I was 19, the daughter of recently separated parents, when I first asked that ugly question in 2003. I asked it over and over again in the five years to follow before their divorce finalized.
I asked the ugly question in 2009 when my best friend betrayed me and, when confronted, told me he “just didn’t have it in him to be the kind of friend I wanted him to be.” He was right. He didn’t.
I asked the ugly question in 2010 when my boss called me ungrateful and entitled after I explained to him the employees were upset that our paychecks were three weeks overdue. I asked it again when he attempted to explain to me, after being caught red-handed, how it was his wife’s fault that he spent his days cheating on her with our business contacts.
I asked the ugly question in 2011 as I sat in a counselor’s office with my husband of seven years who kept saying nonsensical things which I ultimately discovered meant “You’re a great wife but I’m done with our marriage and I’ll let you know by text tomorrow that I’m on my way out the door.”
I ask the ugly question a lot these days too, and it’s usually in the face of betrayal and abuse that simply cannot be repaired.
“What are we to do when reconciliation fails?”
A couple of months ago I attended a birthday party for one of my friends. This particular party was held at a small local restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky that was about the size of my pinky. Our group of about 10 people pretty much filled the entire restaurant, elbow to elbow.
The birthday party was for a friend who, according to his own estimation, declares that 90% of his friends are gay. My own friend census is far less impressive, but seeing that about 50% of mine are LGBT, and with the background I have working in faith and sexuality debates, I was really very comfortable as it became apparent that several of his friends wandering in were, in fact, gay.
One of the couples in their thirties sat down next to me, and within minutes of meeting, we began to discuss religion and sexuality when they learned I was the founder/president of LOVEboldly. The two sharp, sweet men were intrigued by our work which attempts to bring dignity, decency, and civility back into the conversations on faith and sexuality. After a good thirty minutes of swapping stories about our faith backgrounds, good and bad experiences, and how it had shaped us, I asked them where their experiences had landed them theologically and they explained they no longer saw Christianity as a logical or compelling religious belief system.
So I asked another ugly question.
“If your church had responded to your sexuality differently, do you think you’d still believe what you do now?”
You see, their churches had been the usual kind of terrible that I hear about every day. They furrowed their brows and began to think aloud as they attempted a response. And then, one of them said this:
“It’s kind of like, if you’re in a relationship, and all you ever get is abused. Over and over again, you get beat up. And you love the person so much and you don’t want to leave them. But eventually, you just realize that it’s not worth it. The relationship is unhealthy. So you part ways even though you love them so much and it really breaks your heart. If that person comes back to you someday and says, ‘Hey, I’m really sorry and I want to give us another shot. I’m a changed person and I won’t beat you up anymore.’ You might really want to believe them. You might even still love them. But you just know you could never trust them again. You’ve moved on. You found a better life. You wouldn’t want to even put the work into trying to trust again when the relationship was so abusive. That’s how I feel about Christianity. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t trust it again. And that’s okay, because my life is better now and I’m in a relationship that doesn’t beat me up.”
Sometimes people abuse one another. Sometimes a friend, a lover, or even a religion dehumanizes and dominates. And sometimes the breach can never be repaired, even if victim and perpetrator both claim they want it repaired.
So what do we do when despite our best attempts to heal or to change our ways, we just plain fail?
~~~~WHAT DO YOU THINK?~~~~
What are we to do when reconciliation fails?