Continued from here.

When I left my former group, I needed a place to talk through things with people who would understand, and found three groups that seemed to. They were very different. One announced personal information about me, which scared me. The other two asked for personal information, but didn’t share it with their groups. Yet they had it, and I was afraid they could use it against me if they wanted. There were two other things that scared me, though. The first was that one group pressured me to change my beliefs about things that were fundamental to the doctrine of the group I left and another seemed to hold to those beliefs. The second was how harsh the groups all seemed toward either beliefs or people within my former group.

It’s scary to leave a group. To hear people saying things against that group when you’ve been taught never to say ANYTHING even remotely negative about the group can be frightening. To hear that group called a cult or heretics, to hear the standards discussed as false doctrine, and to even see people making decisions to not believe in God at all, blaming the group for their disbelief–those things can be terrifying.

In the end, I left two groups. The first I left because they were so very negative and hateful toward my former group. They weren’t simply upset with the people who had hurt them, but with everyone who wore the label “Pentecostal”. They stereotyped all Pentecostals as bad, as hypocritical and abusive among other things. The second repeatedly made extremely derisive comments toward those in their former groups in what I thought was an angry, bitter way. I tried to divert those comments to more positive thoughts, but it didn’t work. I discussed this and how it upset me with the group leader on a couple occasions… and was removed from the group after the last discussion. I wasn’t told I was being removed. I just suddenly didn’t have access anymore.

Each group actually helped me in it’s own way. At least one helped me learn what I did NOT want to become. Two encouraged me to think for myself, but one also reminded me very much of my unhealthy church in the end, because when I pressed for changes to control the more extreme negatives, I was removed. Even so, I still learned from it. One of the things I learned was that I was my own person and that I could and would stand for what I believed to be right, even if it went against leadership… and even if it meant being censured for it. In time, I learned that it was the right decision, even though it hurt at the time, just like leaving my former church did. And eight years later I’m still a part of the final group.

I see people come and go from groups now and it bothers me some. I wonder if I’ve said anything wrong or if there was something more I should have said. I’ve seen responses from others that ranged from sadness to what seemed to me to border on “good riddance” and reminded me very much of the response of the church I left. In reality, I don’t know what anyone’s intent is in their response. They could laugh because they’re sad or scared themselves. They could shrug it off because they are bothered when people leave or because they are reacting to another interaction with that person.

In all, the people in the groups I’m part of seem healthy and are willing to do so much to help others. There are times that discussions get negative, but not hatefully or bitterly so, and not in an attacking way for the most part. When I see a post that seems to be hateful, bitter, attacking, labeling or stereotyping, it’s quite often either not intended that way or is by someone who is just leaving or who simply needs to vent. And I’ve learned, in time, to be patient. When I first left the unhealthy church, I went through a time where I didn’t want to leave and wanted to run every time a group seemed to oppose the unhealthy group. Then, I went through a time where I wanted to leave any group where anything “bad” might be said or done. Eventually, I learned that I could ignore some things, take a break for a few days, or even hide certain types of posts, either dealing with them once I felt ready or never. Mainly, I discovered that I had a choice, and that being part of a healthy group didn’t mean I had to agree completely with everyone in that group. I didn’t even have to agree at all. But more important, I learned that even if I didn’t agree, I could still love. I didn’t have to leave.

That has been well worth learning.