Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Jones’

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Abuse in Churches

May 4, 2009

I read a really good article today on how to teach leaders in churches to avoid abusiveness in congregational relationships. Margaret Jones did a guest interview at the blog of futurist guy. He asked some really good questions and I really liked Dr. Jones’ answers.

Dealing with abuse in congregations is not easy. Dealing with abuse that comes from the leaders is even tougher. It is really important to put things in place  to help prevent it from happening in the first place. Leaders need to be taught how to avoid being abusive and how to recognize those tendencies in themselves and others.

Dr. Jones makes a really good point that we are all at some point in time a victim, a bully and a bystander. I don’t know if that is true for everyone…but I would think that the huge majority of us, if we were able to be totally honest, could say that we fit all three categories at one time or another. That can be a very hard thing to face.

I hope that all groups, regardless of what kind they are, will take a look at what they are doing…both as a group and as individuals within a group. This world does not need abuse. It is tough enough to live. Life comes with enough challenges without having to deal with abuse on top of everything else.

In spite of all the healing I have gone through, I am still left broken. I still have to struggle with some things. I hate that. I don’t wish it on anyone…not even on my worst enemy. I have never wished ill on others. I have been angry and wished they could understand what they were putting me through…but I have never wished them to have to suffer, too. At least, not in so far as my amnesic mind remembers. My heart is just not wired that way…perhaps because of all that I went through…I don’t know. It is not that I have never hurt anyone…or acted in hurtful ways. I have…out of anger and frustration. But hurting someone just to hurt them…I don’t remember ever doing that.

I wish I had not been abused. I wish that my parents could have modeled for me what it meant to be a good parent so that I could have been a better mom to my own children. I am grateful that I gave them better than I got…still, I wish it could have been more. I wish I could have done better. That is where I have to trust that Yahweh’s perfect love covers a multitude of sins…including my own failings toward my children.

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Not Dwelling on the Former Things

April 25, 2009

I just read an excellent blog post called: Haunted by the Ghosts of Spiritual Abuse by Dr. Margaret Jones. She zeroed in on the idea that there are many who seem to think that those who have been abused need to no longer speak of the abuse as a sign of their healing. They seem to think that those who continue to speak of it must not “be over it”.

Yet, is healing really “getting over things”? I don’t think it is. That is…if you think that “getting over it” means that it no longer effects you. I agree with Margaret that the things I have been through will always effect me.

That is not necessarily a negative thing, though. After all, I am able to be more understanding of someone who has been through what I have been through. I am able to offer comfort in ways that a nonsurvivor never could. I can honestly say “I know how you feel.”

Everything I have been through has shaped me and helped to make me what I am. Yes, some of it still effects me negatively. I struggle with PTSD. I am partially amnesic. Yet, even in that, I have a purpose and a calling in this life. I look forward to how Yahweh is taking all that I have been through and using it for His glory…using it for good.

Coming out the other side, I would not trade what I have been through. I truly believe that, if I had had an easy life, I would be a selfish, selfcentered brat. I still find myself fighting selfishness, but I think I would have been worse. I also don’t know that I would be nearly as close to my heavenly Abba (Father).

No, I try not to live in the former things, but nor do I deny them. I don’t shout about them, yet, when it is appropriate, I will share. I don’t waste my breathe and take needless risks sharing where I don’t think it will be heard, but I will share where it looks like it will be helpful.

I refuse to remain silent! If people want to think that means I am still dwelling in it…oh well. That is their problem, not mine!

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Working Things Out(?) and Odds and Ends

April 24, 2009

Well…things seem to be working out OK at the congregation we fellowship with. The leaders want us there. I don’t know about everyone else, but I guess that will work itself out. I am not going to go into details here. It is too complicated and I am tired of even thinking about it.

I am very grateful that our leaders have stepped up to the plate, desiring to do things Yahweh’s way, unlike the leaders that Dr. Margaret Jones’ describes that she had to deal with. Boy am I glad! I would never wish on someone the things she experienced. You can read more about what she dealt with in her book which I reviewed here.  She also has a blog here.

I am not going to my therapist at the moment…sort of taking a bit of a break. I am OK with that.

Communication with my parents is as wierd as ever. I was really hoping that maybe things had changed, but I see no sign of that. How very sad. I really pray that they will find true peace and healing.

I don’t believe in holding grudges. Not against my parents. Not against those who have hurt me in and out of congregations/churches. Not against my ex or his family. Not against anyone. They will all have to answer to Yahweh for what they have done, just as I will have to answer for what I have done. I don’t know about all of them, but I know that I am covered by the gift of what Yeshua (Jesus) did for me. I am grateful for I know that I am so undeserving of any good thing. My sinfulness precludes that in a huge way.  So, I am grateful.

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Dr. Jones Is Here Today to Answer Your Questions

April 13, 2009

Dr. Margaret Jones, author of Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches, is here at my blog today. She and I are dialoging in the comments section on the previous post.

All are welcome to comment or ask her a question.

Editing in…….well, if you missed Dr. Jones today, please feel free to comment anyway. I will make here aware of any comments you leave so that she can respond to them.

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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.

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Book Review: Not of My Making by Dr. Margaret Jones

April 9, 2009

I finished Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches by Dr. Margaret Jones. Obviously, as she points out, the book is from her perspective. That is unavoidable, really, as no one can be inside another person’s head or heart to know what they are thinking and feeling. I am very impressed, though, with how much she really does try to understand her antagonists.

All through the book, she shares what was going through her own head and heart at the time. She ponders what is going on with the other people and tries to understand why they are doing what they are doing. She shares what she thought at the time might have been behind their behaviors.

Naturally, her own questions and pondering are done through the filter of her own life experiences. That is what we all do. Our perspective on any situation we are in is automatically going to include the effects of what we  have previously gone through.

One thing that really impressed me is what she did NOT do with this book. She could have used it to bludgeon the people who hurt her so deeply and treated her so badly. Yet, she didn’t. She says she just wants to share this so that others can learn from it and stop it from happening.I think she does a pretty good job of that. There were a couple of times when I winced a bit at something she said about someone else. However, in a book this size, I think it says a lot about Dr. Jones’ character that it was only a couple of times. She is, after all, human!

One thing I really appreciated were her attempts to communicate and work things out. She persisted beyond what many would. Ever the optimist, she thought that things could be worked out if she just kept communicating. She thought that, if she could just get others to hear her, that everything would be alright and friendships would be restored.

Sadly, though, that optimism and persistence cost her. Time and again, when she was unable to work things out, old messages would resurrect, causing her to automatically take the blame. The blame and the pain would trigger a battle to not use old coping mechanisms. She was often fighting to not injure herself. Her openness regarding the victories and failures in that battle really touched me. Although not a blatant self-injurer myself, I appreciated what it took for her to fight that battle.

As she went along, she figured out what she needed from others in order to have peace for herself. The more she figured it out, the stronger she became…and the more determined she became to get those things.  I knew that she was “needing” things that she would probably never get…and that caused me some concern. Thankfully, by the end of the book  she worked through a lot of that and learned to let go of her expectations. She chooses instead to focus her time and energy into making a difference in the world around her by educating people. She wants to do what she can to help others be able to avoid going through what she went through. That, in addition to the need to tell her story, is the purpose of this book.

It is heartbreaking what people will sometimes do to other people.  There were quite a few things that she describes that I related to. Not only did that help me to understand some of what she felt, but also to appreciate her determination to work things out. I had done the same thing in my own situations.

It is an awesome privilege to be given this window into her heart throughout all these experiences…to be able to witness her struggles and how she worked through them and came out the other side. As I read about her efforts, there were times when I was cheering her on. Other times I was cringing because I could see what was coming around the corner. I would read about something she was going to try and, having been there myself, I knew it would not work. Yet, try she did and, when she got hit, she got back up again. She would not stay down!

I would recommend this book to anyone who has been in a situation of conflict. Regardless of the circumstances or of the side you are on, you may find it helpful. You might even find yourself relating to some of the things in these events.

The book is well written and moves right along. Dr. Jones definitely had my interest from beginning to end.

I look forward to her stopping here at my blog on Monday, April 13th, as a part of her Virtual Book Tour.

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Not of My Making #2

April 3, 2009

Wow! What an honor to read about Dr. Jones’ journey. I wish I had time tonight to write more about how this book is hitting me. I am honored to have been asked to read it and review it. It is an amazing story written by a pretty amazing woman.

I see so much of myself in this story. I see some of my own feelings and thoughts and ways of attempting to handle things in those pages. Yes, the details were different, but the pain was not. The dynamics were not. Sadly, the results were not, either…although I can see how we have both grown so much through our experiences. (Not that I would wish on ANYone having to grow in the ways I did…and I am sure she would say the same about her experiences.)

As she processes and works through the things that have happened to her, she discovers information about the dynamics of dysfunctional relationships…and she shares that in the book, too. I find that to be most helpful. I really appreciate reading information that helps me to put some of my own experiences into perspective…to have my own understanding of what went on with me confirmed and added to.

I am about three fourths of the way through the book. It has held my attention. I like her politically incorrect writing style. She tells it like she sees it and even shows her own weaker side. She does not just paint others as bad and her as good. She seems to really try to be very open about her own mistakes.

There are times when I find myself wanting to cry as I read about what happened. There are other times, as I see her about to embark on something that she thinks will finally bring resolution, when I find myself thinking “Oh, no! That won’t work…don’t try it!” (Been there, done that!) It is like I can see what is coming, making it even more difficult to read it.

Other times, I am cheering her on when I see her taking steps toward separation of her identity and theirs…as I see her recognizing what an unhealthy tangled web she has been caught up in…and as I see her recognizing that it is not all her, as she fights all the old messages she got growing up.

One thing I did not know about was her struggle as a self injurer. Although I am not an overt self injurer, I have my own stuff that calls to me. I find that I, too, can slip into the old ways of thinking and feeling and perceiving the world around me…the old ways of coping. I am drawn into her struggle to stay away from those dangerous places.

As I think of some of the things that I have been through…bullying and abuses…I find myself joining with Margaret Jones in hoping and praying that it won’t happen to someone else. Of course, I know it will. Still, I can try to be as open as I can about my own experiences and hope to bring about changes.

Well, so much for not writing much due to the lateness of the hour.  Can you tell I am into this book? Actually, I am into anyone who can be willing to be so transparent. Way to go, Margaret!!

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