[FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE 7TH MAY 2014]
I consider myself to be fairly privileged in all that I get to see and do. I travel frequently, I live and work in a city that is the veritable definition of cosmopolitan and I have friends and family both in the UK and abroad who constantly challenge, affirm and show me love – the kind that’s usually expressed through uncontrollable bouts of laughter.
Despite all of that blessing it seems that I still fall prey to a typically human syndrome: doubt. I don’t lack for faith in many things; the consistency in which the predictable twists and turns in many an American TV show still continue to shock me, the guarantee that if my Mum says Apple Crumble that we’ll all affectionately mock the South London twang that accompanies it and of course my Christian faith.
However it seems that doubt is a pervasive little bugger and that it often niggles away at that which is easily manipulated emotionally. I think this is none more obvious than in relationships – whether that’s in a marriage, with a colleague or an old friend; it is the emotional involvement with that person, no matter the type of connection, which is doubts strongest ally.
It’s something that I witness in the corporate environment all the time: the investment of time and energy into building sustainable professional relationships, which often develop into friendships, and the juggling act of managing those and the individual’s desire for career progression is a feeding ground for doubt and it’s siblings: rivalry and discontent. Doubt throws everything into question: am I being lied to? What are they saying about me behind my back? Did I do a good job or did someone do it better. It’s dangerous and destructive.
Then there’s the kind of doubt that I've recently experienced; it’s caused by the fear being rejected by a loved one. For years now I've avoided a frank and open conversation about my sexuality (and more recently my relationship status) with someone who I've come to call a brother. It’s been the source of a real sense of discontent and shame – I’m an out and proud gay man in almost all of my life, yet I hid the truth from this one relationship.
There are all kinds of excuses I could list: he’s from a different culture and being gay is even less accepted there than it can be here, we see each only once a year and so it really doesn't affect our relationship, it will confuse and destabilise what we've built over the last 6 years and that really isn't necessary… the list could go on but ultimately it was a result of doubt, doubt in the strength of my friend, of the brotherly love that has grown between us, even doubt in his ability to be more than his cultural heritage defines him to be. It’s a doubt that forced not only me to lie but also friends who he’s met and also my partner, never overtly but always by omission.
Biblically we’re often left wanting more when it comes to those that doubt – there are few examples that can encourage and motivate us to not let its roots take hold but the ones that are given all have one thing in common: doubt can be overcome by conversation. Thomas, perhaps the most commonly used example, overcame his doubt by encountering the resurrected Christ – conversing with his Lord who he’d spent years getting to know and Gideon, called to free Israel from oppression, actively engaged with God, even asking for miraculous signs to confirm what he’d been told.
Doubt is aggressive, active and invasive – it cannot be overcome with passivity, inaction and surrender. It must be tackled head on, challenged and forced to leave or it will find a home in everything that we do and say.
And for those that are interested, I did just that. I stopped doubting my friend, spoke honestly to him, hugged it out and then I cried.