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Know What NOT To Say: Part 1: How to Have Relevant Conversations with Same-Sex Attracted Christians

1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that basically, we are all the same when it comes to temptation. Satan apparently doesn't have a very good imagination because we all battle with the same demons. While we may be enticed in varying grades from one another, essentially, we all struggle with the same junk. While you may not be tempted too much with lying, stealing or hatred at this particular stage in your Christian life, almost all of us have been guilty of deceit, covetousness and hatred at some time in our lives, so when people confess these temptation or sins, we understand because we too have been there, from one degree to another.

But when the topic turns to homosexuality or same sex attraction, the attitude of understanding can change quite abruptly. To those of you who do not live with unwanted attractions to the same gender, this is a very perplexing and baffling subject to comprehend, and with good reason; the difficulties you face go far beyond what the scriptures teach on the subject. Not only do you know that homosexuality is outlawed by God; but the very thought of even being tempted in this area goes against every grain of your being; it makes no sense and seems completely unnatural.

To be fair . . .

That being said; it would be a ridiculous premise to assume that you could possibly understand how a Christian who is same sex attractioned thinks and feels on this subject; or what it's like to be sexually and emotionally attracted to the same gender. It also goes to reason then that understandably, you would find it difficult to know what to say to a same sex attracted Christian that would be helpful, since the majority of disciples have never had to deal with this particular temptation in their lives.

Well that's alright. I'm here to help! I've been a faithful Christian for almost 25 years, but I also come from a homosexual past and still live with same sex attractions, so I've got a pretty good handle on what you can say that would be beneficial when trying to walk alongside a brother or sister who lives with unwanted same sex attractions.

I'm not kidding, I've heard these things!

I fully appreciate this is a very confusing topic for most and it can leave you searching for the right thing to say. So, I really do try to take that into account when I hear some of the advice given on this topic. That being said, over the years, I have heard Christians offer guidance that left me confused, not to mention hurt and even offended. "Wear looser pants", "play more sports", "go on some dates", and even "watch some heterosexual porn" is but a brief sampling of the "pearls of wisdom" I've heard come out of people's mouths in their attempt to "help". I'm not making this stuff up!! Sometimes I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

The art of effective communication has as much to do with knowing what NOT to say as it does knowing what to say. By the way, if any of you are wondering about the above statements, let me confirm for you that when trying to help someone through this challenge, these are things you should definitely not say!

This must first be agreed upon

In order for me to adequately explain why some things said are just not beneficial, we must first agree on one very important point, and that is this; those who live with same sex attractions did not ever choose this for their lives. I sure didn't.

I'm not saying that I was born with homosexual attractions; I'm saying that I did not actively choose to be attracted to the same sex. I have never talked to a person who is homosexually attracted who simply decided that this is what they were going to be. Never.

Whether or not people are born "gay" has been hotly debated for decades. Many Christians who are same sex attracted believe they were born like this, and there is some very fine arguments used to help them in their argument.  At the end of the day however, it's not something I feel is worth spending too much time discussing, and it's not my purpose here to get into the topic of causation, but for the sake of this article I will tell you that at this point in my life, my personal opinion is that I was not born with same sex attractions.

In my own life, I realize that due to a complex combination of several factors, from the sins that people committed against me, including being sexually molested by a man when I was eight years old, to the terrible decisions I made along the way and the sins that resulted from those decisions, an unhealthy relationship with my parents, and even possibly some genetics thrown in there as well, I ended up this way.  I do not believe I was born like this. 

But whether people are born with homosexual attractions, or have a predisposition towards homosexuality or whether or not it is primarily brought about due to a combination of factors during the formative years of a child's life is frankly all academic to me. Why? Because the reality for me is that every piece of me tells me that I was born this way.  I feel it in my heart and soul, regardless of what science does or doesn't prove. Why? Because I didn't wake up one morning and simply decide to be attracted to the same sex. It's all I've ever known and I would have gladly given my right arm and more to have it taken away. I had little choice about my orientation.  

I never consciously chose this, and as I neither said, nor have I ever met anyone who did. With the shame, embarrassment, isolation and rejection often involved for those who live with this daily, who on earth would actually choose this, given a choice? I became aware of my homosexual feelings when I hit puberty, just like you became aware of your heterosexual feelings when you reached puberty. It was not a conscious choice, it just was. So do not assume that homosexuality is a self-consciously chosen sexual preference. It just isn't.

You'll find no excuses here!

Let me add this: I know that nothing gives me the right to sin.  Even if I was born with same gender attraction, Jesus calls me to live for him and to not allow myself to be mastered by these temptations.  It is my cross to carry in order to be a disciple of His, and it has been a cross that I have been more than willing and eager to carry because I love Jesus, and I am honored that God has given me such a supportive wife and children and friends to stand by my side to help me carry that cross every single day.   

Now that I've got that out of the way; please then do not think that this is something that someone can change by "trying harder" or just "repenting" or by "playing more sports". Please do not promise healing provided that someone just has "more faith." Please do not suggest that they will "get over it" by just going on more dates. The issues are much more complex and multi-layered than that. Although I believe that God can intervene in a person's life, and change unwanted same gender attractions, He also often chooses not to.

Therefore, to me, expecting me to change my sexual orientation is as difficult as changing my skin colour. My same sex attraction is not something I DO, it is something I AM. It's not something I CHOSE; it's something that just IS. Understanding this is crucial. It will help you be very sensitive in how you communicate.

A Mile in Our Shoes

Try to imagine how frustrating, lonely and confusing it would be to realize that you are something that the majority of the population mocks, laughs at, ridicules and condemns. Envision how difficult it would be then to try to maneuver your way through life, terrified of being found out, feeling like you have to hide who you really are from those closest to you. Try to visualize how completely perplexing it would be to be a Christian and same sex attracted all at the same time! You have the intense desire to love God but you must battle this other desire to be loved in a way that God prohibits. And what about getting along in society? You long to be "normal" like everyone else but are conflicted by these longings to be real to yourself. And then to top it off; you did not ask for this, and as far as you can tell, did nothing to bring this on, yet here you are, living with this burden, constantly. Trust me; it's a challenging and at times exhausting life to live!

When communicating with a disciple who is attracted to the same gender, you need copious amounts of respect for what they've gone through to become a Christian, and stay a Christian. These people are heroes! You also need plenty of love and compassion in the words you use.

Unhelpful Answers

Here are some other statements that I have heard over the years that are really not helpful, and then I'll briefly explain why that is so:

"What do you think caused your homosexuality?"

"When and how did you first decide you were homosexual?"

"Homosexuality is a phase that you will grow out of."

"Many child molesters are homosexuals, does this concern you?"

"Just decide to not be gay. "

"Just repent."

"You haven't prayed hard enough."

"You need to be more faithful."

 From the same sex attracted perspective, many of the phrases that Christians throw around sound completely absurd. Applying these phrases to heterosexuality might help you to understand our frustration.

"What do you think caused your heterosexuality?"

"When and how did you first decide you were heterosexual?"

"Is it possible that heterosexuality is a phase you will grow out of?"

"Many child molesters are heterosexuals. Do you consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexuals?"

"Given the problems heterosexuals face, would you want your children to be heterosexual?"

"To overcome heterosexual temptation and sin, just decide not to be heterosexual."

"You face heterosexual temptations becuase you haven't prayed hard enough."

"You are attracted to the opposite sex because you are not faithful enough."

Those would be pretty ridiculous questions or comments for someone to say to you, wouldn't they? Well they seem just as ridiculous to us! [1]

The bottom line is if we really want to effectively encourage and love our same sex attracted brothers and sisters then we must learn a new way of communicating. My ultimate advice for you is to think before you speak. Catch phrases and simplistic antidotes are not the answer. If you are in a discussion and truly feel lost for words, then you can never go wrong with just saying "I don't understand your challenge, but I do love you, I am here for you, and I'll walk by your side as you face these difficulties." And then be a loyal friend.



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