How do we cope with the emotional impact of our son's recent revelation that he considers himself gay? This whole thing has thrown me into an emotional tailspin; I find myself weeping, praying, raging, and blaming myself by turns. I can honestly say that I've never felt so bewildered and confused. We love our son, and we want him to know that we will never abandon him. At the same time, we're Christians who are convinced that homosexuality is out of step with God's design for human sexuality. As a result, we feel like we're being torn in two. How do we handle the pain?
Before saying anything else, we want you to know that our hearts go out to you. Our prayers are with you, and we are privileged to have this opportunity to come alongside you in the midst of your pain and confusion.
The conflicting emotions you're experiencing – crying one moment, angry the next – is a common and understandable reaction. Any loving parent in your position would feel the same way. It's also very likely that you're struggling with grief – the natural reaction that occurs when we've encountered loss. Though you may not yet recognize it, you've lost something significant. It may be the image of and beliefs you had about your son, your perceptions of yourself as a parent, or perhaps your desires and hopes for grandchildren. Whatever the case, it's important to identify and acknowledge the reality of these losses. You may find a helpful way to do this is though journaling or with the assistance of a wise pastor, counselor, your spouse, or a trusted friend.
Wise guidance and caring support is especially invaluable during the early stages of this crisis. At some point you'll want to sit down and discuss this matter with your son in a calm, cool, and non-reactive fashion. This isn't easy, since it's normal for parents in your situation to want to react out of the anger, fear, or pain that they're feeling. That's why we strongly recommend that you consult with a pastor, a professional counselor, a mentor, or a small group of understanding friends before doing anything else. These individuals can help you think and walk through some of the ground you're likely to cover with your son, as well as guide you in formulating thoughtful, honest, and productive responses. It's important to bear in mind that your conversation with your son will probably be ongoing, so don't expect to resolve everything at once, and make allowances for continued tension and grief.
We should add that it's vital to get on the same page with your spouse. The two of you can't tackle a problem like this in the best possible way if you're not united in your approach. This doesn't mean that you won't experience, react to, or process your grief in very unique and different ways. However, you should do your very best to be united in your beliefs and goals with regard to your child. To this end, you may again want to consider engaging the assistance of a trained marriage therapist.
Don't be surprised if you feel shaken or compelled to question or examine your own beliefs on the subject of homosexuality in the light of this experience. A review of your own understandings and convictions is normal, and even wise, as you think about how you are called by the Lord to proceed. Honest questioning can actually serve to confirm and solidify your convictions as well as correct possible attitudes, language, or assumptions that may be missing the mark of Christian love – or that are simply not yet informed on this complex and hotly debated topic. All of this examination, however, is only ultimately beneficial if you're very careful to conduct your investigations in the light of God's truth and with the help of caring Christian friends. Be careful to consult well-informed sources who seek and honor the full counsel of Scripture. We hope our compilation of links below might help in this regard.
Above all, you need to keep reminding yourself that this is not "all about you." If your teenage or adult son is making a conclusion about his feelings and labeling himself gay, he's also old enough to think many independent thoughts and process many sources of input. It's very possible that in the course of your ongoing discussions you may uncover some deep and legitimate offenses you have been guilty of in the past. If so, it's important to seek forgiveness and take steps to make amends with your son and any others who may have been hurt by your attitudes and actions. However, don't make the mistake of assuming ownership or blaming yourself for what's happening. It won't do you or anyone else an ounce of good to bear responsibility for your son's choices or to take on a heavy or debilitating burden of false guilt and condemnation. In fact, it will only hinder you from showing him God's love in the most effective way.
Even less helpful is the tendency some parents have to view a situation like this as a threat to their image, reputation, or standing in the community. Don't fall into that trap. Instead, concentrate on doing whatever it takes to establish yourself on a firm footing and get yourself healthy so that you can be there in the moment for your child. Whether you realize it or not, he needs you to demonstrate steady faith and a calm integrity, perhaps more than ever before.
Below you'll find a list of some resources and referrals that will provide additional guidance and assist you in locating the help you need. We'd also like to invite you to call and speak with a member of our Counseling staff for a free consultation. Our counselors can also provide you with references to reputable Christian therapists practicing in your area.
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Someone I Love Is Gay
Homosexuality (resource list)
Desert Stream Ministries