"In Taking a Chance on God, John J. McNeil discusses the sin of low self-esteem: 'In my 20 years as a pastoral counselor and psychotherapist to lesbians and gays, I have found that the chief threat to the psychological and spiritual health of most gay people, especially those who come from a strong Christian background, is guilt with its companions shame and low self-esteem, which can in turn develop into self-hate.'

"McNeil points to therapy, coming out of the closet, and developing a healthy spirituality as the three most important steps for gays to take in healing low self-esteem.

"Pride isn't a sin when it's an expression of healthy self-esteem. Celebrating gay pride is an essential affirmation of our human dignity, whether that takes the form of marching in a parade or being more honest with our friends and family about who we are.

"Pride can surely elevate the gay spirit, but what about the gay soul? Feeding the spirit requires that we envision our ideals, put our philosophy of life into action, and have a strong sense that we are a woman or man with dignity and integrity. Positive self-esteem is vital for these endeavors. In contrast, soulfulness does not care about what's healthy or unhealthy, or whether an experience is joyful or melancholy. Soulfulness insists on being true to what's real without pretense or apology. Being soulfully gay means not using false pride as a shield over our pain, shame, and guilt. Authenticity demands that we allow a place for all our feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones that we'd rather cover over with denial, secrecy, and rigid thinking.

"For everything in life there is a time under the sun, says the book of Ecclesiastes. There are times for celebrating gay pride and times for acknowledging our doubts and lack of wholeness. For every man and woman marching gleefully in the parade, there are others who aren't yet ready to celebrate, at least not until they've done their soul work.

"The point of doing soul work is not to wallow in misery but to enter deeply and courageously into our pain. Soul work requires us to break down the falseness of our sense of gay pride so that we can eventually emerge from the other side into an authentic form of gay pride. But the soul's first step down can be a rough and tumbling one: humility."