Tuesday, February 22, 2011

School Thy Feelings, O My Brother

Somewhere along the societal road to enduring, pitying, and then embracing homosexuality, the idea that gay people have no control over their sexual feelings has emerged as universal and incontestable. There are basic problems with this sweeping generalization. At the outset it presumes gay people are not responsible human beings, but more like babies or robots or slaves. Then the question arises, wherever these feelings originated, isn’t there a point when every individual does begin to call up, nurture, and increase, that is, choose them? And this truth is overlooked: Pretending people do not choose what they think, feel, and do fuels a victim mentality, shifts responsibility, and hinders change, health, and personal progress.

Viktor Frankl in his famous book, Man's Search for Meaning, shared in a dramatic way the discovery that he had the freedom to choose and direct his thoughts and feelings even while seized, separated from his family, imprisoned, and grossly abused in a Nazi concentration camp. All of us have this power, even those who have been traumatized and abused. In the face of abuse we must not argue for weakness or illness. Weak and ill people can and should become strong and well. Conscious choices, such as the decision to face the problem and get help if necessary can set a person free.

But we mostly think of healthy people when we think of gayness these days. If this is so, gays are just like everybody else in that they can reason and choose what to do with their feelings, minds, and bodies. Sexual feelings are no exception. These feelings, like all others, can be indulged in a number of ways. Or they can be ignored, distracted, or redirected. If this principle were not true, we would live in a state of anarchy, as if we all remained toddlers in the terrible twos.

People in all stages of maturing make judgments and put breaks on their feelings continually. We decide what to entertain in our minds and what to reject. Thinkers through the ages from Plato to Thoreau have expounded on the importance of choosing to fill our minds with good and right thoughts which connect to corresponding feelings and conduct. They warn that children must be taught proper attitudes and feelings.

As Frankl pointed out, each of us is endowed with free will, beginning with our innermost thoughts and feelings. We believe this personal agency is a gift from God essential to our progress. It includes the freedom to choose our sexual thoughts and feelings. Our church has a hymn called "School Thy Feelings," interestingly designated as for a Men's Choir. This implies that feelings of all kinds can be taught, learned, chosen, guided, controlled, and changed for the better.

Yes, contrary to popular opinion, gays have control over their feelings. They have control over their thoughts. They have control over their conduct. And they are accountable for all of it, just like everybody else.

School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom's voice control.

#336 LDS Hymnbook

No comments: