Permission #1: Permission to Love

Just before Christmas 2017 I published the 12 Permission for a Better Life. Now that 2018 is here, let's take a 12 week journey together. Each week I'll take one of the 12 permissions and explore it more deeply. Together we will learn and grow. It's a fantastic way to kick off the new year!

Give yourself permission to love what you love! Remove the judgement. Don't squelch it. Don't deny it. Simply acknowledge and permit it to be.

When you read this, what do you feel? What comes to mind? Are you thinking of things you love, but have been afraid to fully acknowledge? Most of us know quite well what we love, but we often categorize those into two columns.

The love we permit ourselves or the love we deny ourselves.

Think about your loves. What do you have in each column? Why is it in that particular column? I believe we are deeply influenced by our upbringing, religion and society when it comes to why we have two columns.

For example: I love men. it took me a long time to allow myself to love what I love because I feared that by acknowledging my love would be like removing all obstacles and the floodgates would open and I'd find myself in reckless abandon consuming what I love with no regard to anything or anyone else. Like the greedy children in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, I would be destroyed by my own consumption.

I grew up in religious environments that taught me that I was to distrust my own heart and desires. Bible verses like "The heart is deceitfully wicked" and "don't trust your own understanding" were pounded into my head as a reminder that I could not trust my heart or mind. I was also taught that to please god required me to sacrifice my own desires, they were probably sinful anyway.

I clearly remember the day I gave myself permission to love men. That was a tough one for me. I had loved my own sex as far back as my mind could recall, but I spent years trying to deny that love in hopes that it would go away. As an adult I even spent nearly three years in ex-gay therapy in order to help me better deny what I love.

There was a day when I reached my limit of denial. I had a talk with myself and my god. For the first time in my life I admitted to myself that I am a gay man who loves men. That was huge for me. I was in my mid 30's at that time. I spent my entire life trying to talk myself out of that love. In my efforts to deny my love I had developed some pretty unhealthy behaviors, thought patterns, and relationships with myself and others. I feared that if I were to grant myself permission to love what I love that I would be like a kid in a candy store consuming everything in sight, fulfilling all my greatest fantasies. Instead, I found that many of my unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns almost immediately began melting away. By granting that permission to myself I had also given myself the power to make healthy decisions. It was like saying to myself, "Joel, I'm giving you my full permission to love men. Since you have my permission, I'm no longer going to heap judgement on what you do or don't do. I'm not longer going to require you to sneak around and do things in secrecy. You do what you want. But with that permission comes responsibility. The responsibility is now in your hands. You have permission to love men, but love men responsibly." To my own surprise I discovered that I could indeed love and live responsibly.

What do you love? What would it feel like to simply grant yourself permission to love? What are you afraid of?

May 2018 be the year you give yourself permission to love.

Joel Barrett

LGBTQ Writer, Speaker, Gatherer

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Joel Speaks Out

Kansas City, MO