There is a difference between establishing boundaries and guidelines to work within and being too rigid. Our boundaries are usually established due to our experiences, perceptions, values and beliefs and to some degree, our biases. These boundaries are intended to keep us safe and operating in what we believe to be our maximum potential. However, what happens when we encounter an individual or situations that threaten those boundaries? Is this a time to remain firm, or is it an opportunity to expand our mindset?
Since I am going to ask you to be honest and transparent, I will go first. I am a Christian, a Believer in Jesus Christ, and I do not agree with or condone the LGBTQ+ community preferences. My faith tells me this is an abomination to God; however, I am in conflict. As a Social Work (SW) student, I am consistently placed in positions where my beliefs, self-imposed laws and boundaries are challenged and stretched. Although I have not changed my beliefs concerning the LGBTQ+ community, I have softened my approach to them. I do not believe in or condone any physical, emotional, or mental aggressions towards the community. Instead, I have intentionally educated myself by taking a course, watching documentaries, reading books, blogs, and have received hours of training on their history, terminology, and how to address and engage in a non-judgmental manner. The most rewarding education has come through conversation. I am so grateful to those who have been patient and willing to let me ask questions and better understand their culture and community. Your acceptance of my ignorance was impressive and eye-opening. Due to these exposures, I have found myself engaging with the members in ways that I have not before. I was rigid in my thinking and recognized that I needed to expand.
I was reading my SW book one day and a question popped in my head- is it possible to be a social worker and exemplify -isms (racism, classism, ageism, colorism, etc.) at the same time? How can I purposefully and knowingly be a member of a community that promotes the safety of the most vulnerable populations and treat the same population poorly? It seemed like a contradiction. So I ventured out to educate myself. I needed to know more about the LGBTQ+ community so that I better understood what I was opposing. “… because the Bible said so” was no longer an excuse or a valid argument.
One of my SW professors said something that was so profound that I continue to chew on it. He said, “learning is when you can still believe what you believe knowing the information that contradicts it”. I usually pride myself on questioning everything, but was I really doing that? Was I really questioning EVERYTHING? No, I wasn’t. I spent time questioning only the things that I was comfortable with exploring, not the things that made me avoid eye contact and shift in my seat. I was not really expanding my learning as I assumed, instead I was reaffirming what I knew. I was open to learning only the things that were within my comfort zone. And that… that is not learning. I was a counterfeit.
I have decided that I am no longer going to blindly believe in anyone or anything because of tradition, generational values or because it sounded good on the radio. I am on a quest to reassess, reevaluate and relearn what I know so that I know that I KNOW! It may seem like this would shake my faith, but actually, it’s had the opposite effect. I am now more confident as a Believer because I have placed myself in vulnerable positions for my advancement. That’s what faith is all about, right?! Making yourself vulnerable and having faith in something that is bigger than you. I don’t just think I know, now I know that I know.
- Now, it’s your turn :-). Reflect on the questions below and enjoy the journey.
What do you believe and why do you believe that? Who is the provider of this belief (i.e. family, yourself, mentor)?
- What are somethings you’re willing to relearn?
- What boundaries have you set that you recognize may need to be reassessed?
- When do you plan to start?