Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just Trust Him

I just saw this and thought: How true. So often I hold tightly to the things that are not important believing that if I let them go I will lose who I am. These things range from my pride, my knowledge, my body image, my high school memories, gender roles, myths, misconceptions, my role in my family and community, and the many words I use to define myself. But just like this little girl my understanding of who and what I am and what I want is so small. While I know what I want he knows what I NEED which rarely match up. This is why Jesus Christ suffered, bled and died to complete the atonement, so that we could have something far greater than we imagine possible. I hope that in the future I have enough faith to say: Lord I love it, but I trust you! I will listen to your guidance and accept your will.

Until next time Vaya con Dios!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Attraction is not Love

Today I would like to address something that has been irritating me recently. As those of you who have been following my blog know I am engaged to a wonderful woman. As I have told friends and family I have been received mixed responses, everything from open love and support to doubt and confusion. For you see she also experiences Same Gender Attractions and people keep asking me: So, how does that work, you're into guys right?

So now I am writing this. ATTRACTION IS NOT LOVE! It is fully possible to love someone who you are not physically or romantically attracted to. At risk of making people uncomfortable here is an example. Most people love their parents and siblings but will never have physical or romantic attraction to them.

Now being the English major I am here are some definitions to help this discussion. Attraction, according to dictionary.com in regards to relationships is an attractive quality; magnetic charm; fascination; allurement; enticement or a person or thing that draws, attracts, allures, or entices. Love on the other hand is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Based on these definitions it is entirely possible that attraction can lead to love but at the same time a physical attraction is not necessary to love someone.

In my case I love my fiance. I love how she makes me feel like I am wanted for me and not for what I could be or what I can do for her. I love how we share interests and can talk for hours. I love her for her forgiveness of my mistakes, including those that have hurt her.

I know that she is an attractive woman because I am able to reason through the traits she shares with women who are often held up as paragons of beauty but that is not why I love her. It is not what lead me to love her in the first place.

So next time you think you understand someone's relationship while you are looking from the outside: stop it. Just let the couple live their lives in peace and don't try to force your norms on them. All it does is make them want to ignore you and leave you behind in the dark as they continue into the light of the future.

Until next time: Vaya con Dios.

The Difference between Art and Pornography

This morning I came to a realization about pornography. I have wondered why it is so addictive and what separates art from pornography. I believe I have found some answers for myself.

First, why is pornography so addictive? I believe that pornography is so addictive because it fulfills unrelated needs for a short time. It uses shock value to reel you in and pretty soon you can't feel anything without it being progressively more shocking. The most shocking thing about it is that you feel something for a person/image that has no personality. (I am not saying that porn stars are lifeless drones, I am saying the roles they portray in their videos and photo shoots have no personality, nothing realistically emotional to bond with.) This means that those who watch pornography are getting an emotional/sexual release without the accompanying emotional support/bonding of being with a person who loves them. It is equivalent of trying to perform heart surgery with a great sword and stitches with a 21 gauge hypodermic needle. You cause more damage than healing. So this leads to another question: why is it so hard to let go of?

In my experience it is so hard to let go of pornography because it begins to affect your entire emotional and physiological system. Pornography creates an addiction to naturally occurring hormones in your body. You literally become addicted to yourself. The problem is that we are not meant to be solitary creatures. God created Adam and Eve and married them so that they would have help meets, someone to support them in every righteous endeavor. Our bodies are designed to create bonds with those we love. If we start creating that bond with no one on the other end we begin to constantly miss someone who never existed because they only exist in our fantasies.

So now comes question number two: what separates art from pornography? I have thought about this a lot and think I have finally come up with an answer. Art creates a genuine emotion, a connection to the subject. For example, a book that has characters who jump off the page are alive. You can imagine having a conversation with them that is real about their habits and hobbies. You learn about them and create new ideas and understandings. Pornography has no character. It merely has images used to inspire lust, not companionship. Lust consumes, character builds. Pornography is made up of isolated moments of lustful passion. Art inspires the mind to discover new ideas and generates deep fulfilling conversation. Art tells a story. Pornography creates false expectations and ultimately robs us of our capacity to create.

I know that I have been very blunt and direct. I know some will be offended or troubled by what I have said. To you I say search your heart and ask yourself: Why am I offended? Why am I troubled? Then seek to find the answer.

I pray that those with open hearts will see some benefit to what I have written here. Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Your Trials don't own you, You own them

Yesterday I sat in a devotional at BYU-Idaho and wanted to cry. I was sitting there all alone in a room that literally sits thousands. This has been a common occurrence these last few weeks. It seems every time I am in a meeting or other gathering where there are more people than those in my immediate circle of friends I just want to disappear. Thankfully I remained in my seat and felt the spirit strongly as the speaker extorted us to live after the manner of happiness and to not let our trials own us. After all if we own our trials they end that much sooner.

That may sound strange but I have found it to be true. Once I reach the point that I can talk freely about my trials they change into something else, experiences. You see trials are hard, painful and halt our progress. Experiences teach us, empower us and ultimately allow us to reach our Father in Heaven. Once I can see my trials and tribulations as experiences the cease to be trials and thus become that much easier to deal with.

So you are probably still wondering why I was about ready to cry at the devotional. Well I was allowing my trials to own me. You see I still am in the trenches working to overcome some addictions. With the assistance of my Bishop, friends, family and fiance I am making progress. But sometimes I still slip and then the guilt comes, that destroyer of hope and robber of happiness. So that is why when President Clark (President of BYUI) said "You are welcome here" I almost lost it. More and more I felt like I did not belong and feeling the love a man who had never met me and knowing that it was real brought me to tears. He reminded me that I do belong exactly where I am because it is where the Lord led me.

So next time your trials seem to much to bear, own them. The next time you feel guilt, cry out to the Savior for His grace and love. The next time you feel like you don't belong remember you are welcome here.

And never forget Jesus loves you!

Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Recently I saw a funny comic, one I think is worthy of being shared here.

I know many times in my life the Lord has carried me but at other times I am sure that he has dragged me kicking and screaming as I threw a tantrum over not getting things my way. I also remember when He later explained with tender mercies how I was precious and worthy of His love.

The Lord doesn't often drag us away from spiritual danger but he always provides a way to escape it. Most often it is through the still small voice of the Holy Ghost. I saw this often during the summer of 2013 when I worked in Utah, first as a door to door pest control salesman and then as a pest control technician.

At that point I was just beginning to accept that I experience Same Gender Attractions and was in the grip of severe depression. I was still hiding virtually everything about myself from my family and friends but most especially my co-workers. Most of my co-workers were very attractive, single, twenty-something-year-old men.

My roommate was a God-send. While I was questioning whether I should remain in the Church he was the steady rock I relied on as my sounding board. He listened and gave advice while not judging. His response when I told him of my SGA was simple and powerful: "Jacob, I trust you." Period. End of discussion, no doubt, no judgment, no lecture. Just a simple declaration of confidence in me.

His confidence in me strengthened my resolve to seek help for my depression and to confide my experiences with SGA in leaders and friends. That is where the long groove in the sand can be seen. When I first looked for help I quickly lost faith in those trying to help me. I moved back to Idaho soon after and the Lord kicked me all the way down the hall into the Bishop's office so that I would not abandon the path to peace. This Bishop was like my roommate, loving and supportive without any hint of judgement. With his help I gained the confidence and faith to allow my Savior to carry me until I was ready to walk beside him.

I hope sharing my experience may be some small help to you. Until next time, Vaya con Dios!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Can't, Can, Need, Should

These last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about my self talk. For those of you who don't know self talk is how social workers and psychologists refer to the conversations we have in our heads that are not necessarily said out loud.

I realized that often in my mind I use the words can't and need when they are really not appropriate. For example, when I see athletic good looking individuals I often think "I NEED to exercise more". In reality I don't need to but I should. How might that change someone's attitude? When I say I need to do something I begin to stress and worry myself about not accomplishing the need. When I say I should do something I am not as stressed because it is no longer something of life and death. Instead it is something of value that I can selectively choose how much and how long to participate in.

Often as human beings we create situations that are way more complicated or stressful than they need to be. Ruth Chang gave a TED talk entitled How to Make Hard Choices that explains this concept very well. She said that often a hard choice is hard only because we choose to make it so. We make these choices hard by trying to logically choose between two equally valuable options. So how does this relate to the words Can't, Can, Need and Should?

They are related because these are some of the words we use to differentiate between these equally valuable options. Returning to my example of exercise, I know that exercise is good for me. Exercise increases physical strength and stamina as well as decrease stress. I also know that I do not like to exercise which creates a feeling of guilt when I see people who enjoy exercising. By using the word "need" in my self talk I have taken a non-stressful event and made it stressful and complicated.

I am curious, What words do you use in your self-talk that make choices or experiences more difficult than they need to be? What strategies have you developed to combat this? Comment below.