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Fearing Regret in Redford

  • Posted on August 24, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Dear Christine,

I grew up with catholic, republican, homophobic parents.  My dad passed 20 years ago and my mom is 85 and starting to have health issues.  I’ve never come out to her and we’ve never talked about the issue though I’ve always figured she must know or suspect.  She gave up asking for grandkids years ago.  I’ve had a “roommate” for 15 years and we’ve kept the appearance of not sharing a bedroom when my mom is over.

My question is, should I come out to her while I still have a chance?  I fear I will regret it if I never fully share who I am with her.  I guess I want her to love and accept the real me.  I’ve been weighing the pros and cons and need to make a decision soon.  The downside is if it will upset her too much as gays “go to hell” you know.

Fearing Regret in Redford

Dear Fearing Regret,

My gut feeling upon reading this is that you want reassurance to come out to your mom.  Fear is about the future and regret is about the past.  I don’t hear that you regret not having come out to your dad and that you are ok with having lived a “don’t ask, don’t tell” life with your mom.  You are right, she probably knows your truth.  What you and I don’t know is whether she will be able to cope with that truth being spoken.  Many conservative, religious, homophobic parents go into the closet when their child comes out.  They then have to try to reconcile the beliefs they have held for so long that are judgmental of their child they love.  PFLAG has helped many parents figure out how to hold their gay son or lesbian daughter in love and respect but not have to forsake their values or spiritual beliefs.  Those parents are looking for a way to bridge the chasm between loving their child and having always believed what the church taught:  “gays go to hell.”

I have a few quotes concerning fear and regret I thought might be helpful to you in your deliberations.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha

“My life is my message.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The message here is “be you” fully and completely everywhere and with everyone.  But that means “be” you, not necessarily proclaiming to others who you are.  Sometimes words are superfluous.  I heard a joke yesterday.     How do you find out someone is a vegan?  Just wait, and they will tell you! And they will keep telling you!

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Confronting the fear by speaking your truth will take away your fear, but it may be replaced with some other feeling, which might be preferable to living in fear.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

So, if you are going to confront your fear, prepare yourself well.  Make sure your heart, your soul are in the right place and that you are coming from love and truth, not self-righteousness or anger.  Write out what you want to say so you can take the time to sleep on it and then do a gut check on those words to see if they reflect you and your intention.  You may not get the reaction you want, but you will have been as clear, direct and loving as you are able.  You may not able to predict or control what your mom’s response will be, but if you use those loving and brave words, you are creating a space for a deeper level of honesty and a closeness that has not been available to both of you.  Your mom will not have had the time to prepare her reaction.  After time to reflect and process, she may modify her words.

“I don’t really have any regrets because if I choose not to do something there is usually a very good reason. Once I’ve made the decision I don’t view it as a missed opportunity, just a different path.” – Andrew Lincoln

“If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.  Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou

Examine your beliefs about yourself, your mother and the strength of your bond.  If you believe you must speak your truth to her before she dies, do it.  But be aware she is on a different path and expect nothing.  If her different values and beliefs  have too much risk of judgment or rejection, perhaps this is a very good reason for missing this opportunity.  And then, years from now when you look back, take responsibility for the choice you make now while she is here and know you did what you felt was best for you and for her, given your experience, awareness and understanding at the time you decide to take or forgo speaking your truth.  Accept whatever choice you make and be at peace in your heart whatever the outcome.  There are no regrets when you do what you are able to do, knowing that you cannot make someone else do, feel, think, choose or respond in anyway.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” decision here.  You may decide today that you cannot risk rejection from your mom, but a month from now, you may decide that you are willing to accept her no matter what she says or does, but speaking your truth is most important.  You will learn a lot about yourself from this process, and probably a lot about your mom as well.  Good luck, and let me know what you decide if you so choose.