Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
It’s been years since I’ve been more or less “free” from the hyperreligious environment that I was raised in, but the residual effects of having been raised in that environment are a part of me still. Also, even if my childhood hadn’t been as abusive and isolating as it had been, I would still face an internal- and probably external, as well- struggle now that I no longer consider myself a part of the religion of my childhood.
Here are some of the things that I’ve experienced since leaving the religion.
#1: A sense of isolation/separateness from other people
This was unfortunately a big part of my life growing up as well (when I still considered myself to be a Christian). I was homeschooled, and while homeschooling does not have to be isolating at all, it was extremely so in my case- and I think it was/is even worst for my younger siblings.
My dad would often tell us that we were “set apart” by God, that sanctification met “separateness”. He would say that Abraham was called out by God to leave his family and kin, and so we were called out as well. He said that if God saved eight people in the day of Noah, that we were not too few to be set apart and saved.
I only saw this in hindsight- but he would often try to undermine my friendships, and my mom’s friendships/relationships with her family. If I acted out, he would say “You’re spending too much time around X”. He told me that he once unplugged the phone when my mom was on the phone with her sister- because he felt like “they were talking too long” and acted like he was the victim because she told him off for it.
People that grew up in healthier religious families often don’t understand my distrust, and feelings that my dad ran a cult. They’re like “your dad loves you” and I know, of course he loves me, but that doesn’t excuse or justify the things that he’s done in the name of love (including threatening physical violence). So now even though I do still feel close to the Christian religion in some ways, I often feel like when I go to church or religious groups that I can’t totally identify or fit in anymore, and the old feeling of otherness and separateness creeps in again.
2#: Confusion and Indecision
Since my whole worth used to be wrapped into what I believed about God- and I no longer espouse those beliefs anymore- there is an underlying uncertainty about everything that I do (I recently reblogged a post about this). Sometimes I would just feel really insecure and unsure of myself and have no idea why (investigation revealed that these were old feelings of guilt left partially by the old religion).
Now that I’ve left the Christian faith, those old ideas about “belonging to God” and “offering yourself as a living sacrifice” have been abandoned, but it is easy for me to forget that I actually have a right to say no to things, that I have a right to decline something if it makes me feel uncomfortable, etc. Some of it just isn’t the religion- it’s from the way I was raised in general. My dad commanded absolute authority as the God-appointed “head of the household”, and whatever he “heard” from God was to be followed without question.
Now I know that other people don’t get to decide what’s right for me- I do and I am perfectly qualified.
3#: Feeling Unqualified/Unworthy
This is very much related to the feelings of #2. A lot of the “confusion and indecision” comes from feeling like I am not “qualified” or “worthy” of making my own decisions- especially since I am a woman. Biblically speaking, a woman is supposed to submit firstly to her father (if she is unmarried) and later to the man she was going to marry. I can’t count how many times my dad would suggest a course of action for me because it would “work well when you’re married with children”.
He already had my future mapped out- with little to no input from me. To this day, any time I talk about things that I want to do, my dad will always correct me and tell me “if GOD wants this thing for you, don’t turn it down” or “it makes me sad that you talk about what YOU want but you don’t include GOD” and on and on.
Really, God has absolutely nothing to do with it- because this is coming from the man who said, “You all better be careful to listen to me, because you never know when I’m talking and when God is the one talking through me” and going on about his “righteous anger” and all that crap.
Honestly, I am so sick of it. I’m sick of the fact that I’m the one who has to be in recovery for this- that I’m the one who does so much work, who is always so accommodating, who is always concerned about stepping on toes or making other people feel uncomfortable that I’ve lived in a fog for years, struggling to wrestle my very life from the grasp of “fate” and “destiny” and “what you’re supposed to do” and “what God wants for you” and “what the Bible says.”
This was supposed to end like all my other blog posts- neat, logical, looking at all the angles but I think it’s time that I let myself be angry for what happened to me, for what is happening to my siblings, that I no longer confuse “intentions” with “reality” because-
You judge yourself by your intentions. They judge you by your actions. -Unknown
It doesn’t actually matter whether it was intended to be harmful or not- they did hurt me, and if I let them, they would still be ruining my life today.
Syrup is still syrup in a sippy cup. -Melanie Martinez “Sippy Cup”