Positive Changes I’ve Noticed After Leaving Destructive Church Environments

By now it’s not exactly a state secret that church and I have had a bit of a bumpy ride this year. As I said before, a church I was involved with had a very ugly church politics situation that people on both sides of the issue handled poorly. (And that’s the nice way of putting it.) Combine that with leaving a cult-like church about five years ago and I really needed a church detox. I have not attended any church services at all this calendar year, and it’s been a very healing experience.

Several people have told me that I need to come to their church because their church is “different.” I have to be honest: right now, no church is “different” enough to be worth my time. I am the westernized, Americanized church’s worst nightmare. I’m an introvert. I don’t vote Republican. I have friends of all backgrounds and beliefs. I have friends who identify as GLBT. I give smaller amounts of money to charity quietly instead of bragging about giving large amounts. I believe in vaccines unless there is a legitimate medical reason to avoid certain ones. I wouldn’t say I’m a hard-core pacifist but I’m not thrilled with how our country has handled military involvement from Vietnam onward. I absolutely believe that heaven and hell are real, in this life as well as the next, but I have issues with evangelism since I can’t make anyone believe anything before they are ready. I believe that toxic, manipulative people are a bigger danger to me than the “spreading” of Islam in America. The stigma against chronic physical and mental illness in the church needs to go, and it needs to go now. All of these viewpoints make up who I am, and they are not acceptable in most churches today.

If anyone at your church would berate me for any of these things, I’m sorry, your church is not “different” enough for me. That is the truth, and it is my decision to make, not yours.

Now that I’ve explained why church and I need a good long break, I want to share some of the positive changes I’ve noticed after leaving destructive church environments:

1.) I’m starting to own my own spirituality. I read books and listen to teachings when I sense there’s something in them I need, not when someone demands that I do it.

2.) I can actually answer when people ask me what my favorite food or my favorite color is. For years I couldn’t, because I have been told that it’s sinful and selfish to have a favorite food or favorite color when there were children starving in Africa. (Again with the over-focus on Africa when there are children starving in the US!)

3.) I don’t feel like a piece of crap 24/7. I’m not constantly trying to work harder at being a better person, and I actually have more energy to work on the character issues that are legitimate problems.

4.) I am becoming a nicer person. I actually listen to people now. I suppose it helps that I’m finally surrounded by people who actually listen to me.

5.) I have more time and more energy now that I’m not in tons of studies and small groups. Permanently quitting both was seriously the best decision I ever made.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I have been exploring Messianism and we are going to check out a Messianic congregation sometime soon. I’m hoping to go to at least one of their Rosh Hashanah services, health permitting. Messianism has had tons of positive effects on my spirituality. It doesn’t feel like the right time to write about that, but once that changes, I will make a list of reasons I am falling in love with Messianism.

2 thoughts on “Positive Changes I’ve Noticed After Leaving Destructive Church Environments

  1. Hey Kati… I just want to encourage you that I identify with pretty much all the points you make about yourself and yet I don’t feel excluded from any church I’ve been in. I’m sorry that the churches you have encountered make you feel berated for your views and it’s certainly fine if you need space for a while. But I encourage you to not write off all churches in America as the same, but to keep hope alive for a church that will make you feel welcome and at home as a member of the body of Christ. They’re out there.

  2. Hi Molly,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment! Honestly, right now it’s pretty difficult to think highly of churches after being burned by three of them in a row. Not only that, but more and more people are coming out of the spiritual abuse closet, and I’m learning firsthand just how common this problem is. I want to blog more about this issue of “not writing off all churches” because you’re not the first person to make that comment. But right now it’s very difficult to write about that without getting defensive and antagonistic, so it may be awhile before I can come up with a less colorful version that’s fit for posting!

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