Spiritual and Emotional Growth: Six Areas of Personal Growth
"Let your hearts not be troubled or afraid. Trust in God, and trust in me" John 14:1.
Spiritual and Emotional Growth
Feelings I Never Chose
Many conclude about their same-sex attractions: "I didn’t choose this. It’s just here. I guess it must be natural for me. I guess I should act on these feelings." And they do. And many counselors -- along with Oprah, Ellen, Ann Landers, and most of society’s other trend setters like MTV, VH1, HBO, and other media programming offer the same advice.
Feelings I’ll Never Accept
Some people, however, stubbornly resist that advice and think, "I didn’t choose this, I don’t want it, and don’t have to act on it." Unfortunately, there are psychologists, guidance counselors, and even clergy who will guide a person towards denying these thoughts and instead lead a person to accept a mindset and philosophy that is more in line with the trend setters, rather than reinforcing a person's determination not to act on unwanted attractions.
This article, however, affirms those thoughts and is written to provide encouragement for anyone who wants to try to move toward a state of emotional and spiritual maturity in Christ.
What Is Your Goal?
You may be looking to live a chaste life by abstaining from homosexual activity as the Church requires.
You may also want to overcome same-sex attractions. This is something you must be sure that you want before pursuing it. Over coming same-sex attractions is a very challenging journey. Note that no one should pressure you. It’s got to be fully your choice as you are not morally obliged by the Church to do so. It is a worthwhile pursuit however.
All six areas of growth provided here assist a person toward one or both of these goals; they also entail a deep struggle as well as deep rewards, a struggle most people are not used to in our society of quick and easy fixes.
Some people are able to overcome their homosexual behavior, a goal they pursue because of their Christian values. They move into chaste lives of service to others and are content. Still others in following the road of chastity, and by various means and efforts, come to experience heterosexual development. And others decide they don’t want to give up homosexual activity, and they turn back. Like all true adventures, this journey has no guaranteed outcome.
Progress, Not Perfection
Any progress in growth is of great value. That was the report of 99% of the 860 participants in a 1997 clinical study by NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), some of whom found victory in developing a chaste life, others who came to experience increased heterosexual development as well. They felt their experience was valuable and effective. The best advice as you set out on the journey of growth is to give it your all, and leave the rest to God.
Voices of Experience
That said, let’s study the map to see if you want to travel this road. Each of the six key areas of growth is illustrated with direct quotes from members of Courage. Here, for instance, a quote from Tom sharing his hope:
"Unless you have been plagued with the pain of living with a homosexual condition, you can’t begin to appreciate the desire to find a way to escape it and the longing for freedom."
The Six Areas
Companionship is necessary as a means of breaking the habit of loneliness, and learning to open up, be honest, and make friends with people who share our values.
Some who do not have Courage chapters in their area communicate with other Courage members over the Internet and also pursue fellowship with church groups, mentors, and neighbors in order to experience the rewards and growth that such fellowship will bring.
For some, one companion might be a therapist (It is recommended that should you desire to overcome your same-sex feelings, you seek a therapist with experience in same-sex attractions and who shares your Catholic beliefs.) For others, the companion may be a mentor.
Companions can also be Courage group members, neighbors, or friends you meet as you pursue your hobbies or interests. In any case, the company of those supportive of your goal of following Church teaching is necessary medicine for this journey.
"The people here are like the best friend I never had. Every week when I walk through its doors, I am met by men and women who accept me as a member of a very special family. They do not judge the life that I have led, but they challenge me every step of the way, and when I fall, they are there to lift me to my feet and help me to move forward." Sarah
Homosexual lust and heterosexual lust both bury the human heart. Chastity is everyone’s call and everyone’s hope of happiness. The battle for self control entails avoiding society’s plentiful images and occasions of temptation.
We avoid temptation by spending time with people who listen to us and encourage us... and through much prayer. Only gradually do we become able and willing to choose chastity when the fires of lust shake us. And only then do the heart’s true needs and hopes begin to emerge.
"Fostering chaste friendships with other men who truly cared has been an important part of my journey. The chaste life would be almost impossible without the support of others. We struggle together and the Holy Spirit breaks the chains of homosexuality to free us to be who God is calling us to be." Rich
Most (but not all) people in recovery from homosexuality attribute to God their ability to control their lust and heal the deep sadness of their hearts. Through prayer they learn both to receive and to give to others the God-given and transforming gift of forgiveness.
"I prayed to the Lord. He brought me to a place of fellowship in Courage and there I began to understand the Church teaching and experience the love of community. There I also began to ask Jesus for His forgiveness and help. I prayed to Him more and more, in community, in my room, and at the blessed sacrament. In confession, I brought to Him all of the wrong I had done. I cried and asked Him to forgive me and to help me find His way through all this. As He has promised, over time, I began to experience a place of love and inner healing. I thank Jesus for his forgiveness and for blessing my life." Peter
Same-sex bonding is a basic growth need for children. If unmet by family members, that lack can wound a child’s confidence when he or she attempts to bond outside the family with other boys or girls. The desire to bond may be there, but it remains unfulfilled. At puberty that lack of friendship and acceptance by same-sex peers may cry out in the form of sexual desire. The real need stays hidden behind a sexual disguise, which only chastity can remove. Then, if old hurts can be resolved, the chaste heart gradually learns to bond, and the need for deep male or female confidence can be fulfilled. Only then, when underlying wounds are healed, can true growth occur, and with some, even opposite-sex attraction may emerge.
"I grew up resenting my father. Because of his job, he just wasn’t there for me emotionally. At age 14, I felt my first homosexual attractions -- toward older fatherly men. In the past I’d been completely overtaken by those feelings, but as I learned about healthy touch -- like a good hug -- and found good male friendship I could trust, in time, the same-sex desires lessoned and stopped being a constant difficulty for me. I learned that my homosexuality was not about sex but about the need for masculine love. It was my body’s way of telling my heart, ‘Something’s wrong.’ Now for the first time, the desire for a relationship with a woman is beginning to rise in me. I can’t tell you how good it is to be in this new place in my life." Mark
A great struggle to separate truth from myth is basic to this journey. In order to stop acting on same-sex feelings, one has to be able to answer the false arguments of society (the world) which seek to discredit and discourage the work of growth. Freedom from the behaviors homosexuality requires much study and reflection. One needs to become a tough minded critical, and independent thinker.
"In finding Courage I had found a doorway to an education about my homosexuality and how I could move beyond its confines. I joined in 1993 and discovered a world I never knew existed before: honesty and understanding. And most exciting of all, hope through a plan for healing and growth drawn from the teachings of the Church and the wisdom of expert writers in the field of homosexuality. Being ministered to in truth with compassion and fidelity enabled me to dedicate myself in growing emotionally, mentally and spiritually in Christ and this has made all the difference." Jane
The journey of recovery requires generous attention to one’s own problems but also attention to the problems of others. The self-centered person must learn to reach out to other hearts and discover the ancient truth that it’s more satisfying to give than to receive. To go beyond oneself in giving is to find oneself more deeply.
"We serve one another by offering healthy friendship and honest acceptance; We encourage one another to develop a prayer life and be faithful to the Mass and the solid up-building and renewal of heart and soul. We provide love and acceptance of a person where he or she is. No one demands a confession of guilt for slips or failures to observe our goals, but if the individual chooses to make one, it is listened to with compassion and not self-righteous condemnation. Great inner healing takes place when fear is totally absent. That is our service to one another." Charles
Courage International, Inc.
All rights reserved.