Occasions and Causes

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The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Tomas,

I mentioned at the end of my last letter that a lot of the set up for sexual temptation is not sexual at all. We tend to think of the issues involved as belonging to other categories, and we do this because we like our lives nicely compartmentalized. But as much as we like to think of our internal life as a series of self-contained boxes on a shelf, in reality they are much more like the different vegetables that you might throw into the stew. They are still distinct, but far more related to everything else in the crock pot than this box on the shelf is related to that one.

Before bringing up this next point, I want to emphasize that these snarls are individual. While there are general recognizable patterns, not all the patterns are identical. We are not trying to figure out how to put the eight ball into the corner pocket, with the forces of causation involved being simple and easy to define. Put another way, before talking to you about your relationship to your mother, it is important to emphasize that I am not saying that she “caused” your homosexual desires, or that she is somehow to be blamed for it.

At the same time, from your description of your rocky relationship with her, it is evident that she has been the occasion for many of your responses and reactions to women generally. But remember, this is not simple causation. We are talking about human beings with choices, and not talking about billiard ball physics. Other young men are in the same position you are in because of their reactions to their father, or to someone else.

That said, you described numerous clashes with your mother in your high school years. They tapered off when you were in college because you simply avoided going home. You said that your relationship with your father was decent, but tinged, as you put it, with “mild disappointment and contempt.” You don’t have collisions with him, but you fault him for the way he allowed your mother to browbeat your sisters. You view your father as something of a letdown, and your mother as an adversary.

Now one of the more obvious things about male homosexual desires is that they constitute a rejection of women. There are various ways that men get there, but in your case—going from your description—it appears to have been something like “if this is what women are like, I don’t want one.” This reaction, this pulling away, can begin pretty early—long before adolescence, long before you were thinking in sexual terms at all.

Having stated this, somewhat baldly, let me go back to what I meant by saying that your mother was the occasion for your sexual development, and not the cause of it. We are moral agents, responsible for what we do as individuals. You—and you only—are responsible for your sexual decisions. In the event that your mother is converted, and comes to the point of repentance, she would have to repent of the things she did. She would have to repent of being domineering, overbearing, and so on. She would not have to repent of your poor reactions to it. She would of course feel sorrow that she had been the occasion of your stumbling, but there should be no element in your thinking where you can just simply “blame your parents.”

This is important, because we live in a time when there is a lot of therapeutic parent blaming going down. What I am encouraging you to do is to understand your temptations, not to find the culprit, “preferably someone else—preferably someone you are already bitter toward.”

Because we live in the land of the quick fix, the temptation is to say something like, “Oh. I understand. I see that I projected my mother’s failings onto women generally. I see it differently now. I wonder when my attraction to girls will kick in.” The fundamental problem here is not merely an intellectual one. It is not going to be solved within the confines of your head. No, rather, the problem is in your relationship to your mother, and also to your father. Of course, addressing these relationships begins with how you are thinking about it, but there is no intellectual toggle switch that you flip, and everything is fine again.

Put another way, you are not to try to address your sexual temptations by running through a check list, one of them being a signed peace treaty with your mother. Rather you should address your relationship with your parents as a standalone issue in its own right—something that needs to be put right in your life every bit as much as your sexual lusts need to redirected.

There are two steps to this. The first is that you must deal with your bitterness toward your mother, and secondarily, toward your father. That means you must identify your bitterness against them as your sin, not theirs, and you must confess it to God as you seek his forgiveness. When bitterness lies close to the bone, it requires that you pay close attention to it, making sure it is really dealt with.

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

So in prayer to God, you confess your bitterness and resentment toward your parents as your sin, and as your sin only. In your prayer, your operating assumption should be that you are the only person involved who sinned. You know practically and theologically that this is not true, but you treat it as functionally true. This prevents you from simply being bitter on your knees. If you were to tell a lie, every time the incident came to mind, you would think of your lie. But if someone lied about you, and spread it all over, every time you thought of the incident you would think of their lie. But you can confess other people’s sins for hours on end, and your joy won’t return.But you can confess other people’s sins for hours on end, and your joy won’t return.

So when you are confessing sins, do not allow yourself to think of the sins of anyone else. God can deal with those. Your business is to let go of what is poisoning you. Stay at it until you are in the joy of the Lord. If you get up from your knees, and your first thought is “but look what she did,” then get back on your knees. Budget the necessary time. Your bitterness toward your mother and father is something that God intends to remove from your life, just as He intends to remove your homosexual lusts. But in your case, removing the lusts without removing the bitterness is like hauling off the crab apples but leaving the tree. Confessing the bitterness, and really dealing with it, is an essential part of chain sawing the tree.

And again, this is one of your primary relationships, assigned to you by God Himself. If you say that you doubt this will help anything sexually, I would say to leave that aside for the time being. It will certainly help you in your relationship with them—and that is an important issue in its own right. That said, there is a connection between how you treat them and how the rest of your life will go: “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2–3).

When things are right in your right, and you really are back in the joy of the Lord, then it is time to write both your mother and father. From your description, your bitterness was certainly overt and evident to them, so I would begin by acknowledging that fault to them, and seeking their forgiveness for it. The real clashes were with your mother, so you will likely need to be more specific with her. Confess any unkind or cruel accusations you made against her, and seek her forgiveness. “I said x, y, z, trying to hurt you, and I know that I succeeded. I was entirely in the wrong to speak that way. God has been dealing with this sin in my life, and so I am asking you to please forgive me.” The second half of the letter should be filled with all the things you love and appreciate about her. If the bitterness is truly confessed, the second half of the letter will become possible.

The chances are outstanding that your mother will have a knot in her stomach when she sees the letter from you, and when she reads it she will scarcely be able to believe her eyes. It is probable that she will have never received a letter like this in her life. She will read it ten times. Even though she and your father are scarcely on speaking terms, she may contact him to see if you wrote him also. Mail their letters on the same day.

This will probably be the hardest thing you have ever done. I will be praying for you. But when you are on the other side of it, you will scarcely believe how relieved you feel. Blessings . . .

Cordially,

 

Douglas

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago

I don’t see male homosexual desires as being a rejection of women any more than I see male heterosexual desires as being a rejection of men. A rejection of them as sex partners, yes, but not a rejection of them in any other sense.

The theory that a gay man’s mother was the occasion of him becoming gay also doesn’t account for male siblings who aren’t gay. Presumably they had the same parenting he did, yet only one turned out gay. Is there an explanation for that?

Ray D.
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Children growing up in the same household can have very different experiences. there is parental favoritism, different birth order dynamics and the fact that the youngest child was born to older parents than the oldest child.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Probably might be helpful to pursue the positive:

What about the relationship of a mother and her son promotes / directs / encourages / informs / feeds / sets up that son to have a healthy, sexual attraction / acceptance / desire for women?

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric Stampher

Do “normal” human males have an ingrained & natural & God-given yearning toward connecting with the femaleness they find modeled in their mothers especially but also what they find of that femaleness anywhere? And what is that “yearning to connect” all about, as distinct from what female children have? Is it possible that a male child has a built-in impulse to ADORE / admire / rub against / attach to / associate with an aspect of humanity that the male IS NOT but can connect with? Is it the very fact that she is different yet also something of the… Read more »

bethyada
bethyada
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Because we don’t live in a materialist, deterministic universe.

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  bethyada

Bethyada, if you’re now peddling free will, then no parent’s actions would have anything to do with any child’s sexual development since the child would simply decide at some point what he wanted to be and that would be that.

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Oh, for Heaven’s sake, arguing in favor of free will does not in any way entail the claim that there’s no such thing as influence. This is substandard Krychek sophistry.

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, free will is the ability to ignore influences. And it’s precisely because we are mostly driven by those influences that free will is a dubious proposition at best. Who, of their own free will, would actually choose to be a drug addict?

Farinata degli Uberti
Farinata degli Uberti
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Apparently, quite a number of people.

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

I assume that bethyada and I are using the concept of free will in the pedestrian sense, not the absolute sense. That is, people are capable of independent choices, but not untouched by their circumstances. Is this really seriously in question? You, not bethyada, are the one who introduced the concept of absolute, libertarian free will, which is not something anyone I have ever met actually advocates. There is a difference between saying, “Nothing that happens to a person matters, because in the end, each person makes his own choices,” and, “The things that happen to a person matter, but… Read more »

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, pedestrian or absolute, free will is an illusion, like the illusion that the sun revolves around the earth. Sure, it looks like that’s what’s happening, but the evidence points in a different direction. Forgive me if I’ve already used this illustration, but if I’m on a diet, and you offer me chocolate, whether I eat the chocolate will depend entirely on which desire is the stronger: The desire to lose weight, or the desire to eat chocolate. And yes, it will look like I made a choice, but it’s really the stronger desire that made the choice for me.… Read more »

Katecho
Katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Krychek_2 wrote:

Jane, pedestrian or absolute, free will is an illusion, like the illusion that the sun revolves around the earth.

Krychek_2 only says sophomoric things like this because he has no free will, and can’t choose to say otherwise. Right?

adad0
4 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

Sounds like ‘check’s subconscious brain has the mentality of Mr. Burns of the Simpsons!????

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

Well, Katecho, do you have any actual evidence that free will does exist? If so, let’s hear it.

Katecho
Katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Krychek_2 wrote:

Well, Katecho, do you have any actual evidence that free will does exist? If so, let’s hear it.

Clearly Krychek_2 has no appreciation for the dilemma that he’s in. Even if I produced a mountain of evidence for free agency, Krychek_2 would still not be free to accept any of it. That’s his own argument, right?

No amount of evidence (let alone argument) is meaningful or persuasive to a man who is nothing but a chain reaction.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Krychek, that doesn’t explain the phenomenon of non-addicted, educated people, not living in desperate circumstances, who decide to go looking for heroin to give it a try. The choice is made then; after that, it is all consequences. For me, for example, to decide I wanted to try heroin because it seemed to work so well for Keith Richards, I would need to put forth a huge amount of effort. I would have to find a dealer. I would have to take two buses and a subway to the nearest open area drug mall. This doesn’t happen without people making… Read more »

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Jill, a non-addicted, educated person who decides to try heroin does so because of some unmet need. If you valued your own life so little that you would put forth that effort, having a pretty good idea what the likely consequences would be, there would be something significantly wrong with your psychological well being. Which argues strongly that it’s not a choice.

Katecho
Katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

Krychek_2 wrote: If you valued your own life so little that you would put forth that effort, having a pretty good idea what the likely consequences would be, there would be something significantly wrong with your psychological well being. Which argues strongly that it’s not a choice. There goes Krychek_2 again, supposing that there is some normative standard of existence, compared to which another behavior is “significantly wrong”. In Krychek_2’s materialism, there is no standard or expectation. There is only unintended happenstance. Using Krychek_2’s own reasoning, we must conclude that he contradicts himself like this because he has no will… Read more »

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

Katecho, if it makes you feel better to believe that, then knock yourself out.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

I’m not sure about that, Krychek. Some of the dumbest things I have ever done arose from boredom, listlessness, curiosity, and a temporary feeling of discontent. The first time I decide to use heroin is a choice in that I could say no to myself. The first time, there is no irresistible impulse. The initial desire to medicate myself with a dangerous substance can be resisted. If I feel it cannot be resisted, there are other options available to me–including calling a therapist and saying that I am feeling an overwhelming desire to drug myself into oblivion. I have asked… Read more »

Krychek_2
Krychek_2
4 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Jill, if you’re acting out of boredom, the question would still be why you went with heroin rather than any of hundreds of other things you could have done to alleviate your boredom that aren’t going to have the same disastrous consequences. That you went with heroin indicates that there is some deeper need than just boredom. Whether objective morality exists, and whether people have the capacity to follow it, are two different things. Also, desires can be changed by outside influences; it’s why children are disciplined. If I see that a desire to act in a certain way produces… Read more »

MeMe
4 years ago
Reply to  Krychek_2

“Jane, free will is the ability to ignore influences.”

Actually, it is the ability to chose what you will be influenced BY that defines freewill. There is no middle ground here, no lukewarm. None of us have total freewill of the sort that makes you like an island unto yourself, existing beyond the influences of the world around you.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
4 years ago

Wow, wow, wow.
“Stay at it until you are in the joy of the Lord”

So you really believe?:

*God is a person, something like (or course much more than, but something like) the rest of us?
** That a direct, real, honest relationship with Him is possible?
*** Such a positive relationship triangulated into our other relationships is the necessary basis by which those other relationships can become good & peaceful?

That is remarkable.

MeMe
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric Stampher

LOL! Does that surprise you? It is surprising, but it is very true. Faith in God is a relationship and it is impacted by all our other relationship experiences. Things (sin) come between us and God and are usually rooted in our fractured or damaged relationships with other people.

For example,when we have Father issues, it is very hard to relate to God, to build intimacy,when our perceptions of fathers is so negative. God becomes like the guy who abandoned you when you were two, or something.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
4 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

Yeah, I was raised in this talk, but that’s about all it has really been in my head — talk, theory, math. To know & communicate and deal with a guy (God-guy) mano-a-mano for reals … yes that blows me away. Not unrelated to a previous post about how it may have been that Joseph left of trying to have sex with Mary (keeping he ever virgin, as RC’ers and Orthodox often interpret) >> if Joseph felt the reality of the presence of God almighty in her womb and thought he was helping to raise this boy-God, I can sympathize… Read more »

MeMe
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric Stampher

You make me laugh. :)

One really can communicate and deal with the “God-guy mano-a-mano, for realz,” and it is a good thing indeed. That fact should blow us all away because it is a mind blowing truth. Thanks for reminding me.

I suspect Joseph really did sense the Christ child was in Mary’s womb. One can empathize with how Joseph might have felt reluctant to intrude. Downright terrifying, if you ask me.

Tim Nichols
Tim Nichols
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric Stampher

Absolutely, yes! Jesus models that for us in His relationship with the Father. He is our Forerunner, who enters behind the veil ahead of us — the whole *point* was to give us what He had.

bethyada
bethyada
4 years ago

When bitterness likes close to the bone

? lies

Respectabiggle
Respectabiggle
4 years ago

This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?

Asking forgiveness for my sins when I am utterly certain that the other person (ok, also my mother) is much more at fault… seems like enabling the wrongdoer. I think you’re probably right, but….I don’t know how to get to that point.

adad0
4 years ago
Reply to  Respectabiggle

Well, …at least you have a great WordPress name!
Also, at the start, Puddleglum didn’t know where he was going, nor how to get there, but somehow he ended up in the right place! ????

MeMe
4 years ago
Reply to  Respectabiggle

I hear you about feeling as if you are enabling the wrongdoer. In my experience, the precise opposite happens, the more forgiveness and grace we ourselves receive from the Lord for our own sins, the less we will enable someone else’s wrong doing.

We often get scared, worried that if we forgive we will forget too, and then become someone’s pinata again. I don’t think we are called to forget that the stove is hot, just to receive forgiveness ourselves for touching it, for letting it burn us.

Adam
Adam
4 years ago
Reply to  Respectabiggle

Forgive your mother.

FX Turk
FX Turk
4 years ago

The reason this is a super-dangerous post is that whether it is true or only dotted with true statements, it bites into the fundamental arguments that would let this fictional young man accept that his sin is not a sin.

Katecho
Katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  FX Turk

FX Turk wrote:

… the fundamental arguments that would let this fictional young man accept that his sin is not a sin.

Which arguments?

It certainly doesn’t give any ground to the “born this way” argument.

Perhaps “super-dangerous” is meant as a complement?

Jane
Jane
4 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

I believe it is. And he said it “bites into” those arguments, not that it forwards them.

kyriosity
kyriosity
4 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Yeah…Frank’s on the same page. He’s written stuff that complements this post. ;^)

john k
john k
4 years ago
Reply to  FX Turk

“Bites into” is ambiguous. Does it mean “starts to attack,” or “starts to accept”?

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
4 years ago

Everyone here should read Michael Hannon’s classic First Things essay “Against Heterosexuality.” We have accepted a disordered and pagan view of human sexuality and orientation essentialism which has played a role in dissolving rightly ordered interplay between the sexes.

Some caution is in order as Hannon is a Catholic priest, but the traditional Catholic theology of sex is miles ahead of what most protestant (and Catholic) Americans hold.

JohnM
JohnM
4 years ago

I’ve always gotten the impression male homosexuals tended to have had an issue with their father, more so than with their mother.
Don’t know for sure, and if it is so it’s probably more like the condition resulted in the alienation, rather than the other way around.

MeMe
4 years ago

“You know practically and theologically that this is not true, but you treat it as functionally true. ”

I really appreciated this. That’s a rare skill to be able to understand that. There is theological truth and than there is emotional truth, functional truth. How should I perceive this at this particular moment? That is a concept that goes outside the bounds of legalism and more into the realm of the Holy Spirit. Or as God often likes to tell me, you only need to know this part of the truth right now.

Bro. Steve
Bro. Steve
4 years ago

Maybe you dealt with this elsewhere, but there’s a missing piece. Lust is basically the desire for something you’re not supposed to have. A sexual attraction between males is such a thing, and the desire itself, being a species of lust, is wrong. Reason for bringing this up: I’m hearing about the homosexual Christian who is gay but celibate. That just doesn’t make sense. When a person ties his basic identity to the sort of lust he feels, even if he restrains the act, that’s a big problem. It’s really just holding on to one of the root sins of… Read more »

kyriosity
kyriosity
4 years ago
Reply to  Bro. Steve

This is only the third letter in the series. Cain’t say everthin’ all ’twunce.

Katecho
Katecho
4 years ago
Reply to  Bro. Steve

Bro. Steve wrote:

Reason for bringing this up: I’m hearing about the homosexual Christian who is gay but celibate. That just doesn’t make sense. When a person ties his basic identity to the sort of lust he feels, even if he restrains the act, that’s a big problem.

But Wilson has nowhere conceded a basic homosexual identity, let alone a homosexual Christian identity. Wilson speaks of transformation and the hope of complete freedom from perverse desires, not concession or identification with them.

Bro. Steve
Bro. Steve
4 years ago
Reply to  Katecho

Katecho,

I’m not accusing Bro. Doug of conceding this, nor of believing any of it himself. It’s just an important issue that didn’t appear to have been addressed.

Recent conversation with a very young Christian, she discussed her feelings about a certain issue as if they’re part of some immutable core of the “self” that cannot be changed. I reminded her that Jesus is Lord over everything, including our hearts. There are certain feelings — greed, to pick an uncontroversial example — that we’re not supposed to have.

Clayvessel
Clayvessel
4 years ago
Reply to  Bro. Steve

I agree. The pro same sex group have the refrain that it’s all about “love” when indeed it is about lust. We can and should love freeely, but we don’t and can’t have sex with anyone we love (or lust after).

Ibe Tochukwu
4 years ago

Great post…..
This article speaks in dimensions one to the parents and also to the children.
The relationship of a christian mother its unmatchable because it heals and feeds.