Is it healthy to be who you’re not?

One of my favorite parts of speaking to high schools about homosexuality and the Catholic Church is the Q&A section. I always try to answer their questions in surprising ways. At the talk I gave early last week, one of the questions asked me if it’s healthy for me to be who I’m not.

I answered, “of course not. Which is why I don’t call myself gay. I like to live honestly.”

Made Ya Think!I have a pen pal who keeps sending me letters. Well, I guess it’s a rather one sided pen pal relationship. I get anonymous letters in the mail, with printouts of newspaper articles or essays, so I can’t really respond. But I’ll call this person a pen pal, since I know he or she is motivated by a desire for my happiness.

The latest installment featured a printout from the Washington Post about a fellow in his fifties who said, “I’ve tried to be a decent person all my life. I’m not perfect, believe me. And I wouldn’t wish [being gay] on anyone. But you can’t be somebody you’re not. Otherwise you’ll end up 63 and alone.”

Sigh. Where to begin?

There has never been a more true phrase spoken than this: you can’t be somebody you’re not.

But here’s the thing. “Who I am” isn’t determined by whatever (or whomever) I think I am. I want to live my life in accordance with objective reality. That’s the path to true freedom. My subjective inclinations or attractions don’t tell me “who I am.”

I love this passage from Pope Benedict XVI, taken from a speech given to the German Bundestag in 2011.

If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture. Allow me to dwell a little longer on this point. The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.






4 thoughts on “Is it healthy to be who you’re not?

  1. This question can attempt to “justify” anything. “Who I am is a man who wishes to leave his wife and kids and run away with my true soul mate, who is my college student 30 years my junior. It must be legitimate because ‘it is who I am.'” This is the secular materialist approach to this question: whatever I am inclined to do, I can do as I wouldn’t be inclined to do anything if it weren’t the real me, and one should always pursue the real me. It should be obvious that whatever one is inclined to do is not automatically the entire basis for a right decision. Using this question to justify any inclination means you’ve divorced yourself from God as a basis for decision making, so then you can always do what you want with this faux ontological question “justifying” it. But, divorcing one’s self from God is the greatest price that you can pay.

  2. There is a difference though John. Who one CHOOSES to marry (or divorce) is ONE’S personal choice. People don’t chose who they are attracted to. Sorry, but your example leaves a lot to desire. The Church teaches the correct thing, but folk sure don’t know how to apply it and live it out (whether one is gay or straight).

    • I do think there is still value in John’s description. You’re exactly right: people don’t choose who they are attracted to, but where we do have choice, (and I think this is where John’s point is helpful here), is what we do with our particular situation. I may be attracted to men–that isn’t a choice that I made. But whether or not I act on those desires, and find reasons to justify them–that is a choice. It seems to me that’s what John is referring to here, at least on my reading of him.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting!

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