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holding spaces

by Shawni

My friend posted this quote on Instagram a while back and I’ve thought about it and shared it with so many since then.

It just rings so true in so many ways. From little things like just wrapping our arms around a daughter who has huge tears rolling down her cheeks, not trying to fix those woes (as I have done way too many times), but being there, silently holding space for her to come back when she’s ready, to deeper sorrows too. Friends and loved ones who are filled with anguish that we cannot even comprehend.

Yes, there is sometimes room for fixing and protecting, even sometimes room for avoiding. But most of the time what is needed most is that place-holder. Someone who will listen. Someone who will “mourn with those who mourn.” And stand in that “helpless vigil of pain” and be still.

And love, unconditionally. Because love without judgement or fuss is always the answer.

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24 comments

Lucy Grey October 29, 2019 - 3:25 am

I say this with respect, the quote you have reposted is by an incredible woman who is dedicated to equality for all people, particularly those in the LGBTQI community. This is an issue your church has rallied against in very public and incredibly destructive ways, causing untold harm to families, individuals and communities.

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Shawni October 29, 2019 - 12:04 pm

She IS incredible if she is able to produce those kinds of words. Words that help us remember to be careful with one another, and love one another unconditionally. And hold spaces for those who are in the depths of sorrow. That is the whole message of Christ’s gospel. I think those who struggle with how to handle the feelings associated with different sexual orientations and lifestyles, something that has been hidden in secrecy and shame for hundreds of years that is now coming out into the light, is much deeper and more multi-faceted than just my church. I think the world at large is trying to figure it all out. It is a process that involves heartbreak and anguish in many communities, particularly religious ones, and yes, some destruction along the way because we are all human trying to figure life out. But I love that Glennon Doyle is reiterating what the essence of the gospel is all about. Being a “fixer” is not what people need. People need unconditional love. And learning how to give it is what life is all about.

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Rachel October 30, 2019 - 2:44 am

Loving is important, but I think we all need to be careful to avoid reiterating the idea that to be LGBTQ+ necessarily has to involve struggle and suffering. This may be true in today’s world, but it shouldn’t be true. We as a society create that suffering, when we should welcome LGBTQ+ people and recognise that their love is as valuable and meaningful as anyone else’s. I agree that we need to hold people and show them love as individuals, but as LDS women we also need to try to fix structural injustice and discrimination in our church.

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Kristine October 30, 2019 - 4:53 am

Gosh even Ellen can sit next to a republican at a baseball game and generally like the guy. And a Bush can be friendly with Ellen as well. A person in a church can’t like something an activist said? Really? Most churches interpret scripture to say they can not marry a same sex couple. So when there is a vote by the public about it since it effects them them as a church that might be required to marry such couples they make their feelings known. It’s a free country. If you don’t like it pick a different church or no church. Illinois had lost religious exemption for a while in healthcare jobs right around that proposition in California. There are churches that do marry and also made their feelings known on the subject. Find a mosque or synagogue that is happy to do it. If you don’t want people to vote yes or no on a ballot, do not ask the question of the voters. Perhaps focus your anger on the governments wrongly executing and lashing people who are gay. Today among believers in various faiths it is the actions that are concern, not the being gay part. If you are going to be mad at something from years ago, three years ago the democrats were going to properly vet people entering the country. But go after democrats today for not being for open borders.

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Jenny October 29, 2019 - 5:58 am

Thank you for sharing those beautiful words. I think you would enjoy listening to episode 24 of the Brooke Snow podcast. It’s on holding space and is powerful!

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Shawni October 29, 2019 - 12:05 pm

Thank you, I’ll have to check that out!
xoxo

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Jenny also October 29, 2019 - 6:20 am

Yes! I could not agree more with this sentiment and the power of love and being present!

Do you know who Glennon Doyle is? She’s an amazing speaker, author, and mom who is married to a woman. She is all about love and human respect. The recent news about the LDS church’s position on “conversion therapy” (to name just one thing) is ALL ABOUT “FIXING” people who don’t have anything wrong with them. Check out the alarming rates of suicide and mental illness among LGBTQ folks in cultures that do not accept “gay lifestyles.” The pain caused by these positions is very real and has devastated many lives and families. Vulnerable kids and young adults are being hurt and your church is fighting for the right to continue to hurt them (using your money).

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Jamie October 29, 2019 - 6:47 am

It’s interesting to note the Church is actually against “conversion therapy” and has tried to clarify its stand on recent legislation but those clarifying statements are largely being ignored. The church is against the current form of a piece of legislation because it doesn’t include some language which other bills against conversion therapy included. Here’s and article with direct quotes you can read that helps clarify. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2019/10/23/20929351/lds-mormon-church-conversion-therapy-opposition-jesus-christ-latter-day-saints

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Shawni October 29, 2019 - 12:26 pm

Jenny also, check out that article Jamie attached (thank you Jamie!). Maybe read that to clarify about the church’s stance on conversion therapy. I hear you on your worries if there are other things that have made you think differently. See my comment above for more of my thoughts relating to your comment.

I love this other quote from Glennon Doyle: “What strikes me is how desperately we all need to know that we are seen and heard. We don’t need our lives to be different, or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. To know what we’ve faced and overcome. To say: Yes, I see this. This is real. We don’t need a magician to take it away — we just need a witness.” Maybe not fully related to your comment, but so many people around me are going through harrowing things, whether it be dealing with issues surrounding LGBTQ lifestyles, the loss of a loved one, depression and anxiety, divorce, painful loneliness, intense family divisions…you name it, life can be harrowing at times. But I love thinking about the power of being a “witness” to the pain. That is what the gospel is all about.

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Andreea Niculescu October 29, 2019 - 6:07 pm

Hi, Shawni, maybe you’ll remember me, we went to high school together. I wanted to share that being a member of the LGBTQ community isn’t a lifestyle. It’s a life. It’s a life just like yours and your loved ones’ life. And it’s not harrowing. It’s complex, and rich, and beautiful, and loving, and very much equal to yours. And the fact that there are people in your actual back yard who don’t get the honor of being able to lead such a life, for fear of being rejected by their family, is what’s harrowing. Instagram quotes are quite literally never going to measure up to what those people, in your life, are missing out on.

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Lisa tompkins October 29, 2019 - 7:47 pm

Beautifully stated. I cannot comprehend how a family member being gay causes harrowing pain. It is beyond me why people care or judge who someone chooses to share their intimate moments and life with.

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Jenny also October 29, 2019 - 9:45 pm

Andreea, Perfectly said. “it’s not harrowing. It’s complex, and rich, and beautiful, and loving, and very much equal to yours.” Amen.

Amy Barron October 29, 2019 - 9:51 pm

How about it’s just a great quote. End of story.

SHAWNI POTHIER October 29, 2019 - 11:11 pm

Andrea! I totally remember you! I’m so sorry that what I said came across wrong, and thank you for the clarification. I was referring to the “harrowing” misunderstandings causing so much pain that “Jenny also” mentioned in her comment (because I am aware of those painful misunderstandings and I agree with her, they can be devastating). I was not referring to anything in the lives of the LGBTQ community. I’m glad it sounds like you are happy and well and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

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bella stopdelivery October 29, 2019 - 6:29 am

Thanks for sharing such a great blog

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Andrea October 29, 2019 - 6:40 am

“…And love, unconditionally. Because love without judgement or fuss is always the answer.” this made me cry!
Thank you for this beautiful post and THANK YOU because even if you don’t know it, you are “holding space” in your own way for us. The past few months have been hard for me, but reading your blog, your stories, your “little things”, your thoughts… it has been a huge part of my healing process. I follow your blog since was 15! It helped me then when I was dealing with depression and anxiety by myself, and it helps me now when I’m going through a different kind of pain. I’m not a member of your church, but I respect your beliefs and I love that you share them with us – I’ve learn a lot!
Thank you again!

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Shawni October 29, 2019 - 12:30 pm

Oh Andrea, thank you for this sweet message. I am so grateful for those who “hold space” for me, and so glad if I have an opportunity to hold space for others. Life is such a journey, I’m sorry to hear you are up against more pain. Sending much love your way.
xoxo

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Lisa Hall October 29, 2019 - 8:51 am

This quote…especially the part about “holding space” just spoke to my heart. I’m so grateful for those who haven’t given up on me when I needed “space” and needed a place to come back to when I was ready. I hope I do the same for others too. Thank you for sharing this Shawni. Your blog has been a positive space in my life. Sending you much love.

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Shawni October 29, 2019 - 12:31 pm

I’m so grateful for those who don’t give up on me too! I feel like you are holding spaces here on the blog with your beautiful comments. Thank you for that. xoxo

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Jenny also October 30, 2019 - 6:26 am

“Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family.” Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.4.10).”. This is the church position that causes pain, suicide, and depression. Furthermore, by being active in politics in issues around denying LGBT rights the LDS church is working to impact state and federal laws that affect all Americans; not just church members. That’s the opposite of being present with love and acceptance.

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Meli October 30, 2019 - 9:48 am

I hear you, Jenny. People try to whitewash this terrible unkindness, but it’s still wrong.

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Nat October 30, 2019 - 9:08 am

Gorgeous quote, and is relevant for every application imaginable. As far as the LGBTQ+ conversations, I highly recommend the beautiful Mormon Stories interview with Donna Showalter, just a regular ol’ relief society president whose teenage son came out a few years ago. It’s a beautiful lesson in how she learned how to hold space, and teaches me how I can be better at it as well. I think even staunch members will find it uplifting.

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