Disclosure: Before you choose to read this, keep in mind this is my reality and personal experience. I’m doing very well today. I do not need anybody’s prayers because I put the life back into my own heart with the help of the Universe and lots of non-religious, caring souls.
I did not require judgmental dogma to heal. In fact that impeded it. So if you are bound in dogmatic Christian beliefs or co-dependent enmeshment right now and aren’t open minded or willing to accept that someone might have a different experience or belief system than yours, please don’t read further.
This is my subjective experience, it will likely sound irreverent or perhaps blasphemous to some, but it is my relevant, albeit subjective life experience. Take it or leave it.
For decades I suffered from a severe case of what I refer to as relationship and religious whiplash.
I was enduring emotional trauma, suffering and pain from being used and manipulated by a card-carrying member of the narcissist academy and fundamentalist religious dogma.
I finally woke up and in the process ended a toxic, 34 year marriage. Now looking back 10 years hence, I am still shocked I stayed that long.
Obviously, it wasn’t all bad otherwise I’d have never stayed, although, it is not that simple.
Here is the thing, that relationship nor marriage was never ‘holy shit amazing’. Now a decade after deciding to leave to take care myself – I think I am finally in touch with why I did not act sooner.
I was in complete denial and brainwashed by religious dogma for 33 of the 34 years.
I still shake my head in disbelief that I was that loyal, dense or naive (depending on your POV) to have surrendered so many years of my life on the altar of fear and rejection.
I had been so brainwashed by religious dogma I didn’t even consider leaving as an option.
I was encouraged to endure and told that I was experiencing the pain of “long suffering”. Plus, I got hero-cookies as being one of the good ones, a good husband, provider and a living example of the love of Christ. At the time, I really believed it and really was proud of how long-suffering I had become.
What a load of crap.
I have since come to a very controversial perspective, when it comes to religion. Critical thinking seemed absent in many of the religious people I’ve met. Not because they were feeble minded. Although I’ve met many who were so full of fear and judgement they had become mentally incapable of looking beyond the carefully crafted veil of deception, lies and dogma.
In my experience, the religious narrative is full of trap doors, fear, innuendo, shame, blame and guilt – to even think or question its validity comes with an express ticket to their fictitious projection of final judgement, hell.
I have found that the religiously brainwashed masses are literally, so fearful of their so called loving god and the subsequent anxiety that it could all be a sham, they refuse to question dogma or inconsistencies because they are afraid of blasphemy and going to hell. Others I’ve got to now well, are so lacking in their ability to nurture a close loving, vibrant relationship in their own life – they cling to fantasy of a loving but judgemental God with a death like grip.
Preaching from the pulpit keeps them (and myself at one time of my life) trapped in a living hell. Weak and emotionally exhausted, I was the ideal church member who was dutifully and submissively doing what they are told (by the church). Plus keep donating my tithe – after all “God deserves your first fruits.”
In my experience, this fear of hell and judgement is so real in the minds of many that this “earthly struggle” – pain, long suffering and the turmoil and “fighting the good fight” – seems far less worse than the eternal damnation from a so called loving and just god.
Religion needs to keep you in a codependent relationship with itself – you being strong is not good for business (think money in the offering plate).
The most deceptive and toxic behaviour I witnessed was how many of the so called brothers in Christ spoke of divorced couples as “fallen” and “lost”. That sounds like judgement to me.
No matter how many scriptures you might be able to quote and wrap your opinion with scripture it is undeniable that you are judging others. Religious gossip is hurtful, destructive and poison to new, vulnerable believers.
The scariest part? I felt like I had just “found” somewhere I belonged. I sure as hell did not want to be lost again! I sucked it up and swallowed the inconsistencies.
I was disturbed that the experienced overseers and brothers in the Lord spoke so negatively and judgementally of those who were struggling in their marriages – all while stuck in their own dysfunctional marriage – the hypocrisy was so think you could cut it with a knife.
It was the blind (hurt and angry) leading the blind (hurt and angry).
They would wrap their justifications in a wrapping of “out of context scriptures” which made it even more confusing for a newbie.
Nor did I want to become the topic of conversation as the latest “fallen and lost” brother. Or become a reason to hold a prayer meeting to “uphold the righteous”. So I shut my mouth and put on my religious smile despite the fact my heart was loosing hope and that my sense of self dying inside.
I’d seen how the gossip would develop. I would be accused of abandoning my wife and child and then become the target of “Let’s us pray for their redemption.”
Ugh. Still can’t believe I put up with that load of crap.
When I would challenge their assertions and ask questions like “When was the last time you spoke with him?” Or suggest that the kind and loving thing to do would be to reach out and share some time and coffee and most important listen to the “fallen and lost” brother. The topic of conversation was quickly changed. Hum, what’s wrong with this picture?
In all my years I never saw anyone model that loving behaviour. I spent time with some of those “lost souls” and in my estimation they were doing their best to recover from their own broken heart.
One thing I am certain, every single troubled, separated, divorced and troubled “lost soul” I ever met experienced judgment and shunning when they made the decision to leave the church.
Seems that should be the time, when the church should be able to reach out, love and support them. But alas, it is not to be.
In my search for acceptance within a congregation, I rarely witnessed acts of loving kindness or compassion – I saw an ocean of fake smiles and nodding heads. Secretly, they were all dying inside and holding onto their unspoken anger, trauma and pain.
In fact the protocol seemed to that it was more important to maintain the status quo and their albeit veiled sense of righteousness than ever confront the truth. Never admit that they placed themselves above others by becoming judge and jury.
In my observation, their words and behaviour betrayed their well crafted, righteous persona. They were so full of judgement of others they became blind to their own toxic state.
Here is an uncomfortable truth, I was on the same path and at different times. I became a judgemental, paranoid and anxious believer —I stopped thinking for myself and hid behind scripture, dogma and self righteous attitudes. All in an effort to make myself appear righteous and feel better.
I witnessed no one living a transparent, authentic lifestyle. Instead, I met well healed, big egos wrapped in the dogma of a religious belief they could not articulate.
I remember the day when the senior pastor told me “it only takes one person to make a relationship work.” What an utter load of stupidity. It takes two people make a relationship work.
What they really were saying is it only takes one person to be a martyr, as if that will make a relationship “work”.
The assumption was that if you were “godly“ and long-suffering, God would intervene on your behalf and change the other person. Believe it or not, I took the pastor at his word and proceeded to surrender my relationship onto the altar the long suffering, albeit mistaken, Christian martyr.
Of course, today, I know it takes two people to make a relationship work. Two whole people, who are consciously choosing to walk through life together. Being accountable for their own behaviour. Today I can say that I enjoy the safety of a loving, kind of relationship.We can discuss any topic without judgement and discuss each other‘s journey and perhaps even more important, resist the need to fix one another. We provide acceptance without judgement, because we know we each human walks a similar journey – seeking self-expression, self acceptance and self-love.
My Sister Died and The Pastors Message “Love Never Fails” Sucked Me In, Again
At my older sisters funeral we heard a strong message from 1 Corinthians 13 – love never fails. Between the grief of the sudden loss of my sister, a painful empty marriage – I clung to that assertion – that love would not fail me.
That message gave me a glimmer of hope and it sucked me in. At that time I did not realize that my pain, loneliness and anguish actually blinded me from my truth. The woman I was married to had no compassion, probably never loved me (she loved the idea of us as a couple) and incapable to seeing my needs.
Unbeknownst To Us, My Wife Suffered From An Untreated, Serious Mental Illness
Turns out she suffered from schizoaffective disorder with auditory hallucinations. I knew within 3 months there was something seriously wrong, she told me she didn’t love me. Yet, I did the good Christian thing and trusted God to work it all out. It took 22 years before we got an accurate diagnosis.
In the meantime, she would disappear a couple of times a year into the bedroom for 4–12 weeks, mostly non-communicative except for the “conversations” she was having with non-existent people.
For decades she hid it well and when other people would come to visit seem to snap out of it. It was confusing and puzzling, she would appear to be all put together when other people were around – as long as it was for short periods.
If we went out, she would seem right as rain, but as soon as we got home the silence would ensue and she would be gone mentally for days and weeks at a time. Only coming out to eat. Sometimes she would only eat once a day.
Unfortunately, it became very predictable, every Easter and Halloween she would disappear into her thoughts and the bedroom. Silently whispering to herself and carrying on conversations with her “invisibles”.
Obviously, she was very, very ill. But each time I would seem to reach my breaking point – she would snap out of it. This was my life for 22 years. Hope surfaced in a diagnosis and she was compliant (sometimes) taking her meds. The truth is, the meds helped but the twice a year disappearing act still happened just shorter and less severe.
What I now know and didn’t then – was she was also a narcissist and I was an narcissist enabler. We were caught in a narcissistic loop of victim, rescuer and perpetrator triangle.
I can’t tell you the guilt I have carried realizing how toxic this relationship had become and the regret I didn’t end it sooner. Especially when thinking of the impact on our child. How our actions, decisions and thought baggage can pass onto future generations who witness these cycles.
I am so proud and grateful to have an adult child doing so well despite the circumstances growing up.
It is a joy to witness the growth and achievement, from being on the deans list in college and running a successful photography business. An independent, strong wonderful soul is growing and I love them dearly. I can only hope that in making the decisions I did might provide an example. As parents, all we can do is our best and do what we are able and can afford to help them along today and. hopefully into their future and that of others in their life.
Know this, when it comes to making changes that go against societal norms, it will take every bit of courage you have to extract yourself from the mind games, manipulation and control.
But it will be worth it.
A few small insights that might help you escape a toxic situation and begin the process of getting your life back…
Question everything that does not make sense or feel right to you. If it does not add value, improve your life or feel good, scrap it.
Make a decision to develop a “self care consciousness”. Be gentle with yourself. Be bold and do the scary, courageous thing, run toward a better life.
Pay attention to your body, intuition and gut – especially when your clarity seems absent. It will save you every time!