Friday, June 5, 2009

SSA - The ambiguous case

Over the Rainbow was helping me sort papers at school today so that I could more easily get them filed and cleaned up for the summer. At one point she burst out laughing and brought me a worksheet/follow-along notes that I created for my trig class a few years ago. The worksheet had a subtitle that said "SSA - 4 possible solutions".

(Forgive me for a moment while I explain a math lesson. While it is not essential to understand the math involved, it is important to note the application that will be later applied to life, so please bear with me. :)

...The notes are for learning about the Law of Sines, which can be used to solve triangles (meaning to find all missing sides and angles) if you already know 3 of the sides or angles. Specifically, you can use Law of Sines if you know the measurements of two of the angles and one side (ASA or AAS) or if you know two sides and one angle (an angle that is NOT between the sides) then you can solve it using Law of Sines, but it is not as straightforward as with 2 angles and a side because there are 4 possible scenarios.

(In a nutshell, for those with more curiosity regarding this mathematical situation, given SSA--the students like to spell it the other way around, but I try to avoid doing so :D--there can be one right triangle, two non-right triangles, no triangle (meaning one of the sides does not reach far enough to make a triangle), or one non-right (called oblique) triangle. Before solving the triangle (or triangles, in case there are 2), one must test to see how long the one side is compared to everything else so that they will know whether to solve it or not, and if possible to solve it, how many triangles are possible.)

Anyway, I don't know if the comparison is obvious or not, but Mormons who find themselves born with SSA (meaning same-sex attraction this time, instead of side-side-angle) have different choices they can make with regards to their lives. What is right for one person is not the best thing for someone else. I think that it is important to remember that regardless of which path someone has chosen, we should try to be non-judgmental of that choice, even if we do not understand it and cannot fathom how it works for them. We assume that they are miserable because they are without someone to really love while staying in the church, or that they cannot possibly be happy living in sin away from the church (since wickedness never was happiness.) Get the picture? Going with our math analogy, one triangle should not judge another triangle for being right, oblique, double, or non-existent. They cannot help being what they are even though they all have SSA in common!

For example, it seems that many gay men are confused about Scott's choice to remain married to me. They can't imagine it working for them, and therefore cannot understand how it can possibly work for him. But he just happens to be the right kind of "triangle", if you will, for that to work.

Meanwhile, many members of the church think that it is horrible that so many gay Mormons leave the church and live the "lifestyle." J G-W has claimed that he actually believes God directed him to that choice to save his life. I believe him. He is a different kind of "triangle" and God knows that and has directed him to follow the right path for him.

Meanwhile, others like Ty Mansfield have chosen to remain active, worthy and celibate members of the church. That is the right choice for them.


Another somewhat related but unrelated thought. I have a student in one of my college math classes that has been working so hard to pass. She got in a car accident early in the semester and had some other life complications that put her way behind in the class. She wanted to drop; her parents convinced (or forced) her to stay and make the best of it.

She has been working very hard--coming in for extra hours of tutoring, even staying home from a family camping trip over memorial day weekend so she could study for her final. Over the last week she has been sick with step throat and a sinus infection, and shared with me a few days ago that she had asked for several blessings and spent many nights crying because she was so worried about the final exam. Upon discovering yesterday that her final exam score barely skimmed the required percentage, but her efforts were still not quite enough, I told her to come back today with as much more done as possible. She came in to my classroom happy, even though she had stayed up until 4 in the morning doing math assignments she had missed when her life was crazy. It was nice to see that Heavenly Father had granted her peace to accept whatever outcome resulted with regards to her math grade.

I put all the scores in the computer, fudged everything that I felt was ethical to do, but it was still not enough for her to have a "C", which is required in order to have successfully completed the course and not have to retake it later to meet her college math requirement. Without mentioning anything about religion (although she is LDS so it would not have been a big deal), I spoke of justice and mercy, how sometimes when we have done all we can, we have to allow the mercy of someone else to take care of the rest. As I spoke, I changed her low C- to the required C on my computer. I was of course thinking of the atonement, and specifically of "the parable of the bicycle" told by Steven E. Robinson in his book Believing Christ. I looked over at my student, she wiped small, glistening tears from her eyes, hugged me and whispered a heart-felt thank you.

Over-the-Rainbow was present for the conversation, so she and I discussed it later in the car, how we feel that the atonement of Jesus Christ and the delicate balance between justice and mercy will work for all those who are doing the best they can, whatever type of SSA "triangle" they might be, and what choices they make and paths that they follow. I have met many wonderful people who make such moral and righteous decisions in their lives, except for, perhaps, who they choose to be their soul-mate and partner through life. I cannot condemn them, and if acting on homosexuality truly is a sin as the church teaches, I can only hope and pray that the atonement will make all the difference for them as they try to live their lives the best they can.


One last thing from the last week of school--look at this awesome bracelet that one of my students gave me yesterday! I am grateful that he helped to motivate and inspire me to help him get a GSA going as I realized how important it truly is for kids like him.

It has been a horribly awesome year. I am so ready for a summer break, but then I am excited to come back for a new school year, to meet students that will touch my life, while I have the opportunity to do some good for them as well. I am so grateful for the path my life has taken and where I find myself right now. Life is good, and I am very blessed.


AmbiguouS One said...

I remember taking that class in high school. I always hated the SSA designation for a triangle because I felt like it trivialized my dilemma, dumbed it down to a relatively simple problem that could be solved with a set sequence of rules that led to an absolute, definite answer. I'm glad it didn't turn out that way for me!

HappyOrganist said...

I love trig. It was proofs that I hated (geometry). Although I liked geometry, in general, of course. Loved trig, though. Calculus was fun, too, except that I could never wrap my head around the 'fundamental theorem of calculus.' I figured that was a sign. ::sigh::
All that random interchanging of variables. I never did understand it (I even asked for help!). The tutor was wonderful. SHE obviously knew what she was doing. But she couldn't tell/teach *me what she was doing.
Maybe you can explain that in your next post. ;-) (I mean how that theorem works)

You're right about the not judging thing.. I like to think of it as 'not condemning.' Like eternally condemning someone (or figuring they're a lost case). [I mean for anything, not just the SSA thing]
But, there has to be a balance, in my opinion. For example if we're talking about child abuse (don't get mad at me for using this example). Anyway.. you can forgive the offender, but you don't have to be stupid and give them the chance to offend again. You can forgive in your heart and mind, and not think of them as a 'lost cause' - but that doesn't mean you have to allow them to babysit your kids. Got it? You can do the forgiving thing, w/o putting yourself (or others) in harms way.
And yes, you can argue about whether that case in point is relative at all to the cases you mentioned.
That is not the point.
The point is talking about not judging. And my point is, in many situations, I think of it as "don't condemn (in a 'give up on them in an eternal sense' - b/c yes - we don't know what they've been through or what they're going through or what challenges they've been given on Earth. We just can't see into the heart of a person (most of the time!)".. So there's that .. but in my opinion, needs to be balanced (often) with what kind of behavior one is willing to tolerate (just forget about SSA here for a minute, ok?). So that's what I'm saying. I'm talking about things in general. And you all can fight amongst yourselves as to whether or not SSA (or anything related thereto) falls into this category.

But Sarah, do explain the calculus theorem for me next time you write. ;-)
Thank you!


HappyOrganist said...

oh - 'relative' should have been 'relevant'

Sarah said...

AmiguouS One, you are right. The triangle analogy is a bit flawed since it is much more cut and dried than life is. Thanks for the thought.

HappyOrganist, I'm sorry, but I really don't remember any calculus. Sorry. :(

(P.S.--Why are you both up in the middle of the night reading blogs?!

Evan said...

Thanks for the math refresher, Sarah. And I use to believe that the Law of Sines would never help me in life! ;)

You have some awesome students, and they are lucky to have such a great teacher.

cj said...

This is a really great post, Sarah!

I really like the way your two arguments come together: Do not judge someone for making different choices than you; and the atonement can make up the difference for someone who tries their best in this life and still doesn't "measure up." Really, the most important thing is to follow what the Lord directs us to do, and not only accept that there are other kinds of "triangles" but rejoice in the fact.

The whole time I was at your last party, I just kept thinking, "Isn't it wonderful that we are such a diverse group!?" I am glad that I have had the opportunity to learn this important lesson.

marci said...

I loved your post! I am so glad that you were so nice to that student, that is exactly what our Savior would have done especially knowing how hard she worked to get a passing grade. Also because I HATE math, I am thankful that I didn't have to understand math to understand your post. I did get good grades all through school but math is not my thing! I know you have gone through a lot in the last year and I am so impressed by your attitude and your choices. I just wish I could have talked to you about these things 10 years ago when I went through HELL. When it happened to me, it wasn't so common and also I just had to deal with the fact that my marriage was over. Its all good now but it doesn't mean that shit(pardon my french) never happened. Sorry about the bad word, no other way to describe it that could do it justice.

HappyOrganist said...

Sarah, I'm up in the middle of the night on account of the new medicine I'm taking. Next appt. with the doctor, I'm going to ask how being bleary-eyed in the morning is going to help me stop obsessing. (also have a 6 month old. sometimes he wakes up to eat. But usually he sleeps through the night pretty well) [hope I didn't just jinx that] heh

HappyOrganist said...

Sarah, turn your comments ON!
I loved your Sunday post today. I think being together as a family is a good thing (and a fine choice). Glad your kids enjoyed it. I'm sure you're teaching them just fine.
As for being released from Ward Clerk calling. who cares if people will talk. Probably someone else was meant to have the calling for some reason right now. (that's my thought anyway).
And honestly, it ought to be everyone else's, too. (unless you don't believe in Christ directing the affairs of His church). and then they can think whatever they want, I guess.
But that's MY two cents! And why worry about not having a calling? Know how many people are wishing for a break from theirs? just breathe while you can ;-D
Have a great week (and I'm sad that you can't help with my calc. question - but I think I'll dig out an old textbook soon and ask my husband for help). ;-) (i'm that bored) ..kind of

HappyOrganist said...

that's an awesome ring, too.. CTL
I always love to see the foreign language ones, myself..
CTLeft, that's awesome
thanks for sharing ;)

Over the Rainbow said...

Yay!! This is a great post :D You did leave out the hilarious quote that I was actually laughing at; "4 solutions for SSA" :P

Great post- you are awesome!

Sarah said...

OTR, I added the worksheet title, just for you!

Evan, you are welcome!

CJ--loved the comment. Thanks for your insight.

Happy Organist--do you want to copy and paste your comments to the correct post? Just a thought. I am kind of OCD about that kind of thing. Sorry about the "no comments"--I forgot--I have now changed the default for future posts.

Sarah said...

Marci--no worries about the language. I'm sorry that I could not be there for you when you were going through this. I get the feeling that you have been able to work through some repressed feelings by reading my blog. I hope that has helped.

The student has since brought me an awesome thank-you card and some gifts. I was in tears when she left. Experiences like this are what make teaching worthwhile, despite all the other crap.

Brad Carmack said...

I was touched by this post.