The most damaging abuse I experienced in the church was to be treated as if I was mentally unstable. In fact, one elder went so far as to tell other members of the church that I was the most unstable person to ever enter the building.
Thus started my self-analysis during the years of my church attendance. Always looking for fault in myself, but not grasping that each of us has a speck of dust which stains our view of the world. I began second guessing myself, questioning everything I did. It’s tough living with someone you don’t trust. Was I unstable, or bonkers? God was telling others that I had a serious mental health issue and could not be trusted. Apparently, He couldn’t let me know before divulging my personal deficiencies to others.
When our mental health is questioned “in the name of The Lord” we can be convinced we have a problem and turn against ourselves, questioning our own integrity. We question how we see the world and ourselves.
There were plenty of signs that I was attending an unsafe, cult-like church, but I didn’t see them. I was used to being criticised and pulled down, so I took it all on board. We were told we had the only correct view of God and the world, the world was against us, and it was therefore unsafe. The church interpretation of the bible was unquestionable, visiting preachers were rare and only elders of the church could speak at the lectern. Attendance of at least two services on Sunday was required for involvement in leadership activities, praying and devotions once a day were expected and we were to tithe the minimum 10% of our income. Further to this, education above high school level was rare, counselling was frowned upon as was reading non-Christian literature and listening to non-Christian music.
I had stepped straight from the frying pan into the fire to a church which mirrored my insular childhood. Letting go of the rigidity of the fundamentalist church necessitated working through the control and conformity of my early years. Quite frankly it was bloody hard work, particularly as I didn’t trust myself.
But over the years I learned how to be reasonable, forgiving and understanding of myself and others. Mostly, I learned what it meant to be loved and how to love others with a free heart. It may have been hard, but it was worth the effort.
Message me if this post has brought up any issues for you. I’d love to chat.
In love, Jenny