Apostle Paul cautions us in how we react to things. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths,” he wrote in one of his letters to the early Christians, “but only what is useful for building up” (Ephesians 4:29). This should include sending out biting emails, too.
I don’t suffer fools well. I can be un-Christian with acerbic slings and uncharitable and impatient toward those committing an injustice. I still have to catch myself from tearing down instead of building up, as tearing down causes more harm than good.
Recently, I had an emotionally challenging weekend filled with confusion. It involved a close, long-term friendship. Of course miscommunication played a role. Perceptions can lead to inaccurate conclusions and needless emotional pain.
Initially, I reacted in a human way, failing to separate emotion from reason. Re-channeling the energy, however, had to become a priority, or I’d be headed toward a dark abyss, dropping a small fortune at my favorite bakery.
Attempts to wrestle with the situation had to include managing negative feelings that I permitted to fester. I needed to build myself up, not engage in a self-destructive binge or lash out.
Life can be unkind. In any situation—job loss, wounded relationship, or LGBTQ discrimination—each person must ask: how do I build myself up? My experience is another reminder, at least for me, of the necessity to react as constructively as possible. [pullquote]Life can be unkind. In any situation—job loss, wounded relationship, or LGBTQ discrimination—each person must ask: how do I build myself up? [/pullquote]
In my online travels I came across an outstanding, collective example of building up called We Are the Youth (www.WeAreTheYouth.org), a photographic journalism project, chronicling the individual stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. Although it documents the meanness of life, it also underscores the positive in a cold, complicated world.
Why such injustice occurs is too often overlooked—especially by the LGBTQ adult community—as an unanswerable question. Laurel Golio, a photographer and visual anthropologist, and Diana Scholl, an award-winning writer, are the brains and compassion behind We Are the Youth, profiling the strength, tenacity and spiritual and emotional wounds of LGBTQ youth. I interpret their work as an opportunity to heal and educate. The project offers life lessons to both LGBTQ youth and adults in general.
Despite all the civil and human rights advances, the work of Golio and Scholl and the stories shared in the project by young people (21 and under) is a reminder not to forget the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community while teaching how to manage and process harsh, unpleasant experiences. The project builds up in a beautiful though bittersweet way.
The young people—some having experienced homelessness—are building up, not tearing down, through self-destruction like allowing negativity to deny their joy and personhood. They are finding hope from within. Their stories are a reminder that no matter what happens, life does go on and we have to get back on its unrelenting merry-go-round that will throw us off again and again. In being thrown off, we must develop the inner strength to build up and not tear down with the dark energy we choose to create.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ youth community, please consider sharing your story at WeAreTheYouth.org. It might be an important way for you to nurture your soul and inspire others.
Regardless of age, next time you are challenged personally or professionally, think through your reaction first so you build up instead of tearing yourself or anyone else down.
*Paul is a Schenectady, NY based attorney, seminary trained priest and founder of CorporateChaplaincy.biz, committed to the spiritual wellness of professionals. He also is author of Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.