Minister’s Newsletter for August, 2017
Monthly theme: Kindness
The last week of June, I was asked to speak to the Brigham Young University LGBTQ group. I told them my story of meeting Mary Lou and how our life unfolded and at the end they asked the question: How has coming out been different between Utah and other places? What came to me was that the two old friends who were living in Salt Lake to whom I came out many years ago both responded really well at first. They were nice. And then they disappeared. It is painful when a good friend gradually fades out of your life. You don’t notice anything the first months but then no card comes at Christmas and then no responses to letters and yet another Christmas without a card. Looking back like a detective, I discover that the silence began after that nice letter congratulating me on my courage to come out and make a life with Mary Lou. As painful as it is to be a recipient of that behavior, I recognize it in myself. Under duress, there have been times when I’ve been nice to avoid a difficult conversation or situation—which I believe is better than being rude—and then I disappeared. I think that sometimes even with my family, that my “niceness” avoided the hard conversations. And, when I did brave one of those difficult conversations, I was always rewarded with more connection, more trust and more love. In fact, looking back I wish I hadn’t been trying to be so “nice.” Niceness also stops us from standing up for people who are vulnerable. Is it fear of not looking like a “nice” person that keeps us from stopping a racist or sexist joke?
I love harmony and yet I remember times that I felt trapped by it, when it prevented me from talking about the “hard” issues. This year, I hope you join me in continuing our adventure to be brave by cutting through our niceness to be radically kind. Let us not have our niceness hold us back from making a deeper harmony with the greater world. I have found many examples in my favorite book of the past weeks: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
In love and community,
Rev. Patty Willis