In reference to Caitlyn Jenner, a friend of a friend posted a Facebook comment this week with the quote “Love the sinner, hate the sin” as if it were a biblical quote. I had issues with this but, not wanting to clutter my friend’s feed or start a war with someone she cares about, I decided to make my reaction a post of my own. As I went over my own history with this particular philosophy, along with some recent conversations though, I realized that my attitude toward this phrase is more complicated than I first thought.
In case you haven’t been following along, or are new, I used to be one of those people who was quite fond of the above phrase. It made me feel all open-minded and accepting. Eventually, I came to be ashamed of that part of my life. Regardless of the intent, and I do believe the intent is overall a positive one, that phrase is still judgmental. It’s still assuming that this aspect of a person is sinful and that you know what is right and wrong better than they do.
As a former Christian, however, I can argue both sides. Christians will tell you that loving the sinner means we all deserve love and to be loved. We are all sinners and fallen short of the glory of God, blah, blah, blah.
So why do I only ever see this phrase thrown in the direction of LGBT people? I don’t remember ever seeing it mentioned in relation to, say, Charles Manson or Josh Duggar. Or even Bill Clinton. No one says we need to love the Boston Marathon bomber in spite of his transgression. And God forbid anyone suggest we love people of other religions, especially Muslims. But as soon as someone comes out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, certain religious people just have to trumpet out the “we love you anyway” line.
No, no, no. That’s not the way it works. You don’t get to love someone and hate something so fundamental about them, something they have no more control over than the color of their skin. You don’t get to have an opinion on their gender, their sex life, their identity, how they see themselves, how they express themselves, or anything else. That’s why it’s their life, not yours. Don’t like it and it’s a big enough stumbling block that you feel the need to tell them you love them but hate their sin? Then don’t be friends with them. Trust me, no one wants to be merely tolerated. Love us for who we are or don’t bother.
Okay, with a deep breath, I’m stepping down from the soap box
Because you know what? Even non-Christians, people not using the “hate the sin, love the sinner” line do a version of this every day, all the time.
In college, I had a friend who let me know that everyone had annoyed him at some point. He could name exactly one person who had never once annoyed him. I thought that was horrible and immediately wondered what I had done to annoy him. I’m still not sure. It doesn’t matter because it was probably little stuff. Over time, I have realized that my own attitude towards others, even those I am closest to, is not so different. I don’t love everything about everyone I love. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect or infallible. It means that the good stuff outweighs the bad, that they have proven themselves in some way that makes me want to overlook the stuff I’m less crazy about.
In a more recent conversation after a munch, a friend asked my opinion on someone he had just met. This third party, who I’ll call F, is a bit loud, a bit of a know-it-all who has to make sure you know how connected he is to the kink community all over the country. He’s not a bad person and my impression of him has changed for the better with time, but I still need to take him in small doses only. My friend, H, stated that they didn’t completely buy all of F’s story and it was difficult to disagree. I’m not sure I do either.
And then H said something that hit very hard, something to the effect of, “But I’m rarely 100% with anyone.” His point was that we all present ourselves the way we want to be seen. None of us are 100% completely honest. It doesn’t mean we go around spreading lies about ourselves, but we do express ourselves through our own filters and our own perspectives. Recognizing that, and putting words to it, was huge for me.
What I took away is that we don’t have to agree with every little thing about a person in order to like them, love them, or care about them. We can have our differences and our disagreements and that’s okay. We can recognize the flaws and…
Wait, maybe the difference here is that I don’t necessarily see our differences as flaws. I see the people I love as imperfect just as I am imperfect, and I am not judging their imperfections. They’re wonderful and fabulous and beautiful *because* of their imperfections, not in spite of them. I don’t hate our differences. I love our differences. I embrace them. And what I see as flaws, someone else may see as a perfection. It’s not my place to name those things.