”You can be angry at someone (or something) you love, and it doesn’t always mean the relationship is over.”
Years ago, a wise friend shared this with me and when I heard it, I think I stared back at her for a good 90 seconds before I even blinked. It was as if someone stated the painfully obvious that I knew deep down was true, but had never heard verbalized my entire life–let alone seen someone practice it.
Sure, I got it intellectually–anger isn’t the end of everything. But the world I lived in never dealt with anger directly or in a healthy way: it was stuffed, covered up, or denied wholesale until it festered right into a resentment, which of course could leap out at any time and punish the offender (who seldom had any idea why they were being punished), with harsh words or any icy freeze-out. This kind of behavior was not only true in my family, but also deeply entrenched into much of my Mormon culture where being ”nice” seemed to be valued much more than being ”genuine.”
It took me a long time to understand how to come to grips with the truth of my friend’s statement. And, it took me a long time to understand how to deal with my anger in a healthy way, and learn that it’s not really ”nice” at all to be angry with someone and not be honest about it, and instead carry resentments around with me like a giant bag of rocks.
Today I recognize I have a choice when dealing with anger. I also recognize that ”anger” is only one letter short of ”danger,” and when I don’t deal with anger appropriately it often leads me in a hazardous direction where I lose my spiritual center. That one-letter, one-second choice between managing my anger or letting my anger manage me often means the difference between creating cavernous gaps in my relationships, or creating connections with those around me based on honesty, respect, and dignity for both of us.
As an openly gay Mormon–and someone who stands as my authentic self in both communities–I get many opportunities to learn how to manage my anger. When I’m faced with anger, I can choose to detach and think before I react. Maybe I choose to remove myself from the situation; perhaps I choose to respond with a simple statement like, ”You might be right” to avoid a pointless argument; or I can choose to directly tell another person I feel uncomfortable or angry with their behavior and say what I mean, without being mean when I say it. Then, if I need to, I can choose to process my feelings with a safe and trusted friend in confidence, put the situation in my God Box and give it to my Savior, or beat the heck out of my pillow with a whiffle bat. I can even choose to do all three.
Everything about maintaining my spiritual center begins and ends with me and the choices I make. When I choose to practice managing my anger in a healthy way, I don’t have to carry resentments around like a heavy bag of stones, and I am free to live my life peacefully and with dignity–and allow others the privilege of doing the same.
I am Mitch Mayne. I am an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint.
I was raised in Idaho, and baptized into the Mormon Church when I was eight. I left the church for many years, due in large part to my parent’s divorce. In my mid-20s, I returned to the church of my own accord, knowing full well that I was gay, and that someday I would have to find a way to reconcile my sexual orientation with my faith.
For many years, I was fractured: I believed I was a man with a foot in two worlds, and that I belonged in neither. But as I’ve grown in my testimony of my Savior and my confidence in who I am, I’ve come to understand myself as a man with a foot in two worlds–who very much belongs in both. From August 2011 through November of 2013, I served as the executive secretary of the bishopric of the Bay Ward within the San Francisco Stake.
I currently remain an active, happy and whole gay Mormon–just the way I am.