Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Power of Admitting I Don't Know

I often have this terrible curse, maybe you share it with me? that I believe I know everything, sometimes. I sometimes feel I already have the answers; all I need to do is live them.

Honest doubt is a great blessing.

I knew I liked guys for a long time, long before telling anyone, but I just knew that it came from sin. I knew that nobody had ever felt what I was feeling, and I knew I could overcome it. I was absolutely certain that God would change me, or that these feelings were a phase. Fast forward to the present, when I was coming out, I knew that the only thing for me was to leave the Church, abandon a way of life and relationships to which I had dedicated a vital portion of myself. I was certain that if I was ever going to find a meaningful relationship I would have to abandon everything else I held most dear.

I thought the answer was simple, and in a way it was, but it wasn’t the answer I thought. My answer was… that I don’t know. Really, I don’t. One of the greatest comforts to me as I struggle to come out is the deep-seated realization that I did not know anything. I did not know that the LDS Church was true, I did not know if I was gay, bisexual, whatever, and I did not know what the gay community is truly like.

In the middle of this tearing, shredding sensation, when I was ripped apart inside with my family and my desire on opposite sides of the gapping chasm that was my own soul, when I was trying to figure out what to base my life on, I had to let go. I had to let go of the certainties, the polar opposites, and just take each day as it came.

Why do we cling so hard to our small truths and miss the big picture so often? Could it be pride, whispering that we already know enough to judge the world? Or, like me, could it be fear? Certainty, claims of absolute knowledge, are comforting. They build us shelters against the world, little houses that we can peek out of occasionally and retreat to when confronted by something foreign and threatening.

Stepping out of that little house that you’ve built for yourself can be frightening, but also extraordinarily exhilarating.

Now, I’m not espousing a philosophy of militant and critical unbelief. We need our beliefs, just like we need a real house to shelter us from cold and storm. What I am suggesting, what helped me, is just a willingness to let go, to understand that we don’t understand everything, a willingness to try to understand.

People are fond of unconditional statements. I use them all the time. 'God does not exist', or 'I know the Church is true', or even 'the world is round'. My favorite is, 'If it’s on the internet it must be true'. Not one of those statements can be proven without personal experience. Such absolute certainty, such denial of fallibility, just leads us to fall, confronts us with our own insecurity, and in the end leaves us blind.

No one knows everything-- another unconditional statement. But I certainly don't, and I have the feeling that you probably don't either. That's okay. And how do we know that that small little bit that we don't know won’t change everything that we do know? It happens every day.

So when you are wrestling with doubts, consider yourself lucky. A lot of people, atheists, Mormons, Hindus, Christians, communists, Democrats, Republicans, Dallas cowboy fans-- a lot of people, regardless of their personal creed, are positive that they see the world the way it is. We sustain our beliefs with self-serving biases and edited or censored memories, psychological fact. When we honestly doubt what we know is true, when we take deep breath and remove the blinders, maybe we'll catch a glimpse of a greater, more encompassing truth than anything we could have imagined.

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