Dear Ma Donna,
My mother and I just had a fight and I feel like I never want to speak to her again. I’m twenty-two years old, and I’ve been out since I was eighteen. My mom is a Christian, and I thought she was okay with my sexuality, but last week when I was visiting her for her birthday, she told me that she believes I’m going to Hell because I’ve “chosen to be gay.” We had a big fight about it, and I left. I told her that I never wanted to see her again. The problem is, now the whole family is mad, and they’re blaming me. What should I do?
Believe it or not, you have plenty of options.
The first thing you need to do is settle this question in yourself. Do you believe that you’re going to Hell? If not, then why do you think you had such a visceral reaction to her? Often times our reaction to something will tell us a lot about what might be hiding out in our own closets (sorry for the pun).
The second thing you can do is get clear on why you responded the way you did. Ultimately, you have no control over your mom or your family, but you do have the ultimate say-so over your response. What were your emotions? Was it fear? Was it disappointment?
I suspect that if your mom still believes you’re going to Hell, she’s terrified of losing you. She’s got you for now, but in her mind, she’s going to have to spend eternity without you and that thought is too much for her so she’s got to get you back. Beliefs are neither rational nor logical. They don’t care if they’re supported or backed up by facts; they just need to be right. Be aware you won’t be able to do deal with her belief logically.
Settle her question with yourself first. Figure out what YOU believe about your eternal future. Most of the work that an actor does when preparing for a role is work that the audience will never see. They make lots of “choices.” They do all of this because, as the saying goes, “it reads.” Even though the audience doesn’t pick up on all that work consciously, they do subconsciously. Your family is your audience. If you truly believe that everything is okay between you and God, the family will pick up on that, and they’ll eventually start to alter their behavior.
You probably need some space from your mom right now, and that’s okay, but don’t abandon her. Remember, she’s probably acting this way because she’s afraid of losing you.
Beliefs need to be right. When a belief sets itself up, it does so with its own defense mechanism which logic will never penetrate. However, limiting beliefs, as we call them, are also a bit of a paradox, because, while the belief is limiting, there’s another part of the believer that wants it to be untrue. If you believe, for example, that you’re going to Hell, there’s another part of you that is hoping against hope that this belief isn’t true. So the worst thing you can do for a limiting belief such as this, paradoxically, is to make the belief right.
So “make her right,” but do so gently. Promise her that, while the two of you may not be able to spend eternity together, you’ll make your time together here on Earth the best it can be. Chances are she’s going to start looking for a better belief… or, if nothing else… she’ll start searching the Bible for loopholes.