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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in honor, faith and service.
Unidentified Woman #1: I believe that a little outrage...
Unidentified Man #2: I believe in freedom of speech.
Unidentified Woman #2: I believe in empathy.
Unidentified Man #3: I believe in truth.
Unidentified Woman #3: I believe in the ingredients of love.
Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.
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MICHELE NORRIS, host:
For a regular Monday series This I Believe, we've been inviting the general public to submit three-minute statements of personal belief. Over 6,000 of you have responded. Today our essay comes from listener Gregory Chapman, a certified public accountant and tax analyst from Houston, Texas. Here is our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON reporting:
We find recurring themes in the essays you're sending us. For example, the things we're taught when we're young form the foundations of our beliefs. For Greg Chapman, though, those teachings didn't quite fit. He worked to transform the stories he was told into his own story. Here's Greg Chapman with his essay for This I Believe.
What do I believe? That the stories I tell myself shape my truth, my soul and my life. I was raised to be a good Baptist and to be a patriotic American. I was raised to believe Catholics were idol-worshipers, liberals were Communists and that black and white never mixed. God filled the background, ready to condemn me into hell. God saw everything bad about me, knew every wayward thought. I was born with original sin; I had no chance. At the same time, being a white American provided me a sense of privilege, of being one of the better people.
As I grew older, I began to struggle with my sexuality. Every day I battled against demons driving me to impurity. I resisted, and then I would succumb to unholy thought. I came to believe that I was an abomination, a thing hated by God. In search of a wife, I tried a dating service. Defeated, I waited for someone to take pity and love me. The idea of faking who I was to satisfy others turned my stomach. I came to believe that if I punished myself enough that God would show mercy and cure me of my wrongness.
I drove myself deep into depression. I remember my Bible group talking about how they kicked someone out for refusing to stop being gay. My blood chilled, and my heart hiccuped. I remember my family asking me what was wrong with me. Why wasn't I dating? My sense of being less than fully human festered. I stopped going to church; I gave up on ever being loved. By age 35, I had no more than a few hugs as a lifetime sum of my physical intimacy. My skin cried in deprivation. I had no hope except that one day things might improve if I endured. And then they did.
I started to change the basic stories of my life: that I'm bad, alienated from God, a freak of nature. I started to love myself and to believe the divine did so as well. As that belief strengthened through the repetition of story, I began to love others, and I was loved back. The racism I grew up with faded. The more I loved myself, the more beauty I saw in everyone else. The more I healed, the more I viewed the Bible and all of our greatness as stories told by others, and I looked more and more to my heart to find the right one for me.
In six months I joined with my life partner of five years and counting, became an Episcopalian and replanted my political beliefs. In this I in believe: The right story is the one that helps me to love myself the most, to create the most, to love others and to support them in their creations for it is for those awesome experiences that I believe we are here. So I'm gay. And now, after decades of struggle, I tell a good story about it.
ALLISON: Greg Chapman of Houston, Texas, with his essay for This I Believe. Chapman told us he quite often writes letters to the editor at his local paper, but most don't get published. For him, he says, it's the writing that's important.
If you would like to send us your short statement of belief, as Greg did, please visit our Web site for guidelines and to hear and read all the essays in our series, that's npr.org. You can also get information by calling (202) 408-0300. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
NORRIS: Next week on "Morning Edition," Dr. Benjamin Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.