Is Shunning a Form of Emotional Abuse? by Dr. Margaret Jones

April 11, 2009

I am grateful and excited when someone recognizes that what happened to me in church was emotional abuse and doesn’t pass it off as a mere misunderstanding on my part. The blogger of A Survivor’s Thoughts on Life comprehends that although the specific form of abuse may be different, the pain and the group dynamics are not. It pleased me that sharing my story helped her put some of her own experiences into perspective. This is what I want to accomplish. I am not trying to harm those who harmed me. Not of My Making isn’t a kiss and tell book. It isn’t small minded gossip. Fr. Lance of All Saints Anglican calls it a personal documentary. It recounts some of the things that can go wrong in our church communities. My hope is that it will plant seeds of positive change that will strengthen our religious communities by encouraging congregations to establish fair and just procedures for resolving conflicts.

I also wish that people who believe I should just let it go and stop making a fuss over church infighting, would develop an understanding of emotional and relational abuse and work for change. Last March I commented on a post written by Sebastyne on her blog, My dear hard drive, who wrote, “I have always thought that calling someone names or pulling pranks on them or doing something active was not okay. However, I thought that shutting someone out, as in, not being someone’s friend was fine.” I wrote back, “We all get to choose our friends but no one should be treated as an outcast. When someone is shunned the group has gotten together and told everyone not to speak to her or invite her or include her. People who like her won’t be her friend because they fear the group will exclude them. The person being shunned hasn’t done anything wrong. She is usually just an easy target, vulnerable in some way. So yes shutting someone out is wrong. It is not loving. It says more about your prejudices than it says about the person who is being shunned.”

Most of the other women who responded didn’t see it as their responsibility to speak to or include someone they didn’t like. They said or implied it was the victim’s fault. One woman wrote “some schoolyard bullying was just enforcing social norms and values.” I wondered who made her the enforcer? Why did she get to judge another person’s behavior?

What are a person’s obligations towards others? What are you suppose to do if someone you don’t particularly care for invites you over or asks you to go out with them? Does God expect you to go? Are Christians expected to be friends with each other? If someone you don’t care for at church or elsewhere invites you out or in some other way seeks to connect with you, what are your obligations as a Christian?

Some people wanting to avoid hurting another person’s feelings handle it by saying things like, we should get together sometime but when the other person invites them they always have another obligation. They never tell the other person the truth. Once I had a client of limited intelligence who had been abandoned by her family. She desperately sought friendship from others. People appeared friendly and kind. Often they would make promises to visit and/or take her out. Then they would fail to keep those promises. My client said to me, “If they don’t want to be friends, why didn’t they just say so, then I wouldn’t waste my time and I could find someone else to be friends with.”

As I write this, I am recalling a scene from Not of My Making. Colleen, a church mate, appeared warm and sympathetic but never returned my phone calls. When I returned to Immanuel after an extended absence she said, “I’ve been concerned about how you were doing.”

I took in a deep breath, mustered my courage, then said, “If you were so concerned about me, why haven’t you called in the last two years?”

She looked confused. “Who, me?”

“Yes, you,” I replied.

“I know,” Colleen said as she cast her eyes downward.

“No one in this church cared enough about me to call,” I said as I left the church.

Later I would learn she complained to the church leadership that I wasn’t “civil”. The Bible, however, says nothing about being civil or having good manners. It doesn’t say anything about rights but rather about obligations to care for one another. St. Paul writes in Romans 12:9-10 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”

As a Christian I wonder if I should accept all offers of friendship even if my initial impression of that person is negative. Maybe I haven’t given them a chance. If they haven’t betrayed me or hurt me in any way, then my reluctance may have more to do with me than with them. If we were truly kind and compassionate towards others this question might never come up. I have had clients who I initially disliked that as I got to know them better I came to admire and understand them. I don’t expect everyone to be my friend. But I don’t want to be excluded either.

Let me end this post with Fr. Lance’s response to my email about friendship:

It seems to me that Jesus and Paul have stated clearly the obligations we have toward one another. Ignoring those we “dislike” because they are different or “smell bad” can’t be justified by these passages. Instead, as they are among the least, Jesus has said this is where he is present the most.

As to whom will be our friends, that is something quite different. We are to be kindly affectionate toward each other, and we are to regard others as better than ourselves. This describes an attitude and a behavioral approach we take when we walk out the front door. Friends are those we invite into our homes and this is OK so long as we understand our egos and self-wills do not cause us to think more highly of ourselves. In other words, we have no permission to become a snobby clique, looking down our noses at those who are not part of our inner circle.

Thank you for taking your time to read this post. I will be available on Monday, April 13th, to take your comments and questions.

Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches is available from www.pluckpress.com and Amazon.com.

May God’s peace be with you.

Margaret W. Jones, Ph.D.


  1. Hi, Dr. Jones, welcome to my blog today!

    I really enjoyed reading your book and am glad that you are here.

    You wrote:
    “As a Christian I wonder if I should accept all offers of friendship even if my initial impression of that person is negative. Maybe I haven’t given them a chance. If they haven’t betrayed me or hurt me in any way, then my reluctance may have more to do with me than with them. If we were truly kind and compassionate towards others this question might never come up. I have had clients who I initially disliked that as I got to know them better I came to admire and understand them. I don’t expect everyone to be my friend. But I don’t want to be excluded either.”

    I have to wonder if we, as followers of Yeshua/Jesus, have forgotten how He loved us in spite of our own miserable state. Even the best of us, compared to Him, are not very lovable. Should we not reach out to others just as He has reached out to us?

    His love is unconditional. Shouldn’t ours be, too? Now, I am not talking about putting ourselves in situations that are unsafe. I am talking about simply accepting a fellow human being, even if you don’t become buddies with them.

    We don’t have the time and energy to be close friends with all we meet. However, we CAN be friendly and courteous, can’t we? We can make them feel welcomed into the larger group. Am I making sense here?

    • Yes, you certainly are making sense. Jesus loved us and we have been commanded to love others especially the outcast. It is neither moral nor ethical to form cliques shunning and excluding others without just cause. I have been cruelly excluded by people I never harmed. I don’t want that to happen to others. I don’t want to do that to others. I strive to be open, honest and kind to everyone I meet. That doesn’t mean being civil which so often is just keeping up appearances in order to maintain social status.

  2. I have another question for you. Thank you for being here to answer it. 🙂

    We only have time and energy for a certain number of close friends and a certain number of acquaintances. Taking on too many can cause all of our heart connections with others to suffer. How would you suggest a person handle it if they are maxed out and just cannot take on anymore? How can they not hurt the other person? Any suggestions?

    Is there a place for simply being friendly in the public arena while not inviting someone into our private space?

    Also, you mention “without just cause”. What would you consider to be “just cause”? How would you suggest it be handled if there is just cause?

    Also, are you open to questions about your book and your whole experience? Or only about the particular subject in this post?

    • I am open to all questions about my book and my whole experience as well as the particular subject of this post. To answer your other questions. I don’t think it is okay to exclude someone because they are different from you, don’t dress like you or you think they smell etc. I also don’t think it is okay to exclude someone based on rumors you have heard about them. All friendships start as just being friendly but where it goes wrong is when you promise or knowingly imply something you cannot or will not do. But I do think when someone is hurting we are expected to go the extra mile and offer comfort. Finally, I think we should worry less but who we want as friends and focus more on being good friends and companions.

      • What you write makes sense. We need to love the unlovely. Sometimes a person just needs a helping hand to get them going in the right direction.

        I think this is also where we need to be listening to the Holy Spirit talking to us. There are times when, if we will obey Him and be willing to step outside of our comfort zone, we will find ourselves incredibly blessed.

        Regarding your experience writing the book…what would you say was the toughest part about it? If you knew that someone else was going to do something similar, would you have any advice or thoughts for them?

  3. The toughest part was having to revisit painful experiences in order to capture what it felt like. I would often end up curled up on the couch after a few hours of writing. My advice to someone doing something similar is take some writing classes and read some books on how to write a memoir. I lost some time because I didn’t do this until after I had written a couple of drafts. Then have people read your manuscript. My first readers were family, friends and my therapist. They all make useful points. Next pay for a professional editor to do a content/developmental edit. They of course, rewrite, rewrite until you have it right.

    • Thank you!

      In your book, you describe going through many difficult things, both in childhood as well as adulthood.

      Of all the different struggles you went through, is there one that stands out as being the most impacting? Or would you say that it is pretty much all equal?

      Regarding the things that happened in the churches, can you think of a specific instance where, looking back, you wish you had handled it differently? What would you changed?

      • The sexual assault by Frank changed a lot of things in my life. Although my parents were neglectful and emotionally abusive, I had Uncle Frank to love me but then he betrayed that trust. As a result I withdrew and became increasingly isolated. But that incident wouldn’t have been as bad as it was if it wasn’t for the abuse and neglect at home and school. I had no one to talk to or to guide me. As far as the church experiences goes, Immanuel gets the prize as being the worst. They attacked everything I loved, valued and achieved in my life.

        As for what I would have done differently in the churches, I would have gotten out sooner and trusted people less. I mistook friendliness for friendship. I also ignored my own perceptions. I knew when we took in our foster son, my church mates were putting me on a pedestal and that would come to rejection in the end. I should have withdrawn then and not involved them in his care and education.

  4. It sounds like you learned a lot through the whole process, painful as it was. I know that I did when I went through some of the things I have gone through.

    I have experienced being excluded in churches. It is not that they were unfriendly, necessarily. What I have found is that people have their groups and it can be very hard to break into that. Even when they are doing something that I was included in, it was all the “church” related stuff.

    I guess it is kind of like there are two worlds…the “church” world and the personal world. I could be accepted in the “church” world events…whether at the official building or even in smaller groups at people’s homes. However, when it came to non”Church” stuff…like going out to the show or having dinner together or phone calls…you know what I mean…the personal stuff…it was a no go. I was not included and neither was my family.

    One thing that was really ironic is that there were small groups set up for going deeper. Or at least that is what we thought they were for. Maybe the others only saw it as bible study? I don’t know, but we just did not get included in very much of anything outside of official “church” stuff.Every once in a great while we did, but there was nothing lasting…no deep friendships established out of that.

    The thing is…these were very caring people. They were very loving…but from a distance. Have you found that to be the case with you?

    I also found out later that they had no problem (because they did not really know us that well) with passing judgment amongst themselves regarding our situation. That really hurt. We knew it was going on, but since we never actually heard it or saw it, there was nothing we could do about it.All we had was a gut sense. We only got our “proof” about a year ago. And it hurt all over again.

  5. Including you in church stuff but never really befriending you is part of being civil. I assume their judgements of you was why you were never invited and never made any lasting friendships. Everything you said was true for us. And since no one ever tells you what their problem with you is, you don’t have any opportunity to fix it. I am more cynical than you. I don’t think they were caring at all. Jesus commands us to love everyone not just our family and current friends. What I want to be able to do is welcome everyone who sincerely seeks connection with me. I am thinking of starting to hold some open houses to everyone in my church community and see what comes of it. I want to worry less about whether they will become friends and focus on loving them.

  6. Hmmmm…thinking about what you are saying here. For some, I think they truly did care, but I wish they had simply been up front and said that they did not have time left over to have another real friendship. I wish they had not left me believing that there was a chance.

    Looking back, I don’t know that they ever communicated that there was a chance for real friendship. I think that it was my hopefulness that “said” there was.

    For myself, I will be as loving and caring as I can to the people who are around me. I will continue to try and be as open as possible to anyone who wants to develop a friendship. I will also accept that others care about me…to whatever degree they can…while accepting that their ability may be very small compared to what I would like.

    I know what it is like to be very scared and to feel very vulnerable. I know of some who simply don’t reach out to others because, like us, they have been hurt. That is what is really sad. You can have a group of people…all truly desiring something deeper, yet all afraid to give it a shot because they have been so deeply hurt previously.

    Someone needs to be brave and take that first step. That is what I and my family are trying to do. Yet, we recognize that we have limits on what we are able to do, too. I guess you could say that we are being friendly to all and accepting what will or won’t come as a result. We will choose to love everyone…even when we don’t particularly like them!

    You wrote about how there were some a Immanuel who undermined your parental authority. Boy do I know how devastating that can be. In my situation it was from my children’s grandparents and their father…my ex.

    I know that you have said that you would not have involved them in your son’s care and education. Looking back, do you think that had to be an all or nothing kind of thing? Or do you think that they could have been involved, but perhaps with more oversight?

  7. We appear to be in very similar places. My hope for friendship blinded me to what my church mates true feelings were. I was also naive in thinking that they would judge me on the merits of the situation and not just on who they did or didn’t like. Since my dechurching I am more guarded, especially at church. But this past week I have resolved to change that. I will start going to coffee hour and try to get to know as many people as possible. I hope to be able to offer a sincere and trustworthy connection without worrying if it will be reciprocated. However, if a conflict starts I will be more careful who I trust. As far as my foster son, I think it would have been wiser not to share anything about him for a couple of years. Research on blended families, adoption and foster care suggests it takes that long for familial bonds to form. Once formed they could have been more involved.

  8. One thing I appreciate about your book is that you share the things you uncovered as you sought to understand what was happening. When you read an article or communicated with someone, you shared the information you received. That has helped me to see how some of what you experienced relates to some of my internet experiences, as well as my “church” experiences.

    One of the challenges I have found is that of being who I am in different situations. For example, I was a strong supporter of Christian women survivors. After being impersonated and accused of heinous things against the very women I loved, I found myself scrambling to figure out not only what happened, but how I should be on line toward others.

    Even now, about three and half years after it all came down, I sometimes have to push to reach out to others. Basically, I have had to relearn who was open toward me and who was not…who was safe and who was not.

    I have also had to recognize that some friendships, although “regained” will simply never be the same. We have all changed. I am very blessed, though, to have had some friendships restored to me in which we are either still…or again…very comfortable with each other.

    Through it all, though, my idea of who I should be for others was really shaken. I had to decide to take the risk to open myself up again. It has been a challenge, but a worthy one.

    After being wounded in “churches”, I find the same thing happening in face to face life, too. Although I have the advantage of seeing the body language and hearing the tones, the risk is much greater. If something happens with someone I see at “church”, I have to face that other person whenever I go there. With the internet, you simply stop emailing, etc. With forums, though, you can end up “seeing” them. That, too, is hard.

  9. In writing the book at first I wasn’t sure what to do with what I was reading. After all the book is not a third person, scholarly narrative. Then I realized that I, as a character, in the book, would do just that. Read and try to figure out what happened. So I incorporated my reading into my story. It is so much of who I am. My idea of people and the world was equally shaken. You would think after being raped and bullied I would have known better. But in many ways I was naive. I am now a sadder but wiser person. But I am stronger now. I think I am less vulnerable. I appreciate who I am and know just what I value about my self and have no intention of changing. Oddly enough, the experience has brought me closer to God.

  10. I have found that God is the only one who will never let me down. People always will, without even trying…and I will let others down, too. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. I just try to make sure that what I make are really mistakes and not intentional choices.

    In your book you write: “I now strive to accept things as they are, focusing on what I have, not on what I don’t have and probably never will have. With no reputation and friends to lose, I am free to do what I want, pursue my own interests, say and think what I like. I am free to find my own way to live an authentic Christian life, unencumbered by unspoken rules and the false projections of others.

    The knowledge and insights I gained into groups, and human evil, has aided me in my work as a psychologist. I know what it’s like to be rejected, abandoned and used as an object to satisfy someone else’s lust and power needs. God, in a peculiar kind of way, blessed me.”

    I like how you allowed what happened to finally end up drawing you closer to God, especially after you had walked away from Him.

    It is also awesome when we can take what we have experienced and use it to help others. You and I each have unique perspectives on life and a much greater (I like to think) sensitivity toward others who are experiencing what we have. We learn from what we went through and try to help others as a result.

    I believe that is what is meant by the verse that says that we comfort others as we have been comforted. We have been through tragic things and God has comforted us. We can point others to Him.

    I know that He has also used others to comfort me. Looking back, have you spotted others that God used to support and comfort you, even if only briefly? People who, perhaps, did not even know what was happening, but who just happened to touch you when you needed it most? I know that I can see people like that in my life.

  11. I believe God sent Dr. George Howard and my husband into my life. Without them my life would be very different. My maternal grandmother’s love and faith has also sustained me over the years. In high school there was Mr. Hunsperger and Mr. Grodner. Of course there have been brief, chance encounters. One with a Hasidic Jew who I met at the 42nd Street library in Manhattan. We ate lunch together in the back of a diamond exchange. When I think of him I remember Walt Whitman’s poem, Once I Pass’D Through A Populous City. I treasure his kindness and assistance in finding a cheap place to get a meal when I was done and out. One of those random acts of kindness.

  12. What a blessing to be able to look back at those things in our lives!

  13. […] Is Shunning a Form of Emotional Abuse […]

  14. I think quoting my post is a bit out of context, because I don’t consider myself a Christian. What ever I think is irrelevant in the context. What Christians are obligated to do is beyond me. However, I also think that shutting someone out by forcing others to not be friends with them is not cool in anyway… however… Tell you an example.

    When I was in my 20’s I had a male friend of a male friend. We had a tight group of 3 guys and 2 girls, and suddenly this 4th guy started hanging out with us, and us girls didn’t really know why. He just appeared out of nowhere and came to our parties with our male friends. (Not boyfriends.) We didn’t say anything to the guys for weeks, but we did discuss it by ourselves. Then suddenly, when one of the guys were visiting us, as from a constant long contained pressure he apologized first and begun: “I know you girls like him, but I’m just at the end of my rope with him…” And explained that the guy was always just waiting for him to break up with his girlfriends only to offer them a shoulder to cry on and then take advantage of them. When we told him we didn’t like him any more than he did and didn’t say anything because we thought the guys liked him, he said they only took him along because they thought we liked him. Should we have kept hanging out with him regardless? Really? Or was it okay, because he was a guy?

    I also said I was shut out of my group of friends with whom I’d been best buddies for 7 years. I knew why they didn’t want to hang out with me anymore although they never said it. They just stopped talking to me directly, and I understood it was time to look for new friends. I found fabulous friends from then on, and am I sorry they didn’t include me? No, not really. And I would never call them bullies for that, or think badly of them.

    • Hi, Sebastyne! I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts here. There are so many different situations and different nuances to each one.

      What you are describing is definitely a different scenario than Dr. Jones was describing. There can be so many shades of gray. It is one thing to determine that you don’t want to hang out with someone. It is another to openly snub them.

      I like your positive outlook. When you leave one group of friends…or they leave you…that can open the door for other friends…better friends…to come into your life.

      take care!

  15. I have had exactly the same thing happen to me. In church and out. First, I’ll recount an experience with an ex girlfriend and then one with a religious group.

    First, I had a girlfriend back home (Michigan) badmouth me to the point of social death on the job and among friends that I introduced her to. She tells everyone I cheated on her but neglected to tell them I only saw someone else after she ignored my calls and e-mails for weeks and months on end. Of course, every time she’d hear I was seeing someone else then she’d start calling me again. She’s an accomplished deceiver and manipulator. So much so that from 9/05 until 3/07 none of my so called friends would have anything to do with me. Many would actually go as far as to duck and cover when I saw them in public.

    Since I’ve been in California (since 3/07) I’m having a similar experience with a religious group. A handfull of the members I knew from back home but no one else in the state knew anything about me. After finding work here I noticed as early as my first day on the job people (some I had never even laid eyes on before) were making comments, dropping mocking hints and inuendos about personal aspects of my life that I know I hadn’t discussed with them. Well, common sense says they could have only gotten the information from the few people there who did know me. Of course, I’m sure this information was shared with them with the expectation that they would pray for my well being. I found out shortly after that a good number of the church members worked in that building. I’ve since left the group. Many of them showed a tremendous amount of interest in where I moved to. Once I shared with them where all the phone calls and friendly e-mails stopped and no one ever made an attempt to visit. Right after that people in the neighborhood I moved to were immediately distant and are making the same (not variations on) mocking comments. Coincidence? Yeah right! After doing some digging, I found that many people had previously left this group accusing them of being cultic and abusive in many ways. One man even shot the pastor back in ’96 and was sent to prison. The pastor lived. The man indicated feeling that the group was controlling him through his love for his wife who was a member prior to them marrying.

    I believe these two instances are precise examples of what you were talking about. I say both are prime examples of emotional abuse with a touch of mob mentality mixed in.

    • That sure sounds like emotional abuse to me. It sounds like you really need to sever all connections the next time you move, which is very sad. I feel for you.

      • I have given serious thought to that. As soon as I can break the grasp these freaks are maintaining over me I intend to move. I will never have anything to do with them again. I also highly doubt I’ll ever set foot in another so called Christian church or any type of religion for that matter.

        • I have learned to separate the Creator from the people who go by His name. Yeshua/Jesus is who He is. Those who use His name are not always honoring Him. There is no perfect congregation, but there are congregations that are more in line with what He teaches us in His word. Sometimes, you have to visit several congregations before you find the one for you. I encourage you to not give up on Yahweh…and don’t give up on His people. None of us is perfect! 🙂

          • Thank you. Your words are very encouraging and perhaps you are right. I’m a bit gunshy about churches for now. I will try to keep an open mind. Reading your words reminded me of My Grandmother’s advice when I was about to attend a new school. She told me give everyone a chance to prove themselves friend or foe. I hadn’t remembered that for a long time. So, I will do my very best.

            • Being gunshy is totally understandable! I have been that way at times myself…sick and tired of things I saw there. At the same time, I recognized that there are going to be some problems everywhere. We are all human…after all!

              I try to remain open without totally trusting. Trust is earned with me. I will be open enough to allow you the privilege of earning my trust, but I won’t just give it to you.

              Earning trust, for me, takes time. A person, or group, has to prove himself or herself to me. I need to see consistency. I need to see transparency. I need to see integrity. Without those three things in good measure, it is difficult for me to trust.

              There are some people I will simply never trust very much. I will not open my true inner self to them. However, that does not mean that I cannot accept them where they are at and enjoy their company in my life. I just know what to expect…and NOT expect…from them. Make sense?

  16. That does make sense, completely. I think my religious teaching has predisposed me to the idea that not fully trusting ‘God’s people’ was in itself a form of dishonesty or maybe that was just my perception or my own over-bloated sense of honesty. Due to that, I always felt a sort of guilt for not being a more trusting person. I think I see that being somewhat distrustful, even of ‘God’s people’, is a very necessary and valid defense mechanism.

    • That is not unusual. When we work very hard to be trustworthy, it can be difficult to think that others are not so trustworthy. We are told that we should be able to trust. It is difficult to fight against that…especially if that trust was demanded of us.

      There are couple of other things I have had to learn…not everyone who claims to be one of God’s people…really is. There are some pretty slick imposters out there.

      Also, we are all at different places in our spiritual walks and in our maturity. I could be dealing with a very mature person who is, actually, trustworthy…or a beginner who has not had time to mature in the Lord. That can make a huge difference in how much I can really trust them.

      • Good points. Tust was very heavily demanded and there are apparently imposters very adept at keeping themselves diguised for years. One guy in particular I thought I knew very well turned out not to be the person I thought he was. I guess his loyalties lie with this group mostly due them believing that they have some sort of monopoly on salvation. I guess I also figured that being ‘scripture savvy’ indicated spiritual maturity. I was mistaken on that point as well.

        As for people being at different stages of maturity, that rings very true. I had the feeling that if people were past me in some areas, in this case financially, they might also be well past me in all areas. Not so! Some of the basics like trustworthiness, many have not attained yet.

  17. Willis, looking for a church is a lot like searching for a mate. You may have to go through several relationships before you find someone you want to marry. A bad relationship, like with your ex-girlfriends, doesn’t mean you should stop searching for a mate. If you read “Not of My Making” you will discover I went through a few churches. I am finally in a church that preaches “real Christianity” as my pastor calls it and fully accepts me. It took a lot of time and heart break but it turned out to be worth it. You may want to read my Letter to the Spiritual Abuse Survivors” at http://www.truthinministry.org/Letter_To_Spiritual_Abuse_Survivors

    • It is good to see you joining in the discussion, Dr. Jones!

      I read your Letter to Spiritual Abuse Survivors. Well written!

    • 🙂 Uh, ok. I might need to stop looking then. I’m apparently so terrible at selecting potential mates that I’ve started taking whatever I can get. I met a girl last year with a really bad reputation and was apparently so, used to not being single I either turned a blind eye or missed it altogether. Needless to say my creepo friends at the group I was in (I know this sounds insane but…) have been watching me so closely that they already had the skinny on that before I even mentioned it to anyone connected to them. I guess I’m a sucker for a pretty face. Churches and women alike.

      I did read the letter you referred to previously. It was an eye opener and could be applied very personally. I may need to get a copy of your book too.

  18. It does make perfect sense. On with the surviving.

  19. Willis, When looking for a mate and/or a church it is important to notice key variables. If you want to find a mate check out what e-harmony has to say about mate selection. There is some limited research on this issue. As for finding a church, I think it important to pay attention to church governance and if the minister or a small group controls everything or if they support your efforts to become involved in a way that is gratifying. It is also important to pay attention what is being preached and that it is true Christianity and not some liberal water down version that throws out centuries of thought.

    • I’ve been considering Scientology. I’m finding out that they don’t follow any particular dogma. Do you think their lack of Christian teaching is off course enough not to give further consideration? As for a mate, I’ve figured out that I’m not as far along as I should be financially at my age and that getting women, especially here in CA to take me seriously just isn’t going to happen.

  20. I believe Scientology is regarded by most as a cult. I’m sure there is a lot of information about them on the internet. Why not research them? Do you find their “lack of dogma” attractive? In my own experience with the Unitarian Universalists, no dogma is dogma. When I turned back towards Christianity they no longer had a place for me in their church. I now recognize what I once rejected as Christian dogma is actually a well thought out ethical and philosophical system.

    • Perhaps the lack of dogma is attractive. I’ve checked it out and still haven’t decided to become a member or anything. They seem to be focused on dealing with the effects of past experiences on our current lives which seems valid as many of our ‘issues’ stem from past experiences where, as far as I can tell, Christianity (as I’ve been involved in) seems to teach that we should ignore the past which doesn’t seem to be working very well for many people. I mean a Sunday school teacher recently murdered and raped an 8 year old kid. Maybe if she had dealt with her past and not ignored it that tragedy could have been avoided.

      There seem to be a growing number of ‘Christian’ groups getting labled as cults as well. There’s certainly no lack of bad press for Christian groups either. I guess one of the things about Christianity I’ve come to have difficulty with is all of the ‘end of the world’ talk. It seems like that’s been taught for nearly 2000 years and nothing has happened. It almost seems like that and the idea of hell have been used to frighten people into service. The group that I was a part of for so many years was called a cult too. I never saw that as a child though. But, my recent experience has me leaning toward the idea that they’re a cult.

  21. I’m curious. You said that the church you were involved with no longer had a place for you in their church. What do you mean specifically? I thought one’s place among the saved was something to be determined by our personal relationship with our creator and not based on people being dissatisfied or disappointed by where you went while you were away.

  22. Willis, It sounds like Scientology has replaced theology with some kind of quasi-psychoanalytic dogma. Modern psychology focuses more on the here and now teaching people good coping skills. In treating depression, for example, the focus is teaching someone to modify the way they look at things. We may or may not talk about the past. In treating trauma, however, it is often necessary to talk about the past trauma. As for the Sunday school teacher who raped a student, the problem is not his failure to examine his past but his failure to develop a moral compass and a conscience.
    Christianity takes no position that I know of about whether you examine your past or not. Referrals to therapy often come from clergy. Also, apocalyptic teaching tends to be the focus of fringe groups and not Christianity as a whole. It sounds like the group you belonged to didn’t have a good understanding of Christian theology.
    What happened to me in church is a complicated story, you will have to read my book to get the answer to your question.

    • I see your point about the group I was in being a fringe group. They have a lot of teachings that are far outside of the Christian norm. For instance, teaching that in order to be in Christ’s ‘bride’ class of people any and everyone will have to come under the leadership of one person. In fact, there may even be an unspoken tone that this leader is more than a man. It’s seeming more likely to me that every religious group says that they’re the ones with the truth.

      As for the Sunday school tacher, this was a woman that did this. Her grandfather was the pastor of this Baptist church. My point was that something very likely happened in her past that was never faced and left her in this state. Maybe they fit into the category of people who just call themselves Christian. I just keep noticing that a lot of ‘Christians’ are being convicted of crimes of all sorts. I just figure there’s any real power of salvation in a religion it should be obvious so we don’t have to sift through layers of garbage to find it.

      Scientology might very well have converted to a psychoanalytic form of Dogma. I’ll certainly look into it more before I go any further with it.

      I’ll get a copy of your book to see what you meant by that.

      • I look for groups of people who actually follow what the bible teaches. There are many groups our there calling themselves “Christian” that are anything but. There are also many who are well meaning and who just need a better understanding of what it is that Yeshua/Jesus really taught. There is room for mercy and grace in our interactions.

        Being shut out of any group makes me wonder if the one being shut out is not better off out of there. No one is perfect. When someone does stray into things they should not be in according to scripture, the group should be working on restoration and healing…not shunning.

      • Sure, the bible. It seems anyone can take the bible and make it say whatever they want. I’m beginning to think I wasted the best years of my life believing a bunch of bullshit. Those people need to have justice find them and repay them all they’ve said and done.

        Religion is like a drug. As long as we stay hooked the dealers can do with us whatever they will. Thanks for the conversation.

        • I hear you, Willis. I am not into religion myself. However, religion is not the same thing as our Creator.

          Our Creator has given us His words to teach us about Himself, about us and about the world we live in. We can choose to seek Him and follow His ways…or not. What others do in the name of “religion” or even in His name…however falsely…has nothing to do with my ability to connect with Him.

          I hope you can find Him and receive the peace in your life that you so obviously need. I know that I have found it.


  23. Willis, I am sorry you have been hurt by church people. But do not confuse them with religion or God. Without religion there would be many more genocides and the like. We all sin and need God’s help to become better than our basest desires. Although many people distort the Bible there is a body of literature just as there is in psychology or any other discipline where there is consensus on the important points. I hear many people say silly things about psychology but doesn’t mean psychology is bad. It just means many people are misinformed. Do not be too quick to throw away the moral and religious teachings in the Bible. It was written by many people over hundreds of years. It contains the collective wisdom of those people. Faith is not a drug. Drug abuse destroys. Faith enriches and makes us whole.

    • I think maybe I’m just angry at the fact that I had faith for so long, and spent my teen years trying to live what the bible taught and people who didn’t have ended up better off than me. I uncharacteristically came out here trying to recapture faith and ended up this way. Now I’m stuck out here 2,000 miles from home with no one and nothing. Not that home was all that great but it was my comfort zone. What I feel I should have done is just been a carefree teen when I had the chance and maybe things would have turned out better. Now all I’ve got is my anger to comfort me. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

      Everywhere I go these freaks mock my situation and some of them are people I don’t even know. I get the impression they want me to go mad so they can use me as an example to the people still buying their garbage of what will happen if they dare question or stray from their authority.

      • Willis…some things really stood out for me in what you wrote. One was the idea of trying to live what the bible taught. That is a noble attempt…but what the bible mostly teaches is to love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength…and to love your neighbor as yourself. Yeshua taught us that, when we focus on those two things, the rest will fall into place. (My paraphrase…but if you look up the passage, you will see what I mean.)

        Now…I am not saying we don’t need to use the bible as a reference for how we should live…we do. It is Yahweh’s word to us. However, it is not in doing that we gain anything…for none of us is able to do perfectly. No…it is in the relationship we have with our Abba/Father through Yeshua that we gain faith.

        Also, regarding how others are doing…that is temporary. Sometimes it seems in this life as if the wicked get all the good stuff. Even the writer of Proverbs laments about that. But it will not always be so. The writer of Proverbs also tells us that he knows what the final end of the wicked will be…and that is a comfort to him.

        When you say “these freaks”, it sounds as if you are still associating with this same group of people…even if it is within the larger scope of the group rather than the specific one you started out in. It sounds like maybe you need to separate from that whole group.

        Willis, you do not need to travel 2,000 miles to recapture faith. You only need to look to the Author of faith…Yeshua. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Entrust your heart to Him and trust Him to lead you and guide you…right where you are. Yes…He may lead you elsewhere, but go there because He has led You there. He can reach you right where you are at.

        Shut out of your mind and heart what these other people think and believe. They are not you and they are not God. Cry out to Him…and Him alone. He is there. He is faithful…even when people are not.

        • I’m trying real hard not to lose the few shreds of faith I have left but what I’m dealing with is making it difficult. Maybe I’ll feel better once I get away from here and don’t have anymore reminders of my time with that group.


          • That makes sense, Willis. I hope that you CAN get to a place where you are not surrounded by that. I know from personal experience that getting away from reminders can help. It can take awhile, though. Don’t give up. And always remember that God is not the same as people. He is perfect. We are far from it!

            Take good care of yourself.

  24. I just read this and thought it was a good response to some of Willis’ concerns: http://www.ericpazdziora.com/writing/hypocriticism/

    • I have to agree, Margaret. It is an excellent article! Thank you for recommending it!

  25. Where do we go from here?
    After reading to the end of the blog…I need some input on a similar situation my husband and I have experienced.
    We have been part of a christian home group that has met once a week for the past two years.

    My husband and I have always enjoyed meeting new people, however, when we became involved with this prayer/study group of five couples (including ourselves) we really thought that deep relationships would develop. In addition to providing the group with bible study topic ideas (that all agreed with) and material, we initiated and encouraged fellowship in addition to the weekly bible study. This went on for two years…we gladly opened our home to buffet dinners, movie nights, summer barbeques, game nights, outdoor concerts, lunch after church etc… Two of the couples were willing to not only join in but to also take initiative with fellowship ideas. The other two couples never initiated a thing (one being the moderators).

    Over this past holiday season, we hosted both sides of our families, which took up most of the weeks from Thanksgiving through the New Year. We notified the group moderators that we would not be able to meet with the group for several weeks due to our visiting families (whom we only see two or three times a year)

    Halfway through the holiday season, I received a call from one of the women in the group whom I thought I had developed a friendship with. In the middle of the conversation she blurts out,”Have you guys left the group?” I was so stunned that she even asked such a question, after I had just finished telling her of the good time we were having with our families.

    I tried to put the incident out of my thoughts until three weeks ago, when it all hit the fan.

    My husband and I came to realize, through uncovered gossip. The moderators accused us of: abandoning the group for one month, forcing them to think we had left permanently,
    not wanting them to attend the new church we were attending, and ignoring them when they came to visit the new church we were attending.

    We met as a whole to come to terms with the issues and get to the bottom of everything. After about thirty minutes of going back and forth, my husband finally said, ” We just wanted to develop deeper friendships with all of you as Jesus commanded ‘ Love one another.” The moderators replies, “We are content with only meeting for bible study and we can’t give you what you are looking for.”

    We further replied, “All the entertaining we did over the past two years was purely an attempt to get to know everyone more intimately.”

    Their response, “You can’t expect everyone to do what you do and everything you did is in the past, what matters is that you neglected the group for one month.” They further stated, “We thought something was wrong.” To which my husband replied, “If you thought something was wrong, why didn’t you call?” No response!

    We are trying to be loving and forgiving but it’s hard, especially since we do see them, their greetings now are very mechanical. Do we tolerate being in their presence because of the commitment we have to the other couples who share the same views of intimacy?

    Please forgive the lengthy explanation…I tried to consolidate the details (sadly there are many more)

    • Susan, interactions can be so complicated. We can think we know how others think and how they view what is going on, only to find out we are very wrong. I sure can appreciate how difficult this is for you.

      I wonder…if other couples share the same views of intimacy as you do, can you simply get together with them separately? Do you have to belong to the main group? Or can you simply go to the main group and, hopefully, over time, the others will thaw?

      You said that they said they only wanted the bible study. Well…that is fine. When you have gatherings outside of the bible study, you can opt to not invite them…or…you can call them and tell them that you understand they only want bible study, so you are OK if they don’t come, but that you just want to let them know that they are welcome to come. That way they cannot accuse you of leaving them out.

      Of course, the biggest thing is to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom in this situation. You can also talk to the other couples and ask them how they feel about getting together…do they still want to do it?

      I hope that helps some. I know how hard it can be to make close friendships and you certainly hate to walk away from the ones that are working just because of some that are not. Friendships do not have to only in groups. It should be fine for any members of a group to get together on their own, too.

  26. I survived being shunned in the work place but I don’t think it matters what group shuns you, it’s all the same. And what’s worse for me and why I can’t let it go is that I have no idea why I was shunned. Just one day people stopped talking to me. I couldn’t get anybody to even take a walk with me during lunch…one lady saying that she didn’t want to be seen with me. I still, to this day, have no idea why I was shunned. But I do know this….that I no longer trust people. I believe that true friendship is a myth and doesn’t really exist. And that the ONLY one I can count on is me.

    • That is sad. Did you ask anyone why there was a sudden change? Painful things are difficult to deal enough to deal with, but I think that open-ended things are the hardest. We need closure and this kind of situation leaves you with none.

  27. They say that time heals all wounds but I dissagree. Time simply lets us learn how to live with the pain.

    • I have found that time “can” lessen the pain, but I agree that time alone does not heal all wounds…only some. G-d and forgiveness helped a lot in my healing.

  28. I’m making a T-shirt that says, “I survived being shunned by my coworkers at Ingram Micro. I’m going to make as many of them as I can and wear them all over the place.

    • That is a creative way of dealing with it. I hope you no longer work there.

      As for friendship, I believe true friendship does still exist. However, there are different levels of friendship. I have had to learn how to trust and how much to trust and it is different with each person.

      I hope you can find peace.

  29. This has happened to me too. At first I was hurt, but now I’m angry.

    • I hear you. I found my anger was unproductive and hindering me, though. So, I switched to the perspective that they are losing out on knowing wonderful me. It is their loss and my gain in the sense that I don’t need people like that in my life or anywhere in my world.

      • I feel like you. They are missing out on a trustworthy friend. My anger was never expressed, so I let it out,and some pressure was released.

        • So glad you let it out. Bottling it up sure does hurt us. Hugs.

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