Helping StudentsStruggling With Homosexuality
How can you help a student who is struggling with homosexuality?
1. Relational Breakdown Between Parents and Children
Some individuals involved in homosexual behaviour come from homes where the father was a substance abuser or addicted to some other behaviour. Familial abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional) and neglect can have a large impact on students.
Of most significance is a relational breakdown and a lack of bonding between the student and their same-gender parent. This is especially true between boys and their fathers. This same dynamic is true for girls, but many girls who experience same-sex attractions have also had hurt inflicted by their fathers.
Equally important to external signs of unhealthy family interaction is how the student responds to the home environment. Oftentimes none of the above symptoms are present, yet there is relational breakdown. The problem may be come from a childhood perception that interpreted a parent's absence or actions as signs of rejection, even though that may not be the case. Whether the problem is real or imaginary, the effect is the same: as a defence mechanism, a student may have detached emotionally as a child to guard against further hurt.
2. Unhealthy Cycles
Relational breakdown may create a destructive foundation that leads to a series of unhealthy emotional cycles that foster identification with homosexuality. While all the cycles may not appear in any one individual, many of them will. They are identifiable and progressive.
Cycle of Rejection: Rejection is at the heart of the homosexual struggle. Early childhood rejection begins a life of rejection. This causes self-hate and rejection of one's gender, producing behaviour that creates further rejection, and so it goes on.
Does the student experience a lot of rejection by others? Is there evidence of discomfort with one's gender? Does he/she spurn others, especially those of the same sex? Girls may also be heavily critical or fearful of men, as well.
Cycle of Shame: Shame is close to self-rejection. It does not involve what a person does, but who the person is. It is the painful feeling of being bad, seeing oneself in a diminished, devaluated way, suggesting the person is defective, inadequate, and unworthy.
Some students who struggle with same-sex attractions may have feelings of guilt and shame over attractions they can't control or understand. These feelings may develop into self-loathing. Do you know a teenager who constantly feels he/she is an awful person?
Cycle of Self-Pity: While all of us feel sorry for ourselves from time to time, some who experience unwanted same-sex attractions become locked into a habitual and chronic self-pity cycle. Does the student appear to have a "woe is me" attitude much of the time? Do they tend to draw negative attention to themselves?
Cycle of Fear: In their student years, many individuals who eventually enter homosexuality seem bound by abnormal levels of fear. Does the student appear to be afraid of everything, meeting new people, going to social events, or doing new things? Does he or she fear failure, success, and what others think? Is the world in general a fearful place?
Cycle of Envy: Admiration towards certain types of people soon turns to envy for students contending with homosexual feelings. They are envious towards certain characteristics others of the same sex have that they don't.
The desire to possess these traits is a strong motivating force behind homosexual attractions. They feel that finding completion in another who possesses such traits will make them whole and acceptable. Do they envy or are they attracted to certain types of people with specific physical or personality traits?
Some adult homosexuals describe themselves as "outsiders looking in." This is because they feel different from other people. They also don't fit society's mold for masculinity or femininity. This difference is often reinforced in students by the way their peers relate to them.
The result is isolation. Is your student a loner? Does he/she fit in well at student events? Is he/she the brunt of jokes and name-calling such as "fag," "queer," or "dyke"?
4. Obsession with a "Special Friend"
An emotionally dependent relationship, whether it leads to sex or not, is unhealthy. Of all the signs, obsession with a "special friend" is probably the best indicator. While appearing among heterosexuals too, it may be a factor in homosexual relationships.
During the elementary and junior high years, same-sex relationships emulating dependency are normal, but these exclusive attachments should reduce as students grow.
Does he/she seem to talk about a special same-sex friend all the time and not want to go places without that friend? Do they show inappropriate affection that makes others feel uncomfortable? Are they moody or depressed when the friend is not around or when the friend develops other relationships? Is he/she possessive of the friendís time and attention, wanting to be like them (in dress, mannerisms, etc.)?
5. A Critical, Bitter Attitude
Unresolved bitterness can lie at the bottom of homosexuality. Bitterness towards those who have caused hurt leads to a critical attitude of self and others, often setting up a person for failure. Is your student hard on himself or herself when expectations aren't reached? Is he/she overly critical towards others who are smarter, better looking, or who have what they desire?
6. Open Rebellion
Following a critical attitude often comes open rebellion. This rebellion can take many forms. Are they throwing off family values? Has their view of God changed? Do they challenge traditional interpretations of Scripture, especially those dealing with homosexuality? Is there a change of frequency of church attendance? Are they secretive about their friends? Has their appearance changed?
Helping a Student Who Struggles with Homosexual Feelings
You don't need to be an expert on homosexuality to help someone struggling with it. The main requirements are a commitment to Jesus Christ, a love for students and availability. A person sensitive to the signs of homosexual struggle can lovingly intervene and help a student work through those feelings.
Be sure you deal with issues in your own life and examine your motives first. Is your relationship with Christ firm? What is your attitude towards homosexuals? Are there any areas of your own life that are inconsistent with Godís will (especially your sexuality)?
Don't Jump to Conclusions: Some people have occasional homosexual feelings. Others have engaged in homosexual sex out of curiosity or for the thrill of the forbidden. These people may question their sexual orientation, but they are not homosexual. Avoid labelling them. If there was someone to talk to them and reassure them of their sexuality, they might be able to deal with the situation.
Don't Overreact: Expect unexpected "revelations." If a relationship of trust is built, the student may want to share everything with you. This may come at an unexpected time and he/she will probably be overly sensitive to any sign of condemnation or rejection. Any overreaction could cause further alienation.
Communicate Acceptance: Don't be afraid to affirm them with healthy, appropriate acceptance. You don't need to fear that you are condoning the behaviour by your acceptance of them as a person.
Don't Pass Off Their Feelings as a Phase: The failure to take seriously the feelings of a student is to make light of an agonizing struggle. These feelings will not merely go away or be outgrown. Listen and empathize and pray.
Don't Reject Them: They may expect you to reject them once you know the truth. By unconditional love and acceptance, you can help break the rejection cycle. Don't panic if they express sexual feelings for you. Sex and intimacy can be intertwined in their thinking. If they fall, they need someone to pick up the pieces and get them back on track.
Don't be Afraid to Demonstrate Love: The love of Jesus must be activated in verbal communication that is consistent with actions of acceptance, concern, and availability. Don't be afraid to demonstrate love with an affirming hug or a securing arm around the shoulders. Touching is not sexual, but loving.
Don't Allow Them to be Overly Dependent on You: Jesus Christ is the answer, not you. Only God can bring about any necessary changes. You are God's instrument and a fallible one at that. Be willing to admit your limitations. Lead your student friend into a deeper walk with Jesus and a growing dependency upon Him.
Do be a Friend: Friends are the most needed resource, but the least in supply. Establish a relationship of trust. Don't violate shared confidences. Provide a safe place where he/she can share negative feelings without criticism or reprimand.
Do Lead Them to Jesus Christ: You are not presenting a moral code or merely the promise of heterosexuality. You are offering Jesus Christ. God is interested in redeeming the whole person, not just their sexuality. Point them away from their sexual sin and help them to see Jesus as the answer to all their sins. Out of a genuine relationship with Christ will come the desire and ability by the Holy Spirit to do His will, even in sexuality.
Do See a Whole Person, Not a "Homosexual": Avoid making homosexuality the entire focus of your conversation. Help them see themselves through God's eyes, as a whole person, not as a sexual being only.
Like many other sins, the act of homosexual sex has been used as a way to seek love and affirmation. Yet that love and acceptance can only come through Jesus Christ. Also, do not label the teen a homosexual, and thus validate a sinful identity.
Do Care Enough to Confront: Love enough to be honest. Don't back down on God's standard. Don't be afraid of loving confrontation that hates the sin, but loves the sinner. Avoid the temptation to shun the student if they don't measure up to expectations.
Do Share from Your Life: You may not be able to relate to homosexual feelings, but you have experienced rejection, loneliness, hurt, and lust.As you share personal struggles in these areas and how to deal with them, you help put a strudent's problems in perspective and give hope for overcoming them.
Do be Patient: Homosexual feelings are not going to change overnight. The change will come with time, healing, and com-passionate support of friends. Resist the tendency to judge the student's progress, your own ability as a helper, or God's power to bring change in His own way and time. Don't become discouraged, but pray for them continually.
Lead Them to Resources that will Help: Ensure that any resources that you encourage a student to use will be helpful. Check them out in advance. Exodus has student ministries that may be helpful. After leading them to helpful resource, continue being their friend. They will still need your friendship and support.
Adapted from a Bud Searcy article, 1991