Sunday, September 11, 2011
Dr. Brene Brown (her website is here) teaches incredibly powerful and useful ideas for living a happy and productive life. Today, I want to write about one idea that she teaches, which I believe is absolutely true and essential to a happy life, but an idea that is counter to much religious teachings. The idea is (greatly paraphrased) that to live authentically increases the connection, compassion, and joy in our lives. She states that this, "... can only happen when we let go of what we are supposed to be and embrace who we are."
In comparison, religion and the LDS church in particular, emphasizes that a person is absolutely supposed to be a "certain way." I won't go into the details of what you are supposed to be according to the church but if you've ever read the Ensign Magazine or a church lesson manual you have seen pictures and read about what you are expected to be.
This ideal is emphasized over and over to the point where it becomes a significant barrier to the very happiness that it is supposed to exemplify. Very rarely are we told at church to discover who we are and embrace it! Diversity is not celebrated or encouraged. The idea that the natural man is an enemy to God...is so often misapplied.
We are constantly reminded that we are not good enough, not obedient enough, and not near enough to the ideal as we should be. The constant attention on the "ideal" places unnecessary focus on our trivial differences and undermines the great opportunity for diversity of thought and action. It discourages the authenticity that promotes connection and happiness.
The destructive cycle of induced guilt and shame leads to an even greater lack of authenticity as church members frequently adopt a false front to appear more like the ideal Mormon.
It's hard to overstate how incredibly harmful and scaring this cycle can be - and more so for gay members who are already keenly aware of their unique natures. The result is that smart, talented, dynamic, creative, and unique individuals do not feel they can belong in the church setting and are much happier when they leave.