CHURCH

You will have regrets

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I am suspicious of people who declare they have no regrets. I don't believe them. Or I think they have no self-awareness at all. It sounds smug to me. I have regrets all the time. I regret having bacon for breakfast this morning. Even when I was eating the third slice I was pretty sure I could have made a better choice. I still ate it though.  

According to Wikipedia,  "Regret is a negative conscious and emotional reaction to one's personal decision-making, a choice resulting in action or inaction. Regret is related to perceived opportunity. Its intensity varies over time after the decision, in regard to action versus action, and in regard to self-control at a particular age. The self-recrimination which comes with regret is thought to spur corrective action and adaptation." 

Regrets are normal. They can even be productive if they result in you making better choices in the future. I may make a decision to eat less bacon. But sometimes regret can be destructive. Especially when it is tied into shame. When you feel like a loser because of past choices. Or you feel inadequate or worthless. Or you feel like you wasted a lot of time chasing something that you now see as toxic and destructive.

I've felt like that about a lot of stuff I used to believe. I mention on next week's podcast that I've played a game with friends called, "Shit we used to believe." We laugh about some of the absurd stuff that we bought into along with our membership in the evangelical church community.  We talked about the beliefs that we needed to protect our kids from Pokemon and Sailor Moon, the dangers of going out for Halloween, that there is a 'rapture', tattoos are sinful, yoga is opening your mind up to the occult,  or secular music is evil. We lived in a world full of taboos.

The truth is none of us really believed it. But we all played along or at least kept our books, tattoos, and records hidden. But there are other beliefs that were more damaging and that I deeply regret. I regret being part of a system that has a history of oppressing women, being racist and condemning of the LBGTQ community. Whether or not I agreed with these beliefs doesn't matter at the end of the day. What matters is that I never spoke up. Well, I did a few times but I was a people pleaser with a thin skin and so mostly I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully, I've seen the light, developed a thicker skin and care what very few people think. Thank you menopause!

Yes, you wll have regrets. but they may be the very thing that spurs you to change. They may be the catalyst for your spiritual crisis. They can be the place you begin a conversation with people you have hurt. I have talked to both my kids about my regrets about some of the restrictions we put on them because we were pressured by our faith community to conform to a certain standard. I take full responsibility for making the choice to conform. 

You might be reading this and thinking your community is different. It's possible but conformity and group think exist everywhere. And the longer you have been part of a community the more difficult it is  to see it. When I stopped going to church regularly I saw things so differently when I did go. 

I'm not suggesting you don't go to church - I am saying every community has operating values and they aren't always the same ones that are preached. And there will be pressue to conform. Don't stop questioning and don't lose your own voice. And if you are tired of the hypocrisy of playing nice then welcome your spiritual crisis and get ready to reclaim a healthy and vibrant faith. It will take a little courage but you won't regret it.  

Sign up for my blog and I'll send you a worksheet for dealing with regrets. 

You don't have to remain a victim

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Healing from abuse is a long journey. It happens on many levels over years as you move from victim to survivor. Part of your healing may involve confronting the person who abused you. And that can be scary as hell.

Looking back on my journey I am surprised that not one therapist recommended that I confront the pedophile in my family who had abused me. They all focused on how I was dealing with my own healing but I was never encouraged to confront him. I even contacted a therapist who was familiar with my family and told him I wanted to bring the abuse out into the open in my family. He strongly advised me against it. He told me my family would implode. He told me that if I was looking for healing I wouldn't find it through confrontation. And he told me that my family would probably deny it happened, call me a liar and I would be victimized all over again. So I stayed quiet.

About five years later the story came out in my family. But not through me. The same man had abused my cousin's daughter. Her therapist had reported it to the police. And the police had advised my cousin to contact every woman in the family to see if there were others. There were. 

I often wondered if I had said something if I could have prevented what happened to that young girl. And I have learned that confrontation, trial, conviction, and even criminal charges are still not enough proof for people who want to protect the system - whether it is a family or a church.

When a woman comes forward to confront an abuser, she probably isn't doing it for her own healing. She is doing it to protect other women. She is doing it to expose a threat to others.  But that isn't the narrative that we hear about victims who come forward. They are often painted as hurting, vindictive, petty, damaged bitches. Women who want to bring a man down. 

I can't imagine anyone putting themselves through that type of trauma to bring someone else down. I can imagine that they share their story out of solidarity for the other women who are being dismissed as 'not credible.'  It seems to take several women's stories before we are willing to believe that maybe there is some truth in the accusations.  

Ultimately, that therapist was right - you don't find healing in confronting an abuser. He was also wrong - that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You do it to stop the cycle. You do it to protect other people from being victimized. You do it even though you might be ostracized. You do it because although you were once a victim, you aren't always a victim.

 

It was just a kiss

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This blog posted is dedicated to the courageous Pat Baranowski.

I tweeted yesterday that I expect to see more women coming forward in Evangelical churches with stories of sexual abuse and harassment. Much like the #metoo movement there will be a tipping point. A time when women speak up in droves.  We have been collectively triggered.  The Bill Hybels story is just one of many. The time is here when women are no longer afraid of speaking their truth and are no longer invested in protecting predators who hide behind spiritual positions of authority.

I sat down to write a blog post for women who have been in those positions. I thought I would talk about the courage it takes to confront men who have been inappropriate in their behaviour. I started thinking about my own story and the pastor who asked me to kiss him. He told me he had fantasized about kissing me and he wanted just one kiss. Yes, he was married. I remember how awkward I felt and how I must have been responsible. Cleary, men couldn't hold themselves back around me. 

Flash forward three decades and I shared that story with my sister. Only to discover she had the same experience with the same man. When we talked about it we realized we had both taken responsibility for his behaviour. And blown it off - “It was just a kiss.”

And then I questioned myself. Why I had let that man off the hook? Why didn’t I ever confront him and tell him how inappropriate his behaviour was? Why was it my job to protect him and his family from his behaviour? So instead of writing that blog post, I wrote an email to the man who wanted a kiss. I told him that I knew about my sister and so I suspect that there are other women as well. And I asked for an apology. Silence is not spiritual.