Two Degrees off Center: Looking Beyond the Obvious

This post is also available in: Spanish

Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience.  Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.

Doors

by Rich Keys

One of the companies I worked for as a Human Resources Manager built a beautiful, brand new headquarters building for our growing company. A grand stairway led from the lobby to the executive office suite on the second floor, and just to their right was the accounting department. The two areas were separated by a set of thick, walnut, floor-to-ceiling doors that always remained closed, and people on each side started to blame the other for not opening them up. Accounting felt it was the elitist executives who thought they were too good to make them accessible and inviting to the worker bees. The executives felt accounting had no respect or appreciation for how much the execs had invested, the risks involved, trying to keep the company going and growing with good salaries and benefits and a brand new building, etc. The doors remained shut, the feelings festered, but no one would bring it up and discuss it with the other side. It was becoming a serious “us vs them” problem. When I researched the situation, I found neither side was right. The real reason the doors were always shut was a fire code requirement. They were built to limit the spread of a fire so they were required to be closed at all times.

In today’s world, it’s so common to dig in our heels and make it an “us vs them” issue. People are no longer sitting on the same bench looking at the problem on the field. We’re on opposite sides of the field, the problem separating us, and we focus on beating the opposition instead of solving the problem. Each side thinks their way is the only way, but the best solution is usually somewhere in the middle, a third option no one has even thought about.

While going to college, I worked as a relay operator—a dedicated phone operator for the hearing-impaired and sight-impaired communities. Part of our training was an in-depth, ongoing discussion of the issues within each community and what mattered to them. There was a big debate within the deaf community regarding whether to lip-read and become inclusive with the general population or use sign language to keep their uniqueness and distinct identity in society. Deaf individuals on both sides of the debate visited us and explained why they were so passionate about the issue, and it was an eye-opening experience to discover and appreciate issues and perspectives I never knew existed.

Affirmation members currently seem to be having a similar type of debate. We want to think of ourselves as a family—and we all know how families are sometimes. It’s not always the perfect image on the front of the magazine. It’s also the disagreeing, arguing, door-slamming, labeling your opinions as facts, and accusing others of “not getting it.” Even worse, nothing may be said at all due to some fear, allowing it build up inside of us until we feel overwhelmed and contemplate more drastic options that we would never have considered before.

Many of us in Affirmation share the experience of coming out to our family and church, only to be judged and rejected by the very people we’ve always looked to for support. Let’s not make the same mistake in our Affirmation family. Each of us, whether an active member of the LDS Church, a former member, or alienated Mormon, has value and importance to bring to the table. If we truly believe that “many great and important things” will yet be revealed, then let’s acknowledge that none of us has the perfect solution, that it’s not us vs them, and to look for new options and solutions that we haven’t discovered yet. The same can be said for both Affirmation and the LDS Church as organizations.

In a recent moment when I began to doubt my value, when I felt like a small fish in a big ocean, I looked to a very wise man in my life who said, “That’s like saying the heart only accounts for less than half a percent of our body weight. Maybe we should cut it out so that the other 99.5% can thrive.” Wise counsel for the Affirmation family, too.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.

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One Comment

  1. Tim McGeachy says:

    Thank you Rich. Another perhaps more cynical way of presenting these divisions is to say the ugly world of identity politics is pressing into our debates. We must emphasize the family of Affirmation. We may argue but we don’t condemn or exclude within our family.

    Sometimes we have to think out of the box to facilitate discussions. Your company’s fire doors are an example. I was an HR director in hospitals, where there are fire doors in every corridor. But they are always held open by magnetic pads that release to close the doors only when the fire alarms sound. Different thinking that might have made a difference at your company back in the day.

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