REPRESSION OR TRUE CHANGE?
Frequently, individuals who have found freedom from homosexuality are
confronted with charges that they are simply suppressing or repressing
their true sexuality. The assertion is that we really need to accept
ourselves as we are; that we should learn to be at peace with our
homosexuality. Let us look at this charge and see if it will hold up.
Although they are similar, suppression and repression are two separate
psychological phenomena. Suppression is a conscious act wherein the person
refuses to acknowledge, deal with, or work through a certain situation.
There are times in everyone's life when suppression is a positive step to
take. Typically, it is best to suppress actions when someone "makes us
angry." Then one can develop a healthy plan to work through the feelings.
Suppression is a positive step when it is followed by working through the
situation. Suppression can be an excellent tool when one is confronted
with anger, tragedy, or upon learning unacceptable details about a loved
one's life, such as involvement with the cults or homosexuality. Through
suppression, an individual is able to work through the initial shock,
taking care of immediate needs. He can then prepare a loving response
instead of merely reacting.
Suppression can become repression when buried anger is no longer
acknowledged. At that point, anger is transformed into bitterness. When
an individual refuses to proceed through the grieving process, suppressed
grief becomes repressed grief, preventing a return to normalcy.
Repression, then, is an unconscious act whereby the individual refuses to
acknowledge, deal with, or work through a certain situation.
Repressed Emotions Leak Sideways
Webster defines repression as a "process by which unacceptable desires or
impulses are excluded from the conscious mind and left to operate in the
unconscious." Homosexual desires or impulses are generally seen as
unacceptable when a person is becoming aware of them. Even though an
individual may be aware of these impulses, he can continue to refuse to
consciously deal with them, leaving them to plague his unconscious being.
It is at this point that repression can take it's toll.
Sometimes repression will have outward manifestations in the physical
realm, such as: ulcers, frequent colds, physical disorders and accidents.
There are other manifestations too. We don't know if King David was
suppressing or repressing but he definitely felt the effects of unconfessed
sin. He talked about these effects in his confession of adultery with
When I kept silent (suppression or repression), my bones wasted away
through all my groaning all day long, for day and night your hand was heavy
upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer
(Psalm 32:3,4 NIV).
David may have been able to hide his sin for a while, but the results of
his unwillingness to acknowledge it, whether conscious or not, leaked out
sideways through physical pain, sickness, and deep depression.
From what we have learned, suppression leading to repression, and
repression of homosexual desires, is an unhealthy approach to use. And
will it work? Absolutely not! When homosexual desires are only suppressed
and then repressed, the individual will continually be plagued with
homophobia -- the fear of homosexuals, homosexuality, or the fear of being
a homosexual. This fear will immobilize a person or prevent him from
working through the situation. If not dealt with, the repressed homosexual
desires and impulses can lead a person to such extremes as despair and
Secondly, repression is a form of immaturity. That is, a refusal to
acknowledge, deal with, or work through a situation. It may be easier to
remain immature, but in so doing, one cannot be whole, i.e., "becoming the
person God created me to be."
Our conclusion can only be that if the change has occurred, it must be
something other than suppressing or repressing unacceptable homosexual
desires and impulses. To change means to make or become different. If
these changes have occurred, then there should be observable differences.
One of the aspects of the change process relates to self-esteem, or self-
worth. 2/ For many individuals, they begin to realise that in and of
themselves -- that is, apart from the family name, occupation, feats
accomplished, or personal attributes -- they have worth because they are in
the "image of God" and are important to Him. Their self-worth is
This realization leads to a freedom to explore fear-producing situations in
relationships. Repression would be the refusal to explore. Change should
bring with it the courage not to run away from fear-producing
relationships, such as friendship with a heterosexual male (a common
threatening relationship to those whose masculine self-image does not
"measure up"),or a relationship with a man who provokes homosexual
Another aspect of the change process is beginning to identify, within the
confines of fear-producing relationships, the dynamics that draw one to
members of the same sex and often, subsequently, repel one away.
If homosexuality is primarily a failure to bond with members of the same
sex, and this lack of bonding results in same-sex ambivalence and emotional
dependency on members of the same gender, then the ability to stand still
in a relationship and examine the hazards and the advantages would be of
This can't be done without a sense of purpose and personhood. Accepting
the concept of a legitimate same-sex love need, as Dr. Moberly talks about
in her book, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, 3/ can go a long way
to breaking patterns of bondage.
The lifting of guilt and shame regarding the need for love and acceptance
from members of the same sex is a significant breakthrough. But it can
never come about by the suppression of one's sexual impulses. So it's at
this point that one can bring to light the undesired or unacceptable
homosexual impulses and examine them for what they really are.
As the change process continues, there will result a new freedom to relate
intimately with the opposite sex. This can only flow when one is
comfortable with being the person God created him or her to be. The
foundation must first be laid in the examination of same-sex relationships.
The leap to opposite sex-relating, can all too often ignore the troublesome
dynamics that create the fear that leads us to suppressing and repressing
our sexual drives.
The result of repression is a continual refusal to examine undesirable
impulses. The results of true change are the courage to examine and
explore the undesirable impulses and the ability to deal with them
according to the guide-lines in Scripture.
-- Douglas A Houck
1/ Homosexuality: Laying The Axe to the Roots, Ed Hurst, 1980: OUTPOST,
1821 University Ave. S., #296, St. Paul, MN 55104.
2/ "The Four Stages of Healing," Doug Houck, Metanoia Ministries
3/ Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, Dr. Elizabeth Moberly. Attic
Press, Greenwood, SC, 1983.
For further information about homosexuality or about other areas of sexual
brokenness, please contact:
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