True story, ex-gay conversion ministries would see an uptick of non-affirming religious family members wondering what to do with the LGBT+ relative coming home for Thanksgiving with all their unacceptable ideas and maybe even… … a partner! Then the week after we would get calls of non-affirming religious family members upset because their LGBT+ relative came home with their unacceptable ideas and even… … a partner! Then a usually emotional conversation would follow with talk about “defending God,” “spiritual rebellion,” “tough love,” and “gracious” boundaries that had little to no “grace” for anyone; especially the LGBT+ relative.
Looking back, it was exhausting accommodating bigotry. So let’s not do that anymore. You know what else is exhausting? Holding on to unforgiveness, wounds, and bitterness is exhausting.
The first year Dan and I were together as a couple for Thanksgiving, my Mom said some things that were incredibly inappropriate and angered me. I was mad for a few days afterward and said that if I was only welcome to come by without Dan, then, in truth… I wasn’t welcome. The situation at hand was bad enough but also realizing I used to give counsel that backed up her decision made it even worse. She didn’t see it this way but she was insulting us, the man I love and who loves me. The consequence of her decision/statement is that I didn’t want to have Thanksgiving with my parents. At the time, they didn’t want to deal with their son for who he is, not the son they wished they had. I am not cool with the idea of shoving Dan into the Thanksgiving closet. It’s not going to happen. That year we went to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving and did so again this year.
Not going to lie, it was very tempting to punish with silence or exact verbal revenge on my parents for Thanksgiving or Christmas that first year. Yes, after I meditated and prayed about it, I felt this challenge within me to find reasons to be thankful for my parents. I was so mad it took a while to settle in and truly consider the possibilities. Eventually, the list of reasons to be grateful for them came, and my innate “will always be their son” heart of love toward them filled up.
It hurt. It hurt to realize that if I want my parents to accept me for who I am and not who they want me to be, then I also had to recognize my parents for who they are and not as I wish them to be.
That realization didn’t change the words that were said or the consequences of decisions made, and it did not excuse or numb the underlying religious bigotry. But, it did break my heart toward them from one of hurt and anger to one of compassion and empathy.
Plus, I also remembered that everyone in this situation are full-grown adults. I decided to take ownership of the situation and made a very deliberate choice to extend grace instead of punishment by silence or verbal revenge. I called on those holidays and honestly asked how it was going and about life in general. Outside of the holidays, we talk from time to time, and we have seen each other in person over the past year of course. I share about my life openly with them without snarky smart-ass comments and more matter-of-fact; like Dan had to get his car fixed yesterday, or I have to run to go pick up Autumn at school, type of stuff. I come by being a smart-ass naturally so sticking to the normalcy of just everyday things instead of the lazy passive-aggressive verbal counter-attack was hard to resist on a couple of occasions. Yet I chose to extend what I would like to receive. I want my parents as a part of my life, so I have decided to extend unflinching and honest grace that has love at its core.
My parents have become more accepting of Dan and Autumn and I am grateful for that. Mom even called Dan because she couldn’t get a hold of me (I was at work). They have dropped by unannounced a few times and met both Dan and Autumn. When they did, they were very kind and eventually extended an invitation for all of us to come to visit them. I don’t know if my 2017 Thanksgiving response, and not self-editing my life, worked toward making that happen. But maybe my not trying to change them helped them to see they can’t change me.
Yes, decisions are made, boundaries are drawn, and they should be. It happens. However, consequences covered with grace, delivered with empathy, and wrapped with unconditional love of what is, instead of what should be, has kept the door of communication open and honest.
That is something amazing to be incredibly grateful for…
If you have had a difficult Thanksgiving and would like support, from any perspective, or simply need a listening ear, contact us. Your information and message will be held in complete confidence. We are here to help.