Wednesday, 3 September 2014


He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. ~Daniel 2:22

Sometimes we live with the shadow of something for so long it seems so large it consumes our sight, but when our eyes are unveiled and it is brought into the light for inspection how small it becomes.

I've been reading a book I've had on my shelf for some time called 'Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships' by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias.  As I read I started to make a list of unhealthy boundaries I have that are a result of being part of a cultish church for most of my life using this book as a prompt.

As I made this list I wrote the following:

  • Being unable to separate my needs from those of others;
  • Assuming responsibility for the feelings and behaviour of another;
  • Other people's actions and attitudes tend to determine how I respond;
  • I am afraid of other's feelings (e.g. anger, disappointment), and that determines what I say and do.

It was like scales fell from my eyes and I could see again.  This isn't me, this isn't who I am, this is a construct!

I am oversensitive to other people's feelings and I immediately take responsibility for them. I hadn't realised I did that.  It was so normal to do it.  It was such a normal part of my every day life that I didn't know I did it.

Often I would say to Gary, "I can tell he's annoyed", or "I can tell she's disappointed."  And he couldn't see it.  Maybe I'm more discerning I reasoned. (LOL)

I have learned already in the past year that I am not a disappointment to God, that I don't let Him down, instead it is Jesus who is holding me up.  But the disappointment of others still crushed me, I didn't know why I cared so much.  I could see it in their faces and could hear it in their tone.  I would react to placate or even react in anger at the slightest hint that someone was disappointed - even if that disappointment was nothing to do with me.

Disappointment is bad.  It was drummed into me.  Expectations on the chuch members of my old church were high, we were responsible for the feelings of others. If someone was lonely it was our fault, if someone was sad it was our fault, if someone was sick it was our fault, if the church attendance was falling it was our fault, if the kingdom of God wasn't 'being built' it was our fault.  Fault. Fault. Fault.

All those years where I 'knew' whether God was pleased with me by watching the reaction to things on the Pastor's face or straining to detect pleasure or disappointment in his voice.

The time my husband and I arrived late to a small service of less than 20 at church and the Pastor preached angrily about people turning up at church late.  Afterwards the Pastor was so sorry, but God made him preach it, the poor Pastor, "It's OK," I soothed, wanting to make him feel better.

Those myriad of times that Pastor said that it was our fault people weren't healed - we weren't 'one' enough (in total union of agreement in thought and deed with the preached 'word').  He would weep and get angry.  I wanted to make him feel better about it.

If someone died.  Well.  The Pastor would rant angrily how he was sick of people dying.  It was our fault again.  I should be able to control death.  It's my fault again.

When during one-to-one meetings the Pastor would put his hand to his face and sigh deeply because I wasn't living up to expectations due to anxiety or depression.  Even worse I was a disappointment because I took tablets for my depression, I didn't trust God enough to heal.

God is disappointed in me because the Pastor is - this was my subconscious link.  Now even though I knew God wasn't disappointed in me, but He was holding me up, seeing disappointment or anger in other produced this visceral reaction in me, I wanted, needed, to make it better.  I couldn't bear it.  I would itch to make it better.  Striving again.

Disappointment wasn't a normal part of everyday life, but it was a MAJOR EVENT! I must work hard to prevent it at all costs!

It was during our holiday in Devon (I will share lots of pics soon, it was a great holiday!) that I read 'Take Back Your Life' and realised how this attitude was like breathing to me, I did it without even thinking about it!

One day, Gary, my hubby, wanted to watch an air show.  There would be various planes from history there and a number of acrobatic displays.  He was quite excited about it.  The caretaker of the cottage said that he knew a good place to watch the air show from without actually going into the very busy little town where it was being held.  We decided this was a good idea and went up there to watch.

Well, it was so far away you could hardly see most of the planes.  Gary was so disappointed, I could see it in his face. I squirmed.  I wanted to put it right.  But it was too late, there was nothing we could do.  I took immediate responsibility for his disappointment.  I kept checking his face for signs of the disppointment.  I itched to make it right.  I had to...

Revelation.  It isn't my fault.  It sounds so stupid, that I take responsibility for things that aren't my fault.  But now that I've seen it.  Now that I know that I do it, it's like a light has come on.  What loomed so large is small and ridiculous.

That realisation set me free that afternoon.  I could enjoy the day even though someone was disappointed.

I have not fully overcome it, I keep tripping up, but I know it now, I can see it.

Another baby step on the journey.

It's OK to fail.


  1. Thank you for sharing. It's so interesting to read about your journey and what you have realized.

  2. I remember when you were in that church, and I am so glad that you were able to break free. I always enjoy your posts Sarah, you really do make me stop and think about a lot of things that I would otherwise not even realize.

    Hope you and your beautiful family are doing well.
    Hugs and love,

    1. We are doing well thanks Sandra, I will share some fun family stuff on here soon. It's been really busy! xx :)

  3. Thank you Sarah, that was very thought provoking.

  4. Wow, what a terrible prison! I've never been in a cult (though I'm coming to terms with the fact that I was brainwashed as a child about certain things). But oh yes, assuming responsibility for others' feelings, that is the worst. And like you, I could be proud of it too - look at me, I'm so discerning, these other idiots just don't "get" people like I do! Or maybe they're just not neurotic....

    1. Sometimes I think, "Was it really a cult? Am I just being dramatic?" But then I remember in meetings we had to vote 'yes' to questions asked...and I realise I'm not crackers! LOL

      I think as well as being too 'discerning' of others we can be too 'discerning' of ourselves. I analyse myself far too much, which can lead to anxiety and depression in me - though self-awareness is good to a certain extent, I wouldn't have recognised the things that led to this post if I wasn't self-aware.

      Don't see yourself as neurotic, see yourself as a sensitive person learning to determine what is a good level of sensitivity (something I'm learning). It's finding a happy balance between being sensitive and caring but not allowing it to drag me down, crush me or control me. I like Tim Keller's expression, "Blessed self-forgetfulness" - neither proud nor self-destructive. One day, one day.... Hugs. x

    2. Oh, and it's OK to fail! Haha, I had a total public panic attack this weekend at a church weekend away (I mean like run out of a room during a fun game and bursting into loud sobbing tears outside)...but the world did not end and people were still nice to me afterwards.