I love this piece, penned by Andie Redwine. It did me good to reread it today and realize how much progress I've made since last year!
We Are Spiritual Abuse Survivors
...Sometimes when people are vulnerable and need answers, someone pretends to give support by exploiting the needs of hurting people, using their ‘answers’ as a recruitment tool to get people to do their bidding in the name of God.
This is what happened to us.
We aren’t crazy, naïve, foolish, stupid, or lazy. We are human, like you. We have needs, like you. And, unfortunately for us, someone took advantage of our human needs for their personal gain.
We thought we were specially called by God. We learned later that we were just a means to an end, with the end being the elevation of our leader.
Or we were rigidly raised to believe that everything on the outside of our group was bad. That only our group alone understood God, salvation, and the keys to living rightly.
We were taught or reconditioned to fear everything that contradicted our leaders’ edicts. We believed dissent to be wicked, evil, and Satanic.
And then we learned something about our leaders that made us question all that we built our lives upon.
. . .
We learned that some of our phobias have been granted to us by leaders who manipulated us into believing that the world is really a terrible, horrible place.
Of course, our leader’s group is wonderful and the only good to be found in the world.
Or is it?
And then we learned that asking these questions makes us expendable to the leader and the rest of the group.
. . .
But one day, we noticed that many around us were genuinely happy. Even the ones that were supposed to be ‘really bad.’ They laughed, smiled, and were kind.
Some had faith, some didn’t. All were free to believe as they wished.
We were supposed to fear them. And yet they didn’t seem all that scary.
We didn’t know this worldly culture very well. Their music, their movies, their celebrations, their workplaces, their books, their relationships. And they scared us a little. Or a lot.
They also intrigued us a little. Or a lot.
And we confused the heck out of these people. They had no idea where we were coming from, and we were too ashamed and embarrassed to tell them that we had been in what they called ‘a cult’. That we ‘drank the Kool-Aid’. That we were ‘mind-numbed robots’ that had been ‘brainwashed.’
There was a lot of shame. So we didn’t say a word about our experience. We did the best we could to assimilate.
You may have known us for years and never known our stories. We can bury them pretty deep.
Because of the Internet and our Googling late into the night when we can’t sleep, we’re learning that we aren’t the only ones. Because of the anonymity that the Internet affords, we’re getting braver. We’re telling our stories.
We’re speaking out.
. . .
There's a lot more, including suggestions for how to relate to a spiritual abuse survivor. I am so grateful for those friends, old and new, who have been patient and accepting as I find my way, sometimes flying, sometimes just muddling along.
If Andie's writing strikes a chord with you, check out this film she wrote and produced: Paradise Recovered. It is touching and funny; how you feel about the ending will depend on where your own journey has taken you.