Draw Out Their Story In Their Own Words
Have you ever been in a conversation where you could tell the person was asking you questions they felt they already knew the answer to? Imagine being a person that grew up and realized they were attracted to the same gender. You’ve tried to deny the reality of your feelings or you’ve prayed to God in secrecy for Him to take these desires away. Also imagine that the very thing you have wrestled with your whole life is now the issue of the day and EVERYONE has an opinion on what they think you should do about that. Also imagine being in conversation with multiple people on any given week or month and their opinion of an “issue” has implications for your entire life and future. Imagine the pressure you might feel to meet people’s expectations, especially those closest to you. It’s exhausting. No matter the conclusion you come to, whether you are living your life with a conservative sexual ethic or not, it’s tiring for everyone to have a strong opinion. They’re either applauding you or booing you.
So in conversations where someone is asking questions they feel they already know the answer to, LGBT people most often respond with defensiveness. This isn’t because “they love their sin”, but more because they’ve been put on the stand and told to “defend your case”. LGBT people don’t owe me an explanation for why they have chosen to live their life the way they do. No one does in fact. However, people love to share their story (assuming the person is safe) and if I will simply choose to adopt a posture of humble curiosity, I will be giving someone the space & permission to let down their defenses.
Very practically, curiosity sounds like open ended questions. “What was it like for you to come out? Were there any people you told that surprised you with their reaction?” Curiosity doesn’t assume the answer or ask leading questions that make the person feel that the solution to their pain is simple or black and white. What you’ll likely find is a deeper appreciation for someone’s life lived rather than the judgment that may have been there before.
Also, don’t look for holes in a person’s story. Interrogators and prosecutors do that. I’m not trying to back someone into a theological corner where they feel stupid if they don’t agree with me. If people have to “defend their actions” with you, they don’t have the freedom to explore other possibilities for their life because they’re using all their mental space to keep you at bay. People don’t journey into unfamiliar territory with those they perceive to be a threat. They will however take that risk with those they feel can be a good companion or safe guide. So feel the freedom to change your posture by being curious and you might just help change a life.
This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people. Find the condensed list HERE. These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues. These blogs have been expounded upon with permission.
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available HERE.