Six months ago, when I was tossed aside by the church, I turned away and started walking.  With each day, each step, I have looked back, and the further I have journeyed, the wider my view has become.   Here are some of the insights I have gained.  Some will become full-blown blog posts.  Some are complete in their simplicity.

1) When I walked away from the nightmare, I began to live the dream.

2) I am not, nor was I ever, unworthy.

3) People have told me I need to consider who has the right to hear my story.  But I say anyone can hear my story.  I simply need to set boundaries on whose opinion I will care about.

4) Acceptance is not going to come from the people who rejected me.

5) Legitimate churches have nothing to fear from their members reading critical information about them.

6) Shame was fostered by my agreeing with the church leadership that I was so unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, and unworthy that I couldn’t tell anyone what they were doing to me.

7) When the rules are different for some and not for others, that isn’t a church.

8) I stood up for myself.  But before I stood up for myself, I allowed myself to be beaten down.  I was shamed and afraid and so I put up with inappropriate judgments and condemnation. The more I put up with it, the worse I became – fear consumed me.  I came to believe that I didn’t have a right to complain and convinced myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing.  But it wasn’t nothing.  And I am not nothing.

9) It was wrong for them to treat me the way they did and as long as I allowed them to continue, they were likely to keep doing it – to keep ostracizing me and telling me that I wasn’t good enough for them, for the church, for God.  I had to care enough about me to reject that kind of treatment.

10) “Sometimes you have to give up on people not because you don’t care, but because they don’t.” (unknown)

11) I was so afraid that if I stood up to the pastor, he wouldn’t like me.  But his actions and his lack of respect for me demonstrated that he already didn’t value me enough to like me in the first place.

12) I was also afraid of rejection. But you can’t reject someone if you were never “for” them and the pastor and his leadership was never “for” me.  If they tossed me out of their church, their lives, what was I going to miss?  Ostracism?  Judgment? Condemnation?

13) Once I acknowledged the truth – the disrespect, the manipulation, the misrepresentation, etc. – I was able to tell my story.  Once I acknowledged the truth, I didn’t have to take their judgmental treatment of me. Once I acknowledged the truth, I didn’t have to hang around with people who would treat me that way anymore.

14) When I “complained” or asked questions, I was ignored.  Being ignored and neglected told me that I was valueless.

15) I tried for years to make the pastor understand what he and those under his leadership were doing to me.  I realize now that it is not up to me to make them understand.  He was aware that his actions (or lack of action) showed that he had no concern for me. When I stopped trying to make him care, I discovered the wholeness and freedom I had forgotten.

16) “Do not try to win over the haters. You are not the jack-ass whisperer.”  Brene Brown

17) I am not responsible for your poor behavior.

18) The enemy of Jesus is not the prostitute but the pharisee.

19) I did not deserve to be shamed and ostracized for speaking the truth or for having an opinion.

20) I should never had stayed in a community where I couldn’t do anything right.

21) Some people would rather blame the trauma I faced in the church on me than compromise their own standing by questioning.

22) Those who were unwilling to sacrifice their own agenda and standing on my behalf are functional atheists.

23) If God will never leave us or forsake us, those who do cannot represent him.  He is not like them and they are not like him.

24) “If a cause can be damaged by someone telling the truth, then it’s not the cause of the One who said, ‘I am the Truth.'” -Eric Pazdziora

25) People who tell people who are hurting to “just get over it” need to “just get over it.”

26) Healing can only happen in relationships where there is mutual respect.

27) Refusal to communicate is devaluing and when it’s a pastor, it’s spiritual abuse.

28) The people who punished me are abusers and it’s okay to protect myself from them.

29) If people wanted me to write better things about them, they should have treated me better.

30) My story has allowed others to feel less alone and to heal. My story has done others good.

31) I understand grace better now because it was denied me.

32) People spend a lot of time in church pretending to get it and they really don’t – believers are often functional atheists.

33) Just because I talk about what happened to me – just because I talk about spiritual abuse – doesn’t mean I’m not over it.  It means I’m so over it that I can be vulnerable so you know you are not alone.

34) It’s okay for church leaders to shame and demean me, but if I talk about it, they say I’m the bad person.

35) “Peace-making isn’t always peaceful.” Samantha Field

36) Some people will no longer be your friend because you were honest.

37) They wouldn’t stand up for me, why should I break down for them?

38) Never again will I be bullied into silence.

39) When speaking up makes me an outcast, that’s spiritual abuse at its finest.

40) I was constantly wondering where I stood with the pastor and leadership.  Once I knew where I stood, it was time to start walking away.

41) I was robbed.  I had gifts and the church leadership stomped them out of me. Those were the years the locusts have eaten.

43) I lived far too long being more committed to the church (and people in the church) than the church (and people in the church) was committed to me.  When I look back, I would have done it differently.  I would have walked away sooner.  I was too nice for too long.  I gave more than I got with the hope that one day people would give back.  I was a friend with the hope that one day the people I was being a friend to would be a friend back.  I was always hoping that the people who devalued me would one day value me.  And I didn’t pay attention to those who were doing the same with me.  Those who were being nice.  Those who were giving me more than they got with the hope that I would one day give back.  People who were being a friend to me with the hope that one day I would be a friend back. People who endured my devaluing of them with the hope that one day I would value them.  Some of them I lost along the way. They finally gave up on me just like I have finally given up on those in the church.  And some stuck with me – through and in spite of and no matter what. They are few and they are rare and I am grateful for their perseverance.  Today, I continue to look around for the people who are giving me more than I am giving them.  I look for the people who are a friend to me even though I have not pursued their friendship.  I look for people who value me without my needing to prove my worth to them. And I realize that I don’t have to work so hard for friendships.  I only have to recognize the friends who have been waiting for me all along.

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