension that I cannot explain or understand? Am I worried about how to talk to my children about something for which I have fewer and fewer answers, and (as you can see), more and more questions?
There are few things that I know. But there is one thing I do know:
“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.” I John 4:18
Perhaps the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.
Jesus calls us to “love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” Love my neighbor as well as I do myself.
Judging by the number of people who I hang out with who are just like me, I love myself quite a lot. But my neighbor? When someone asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus replied with the story of the Samaritan. The outsider. The religiously “alternative”.
Do I love the outsider as much as I love myself?
How would I know?
I rarely speak with them.
27 Replies to “The Opposite of Love is not Hate”
As a gay outsider who has been excluded & shunned growing up in a similar area as your own let me explain what someone like me would want from you.
The same. :)
I want your honesty. I want your curiosity. I want your fears to be out spoken & I want your willingness to try & at least respect me. Now not all people are like me. A lot of gay & lesbians build up thick skins, become defensive & showcase themselves in order to make you uncomfortable publicly so you can’t see the hurt they’re hiding inside. If they ‘throw’ themselves into the public eye without supposed shame, you can’t humiliate them, you can’t hurt them.
But the truth is that is no better a style of living than being friends with people similar to yourself.
My philosophy in life is, be you. I do not need you to understand why I love another woman. I don’t need you to fear the question of how the relationship works or the taboo of mentioning sex in association with it. I just need your respect & your willingness to see me as a person.
If you can offer that, if you can set aside your pride & accept your ignorance on something & continue to make efforts to learn & understand then you are on the right path.
And from what I read above, you are indeed on that path. :) There is no shame in ignorance if there is a willingness to learn & there is no heart that is tainted if there is an openness to love even if it comes with fear.
After reading your comment I really have nothing to say as you have said it all. I have some gay family members so it just doesn’t phase me when someone is gay…so what…they may not like broccoli either and I love broccoli. This doesn’t mean we can’t be friends and have a relationship on that level.
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
“There is no shame in ignorance if there is a willingness to learn.”
I like that.
Well said Shawn, I too appreciate diversity in theory but when i scroll through my phone contacts it is obvious that what i appreciate and what i live are worlds apart.
Is it however a bad thing to be friends with people who are like you? My wife has a friend whose husband i do not love to spend time with. We are both Christians, both married, both enjoy doing house projects, but other than that, there is not much to talk about, which leads to long awkward silences and me faking having to use the bathroom just to escape for a minute or two.
I think what you are getting at is not that its bad that we spend time with people who are like us. It becomes unhealthy when we take something such as faith, race, or sexual orientation and use that one characteristic to decide whether or not we are alike.
Ex – I have a friend who is gay, we both love to bike, read, talk theology, and value our family. We have loads in common and are thus naturally good friends. For me to say that I like someone who is different than me is not entirely accurate if the only thing that is different is sexual orientation.
As long as we are not excluding people from our lives due to differences in race, religion, sexual orientation, lifestyles, etc, I am not sure that it is wrong to befriend those who are otherwise like us. This may be what you were getting at Shawn.
In your own way you are defining ethnocentrism. It’s not always bad or wrong, but we need to realize when it is influencing our beliefs and the relationships of those different from us. You can still disagree with people as you are free to believe whatever you want but I think you are right on in that this becomes a problem when fear drives us and that fear turns into hate for protection.
Good thoughts Jay.
Shawn… great, great questions….
Thanks Jill. Just let me know when you have all the answers!
You probably have more non-straight friends than you realize. They just tend to be more closeted here than elsewhere.
Actually a good point Harl. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe if I had more friends that were openly gay, the ones who are still in the closet would be more comfortable confiding in me.
This is why I think my best friend is one of the bravest women that I know. As an openly gay Christian, she gives so much freedom to others to ask questions and be honest about who they are. I love that about her.
Shawn- if you want gay folks to feel comfortable enough to come out to you, there are things you can do in addition to having out gay friends. This post, for example, opens the door. FOR SURE do not make jokes or disparaging remarks about gay folk. Say something when others do- even if it’s, “I see it differently.” When you speak/write, don’t make the assumption that the person(s) you’re addressing are straight. When asking about relationship status/family, the term “significant other” is a good term to use.
I’m willing to bet that there are GLBT folks, or their loved ones, who will notice and appreciate your efforts.
The day my best friend became my gay best friend, not too much changed. She still makes me laugh about as hard as anyone. She still remembers the same stories from high school. She still gives kick awesome hugs.
The day my Christian husband became my atheist husband, not too much changed. He still tells me I’m beautiful. He still supports my writing and music. He still tells our kids stories and makes up silly songs. He still works his behind off to provide for our family.
The thing I’ve found about “the other” (and I will say that these two people have introduced me to folks who I might not have met otherwise) is that they’re pretty much like me too. When I went to a dinner with 200 atheists a few months ago, we talked about our kids, our jobs, politics, comedy. I was definitely the only Christian in that crowd, but at the end of the day, we were just a bunch of people eating Mexican food together.
Thanks for taking a really good post and leaving it as a comment on my blog, Alise :)
Great thoughts/questions Shawn. There must be something in the air … because recently I was thinking how monochromatic my friend list is.
Thinking I need to change that …
There are certain turns of rhetoric I would certainly like you — and everyone — to refrain from: if you use me as an example, you still have only one data point. That is, if you say rather defensively, “Well, I know a bisexual, disabled Buddhist with tattoos and a couple of piercings, and SHE wasn’t offended by that joke!” — so what? I don’t speak for all who share my orientation, religion, limping-American status, or state of body modification. It should go without saying that this is also true of race.
What is it you seek in a friend? Chances are that, even in a world where such tensions still run high, you can find it in a person who is not of your race, orientation, religion, what have you. I think what it requires is a willingness to talk frankly and with care about marginalization, intersectionality, and privilege — by which I do not mean that all straight white able-bodied Christian males are instantly, magically wealthy. Rather, you stand a very good chance of being able to turn on the TV or watch a movie and see someone like yourself being portrayed as the lead in a drama or sitcom, or the voice of authority on a news show. You are not vilified for whom you have fallen in love with and married; nobody gets nervous when you try to board a plane wearing a cross and carrying a Bible; nobody sees it as a horrible hassle to equip their business with a restroom that you can access. (Think of the bathrooms at Square One. I love that place, but can you picture a wheelchair user trying to have a pee? Nope, me either.)
There is an excellent essay by Peggy McIntosh that I strongly recommend as a starting point:
Thanks Gwyn, I’ll check out the link. What is it that I seek in a friend? I think the answer to that question has begun to change in recent months/years, which is why I find myself reaching out to people not exactly like me.
Incidentally, I do occasionally feel vilified…usually by you, but it only bothers me for a brief moment and then I get over it.
Regarding the bathrooms at Square One…I can’t imagine a wheel chair user even getting into the place, much less into the bathroom in which I, a straight, white, Christian, able-bodied male cannot even turn around without bumping into something.
First, you do have an openly gay friend in me, and I actually look forward to future conversations with you!!
In my journey through life, I have been amazed and dismayed by people’s reactions to me. I am a gay man. This is a true statement. But I am so much more than that as well. I often found it so disheartening that some people couldn’t get beyond that point. So what if I am gay? I am also a Christian. I am also a home owner, a tax payer, a business man, sometimes I am pretty funny, and sometimes I feel pain, and I hurt. All this to say, guess what I am human, made in the image of God, but certainly not perfect.
But, back to your post. Even before I came out, and even before I came to terms with my sexuality, I always wanted to be open minded to other people and their own individuality. I may not agree with everyone, and sometimes I may not even like what people have to say, but isn’t the world a better place when people have a different perspective then you. A world where dialogue takes the place of open conflict, and community replaces division, and people show love and not hate. Thats the world I want to live in!! Your fear is not unfounded, it is real. We often fear what we don’t know. But, sometimes it will lead us to a place of greater knowledge.
Thanks Ben. I hear what you are saying. Thanks for your friendship.
I think everyone here is really open-minded. Your post is fresh and honest…not too many people can be truthful about not knowing or relating to people of different cultures, sexuality and such. There is not much difference between gay and straight people. I worked with gay people and let me tell you, there are the funniest people ever, they know who they are, can laugh at themselves and are just like everyone else. I think too many people worry about sexuality than the core of a person. Gay means nothing and the only thing to be concerned about in making new and different friends is to be on guard that the character the person has is a character you’d like to invite to dinner or talk to your kiddies.
By the way, there is nothing wrong about having friends just like you. Sometimes people don’t get the opportunity to meet others of different background solely because of their geographic area.
Thank you for taking the time to write this.
I love honest posts like this one. In fact, after this comment I am going to subscribe to your blog. Your genuinity is so refreshing, Shawn.
As much as we think we are open to change, most of us really do fear it. Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts with the world.
Many blessings to you,
I just got the link to your blog from SCCL (Stuff Christian Culture Likes) on the Facebook. I actually don’t usually read what they post unless I’m (sadly) feeling like having a verbal spar with some person who hates me for my faith (which is sad to me, because they are mostly just people who, like me, have been extremely hurt by the church… For whatever reason, this time, I decided to check out the link… (Probably Marc Driscolllll in the title) Either way, I ended up clicking around and landing here.
Funny thing: For a long time I have had a theory about Love vs. Hate and the way society tends to view the two words today.
Like you, I believe that Hate is not the opposite of love. Actually, God is Love, and God hates. Love, as far as I can tell, hates whatever is not Love.
Hate, as we know, is a feeling of strong dislike. Therefore, it seems clear that the opposite of “to hate” is “to like” (or, often, to obsess over, lust after, etc.)
Love, however, is much more than a feeling (though purest Love is always accompanied by feeling). But, from my understanding of Love (I Cor 13, Rom 10:13), it is much more a way of life. No feeling, then, could be opposite such a grand-scale stuff as Love is.
From what I can tell, Love is selflessness. If that’s true, the opposite of love, then, would be selfishness. Christ was the prime example of selflessness! He also encouraged us to be selfless in our living. If they ask for a mile, go two. If they want your shirt, give them your underwear, too.
I believe selfishness is the root of any sin. Selfishness is the root even of ungodly fear. It is the root of hated. It is the root of murder, slander, lust, and the list goes on. Selfishness, itself, is sin in its purest form.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” That verse struck me as difficult when I first started looking into the idea of selfishness being diametrically opposed to Love. But, like a curtain being drown in a window, it hit me. Love yourself selflessly. Do, consciously, actively, intentionally what is right for you, regardless of what you want. Then, love others the same way.
I know that’s probably the workings of a blog in itself. But, I’ve been brewing on the idea for some time, and this is the first time I’ve seen someone openly challenge the idea of Love and Hate as opposites. So, I figured it might not hurt to throw this one out there.
Thanks for reading, bless your face.
Thanks for your thought-out response, Aaron. Sounds like we’re on the same page.
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