When you live with the belief that something about you makes you weak or not good enough, it is difficult to enter into mutual relationships seeking the best for each person. When you do not see your own belovedness and magnificence, it's difficult to think about being a healthy person, much less imagining a mutual relationship with other people. There is disequilibrium within you and your relationships.
I was haunted by Tutu's* words at the Biko** funeral: "God loves you. Please be God's partners in love." I felt enlivened by what this truth meant for others. I was not able to believe that it could also be true for me. It felt like a chasm that could not be breached, leaving an aching presence inside of me. At the time, I felt unable and unsafe to give voice to the turmoil this caused for me.
[* Archbishop Desmond Tutu: South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop]
[** Steve Biko: founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa]
Living and Loving Your Truth
My immediate family and close friends knew that I was gay. The year before attending Biko's funeral, I had been accepted as a candidate for ordination to the priesthood in the Anglican Church by the man who had prayed with me for healing, Archbishop Bill Burnett. His prayers had changed my life, and I was grateful, yet I knew that he was vehemently opposed to ordaining anyone who was gay.
As I wrestled with my desire to live a life of integrity, I knew that the work I felt called to as a priest would not be possible if I revealed my sexuality to him. In fact, Bill Burnett had been known to send people for treatments to "cure" them of their homosexuality. As a result of this, the seminary located in the town where I was a university student had an underground, closeted group of gay seminarians living in fear of being discovered.
God Loves You For Your Existence
Where did Tutu's passionate proclamation of being loved by a God who invited us to be partners with the Holy connect with Archbishop Burnett's message that one part of a person's life excluded him or her from such love? I continued to pray each day to be healed of my sexuality.
Months later, my spiritual advisor said some simple words to me in response to this internal struggle of mine. "God loves you for your existence," he said. It was an even more seismic truth than Tutu's assurance of God's love. I was struck by the firm clarity of his declaration and the tenderness of his words. This was a truly risky invitation to move beyond the fears of loving the fullness of who I am and into the luminous generosity of the Holy. I was beginning to discover that the spaciousness and generosity of love is the single lens by which spirituality and our own lives should be approached.
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Goodness and Bliss in You
Many of us grew up without ever hearing simple, tender words like the ones spoken to me by my spiritual advisor. They point to a way of relationship and life that is enlivening. Part of our experience is being valued for what we produce or do, what we can do for another, how useful we appear to be, or even what we can get from one another. In becoming fully alive, to be loved for your existence, shifts the ground of how you engage with life while discovering goodness and bliss on your journey.
The invitation I heard in Tutu's words and those of my spiritual advisor revealed a stepping stone to the truth. Spiritual wisdom is discovered in knowing that we are each made for goodness and bliss as much as we are made to love and be loved. Discovering your bliss and goodness is the testing ground of being loved for your existence.
My test came via the internalized homophobia I experienced on my life journey. People of color and women often experience internalized racism or sexism. Although you cannot control the fears or reactions of others, you can avoid subtly appropriating the toxic negativity or blindness of those who cannot see you in your fullness. Anchoring to your goodness will remind you of who you are and defuse the potential impact of those who attempt to assault or infect who you are.
"Do You Think I Am A Good Person?"
One day, as my friend Laura and I discussed a community initiative on ending homelessness, she unexpectedly asked me, "Do you think I'm a good person? So many people assume I'm bad because I've been homeless. But I don't think I'm bad."
I felt torn apart by her words. Laura had once become homeless as a result of domestic violence, and yet she steadfastly refused to speak of herself as a victim because she believed that victim-hood could all too easily define her personhood.
I had admired her tireless advocacy on behalf of the homeless for many years. Her perspective had challenged the perspectives and changed the hearts and minds of so many people, and yet here she was, questioning her own goodness. I felt protective of Laura, yet knew that only she could befriend and therefore let go of the insidious comments about her worth as a person.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Page Books, a division of The Career Press, Inc.
©2012 by Robert V. Taylor. www.newpagebooks.com.
A New Way to Be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive
by Robert Taylor.
An invaluable guide for individuals intent on transforming their lives, revolutionizing our society, and refining our world. A New Way to Be Human will immediately connect you to actionable personal spiritual practices.
About the Author
Robert V. Taylor is a nationally recognized leader, author, and sought after speaker who invests his life in helping individuals and organizations to realize their full human potential and impact in the world. Born and raised in South Africa, Robert saw firsthand the difference that could be made when oppressed people are given the freedom to discover their voices, trust their imaginations, and find the courage to be who they are. Robert continues to explore integrating personal spirituality and values-driven strategies with the question of how we each leave a footprint of compassion in the world -- both at home and in the corporate marketplace. Visit his website at RobertVTaylor.com.