Someone had posted their thoughts elsewhere and I obtained permission to share them here with our readers. It is our hope that it will be encouraging to people. Directly below is the post and afterward I will add a few comments.
*****All these memes and movies about how great starting over is really frustrate me. I woke up to a song about starting over running through my head. Just need to vent.
There are countless reasons why I didn’t leave my unhealthy, toxic environment. But here are a few.
1. When I complained or sought redress, I felt heard (some narcissists are good at doing this), but then nothing would change, and I would figure, it would take time.
2. I didn’t want to leave and START ALL OVER. I don’t make friends easily, never have. I have a hard time initiating communication and spending time with people. Because of rejection from my siblings and their friends, and neglect and feeling unwanted by my folks (at times-though my dad probably was never comfortable with me) I always feel like a burden to ASK for people’s time. I also worried that if I went to another church all my efforts and contributions (unrecognized and unappreciated) would have been for nothing.
3. I constantly asked God for permission to leave. I either heard NO or I heard nothing. I see now that opportunities were placed in my path, but hearing a ‘yes’ would really have made a huge difference. Why I felt I heard NO, I have no idea, but silence…is one of the reasons I’m still so incredibly angry at him. I finally left because I just didn’t give a shit whether he said yes or no. I literally couldn’t do it anymore. I also was realizing over time that we as Christians have gotten entirely too hung up on ‘THE WILL OF GOD’. It’s a very nice excuse too, we pray and pray and pray seeking the Will of God as though it were a 4th member of the trinity (not my idea, but true). God gave us a will and we’re allowed to use it. I think he even wants us to use it. I sure could have used that information about a decade earlier, but we certainly didn’t believe that at my church. I finally exercised my will, just a little too late. And again, it was more about being too exhausted to stay than choosing to go somewhere else – which I have not and will not for some time to come.
But I realize I do have to start over. I’m isolated, and I self-medicate with TV and video games because it’s easier than starting over, rebuilding takes a lot of energy. Being social takes a lot of emotional energy for me. Putting myself out there is the same. I do it for my business because I have to, and it brings dividends, but stepping out further and putting me personally out there is even more vulnerable.
And part of me worries that I’ll end up doing all this over again. Build up years worth of ‘friendships’ only to see them betray me too.
But I’m further along than I was before, and the fact that I’m even thinking about starting over is a good sign. And frankly, I run into unbelievers and other believers who see more value in me than anyone ever did in my old church (it was my business networking group that first helped me see that people who barely knew me were valuing/seeing me for who I was more than the folks who were my ‘friends’). So progress is there, it’s just not exactly fun or exciting or glamorous. Starting over sucks. But I know I’m better off, I just wish I had gotten a clue sooner, before my faith and hope were trashed.*****
My brief thoughts:
#1: There have been pastors who have told people that things will change, while they drag the person along and there is no change or very little of it or it’s not the type of change the person wanted to see. Unhealthy churches don’t often change to a solid healthy one. But encouraging the person to remain with empty promises continues the cash flow, the free help, and the keeps the church numbers up.
#3: I’d like to know where the notion of being required to pray and hear from God about remaining at a church started. I don’t see anything of this nature in the New Testament. I believe the ‘no’ answer one thinks they feel often comes from all the messages people have heard over the years- that this church has something special/are the only ones with truth/you must stay where you were planted/you must obey the pastor/you must have a covering and on and on.
We wouldn’t do this in many other circumstances. For instance, if you saw someone being injured, you wouldn’t pray first about whether or not you should help somehow, like calling 911. If your boss was mistreating and lying to you, you most likely wouldn’t seek God’s permission to look for a new job. If a company ripped you off in work they did, would you seek God’s permission to file a BBB complaint, file a suit in small claims court, hire a lawyer, or confront the company and demand they make it right? So why do we hold to this notion that we must obtain God’s permission, or somehow hear from him directly, before making a decision to leave an unhealthy, abusive church?
I really like how this person ended after the numbered items. We need hope and encouragement in our journey of recovery and healing. He did just that for himself and for others. I truly wish that I could tell people that it will take x amount of time and everything will be fine. I wish I could tell people, do this, this and that and it will all be over. But when, even though you are hurting and wrestling with various emotions and feelings, you can see light at the end of the tunnel and make progress- that is a good focus and something for you to hold on to for any future times when you may become discouraged.
Some people make light of the experiences of those who have exited bad churches. They think people are whining and need to get over it and move on. They haven’t a clue how complex recovery can be. When one is taught things which distort their perception of God, when they are taught twisted and legalistic doctrines, when one’s self-worth has been beaten down and shattered time and again, you do not just ‘move on’. It takes time and a lot of work to heal and recover. And despite what this man has been through, and though he is battling deep emotions and anger, he is making steps of progress and sees some light ahead.
May he be healed in his innermost being and may all who have suffered in spiritually abusive churches receive healing and deliverance.