Should I Share a Sensitive Subject?

Hi everyone, I’m Mike Staver. This is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people just like you. This week’s question is a very interesting question, and frankly a question that I went back and forth about answering. So, I want to set this question up by asking you to be very clear about what I’m about to say and the question I’m about to answer. Here’s the question. It’s a very sensitive question, it’s a brave question.

Dear Mike, the reason this question is anonymous is that it’s a very sensitive one and one that could cause some pain for me if anyone knew I asked it. Here’s the question: I am clear that I am gay. I have been clear for some time. In fact, most of my life. However I was raised in a very traditional, conservative environment and am still very involved and very close to my family. I know you’re a huge advocate of authenticity but I must tell you I am weary of the double life I lead and feel like I’m dishonest and sneaking around. I know you don’t know all the details about my life and my circumstances but any help you can give is appreciated.

Do I just throw my feelings to the wind and my lifestyle to the wind and suffer the pain my family would feel and share those with them and most likely inflict on them? Or do I continue to live authentically? Or do I live out a double life? I’m not asking for, nor do I want an opinion about my prefrence or the morality of what I’m doing, I simply want some guidance on whether I align who I am with how I live every day when others aren’t around.

That’s a big question. So, I’m not going to issue a statement of morality, there’s enough of that going around one way or the other. It’s none of my personal business. I don’t know you or any of the circumstances.

Let me share this whole notion of sharing something in a safe environment. I am a huge advocate of authenticity. I think authenticity is important. It’s defined, according to the New American Heritage Dictionary (or as being actually and precisely as presented. Anytime we make a certain decision, whether it’s a decision to share this information about your lifestyle, or whether it’s a decision to take another job, or whether it’s a decision to get married, or get divorced… These decisions always have weight attached to them. And when we don’t think there’s weight attached to them we tend to be careless.

So, first of all, congratulations on being sensitive enough and caring enough about those who will be affected by this announcement to consider it. Secondly, I would be surprised if there weren’t people very close to you who already had some suspicion that this was what was happening in your life, or that there was some part of your life that they weren’t aware of. Third, I think it’s risky to believe that just broadcasting who you are and what you’re about without any consideration for the impact it would have on other people is generally a mistake. We have to consider our audience in all the things that we do. I’d love to tell you that families just want their kids to be happy, or brothers and sisters to be happy… I’m not sure that that’s always the case. I think sometimes that families and friends want us to be happy, as long as we’re happy in a box.

So let me answer your question this way. I want you to do three things. I want you to get by yourself and ask yourself the question: is this restlessness that you feel in this double life that you’re living, is the need to share that because you are going to be able to live more in alignment? Or is it because you just feel like people need to know? If it’s really about alignment, you need to understand that you could create worse consequences for you. You could have to live a double life anyway, right. You could lose a whole part of your life. The question is… is living in alignment with that:
Number 1: Worth it?
Number 2: Something that you think if you did it would produce positive results for you, your partner, your friends, and your family?
And then the final thing I would ask is: Does that help you thrive and influence other people in a positive way?

What I absolutely do not want you to do is be militant about it, to just share it because ‘this is who I am’ and ‘throw caution to the wind’. I’ve had similar circumstances where people have come to me either friends or so forth and ask me this question and I have counselled and coached them to be very careful to evaluate the consequences in advance. So that’s the first thing you do.

I don’t know how old you are. It appears that you’re not living at home anymore, so I think it is important that you proceed cautiously and wisely and that if you do elect to share that do not expect that everybody in their head is where you are already. Because you’ve been dealing with this for a long time, so you’re going to need to give people permission to respond the way they need to respond and then grow and/or get used to it.

If it were me, and I were in your circumstances, I would hesitate and think through it, not out of fear but out of consequence and impact it’s going to have on other people, and then I’d wade into that water slowly as you feel more centered and clear about how you want to live for the rest of your life.

I hope that’s helpful, I’m Mike Staver, this is Mondays with Mike. Take care.

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