Tuesday 21 February 2017

Thought Picnic: Of friendships circumstance will not break

Roles we do not choose
There are roles that come by reason of progeny, others by reason of status, some by reason of quest and there some that fall not by election or commission but just by fate, roles you never chose that others immediately confer on you.
I was thrust into such a role today and I was honoured and blessed to stand in that role. A few weeks ago, I wrote of Dealing with sexuality and HIV stigma, an encounter at work that involved both the sharing of my sexuality and status.
The open-mindedness of my colleague blew me away that the encounter became the episode around which to give context to a statement I saw online a couple of weeks earlier - “In a perfect world, the positive would be open and the negative would be open-minded.
Openness is a frame of reference
My colleague was presented with a dilemma, a close friend of his after a long regular matrimonial relationship with issue had decided on a different course in life, one the presented literally insurmountable challenges in the area of sexuality and sexual choices. Whilst not radical from a health perspective, it was life-changing for all concerned.
My advice was sought on how to deal with such a situation, on behalf of the friend and my colleague who confessed he had no frame of reference with which to offer counsel and support.
Unbeknownst to my colleague, he probably had the broadest frame of reference in that he was open to understanding and inquiry, accepting of a different situation in which he had no contemplative context and he was determined to continue the long-term friendship that he had with his friend, regardless of the choices the friend had made. He cherished the person over the circumstance.
Presence is humanity
In the broader scheme of things, the friend was facing isolation, ostracism, and rejection, in my view, to have someone like my colleague available to continue to offer support and friendship without judgement or accusation was an exhibition of unparalleled brotherly love and humanity.
In my colleague, I saw an openness that gave me renewed faith in our common humanity and here he was as a person exhibiting it again and having the freedom to ask for insight and advice for both himself and his friend. I suggested the use of support groups, but first and essentially tapping on professional help to review the situation for his friend better.
However, most importantly, I said to my colleague the role he had to play was of the greatest significance to his friend, having an open mind, offering an open door, being a considerate listener and keeping the friendship going strong.
Picking up the broken pieces
And though my colleague said of that the honesty of his friend and the decision to face up to his challenging circumstances by informing his spouse and offspring was one of the most courageous things he had ever seen a man do, offered the choice to maintain the status quo and live a secret double life, the consequences of such a decision are at the very least earth-shattering.
No spouse in a heretofore heterosexual relationship can compete with the situation where their partner opts for a homosexual expression of physical and emotional fulfilment. The spouse will be gravely hurt, resentful, full of questions, guilt, angry, in denial and befuddlement apart from being scandalised in the community amongst other things that could presage depression or worse. The offspring will be left confused and possibly unable to deal with the change in their parent.
It goes without saying that healing for every side of this challenging situation is not around the corner, it would take a long time to come to terms with it and the hope is that professional counsel will help ameliorate the fallout. If every person affected by this had a friend like my colleague, there would be a lot to salvage of the life that went on before and that I think is necessary, though now things are still very raw.
My colleague can also challenge other friends in that circle to see a bigger, tolerant and embracing aspect to our humanity to accommodate difference wherever it might show itself. I commend my colleague for his openness and I was honoured to be called upon to chat about it.

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