The Family and LIfe Office welcomes Hudson Byblow back as he takes a closer look at this critical issue of friendship, especially at this time of social distancing. Belonging is one of our fundamental human needs and as “church” we need to really ask ourselves how we can make room in our hearts and lives for others and how we can grow in our ability to foster ‘healthy’ and ‘holy’ friendships?
I will never forget the day I received an email from a guy (now in his 60s) saying that all these years he thought he was gay, but recently came to realize that he was simply desiring friendship.
I thought to myself, “Wow! His story needs to be shared!”
The Desire for Friendship
Friendship was something he struggled with. Being a part of a “wolf-pack” or friend group of men was something that never occurred in his life. His longing to belong and have meaningful friendships with people of the same-sex deepened as he grew up, with that longing intensifying as the days, months, and years passed. Those longings were natural and good – to desire same-sex relationships (I am talking here about chaste friendship). But unfortunately, this normal and natural desire was distorted by the culture. As a result, he became convinced that his desires ought to be seen through the romantic and sexual lens.
That is, he began to interpret his natural and good desire for same-sex friendships to mean that his longings to belong with men meant that his desires were in fact desires for romantic/sexual relationships with men. After all, wouldn’t it feel good to be finally chosen? Finally, to be noticed, accepted and loved? Finally, to be good enough for someone? The answers to those questions, for him, were yes, yes, and yes. With that, he became further convinced by the world that he was gay.
Again, after having a lifetime of years stolen from him, he finally realized that all he was looking for was a friend. Newfound holy friendships later in life cast a light on this. Today, in his 60s, he is starting anew, radiating the joy that one can only know when self-honesty leads to truth.
Perhaps his story might prevent others from having years of their lives stolen as well.
The Need for Same-Sex Intimacy (Close and Meaningful Relationships)
In both same-sex relationships and same-sex sexual/romantic relationships, a form of intimacy is possible. However, if the relationship is romantic/sexual it is not a holy (chaste) intimacy that is formed. In order to determine that which is holy, a person needs to understand sin, otherwise a person may be sinning without knowing it (yes, this is possible). Further, if sin is believed to be relative to the desires on one’s heart, it is likely that sinful actions will be falsely justified as not being sinful at all. That is a situation that could jeopardize the eternal destination of one’s soul, and this is why we need to take the time to understand this on a deeper level. (I encourage you to click on this link and spend some time coming to understand the fullness of the teaching of the Church and our responsibility to follow Christ in this area of our lives as in other aspects of our life and relationships.)
If we truly love people, however, we won’t merely celebrate intimacy, but rather only holy intimacy that is honest, mutually respectful and fully in line with the objective good of the other person as God created them to be. And this is for us to consider regarding all types of relationships, whether they be same-sex or opposite-sex.
The Problem of Absolute Abstinence
Abstaining from same-sex interactions altogether, perhaps to protect oneself from having to face temptation, might sound like a good idea. But doing so will cause a person to become further isolated rather than to grow in authentic friendships with others of the same sex. If we continue along that trajectory, the result could be disastrous – further isolation bringing about a more profound chasm between said person and the same-sex peer group within which they hope to find belonging.
Conversely, if we do pursue purely platonic interaction with persons of the same sex, in other words friendships (within community is always good), we learn that it’s possible for us to be around people of the same-sex and that it’s possible for us to learn and grow from those relationships. As we do this, we become better people, learn new skills, gain new competencies, and therefore also gain new confidence, we can begin to see ourselves less as below or less than others and more as equals.
A transition like this can renew the soul of anyone, no matter what their confidence level is today, but it doesn’t happen without our cooperation. We have to initiate those sorts of situations, but that will never happen for as long as we are living in fear. Thankfully, only the slightest moment of courage can begin to lift a person out of that.
The conversation about sexual attractions as it is can trap people into too-small of a way of thinking. If we elevate the conversation into the realm where we can examine whether or not we are developing holy intimacy within holy friendship, then maybe we could transform the face of this discussion for the better.
And if we strove to do that, I wonder how many stolen years in the lives of others would be prevented.
God bless you all,
 Framed positively it could be said that to be ‘holy’ and truly loving every relationship should always be concerned with the objective ‘good of the other’ and never merely using the other or being used to fulfill perceived needs. Sexual relationships between those of the same sex may contain within them a form or certain aspects of caring for the other person but they do not conform to the “order of nature” which is more than merely “biological” ability to reproduce. It certainly includes it, but also encompasses a complete understanding of the human person with his or her ‘life-giving’ potential, which is always part of the ‘total gift of self’ that is found in authentic marital intimacy. See Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, Ignatius Press, 1993, re: the ‘good of the other’ 82-83; re: the dual nature of marital intimacy 222-229. Outside of this ‘total gift’ of marital sexual intimacy we find that all manner of sexual relationships, whether between opposite-sex or same-sex couples, miss the mark or fall short—and thus are sinful. In opposition to that, Christians are called to live the virtue of chastity, which integrates and properly orders one’s whole being into one’s relationships and respects the integrity of persons—self and others—enabling one to love more authentically. Again, please click on the link shown earlier to consider this more fully.