Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Healing from the Wounds of P/QF and Spiritual Abuse

Back in May, I wrote To Heal, and was overwhelmed by the response to it. The healing process is SO vital and SO unique and personal to each wounded soul, yet is reduced to ancillary and formulaic status by so much of Christianity. With that in mind, I want to visit the subject again. I'm gonna repost the text of To Heal (minus my personal commentary - with the exception of one comment I offered in the comment thread), but I'm also gonna take the liberty of including some of the beautiful, insightful thoughts that many of you who read the original post contributed to the comment thread. Your thoughts were and are invaluable, being veterans of the battle, and being caregivers to the wounded. The original piece was written more toward those on the outside looking in, but I hope, between the original piece and the wisdom of the battle-scarred, that both those facing the initial phases of the healing process and those deeply inside of it can take some comfort and encouragement in what's said here, too.

From the original article...

Many of you already know many of the things I'm going to discuss in this piece, either having healed from wounds of your own or being in the process of healing. For those who don't know, that process, healing, is what I want to talk to you about. I can't emphasize the word "process" enough. Healing, in these instances, is the embodiment of several elements...

Breathing. Physical rest. Mental rest. Redefining. Rediscovery. Reconnection. Examination. Introspection. Sifting. Sorting. So many more that I didn't list, and others who read here are likely much more qualified to discuss and address this, but in the interim, I want to talk about a few of the more important issues.

One thing you didn't find in my list is a direct reference to religion or faith. This is the MOST important thing for those who want to help these women to consider and remember, particularly those willing to house them in their transition period: It can't be a religious thing. They don't need Christian counseling or immediate encouragement from the bible. They need to breathe. 

They may need to sleep 12 hours a day (or more) for a week or two. Let them. They're exhausted in every imaginable way. They've had their entire lives turned upside down. They've been struggling to keep their heads afloat in a tidal wave of often very ugly interaction, overwhelmingly negative emotion, and utter rejection  coming from people who should be pillars of love, acceptance, and safety in their lives. Their minds are tired. Their bodies are tired. Their broken hearts are tired. Let them rest.

Live your faith and your freedom before them, but not upon them.

Pray FOR them - only with them if they ask you to.

Little things like referring to the bible as "God's Word" can be immensely triggering and damaging to a young woman battered and bruised by "God's Word" her entire life. Your personal beliefs on the subject have to become secondary to the healing of the battered heart, mind, and life before you. Little things like religious terminology can cause irreparable breaches of trust that can defeat the forward momentum of the healing process. These women have to break the connection of the term "God" to the oppressive and abusive lifestyle they're leaving behind. The reconnection of the term to the Loving Creator it represents has to happen on their terms, in a way their heart can handle, not yours or mine. For some it happens quickly. For others it takes time. We have to let them make that reconnection themselves (even not make it at all if they so choose). They have to breathe.

These women may need to totally redefine their faith, totally redefine what it means, totally redefine who Christ is to them, totally redefine their Heavenly Father, totally redefine the things that are true, and good, and lasting. This faith, whatever its condition, may be the only thing of value left in their life which they can call their own. Total redefinition and rediscovery of what they will cling to may be necessary to protect this precious thing. Sifting, sorting, examining, reexamining. Let them - without interruption, interjection, and interference. Let them - for their own reasons. Let them.

Their faith "muscle" may be tired and expended. They may need a break from all things related to their faith for a while. Let them have that break - without condemnation or judgment.

Let them engage you on matters of faith. Don't seek to start that dialog yourself.

Many things which are foundational institutions of safety in our lives are havens of distress for these women. They may not truly understand the healthy parameters of family relationships. Things that were once the foundation of hopes and dreams may now be tarnished for them. Perhaps they've longed to become a wife and mother, but the unhealthy portrait of both that has been lived before them has blurred the field of vision of that hope and that dream. Maybe they dreamed of higher education and a particular career path, but the spiritually and emotionally abusive resistance to their dream caused such pain that they can no longer view it without feeling the pain - and the luster has faded. Barring miraculous intervention from God, there's no secret formula, no spiritual pixie dust, no magical event that will suddenly make everything better. There is no "If _____ would happen, this would all be better and be nothing but a speck in the rearview mirror." Let their heart and soul rage, hurt, and mourn this. Mourn with them. Let them rediscover these things on their own terms, in their own time. Be support when they need it, not when you think they should need it. Encourage always, but only with honesty. No false praise. Love always. Hope always. Pray for their best and trust the Holy Spirit to direct and establish their best.

These women will need to reconnect to their own emotions, maybe even make the initial connection to their emotions. Create an environment for them where this can thrive. They need to experience emotion as a beautiful part of creation and not the evil villian lurking in the shadows of their heart and mind. They need to come to realize that their heart belongs to THEM, first and foremost, not to their dad, not to any man, but to THEM, to be opened and extended to whomever THEY feel lead to open and extend it to. Unless they become destructive to themselves or others, don't intervene. Let them laugh. Let them cry. Let them be angry (and validate that anger by reaffirming that what was done to them was wrong). Let them find peace. Just encourage. Cheer. Just as you mourn with them, celebrate with them. Every little victory in what might be a mundane matter to us is very significant to them. Decisions will be totally foreign to many of them. Maybe even to most of them. Support and encourage them in decision-making, but don't force decisions that they may not be equipped to make. Instead, walk them through the process in these instances. When they make a good decision, celebrate with them. Celebrate not just the good consequence, but the decision itself, too. When they make a bad decision, don't condemn, but rather comfort, and at the same time, celebrate that they made a decision.

Allow and encourage them to question anything and everything. An entire life and world is in front of them, and most of it will be uncharted territory. If they ask a question of you which you don't know the answer to, be so bold as to tell them, "I don't know." If they ask a question or engage in conversation about matters of faith, by all means engage them in return, always careful to point to a loving, accepting, grace-based Christ, not to a demanding Christ (they've heard of that one already).

These women are bright, beautiful, fascinating, wonderful creations of God. Open your hearts to them accordingly and you'll be doing as powerful and important a work as there is to do for Christ.

To those of you going through this healing process now, some of you practically alone in doing so: You're never far from my heart and mind. Most of you have made enormous progress just in the period of time I've known you, and I'm SO proud of you guys. You are genuinely my heroes. You're all beautiful and very special to me. Keep breathing. Keep healing.

[Below are the comments contributed by readers. Please listen to what they have to say. There is MUCH wisdom and experience behind their words, both as survivors and caregivers.]

Erika said...

I could see so much of myself in your post and I'm still healing, redefining, examining, etc. even though this is 14 years down the road.

L said...

I am so glad to see the emphasis on not talking about God unless and until the girl brings it up. To some people it might seem almost mean to not talk about what they believe is the best way to help a person recovering from trauma, but no matter how kindly meant it is not always a good idea.

Sharon (on "emotion")...

It took me at least a year just to be able to connect the name of an emotion with the emotion. My emotions were like several balls of yarn that had been played with by a dozen kittens for a month. All negative emotions presented as various forms of anger. All positive ones presented as an adrenaline rush. If there wasn't physical activity available, I would start shivering. I'm still (years later) discovering more nuances of my emotions.

Sharon (on "decisions" and "fear")...

Oh my. We're talking about decisions on what to wear for the day. Or whether or not it is ok to spend a dollar for a candy bar (*cue voice in head* candy bars are not a necessity of life, you know). These decisions can cause huge amounts of anxiety. Ten times worse are decisions on buying new clothes or what jobs to apply for or whether to go ahead and be a friend with a guy. Unthinkable are decisions about a career path or what degree to try for.

Also, I totally agree with cheering for every tiny progress. Those tiny things are HUGE.

Also, avoid fear - any kind of fear. Show us how to live life without constant fear. Show us that it is ok to break through comfort zones; that we will actually survive that. Because we have already broken a lot of those in very recent history if we are seeking refuge with you. Show us the difference between watchfulness (cautiousness) and fear.

Incongruous Circumspection said...

Two things:

It may happen that the decision made is to leave Christianity and never come back. To fight against that is to not believe that the Holy Spirit, as he promised, can work in a person's life, WITHOUT human interference. I'm convinced that anyone who is willing to help must understand this, because, if they don't, any intervention to prevent the walking away will only serve to confuse and even push the individual back into the comfort of what they know best.

And yes, what they know best IS a comfort, no matter how hurtful, evil, and life-destroying it is. Its sick, but it is the dynamic of being in a guilt-ridden, cultic group.

Secondly, though to a different degree, men coming out of this movement are in need of much of the above, as well. They are taught that their place is to rule over women and many of them have no healthy relational boundaries set. To them, the world revolves around them and yet the world is what needs to be feared.

I know. Its a whole different idea and the healing process is going to be much different. I only mention it because I am one of those men. My respect for women has only grown deeper since leaving all that bullcrap behind.

P said...

You are so right about the sleep/rest thing. For me, it's been 10 years since I experienced the worst days, and 8 since I walked away from it all...and it's only in the last year or so that I feel alive again, that I can make plans and set goals for myself. I was just so exhausted on all levels from "trying" so hard - thinking I had to be perfect, fighting my emotions, dealing with the constant pressure. It's taken me a long time to heal from that.

If I could add one thing - secular counseling is a huge part of what helped me. I know in the Christian world that therapy is not encouraged, but I really think that it's a life-saver. Good therapists won't work against someone's religious faith, and they don't try to "de-convert" you. They try to help you heal, and for me, going to my weekly therapy appointment was the biggest and best thing I could do to help myself.

I understand what you mean about the platitudes, too, but at the same time - now that I'm on the other side of the darkness? I didn't know life could be so beautiful. Even though I still struggle every day (with food issues becuase our brand of fundieism had a huge amount of food restriction, with perfectionism, with feelings of worthlesness), life is 1000 times better now than it was then. The struggle sucks, but I just hope that every person who has experienced the darkness can experience the light too.

Anne said...

Privacy...lots Of privacy.
Boundaries...sometimes in our quest to find healthy boundaries we take in way too much territory at first.
Trust...SHOW us we can trust you, don't insist on it.

Lots of space is good. My ex roommate was hell to live with as a fresh escapee. She was constantly pushing me ('for your own good') and stuff.

B said...

I get impatient with myself and think that I should read more, be less tired and be further along. I forget that it's ok to rest and give myself time to figure things out.

Rachel said...

Have grace on yourself. And be patient with yourself during the healing process.

I am many years "out" and have been extremely blessed in many ways, both personally and professionally. There have been times that my career puts me in positions which garner deep respect from others. I don't know how to say this in a way that sounds as humble as I intend; I don't put stock in status or position. But I'm still a little surprised at times when I reflect on how others within my field perceive me and I think: if only they knew that this "strong" person sometimes writhes at home in grief over something from my past....whether it is from being triggered somehow throughout the day, or recalling memories, etc.

All of this is to say ~ you will heal, and you will keep healing over time. Don't become discouraged if in ten years or more something appears out of nowhere. This is part of the process. Consider that there is a reason for the timing. This doesn't mean you've failed or regressed, but that life had to happen before you were ready for this part. It is progress. Perhaps you didn't have the strength to address it before, but now you've received the fortitude you need to face whatever it is. Be the friend you need for yourself. 

Julie said...

As Sharon said "These decisions can cause huge amounts of anxiety. Ten times worse are decisions on buying new clothes or what jobs to apply for or whether to go ahead and be a friend with a guy. Unthinkable are decisions about a career path or what degree to try for."

I still struggle with those very decisions EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. and I have been out of the cult for four years.

Brenda said...

Two things that I have had to deal with in addition to what you mentioned: #1- I don't have to pray about every decision....meaning, which candy bar should I buy? Neither, it's a "good" parking place or which outfit to wear? Because decision making was so impossible for me, I found myself praying about every little detail, not getting answers and wondering what the heck was wrong with me.

#2- I still avoid Christian music. Every once in a blue moon I can listen to something, mostly not though...too many triggers.

Anonymous said...

When someone loses someone they love (though death or any other devastating means) they need to grieve and that takes as long as it takes. My friend lost her husband to brain cancer at a young age and she had to grieve, not only for him, but for the life they had planned together. It just vanished. While he was sick, she could only pray he would recover, but after he died she had to deal with her guilt (could she have helped him more), her anger (why did he leave her), etc. It was very unhelpful for people to start telling her she needed to just move on and start dating again.

Anonymous said...

Some of these women will embrace a more compassionate and less rule ridden Christianity while others (like myself) will leave it entirely.

Sandra said...

In many ways, leaving fundamentalism is less like moving away from home and more like moving away from your whole country. Into a whole new world, culture, history, language, mannerisms... and never even being able to call home.

denelian said...

modeling *good* relationships. i don't just mean marriage - i mean with siblings, parents, friends, co-workers. the people who escape P/QF DON'T KNOW how to have normal relationships [in my experience] - everything but EVERYTHING seems to be about heirarchy, where you fit in it, and your placement is what models your relationships.

so i think it's REALLY important to model *good* relationships for them - both the girls AND the guys who escape.

simplymerry said...

Don't be surprised if they have misplaced priorities and untrue truisms. Gently point them out to them when appropriate. What seems obvious and simple to you may be earth-shattering or amazing to them.

Just a recent incident with my husband pointed out yet another of these in me. I was more ashamed of not doing my "duty" than of not communicating with my husband. Communication should trump duty... but I grew up with the reverse.

Deb Paul said...

I am definitely in this zone of healing right now where I am repugnated by simplistic, "Christian" thoughts and the use of bible verses to explain my heart and everything else. I spent my whole life quoting scripture and I need a break. It's just where I am at and many cannot understand this process and wish for me to "move on" with out dealing in the way I need to.

Connie said...

When someone first leaves, they go through a crisis stage. This involves sitting around and drooling-- a bunch. Or maybe yelling. Personally, I'm a drooler. For the first three months or so, someone had to walk me like one of the pups just to keep the circulation going...

The trauma it takes to disconnect and actually get *out* is akin to going through one of those tornadoes we keep having and the aftermath is just as devastating. The soul is battered-- and that's on top of the wounds taken on a daily basis going back years sometimes.

You've got to get through crisis before any sort of normal can start. Delaying crisis means you get to do it all over, in the future, when you probably can't remember why you're having a crisis in the first place.

Let me just say-- those who've been through the crisis phase themselves usually recognize it right off. And you don't necessarily have to have left a fundie/cult group. Just about any traumatic hurricane on the scale of-- oh, say-- Hurricane Katrina-- will do just dandy :)

shadowspring said...

If I added anything it would to give a 90 day grace period- expect nothing and accept nothing for the first 90 days. No rent, no help with groceries, no chores. Give them time to grieve.

Anyone thinking of leaving, get your social security card, birth certificate and passport/license OR a color copy OR at least write down the important numbers, date issued, place of birth etc.

Education: if your parents didn't home school legally or issue you a valid diploma, you might need a GED. Check with your local community college about getting one. It helps to get that taken care of before you look for work.

And as for host families/roomies, you might want to watch Tangled for a good idea of the emotional ups and downs a recently escaped person will be experiencing all at the same time. It's so accurate in my experience.

e said...

Anyone who has spent a good bit of time within the P/QF movement will leave broken and battered.

Yes, many men will gravitate toward a more domineering or controlling (even abusive) husband and father. But this is quite natural. They are merely modeling the God they have been taught. This is a devastating consequence of legalism that affects men, women, and children alike. God is not who they know him to be. And until that is fixed, nothing else matters.

Incongruous Circumspection (concerning what men need to discover upon leaving P/QF legalism) said...

Unconditional love for my children while walking away from the stupid asinine crap about breaking their will. Basically, I need to learn to love my kids for who they are - kids!

e (also concerning men's issues) said...

I am still finding areas within my own life that need healing, like when I find myself relating to my kids in ways I related to God for so many years.

Incongruous Circumspection (concerning men's issues) said...

...while my wife and I didn't get married purposing to live that crap, I tried to live the "principled" life and failed, realizing that it didn't work. But, the baggage I took from that lifestyle is still with me today. I am trying to scrape away the crap with a sharper knife by the day. The problem is, there are tools out there that are helpful and yet I was always taught they were evil. My gut reaction is that I therefore need to reinvent the wheel for myself, but it doesn't need to be so.

I just need to be willing to read, discuss, think, and study what used to be opposing viewpoints and then act on them. It is so easy to slip back into what I was used to but the consequences are enough to kick me in the arse and keep me running from that life.
To say "practice on my wife and kids" sounds fine, but it actually can hurt them. I need to kill the "evil one" in myself (ironically, the evil one, in this case, is the same as the "good one" I was always taught to emulate).

My wife and kids need to practice on ME! I am constantly learning to be an open and fertile bed for their seeds of love. A P/QF's gut reaction to correction or criticism from those that are expected to be subservient to him is to lash out, reject it out of hand, and stand on his god-hood. Oddly, this is still my gut reaction, at times. But, the times it actually escapes the confines of my stupid brain is so infrequent today, that it is almost non-existent.

I continue to learn and grow on this journey. In my opinion, the key is to be open to everyone's criticism EXCEPT those who desire to pull you back into P/QF. And, unfortunately, their tentacles are, many times, simply imagined. Yes, the guilt and control of the P/QF movement is very irritating and sometimes debilitating.

Revenwyn said...

Some of these women also need basic life skills help too; like getting money for food and housing and learning how to drive.

As one who became homeless in order to leave, I know I could have used some money and someone to teach me how to drive. 

And my comment which I'll include was...

Although most of you who read here understand the depth of the issue, many don't, and from an uneducated position, viewing only the surface of the issue, this may strike them as just a family squabble.

People must become aware of the sociopathy and narcissism that this belief system breeds and demands - and be aware of what it causes - to fully understand the depth of the issue.

I can't emphasize that enough.

I don't say this to diminish the experience of a loved one passing away (I've lost loved ones myself)...but for these girls, their experience is far worse than the passing of a loved one.

Imagine if EVERY person of substance in your family and family circle passed away in an instant - that's the level of loss these women have experienced. Then, ADD TO that loss that these people haven't actually died, but are still walking around somewhere, rejecting them thoroughly (as if these women don't deserve to be loved or to exist), and in some cases, actively recruiting others to both die to and reject them.

While it isn't this extreme in all cases, in most it is.

Loss PLUS rejection.


  1. I am crying as I read this. I am a young woman who was spiritually abused for 17 years...and just came out of it 2 years ago. I STILL struggle. I don't wanna go to church, I can't seem to have friendships without ruining them, because of my past. People stare at me, open jawed and wide eyed when I tell them my story. It's hurtful and I can't seem to make friends at all. I'm scared to reach out anymore, because the more I try, the more I fail. I don't know what to say or do around people. Things that were acceptable where I came from are horribly not acceptable to the "world." I feel completely incompetent to have friends. I get so frustrated with "Christians" when they "fail" me, because I feel that is all I have ever known...and then it makes me not want to even try to be a Christian, yet I want to love God...Ughh! I get so confused!!!! :( I need to breathe...but I can't get away from real life to do just that. We're tight, tight, tight financially, so I can't even go visit my parents (who have gone through the healing process themselves and are doing great now.) I want to breathe! Pray for me that God does a miracle and someone helps us financially so I can get away for a bit from "real" life and breathe for a while. Thanks!

  2. Praying, friend. You need rest. ((hugs))

  3. @Encouraging...Prayers for you, sis.

  4. There are so many things to teach! I read above where one girl said that teaching her to drive, and helping out financially are important. That made me think of the many things associated with driving: getting license, insurance, dealing with the DMV, dealing with inspections in some states, how to handle an accident.

    As far as the financial, I think giving oneself permission not to tithe but rather to save could help, if that's not already a practice. You are important too! If you are still constantly broke, and tithing, consider it.

    I know that was tough for me, as I was taught in fundamentalist churches that bad things happen if you don't tithe. God sends out his cosmic collection thugs to break down your car or your health or some such until you pay up. What a horrible thing to teach about God! (Comes from Malachi in the OT).

    If you are precious to God (and I believe you are) then using your money to do things you need to do/have things you need to obtain is also a ministry. If it would be ministry for me to meet than need, it's a ministry for you too.

    The last thing a QF daughter/son would possibly be is selfish or materialistic. No, I don't think that is even possible after all that shaming and aiming for moral perfection.

  5. "These women may need to totally redefine their faith, totally redefine what it means, totally redefine who Christ is to them, totally redefine their Heavenly Father, totally redefine the things that are true, and good, and lasting."

    This is what my fiancee is finding to be the most difficult step of all. When one is raised in legaistic patriarchy, Christianity is reduced to dressing modestly, listening to the 'right' music and reading the 'right' books, obeying one's parents in everything, etc.

    Now she doesn't know what to do. She invested so much in that system for so long that when she left, she told me that her faith had been reduced "from the size of a giant oak tree" down to that of a mustard seed again.

    I'm worried. She doesn't pray much anymore, and I don't think she's been reading any of the books of the bible at all (maybe with good reason.) I placed her in counseling, but they can't really help with her faith.

    I'd like to ask any of the other liberated QF/P women who are reading this *how* they managed to redefine their faith in God. What did you do to fill the void that legalism left in your lives? How do you regain that comfort and security that you had with thinking "If I just do X, I'll be right with God"?

  6. I didn't realize there was even hope for getting free from the deep sadness I felt after leaving the Homestead Heritage cult. I finally got to the place I could go to church and "sort of" make friends, but couldn't really read the Bible. The Homestead Heritage cult has volumes of literature that we read to interpret the Bible their way. (It was new light and revelation, so to speak.) So reading the Bible just brought back all the darkness they called light back to my mind. Ugh!

    Recently I gave up on getting over the sadness of missing everyone I love, including my sister and her family still there. I hoped I would get cancer, just to end my sadness of missing everyone. A sweet pastor and his wife talked with me last month and helped me see that I was still "married" to them.

    We made vows and covenants there. I had kept them in my heart. Every time I saw people or drove by their homes I felt a deep sadness because I planned on being with them until I died. We prayed and I renounced my unholy vows and covenants and anything ever spoken over me by the leadership. Voila, I left their office completely healed! I can read the Bible and I am not sad anymore.

    If anyone that reads this made vows and covenants with people that claim to be Jesus come in the flesh, renounce them! There is only one Jesus, He died for us. Those men and women are NOT Jesus, they work for the angel of light and are deceived into thinking they are Jesus come in the flesh. Yes, they meant well, but what they teach is evil. It is like poison, 98% truth with 2% of lies that completely destroy the truth of God's word.

    I know many of my friends, and probably some of the leadership at Homestead Heritage in Waco, TX, will read this and be offended I call it a cult. But what do you call a church full of people that put themselves in the place of God? THEY decide if you are hearing from God or not, and they want you to accept lies, just because they are supposed to be your authority in Christ. They leave the Holy Spirit completely out of your life, so that THEY are who you look to for direction instead of the one true God.

    I was told that if I ever leave them, I leave God. They believe I am going to hell, just because I attend another church. They put themselves in the place of God to even decide that those that leave are going to hell. I am not allowed on the church property or to be with my family, and it isn't a cult? It is, sorry folks, it may hurt to say so, but it is. I love them too, but they are deceived.

  7. Anyone coming out of a P/QF home has been abused in Jesus' name. His is the last one that they want to hear. They don't need to be told to come "back" to him, because they never were his in the first place. Not in the church that they came from.

    P/QF leaders don't have the power to make someone go to Hell. If somebody dies without accepting Jesus, because of them, it isn't that person's fault and they can't be held accountable for it.

    In my case, the god I connected with through prayer was one of my biggest lifelines while I was being abused. I now feel that it was the Shinto goddess Inari, and I continue to pray to her for everything. I also feel that she saved me from Hell, because I was living in it until her hand brought me out.

  8. Mr. Green Eyes, what I'd say to your fiancee is that whenever she rejects legalism, she is actually demonstrating very strong faith by the very act of doing that. Legalism is reliance on yourself, which is not faith but works. Rejecting it requires you to rely instead on God and His grace, which is the very definition of faith. So even though she's decreasing when measured by the false external standard of legalism, she's increasing and growing when she's seen the way Jesus sees her.

    "By grace you are saved, though faith, not by works so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

    If I could humbly recommend some of my own writings on the subject of grace vs. legalism, there are several on Quivering Daughters or my website here. "How Does Jesus Love You?" in particular has helped a lot of people, not that I had anything to do with that.

    It might also help to discover some Christian books that deal with legalism, grace, and misuse of Scripture by abusers-- What's So Amazing About Grace by Yancey, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Nouwen, and The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by VanVonderen are very good.

    Lewis is quite right, though, that you mustn't force the issue with her. It might do more harm than good, for instance, if you fixate on the fact that she's "not praying," when she might actually be coming closer to God by foregoing ritualistic "devotions." She has to discover her faith for herself, not because of anyone else-- and, though it might be hard for you, especially not because of her husband or fiance. She's probably been taught she can only come to God through a "male covering of authority" and other such lies. You can (must!) help her and support her through her process, but don't try to "lead" her. Instead, encourage her, support her, and praise her for any step she takes on her own. Then she'll flourish.

  9. Mr. Green Eyes, I relate so much to what your fiance is going through right now, and I only experienced the P/QF stuff for a short time.

    I rarely pray any more, and I only open the Bibles that are in the pew in front of me at church anymore.

    I haven't exactly admitted this to my family, but they know how I'm feeling, and you know what? Not one of them has pushed me in any way. There have been days where, despite the fact that we're in a good, normal, gospel-teaching church now, I just don't wanna go. I just have days where I can't bear it because of the things it will remind me of. I'll say, "I think I want to stay home today." And my parents just say, "Okay. We'll be back in a bit." And I love them for that.

    My faith has been stripped down to a few things:
    1. I know that some One created this world (and me.)
    2. I know that this world is broken, and I believe that there is a need for attonement.
    3. I believe that Jesus Christ is who he said he was: the Son of God. I believe his message.

    And past that... well, I don't know.

    My advice to you is not to worry. I don't talk to people much about this, because that's exactly what I don't want; for them to start worrying.
    Just walk with her through this. Listen to her questions. Don't be concerned at what she's saying or thinking. Think about it, yourself, and just converse with her. You don't have to convince her of anything.
    I still believe that the Holy Spirit will do his work.

    Let her rest.

    I don't know how long this will last, but, personally, I've come to a point where I'm not going to stress about it, and feel like there's urgency, that I need to be a a certain point or have conclusions at a specific time. I had to let go of the desire to have all the answers, and just start living.

    I think that you should just let your fiance go through this at her own pace.

    It sounds like there's nothing that needs to be done, really.
    If her faith is the size of a mustard seed, I think that's a great place to be. She's not like, turning to drugs or something.

    Just be whatever she needs. And maybe all that is, is someone who she knows she can be safe with. Someone who will not judge her in any way.
    And maybe she just needs some fun right now.

    Now that I think about it, this is kind of my "recovery" summer. And I've just been having a bunch of (inexpensive) fun. Renting movies, going out for frozen yogurt (ohhh so yummy) all the time, having game nights, hiking... and I'm loving it.

    Maybe you can plan a trip with her?

    My comfort and security lays in the fact that Jesus Christ took care of it all. They used to say that in the cult I was in, and give lip service to the idea, but by their rules and fruit, I know they didn't truly believe/grasp that.
    Also: just knowing that God made me, me. The way I am, with all my thoughts, desires, quirks and skill set. And I'm totally free to be that person.

  10. Please don't tell us that 'real Christians' don't act like *that.*
    Our parents were real and they were believers in Christ.

    You(general)devalue our stories when you say such things to us.

  11. I agree anonymous, about saying what Christians act like. Christians are simply people who accept Jesus' death alone (not works, not men saying you can go to heaven) to cover their sins. They SIN, that is why they need Jesus. We can't expect "real Christians" to be perfect and not fail.

    My husband also wanted me to add to my comments earlier, that people should not just sit and try to heal by themselves. Find someone who understands the spirit world, who is sensitive to your needs, to pray deliverance prayers with you. I went to the pastors at Church of the Open Door in Waco, TX because they understand the spiritual battle and are VERY sensitive to what people are ready for and don't push. Healing is most important, not religion.

  12. My husband also wanted me to add to my comments earlier, that people should not just sit and try to heal by themselves. Find someone who understands the spirit world, who is sensitive to your needs, to pray deliverance prayers with you. I went to the pastors at Church of the Open Door in Waco, TX because they understand the spiritual battle and are VERY sensitive to what people are ready for and don't push. Healing is most important, not religion.

    That's an aspect unique to each individual. Young women (and men) coming out of Patriarchy and QF sometimes need a break from all things spiritual, prayer-related, and faith-related. Others may not. And others coming out of different movements and situations may desire to seek immediate spiritual help. If that's what someone chooses, by all means pursue it - especially if it will contribute to the healing process.

  13. Lewis, you are so correct! I was clarifying my comment about renouncing vows etc., not to try to do this alone.

    I agree with you, some need a complete break from everything, just to heal.

    The hurting need love and acceptance from relatives and others that did not come from where they came from. We found that people that have no clue what we have been through had all kinds of "helpful" advice and judged us when we didn't do what they expected.

    Yes, give space when wanted and please make sure you provide the hurting with the freedom to just "unload" what they are feeling without you giving advice, or worse, scriptures that will solve all their problems.

  14. I was so helped by a loving married couple who stepped in to love in very practical as well as warm and fuzzy ways, but who also completely understand when all I can muster is an email or text that I feel really bad that day. It also helped that when I would tell stories of what happened to me, they would cringe or cry or whatever, but react appropriately and let me know that what happened was awful, not normal.

    As far as many folks in the old church figure, I left Christianity altogether. I actually became Catholic, which was a huge change, but I am so happy in a church where everything isn't spritualized, and we can use our senses to experience our faith via icons and incense and rosary beads and the priestly laying on of hands in blessing whenever I ask.

  15. Lewis, thank you so much for posting this; the comments really help me to see that I'm not the only one who struggles. Sometimes I feel like, "What's wrong with me? What's taking so long; I should be farther along; I should be stronger" and I experience extreme guilt and struggle almost every day. It's awful. I just try and try and try so hard and I'm so tired.

  16. Tracie, it is because I recognize their humanity that I require them to take responsibility for their actions.
    Many of said actions that were done in the name of Christianity and Christ.

    I do not excuse their behavior simply because they are just human. Especially when so many of these men and women in leadership attempt to elevate themselves to religiously based superiority.

  17. Katherine summed it up when she said "Sometimes I feel like, 'What's wrong with me? What's taking so long; I should be farther along; I should be stronger' and I experience extreme guilt and struggle almost every day. It's awful. I just try and try and try so hard and I'm so tired."

    Does there ever come a day when it's not awful anymore? A day when you know for sure, once & for all, that God really loves you?

    I didn't come out of P/QF, but it's amazing how any/all of these abusive fundie groups produce the same damage in people.

  18. Lewis, I am reading this late, but what a profoundly accurate article and set of comments!!!! I am still 'coming out' of a fundie experience and my spouse still goes and still believes all that stuff, says all the wrong things to me, etc., wants to invite folk from his church to our house and can't understand why i don't want any of them to come over. Where is my 'Christian hospitality?", he asks.

    It takes all my energy just to live in a household that is against me. I feel like my marriage is an autoimmune disease... I used to work full time, etc. and am amazed that i can't even imagine working part time doing any thing other than perhaps folding towels for a hotel or something when I used to work as a professional full time in a demanding job. I wish I could work again to get a bit of independence from my domineering husband but every time I am in my house, I feel my energy just drain right out. it is a fight. Daily. I have a good counselor, thankfully, but this IS a process, it takes time, and I am not out yet. It has been three years so far, but all the while I am still married to my 'autoimmune disease' spouse who is still caught in the grips of deep fundamentalism.

    I haven't read my bible in three years except for a verse or two a few times. I can read the writings of others per spiritual abuse or whatever, but not the bible. It has taken on the toxic overtones of the fundie voices I heard in church and that my husband still speaks with. I don't go to church though I have visited a few. i still get shudders when I go into one because I feel the deadness and so many are not egalitarian. I simply can't do any form of comp...not even the softest form. It is all bondage to me. it kills my spirit. some have told me that no church is perfect and just take the good stuff and leave the rest. I can't do that. The 'rest' still hurts me.

    My family...some have turned completely against me and the rest simply don't understand. It hurts so much to experience this loss. Even one of my adult children has cut me completely off. Very, very painful.

    The terms 'biblical' and 'word of God', etc., make me want to vomit. To me, 'biblical' simply means 'license to beat you over the head with theological and spiritual clubs.'

    Thank you, Lewis and the other commentators. It helps just to read this. I would love to copy this so I can reread it easily for a while. It is soothing somehow just to read your article, Lewis. Your words affirm the process and the needs.


  19. Lewis, I wonder how others who are still married to persons deep into a cult or fundie group, etc., are managing? I am still trying to heal, and feel like I am trying to do so while living in the enemy camp. I realize you aren't married, but would love to hear thoughts on this challenge, because it is a serious one.


  20. Anonymous said...

    "Lewis, I wonder how others who are still married to persons deep into a cult or fundie group, etc., are managing? I am still trying to heal, and feel like I am trying to do so while living in the enemy camp. I realize you aren't married, but would love to hear thoughts on this challenge, because it is a serious one."


    Hiya "AWOL" Anon! Lewis recently asked me if i would read this post and your thread because it reminded him of my situation. i am more than happy to share my stuff with you but i'm not sure how much detail to write plus i'm not a natural born writer. if after you read this and you are interested in more then i'd be more than happy to talk with you. i am married to a man who joined a cult in jan 2007. well, technically he was being recruited the year of 2007 unbeknownst to me. when i finally figured out it was an official "cult" that he was into, I became very very angry & upset. i felt betrayed and cheated on. i felt he had no right to do this to me to us to himself without my knowledge or understanding. i voiced all of this to him and challenged his "new founded" beliefs. it probably pushed him into the cult deeper & it def pissed him off. i could keep up but it was also killing me literally. we went through hell and back but i managed to establish awesome boundaries with the help from many. i was so hurt angry betrayed and in shock really. all of these feelings of anger betrayal being cheated on lasted for a couple of years. it was a very difficult time for me to say the least. my adrenals were in failure and my dr. said that if i continued down this path i'd die. during all of this, i gathered an awesome team of support whom i still have to this day. I <3 them!! i couldn't have made it through without them and lewis is one of them. thnx bro!!! i am managing not only because of their support but because of my hard work on my own recovery. it's been very hard but also very worth it. i can assure you that if it weren't for the many prayers i'd be sunk and probably dead. i'm in a much much better place now. i decided drop the tug of rope with the hubs apologize for my part and begin the process of healing. i saw that his choices were bringing up a lot of unresolved stuff i had to deal with so i decided to allow this awful situation make me a better person which it totally has. my character has grown i have grown and healed and become the woman i am now. confident strong vulnerable unafraid bold new and willing to admit my weaknesses and faults. i'd be more than happy to talk to some more about everything. i've been praying for other ladies who are in a similar situation like me. i have several lady friends, whose husbands are in this cult, & one in particular whose hubs was recruited by my hubs. tragic story of a lovely family now wrecked divorced and so many others. i know she'd be willing to talk to you too. she's one of my closest friends and we have walked together thru this. i have lots of resources. i hope that you are safe and not being abused. that was really one of the first steps i had to take so i kicked him out several times of our house to let him know i meant business and that he wasn't allowed to treat me badly. also, gather a team of support & try not to involve your church in this stuff. i did and it turned very sour. i hope this helps!

  21. Hi AWOL,

    I want to echo what Frogla says about gathering a team of supportive people around you, and not spending time with people who hurt you.

    Boundaries are very important to set and maintain. It's harder at the beginning, but as you practice and get better at it, you start to build up your self-respect. People will fight you on it, will try to make you feel like a terrible person for not listening to THEM. But as calmly and firmly as possible, keep telling them, "When you say X or do Y, you are pushing me away." If you have not yet read "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend, I highly recommend it.

    You also need people around who will support you. I am so glad to hear that you have a good counselor. You might want to contact a women's shelter; even if you don't plan to leave your home, they may offer support groups and/or strategies for coping. Then if you do have to leave at some point, you'll have that safety net.

    Think of ANYONE who might be a source of building you up instead of tearing you down. If you're a writer, consider joining a writer's group. If you're into sports, consider joining a league or spending time at a YMCA. Neighborhood groups, charities, service groups, anything that attracts people who want to help others, may be a source of healthier friendships. I guess I'm trying to get across the idea of *multiple* sources of support -- if you're an introvert, then maybe it's not a case of "the more the better" ...but still, try to avoid leaning too much on one or two people.

    If you are leery of an employment relationship right now (as I was for awhile), consider volunteering somewhere that will use similar skills. As you build them back up, you will gain confidence. (And you can put them on a resume. Heck, you can even put relevant hobbies on a resume if you need to.) Then you will feel more ready to go elsewhere, and expect to be paid to do the work :)

    I hope this helps. You sound like you're in a place similar to where I was a couple of years ago. My husband was basically well-meaning, but broken from failing to measure up in a legalistic, merit-based church environment (not sure it's fundie... still pondering that), and he was taking it out on me. Eventually I felt like I was so broken down I was living in a fog, so I had to leave him for awhile. I'm not sure that's the best solution, in your case, if your husband believes he is thriving in his environment. But somehow, you need to establish your boundaries, and show him that when he crosses them there are consequences, and they are of HIS making.

    Try to think in terms of "constructive," rather than "perfect" or "measuring up," and forgive yourself as you would another person.

    I'm rooting for you, AWOL!

  22. AWOL, I am praying for you!! I do not know how you are doing and if you need a friend. If you do then please feel free to ask Lewis for my information. (((hugs)))

  23. I just found this site today. It is very encouraging.

    My husband and I left our old church a year ago after being in it for a long time. When we left I felt that maybe this is what divorce feels like (having never been divorced, I have no idea). It wasn't a p/q church, but it had its own issues.

    We are now in a much smaller church and no one judges us for our weaknesses. In fact, the pastor's wife actually reaches out to me. We are still trying to unthink. It is a long road.

  24. More advice:

    Please don't tell anyone who has come out of the situation that it will all be okay if they just read their bible or pray, or go to church. For some of us, it's a reminder of what we've just gone through. I was a "rebellious" young woman (I had been kissed by a boy; note, I did not initiate the kiss) and was sent by my family for 3 straight years of Bible college. Nothing but bible... 25 hours of class a week, not including homework, on campus work days, and one ministry day a week. I came out of it with knowledge of God other than I had been taught, which I personally did choose to accept, but to this day I cannot read my bible (not that I have to open it at all to remember things), I rarely pray, and I do not go to church. Do I still believe in God? Yes I do. Do I still believe in Jesus? Yes I do. But I believe in different ways than I was raised and unfortunately have not found likeminded believers who don't use a holier than thou attitude because they read through their bible in a year... every year.

  25. I am almost reeling here.... in a good way.... overwhelmed... realizing I'm not the only one who CAN'T READ MY BIBLE BECAUSE ALL I HEAR WHEN I READ IT IS THOSE VOICES, that WRONG interpretation of every verse!!! God I cannot tell you how haunted I am, SIX years after leaving, MARRIED for 7 years to a man who grew up the same way I did and now we find ourselves in really bad times... God, I don't know if we'll stay married because I felt OBLIGATED to marry him.... It really hurts!!! Now he is the military (big sin in the eyes of his parents and everyoen we ever knew because of passive beliefs)... We live in JAPAN, and it still follows us because it's so haunting. I'm so glad my husband was a rebel... I can say that for sure. I don't know if I love him, or what, but thank God we got out of that cult we were in!!! Just hearing that we aren;t the only ones is a big relief...

    Oh and my dad... he is EXACTLY like the dad of your ex. He kept us moving every 3 years because he was very abusive physically, besides verbally, mentally, emotionally, (always threatening to kill himself as a way to manipulate us) and we were never allowed to have friends... well, NOW my mom has left the no good JACKHOLE after 25 years and he has a warrant out for his arrest. All the people in the cult we left support his IDIOTIC claims and would blame my mom if he did commit suicide... which he wont because he is in love with himself... I know this is all running together and rambled but I really can't help myself... Someone else out there understand my situation/background!

    1. You may find a lot of the material at the links on my sidebar very helpful, too, Meg. Under Much Grace and Quivering Daughters were the first two blogs I came across when I started digging in to this, and both were amazingly helpful. I'd also recommend the book Quivering Daughters and the film Paradise Recovered.

  26. I have and am going through many of these things I read about here. If there are any other readers out there like myself I have to recommend a book by Danny Silk, that changed the course of my relationship with God. It is called Loving Your Kids On Purpose. Someone gave it to me as a parenting book, but what it really did for me was change my entire paradigm of who God was and how he wanted to relate to me. And I could relate to it because I knew the reality of being a parent. I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to my frightened weary soul!!

  27. I can't say enough how much this helped to read all the comments. Sometimes I just feel alone in this battle. Somedays I love Jesus and other days I want NOTHING to do with him. I was abused in every fashion and the wounds that were inflicted on me will always leave a scar.

    In fact, it's even hard to write right now because even though I am approaching my 11 year anniversary of escaping is days away, memories are still very fresh. I lost my entire family and the pain that I go through on a daily basis will never be able to be described.

    For all reading this, may we all be healed. One moment at a time.

    Much love,
    Name withheld