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How Can Family, Friends, and Church Leaders Help?

Group-23_350Summary: Your loved one needs the support and encouragement of friends, family, and church leaders to deal with the complex issues that confront him. Healthy and varied connections in church, social, and personal life can make an enormous difference.

People who experience same-sex attraction may feel shame, worthlessness, and fear of rejection. They may feel conflicted about how to reconcile their feelings with their values and religious beliefs. Acknowledge their courage in disclosing their same-sex attraction and help relieve the shame they feel. Reassure them that God loves them and express your love and willingness to provide emotional and spiritual support.

This section provides ideas on the following:

  • Provide Encouragement. Some people with same-sex attraction will need lots of encouragement and motivation to deal with the complex issues that confront them.
  • Facilitate Support. Living with same-sex attraction is difficult—and much more difficult when faced alone. Healthy and varied connections in church, social, and personal life can make an enormous difference.
  • Encourage Responsibility and Independence. Feelings of same-sex attraction are not chosen, but individuals do choose how they respond to them. Parents, spouses, friends, and church leaders can support or detract from a person’s sense of personal responsibility.
  • Foster Spiritual Growth. Spiritual growth and development are powerful assets in resolving issues related to same-sex attraction. A church leader’s assistance in developing a spiritual growth plan may be helpful to the individual.
  • Avoid Doing Harm. Certain things can actually be harmful to those who experience same-sex attraction. Read about some harmful behaviors we’ve observed among church leaders and family members.
  • Tips and Suggestions on How to Help. Consider how to approach him, learn about his background and current situation. Understand his perspective on same-sex attraction. Learn about his relationship with God and about his hope and expectations about the future.

Provide Encouragement

SummarySome people with same-sex attraction need lots of encouragement and motivation to deal with the complex issues that confront them.

A family or church member who discloses their same-sex attractions to you may well be among the most courageous individuals you will ever meet. Opening up about this very personal part of life is often extremely difficult, especially when doing so for the first time. Help them see their own courage.

If they become discouraged, help them see how their life can be when they resolve the dilemmas and negative feelings they presently face. They may need to be reminded of God’s grace. This may be especially true for those who believe they have gone too far or done things for which they cannot be forgiven.

They may need you to remind them about their growth and progress over time. Some people have difficulty noticing their own growth and don’t recognize it until someone else points it out to them.

It is important to maintain a realistic and practical perspective. There are no quick fixes for resolving shame, pain, and other negative feelings and ways of thinking related to same-sex attraction. Some people are able to control their homosexual behaviors easily, and for others it may be a long struggle. Encourage them to keep their sights on the idea of progressing gradually and as far as they are able, rather than having an expectation of quick or total changes.

Facilitate Support

SummaryLiving with same-sex attraction is a difficult task, and much more difficult when faced alone. Healthy and varied connections in church, social, and personal life can make an enormous difference.

Individuals who experience same-sex attraction need support from several sources: family, spiritual leaders, friends, mentors, and skilled professionals. Determine with them what support they feel they have and what additional support they need.

It may not be necessary for everyone in a support network to know about the person’s same-sex attractions. Ask permission from your loved one before you disclose the nature of his struggles to others. If he is the one to tell others, it may help him feel in control of his own information and give him experience rising above his shame.

Church leaders may be able to access professional counseling (when needed). They may also help your loved one get more connected to other members of the congregation through service opportunities.

Encourage Responsibility and Independence

Summary: Feelings of same-sex attraction are not chosen, but individuals do choose how they respond to them. Parents, spouses, friends, and church leaders can support or detract from a person’s sense of personal responsibility.

No one chooses whether or not they will develop same-sex attractions. As adults, however, we have the capacity and the responsibility to make choices about our lives. You can help your loved one accept responsibility to guide his life in positive ways.

But there are limits to your influence. You can’t choose for them how they will respond to their same-sex attractions. They must make their own choices. But you cany encourage them to carefully consider their choices and take responsibility for the consequences of their choices. Encourage them to move toward independence and self-reliance.


Parents need to relinquish control and allow their adult children to assume responsibility for their own lives. Those who experience same-sex attraction sometimes fail to develop independence from parents, especially from mothers. Parents should help their children see themselves as an independent and responsible adults. Independence includes living on their own, supporting themselves financially, making their own decisions, and being confident and assertive. Sometimes, parents encourage unhealthy co-dependence because they are emotionally needy. Below are some specific suggestions and cautions to keep in mind.

  • Look for opportunities to positively reinforce choices and behaviors that move your child toward greater independence.
  • Avoid making decisions or handling situations for your child that he or she is capable of handling.
  • If your child is still living at home or is otherwise dependent, consider small ways in which your child can gain a greater sense of self-reliance and self-governance, even if he or she must remain dependent overall.

If you are unsure how to implement these ideas, or find them confusing or anxiety producing, you may want to seek counseling for yourself.


As a spouse, you need to focus on your own healing related to your partner’s same-sex attraction and on whatever issues you may have brought with you into the marriage. This allows your partner to focus on working through his or her same-sex attraction and related issues.

Sometimes, out of fear, doubt, or anxiety, spouses can become critical, demanding, or overbearing toward their same-sex attracted partners. While such feelings are understandable, they may get in the way of the partners’ ability to facing his issues.


Friends may be in a good position to help same-sex attracted people take responsibility for their actions and their futures. Friends are usually not connected with family dynamics that may be causing pain or difficulty for those with same-sex attraction, which allows them greater opportunity to both support and guide.

Your opportunity to have a positive influence in your friend’s life will be determined by the amount of trust you create through demonstrating unconditional love. Your friend will feel your love as you offer consistent support and encouragement, as you accept him with all his weakness and difficulties, and as you express compassion in his worst moments.

Below are some specific the suggestions and cautions to keep in mind.

  • Balance any advice or correction you offer with many expressions of love, admiration, respect, and affection.
  • If you have suggestions to offer, ask his permission before doing so and then state your thoughts and opinions with humility.
  • Avoid telling him what to do, making decisions for him, or handling situations he is capable of handling himself.
  • Encourage independent thinking and behavior but be cautious about endorsing rebellion against family in ways that could be harmful to his wellbeing or relationships.
  • Avoid being drawn into the idea that, in order to truly support him, you must compromise your values.
  • Remain true to the beliefs and values you and your friend share in common, even if he strays from those values.
  • If your friend’s goal is to control his sexual behaviors, it may be helpful for him to counsel with a therapist who has specific training. .

Finally, be aware that some men who experience same-sex attraction have a strong propensity to create dependencies on friends—particularly on friends of the same sex. If you sense that your friend relies too heavily on your opinion, looks to you too much for help or support, or seems unable to make choices on his own, this may indicate an unhealthy dependency. This may also be the case if you find yourself feeling drained by the relationship or feeling responsible for his wellbeing or safety. If you notice this happening, discuss it openly with your friend and encourage him to speak with a therapist about it.

Church Leaders

Create an environment and culture in your congregation where everyone feels welcomed and loved. Discuss the topic of same-sex attraction in various settings in the church. Seek to remove shame and combat stereotypes and myths.

Those who experience same-sex attraction are far more likely to approach you if they trust you and feel your love. They will feel your love as you offer consistent support and encouragement, as you accept them with all their weakness and difficulties, and as you express compassion in their worst moments.

As you counsel with individuals, the following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Avoid offering over-simplified solutions, such as the idea that increased faith, prayer, fasting, or marriage will eliminate same-sex attractions.
  • Help him be accountable for his actions and his personal growth.
  • Help him set goals and actively follow up on those goals.
  • Balance your advice or correction with many expressions of love, admiration, and respect.
  • Reinforce his good choices and behaviors that move him toward growth and greater responsibility.
  • Help him find counseling with a therapist who has specific training. If the church is paying some of the cost, ask the member to pay at least a small portion to encourage a sense of investment and ownership.
  • Help him develop a support network and plan of action.

Foster Spiritual Growth

Spiritual growth and development are powerful assets in resolving issues related to same-sex attraction. A spiritual growth plan may help your loved one achieve noticeable success in all areas of his life.

During this process of spiritual goal setting, remember that some individuals may be blocked in their spirituality by psychological issues. Some people transfer feelings and expectations from defective relationships with others onto their relationship with God. Some have been raised in situations where religion was unconsciously used to promote guilt, shame, and compliance. And some will withdraw from God’s Spirit through their own behavior. These people may need substantial healing through professional counseling before they will be able to rebuild their spiritual life.

Avoid Doing Harm

Certain things can actually be harmful to those who experience same-sex attraction, such as the following:

  • Encouraging an opposite-sex marriage as a solution to same-sex attraction. Entering a heterosexual relationship will not cause homosexual desires to go away and can lead to extreme distress for the individual and the spouse. However, note that the page “Do People Experience Changes in Their Same-Sex Attractions?” explains that some people who once felt homosexual develop heterosexual attractions later in life. For those, an opposite-sex marriage may be a realistic and appropriate option.
  • Making incorrect assumptions that their same-sex attractions pose a danger to family members or others. Ask your loved one about the nature of his attractions. You may ask directly whether he feels attracted to family members or to other people at church and whether he feels in danger of acting on those attractions. Most adult men with same-sex attraction are not sexually attracted to boys. Most adult men who are pedophiles are heterosexual.
  • Telling others about the same-sex attraction without your loved one’s knowledge and consent. Don’t insist that he tell family members or church leaders before he is ready to do so and before the others are ready to hear it.
  • Attempting to provide counsel for their psychological or emotional issues. Unless you are a trained professional with experience working with same-sex attraction, you run the risk of giving incorrect counsel, stirring up issues that you can’t properly handle, and delaying their access to appropriate therapy.
  • Blaming, becoming angry, or demanding to know “why?” Remember, people do not choose same-sex attraction. Often they don’t understand why they feel or behave as they do. Those who have engaged in homosexual behavior probably can’t provide a logical reason for it. Emotionally-charged responses from you will only damage trust and cause them to pull away.

Tips and Suggestions on How to Help

No two people with same-sex attraction are the same. Only by overcoming stereotypes and presuppositions will you be able to see the individual. And only by understanding the individual will you be able to really help.

Consider How to Talk With Him

Take time to think about his personality and the nature of your relationship with him. He will be most willing to tell you his problems and needs when he trusts you and feels your love. He will be more likely to disclose if he senses that you truly want to help and have the ability to do so. When he discloses to you, take time to be sure you accurately understand him. You can do this by repeating back what you have heard and asking if you got it right. Then it is crucial that you give him a compassionate and truthful response regarding your ability to provide what is needed. If you agree to help with a specific need, it is paramount that you follow through.

If you sense that he is hesitant to state his needs, ask him directly about ways you can be supportive. Be sensitive to not push him beyond his comfort zone, as it may result in him feeling shame or embarrassment and not wanting to speak with you about his issues again in the future. Seek to understand his situation using questions such as the following:

  • What has been your experience with same-sex attraction?
  • What effect has this had on your life and on your family?
  • How have you responded to these attractions?
  • What has helped you spiritually as you address these issues?
  • How would you describe your personal connection with God?
  • What would you like to see happen in your future?

Help him with the following:

  • Understand his identity as a child of God and see his individual strengths, talents, and abilities. Understand that unworthy actions do not diminish his individual worth.
  • Develop or maintain spiritual patterns of living. Seek to measure success by following God’s path. Recognize the spiritual strengths he has already developed.
  • Develop healthy, nonsexual relationships with other men.
  • Establish a support system and help others understand how they can support him.
  • Strengthen relationships with family and close friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
  • Find opportunities to serve and work with others through community service, fellowship, recreation, and acts of kindness.
  • Learn to manage sexual behavior.
  • Develop a plan of action to address underlying issues.
  • Consider utilizing professional help to address addictive behaviors, emotional health, abuse, and other related issues.

You may need to handle questions differently, depending on your relationship with him.

  • Church leaders can usually ask these questions directly if they have gained the person’s trust. Look for insights about whether the person’s behaviors pose a risk to themselves or others. These questions will also help you assess their need for therapy.
  • Parents of minor children may approach your child directly if you have a reasonably open and trusting relationship with him. If he tends to withhold or if the relationship is conflictual, forcing the conversation will likely result in further distancing from him. In many cases, children can benefit from therapy, if he is willing. Much can be done to help willing children and teenagers build their confidence and self-esteem and come to understand their interests and attractions.
  • Spouses have a right and a need to understand most of what is suggested in the sections below. However, it is important that you have support—and preferably your own individual counseling—before you investigate these topics too deeply. Some of what you might learn could be triggering or even traumatizing to you. Experience suggests that spouses do far better if they are in therapy when they learn details about their partner’s same-sex attractions, behaviors, and history. And it is vital that your therapist has specialized training in these issues.
  • Other family members and friends should approach these topics gently and with permission of the individual. Much of what is suggested in the sections below may not be important for you to know and could be too embarrassing or sensitive for him to disclose unless you have a very close and trusting relationship.

Learn About His Background

His background may include painful experiences and he may need help to heal. Understanding his background empowers you to minister to his deeper needs. In order to more fully understand and help him, you might ask questions such as the following:

  • How long he has been struggling with these thoughts and feelings. When his first memories of feeling attracted to other men occurred.
  • What factors in his life he thinks contributed to his experiences.
  • If he has experienced sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. If he was bullied by peers or siblings.
  • How he feels about himself as a man and as a child of God.
  • How he relates to other men and how he relates to women. With whom he feels comfortable or uncomfortable, connected or detached.

Learn About His Attractions, Behaviors, and Thoughts

A basic understanding of his desires, behaviors, and thoughts may give you insights on how you might help. Inquiring about these topics, though potentially uncomfortable, can increase your understanding of his life struggle. For him, it is an opportunity to discuss these things with a compassionate and trusted ally. It can help him feel that someone understands and accepts him, and can help reduce his shame. Depending on your relationship with him, you might ask questions about the following:

  • About the general nature of his attraction. You may want to read the section “Issues Common Among Men Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction.”
  • How his mind is involved in these issues. For example, you might ask how often he thinks about his attractions, how much he fantasizes about his desires, and whether he is obsessed with certain thoughts.
  • Whether he has acted on his feelings and in what ways he has done so. This might include viewing pornography, masturbating, engaging in sexual chat/texting, and various types of sexual behavior with others in person or virtually. (Don’t verbally list these various behaviors, since you may give him ideas of behaviors he hasn’t experienced.)
  • How long he has been involved in these behaviors and how frequently he engages in them.
  • Whether he has tried to stop these behaviors, how often he has tried, and what the results have been.

Assess His Situation

Determine if he has experienced difficulties in his relationships, finances, career, mental health, or living situation. Have these issues also created difficulties for family members? Understanding such problems will help you provide useful guidance and appropriate relief. Below are questions that might spur thought as you talk with him.

  • What is the current state of his life? How are his friendships, finances, and career? Are there any problems with his living situation?
  • How has his situation impacted family members? Who else knows about his situation? Has he they talked with his parents? If he is married, has he talked with his spouse? What have been the responses of those he has told?
  • Is he struggling with psychological or emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, negative thinking, flashbacks of traumatic events, or feeling disconnected from life and from other people? These problems can indicate a need for immediate counseling.
  • Is he experiencing sexual addiction? This may indicate a need for an addiction recovery program as well as psychotherapy.
  • What support does he have from other people? Who are these people and what kind of support are they providing?
  • Does he need financial support?

Assess His Hope and Expectations for the Future

People need hope for the future. In your conversations with you loved one, try to understand how he sees his future. In his near future, does he see himself resolving his immediate conflicts, getting through his current distress, and overcoming problem situations and behaviors? In his long-term future, can he imagine himself managing his life, living a fulfilling life, and maintaining a relationship with God?

Determine How to Help

Help him assess whether he needs professional therapy, which is necessary under the following conditions:

  • Suicidal thoughts or a history of suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • Feelings of shame, depression, and anxiety.
  • Patterns of ruminative or obsessive thinking.
  • Abuse or trauma from earlier in life.