On Forgiveness

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Tony Webster.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on May 22, 2015.


I’m having a difficult time with this concept. I know in my world, it meant “you nicely forget everything bad that was done to you and never bring it up again or treat the other person different because, they’re forgiven. As far as the east is from the west.” It was like the magic eraser of all wrong-doing. And you didn’t have a choice in the matter. If you didn’t forgive someone, God wouldn’t forgive you. You’d allow a “root of bitterness” to spring up in your heart, “give the Devil a foothold” and suddenly Satan had a stronghold in your soul from which he could reign terror over your life. Didn’t matter what the offense was, they were all equal in the sight of God and all needed to be forgiven and you certainly aren’t perfect so who are you to withhold forgiveness and cast stones. That one time I lied pretty much negated any right I had to be angry at my sister for stealing from me or angry at my mom for manipulating me. Being angry at someone who sinned against you wasn’t allowed because that meant you hadn’t truly forgiven them. Remembering what they’d done and avoiding them or treating them differently because of it wasn’t true forgiveness either.

No matter how much I try, I cannot help but see the concept of forgiveness as a means by which you enable people to hurt you. A means that abusers and toxic people use to control you and be sure you never talk about what they did to you. All wrapped up in a neat package with the label of “For The Bible Tells Me So”.

Since becoming an adult, I have only seen forgiveness used to hide serious evil against other human beings. Abuse of every kind is covered up by the world “you must forgive them”. And victims are silenced and suffer alone, feeling like they are the ones who failed when they cannot help but be angry or sad at how someone has treated them. They are not allowed to be angry at someone who abused them because “no one is perfect”.

As far as I can tell though, forgiveness from a Judeo-Christian perspective, as far back as the Old Law, was not anything like what the church preaches today. It was really more of a legal definition. That whole eye for an eye thing? It’s talking about natural retribution. Payment for a debt owed. If someone hurt you or stole from you, they owed you and you had the right to retribution, to make them pay. Forgiveness was about debt. Not about saying “it’s OK, I’ll forget this ever happened and we’ll all feel loving again”. No, it was more like, “I will not enact retribution for this action. I will not take what is owed me.” Now that I can get behind. (‘Course Christians claim that Jesus came along and changed all that and that’s where it gets a little murky in the area of definitions and practicality.)

And yet….some actions demand retribution. They demand a debt be paid. This is how our legal system works. You kill or steal or destroy, you pay. It’s how all human institutions have functioned throughout all history. Wrong-doing demands retribution. Whether or not a person chooses to forgive that debt that is owed, and how they choose to do so, is completely up to them. No one can demand that from them. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with forgetting what was done or demanding that someone not feel a certain emotion for it or treat the evil-doer as they would someone who had not enacted evil against them. This is not only unhealthy, it is dangerous.

I am so sick and tired of people playing the forgiveness card. The manipulation is disgusting. And the control that it has over so many people thanks to religion is abhorant. “Forgive” a child molester? Um, no. That’s a debt that legally must be paid so others are protected. Whether the child demands retribution for that evil against them or not is up to the child and does not affect how the rest of the world treats a person who commits such atrocity.

People need to stop hiding behind the modern Christian view of forgiveness, stop trying to coerce people into shutting up for Jesus. Stop telling children that if they feel revulsion and hatred for a person who molested them then God won’t forgive them and their lives will be ruined. That kind of forgiveness can never be a choice. It will always be coercion. Those kids who were abused deserve to enact retribution. They deserve to feel whatever they want to feel. They deserve to say “No, I don’t forgive you for this pain”. And they deserve the choice of when or if any amount of release of that debt happens in their own hearts, regardless of what justice must be enacted on their behalf.

We deserve to be angry. To be filled with rage. To not let abusers off the hook because they pulled the forgiveness card. We deserve the choice to determine how we handle wrong-doing against us….without coercion or guilt-trips or religious platitudes. We should not be told that we cannot judge an atrocity because “he apologized”and “you’re not perfect either”. (One nice thing about not being a christian anymore is that I don’t have to believe that the one time I stole five dollars from my dad is just as bad as Josh Duggar molesting his sisters. Judge him I certainly will.)

And the next person who tells me “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” is going to get some rocks chucked at them.

I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Five

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mara” is a pseudonym.

< Part Four

Part Five

A week later he started taking narcotics again.

In the following months I lost both my grandmother and the great aunt that had lived next door to us. One the day after the other’s funeral. My mother’s swings were escalating. She had a hard time keeping down jobs and holding onto money. She blamed all her problems on my father.

Shortly after the deaths, she divorced my father and gained full custody. (They had been threatening this every other day for the last 14 years.). Two days after, she kicked out my sisters who were 20 and 18 at the time. The 20 year old had travelled a lot with work-stay and had just been home a quarter to finish college. The 18 year old was working and in school and gave a majority of her paycheck to my mother. They weren’t given any notice. My sister and I had gotten an apartment together after I had separated from my husband and we invited them to move in with us until they could get on their feet.

Shortly after, my husband started spiraling down with his drug use. The men in our community group talked with him – but they did it from where they had come from and with love. They told him that they were scared he was going to kill himself or others driving as high as he was. They told him that they would pick him up and drive him home. They knew that he wasn’t ready to change and didn’t ask him too. They just told him they were here when he was ready and that he wasn’t alone. I felt at complete peace to give him up, my pastor told me something that has stuck in mind. He said “Know this isn’t yours to carry alone.” They weren’t pitying me, they weren’t trying to help me, they weren’t taking over my problem. Instead they were standing beside me and loving me.

My husband recently told me he was going to start selling. I know the road this will take. I have decided for the sake of my unborn daughter and me, that divorce is going to be the best choice and a way to protect ourselves. He has already stolen money from me and I have accepted that he still has a long way to go before he decides he wants to change. I’ve stopped trying to control and manipulate him. It’s pointless.

I can only change myself and what I allow in my life and I have accepted that.

For many years, I never knew who I was… just who I was supposed to be, who everyone around me needed me to be. My boundaries had been so trampled growing up – I had no idea I was allowed boundaries and limitations. I had become – still am- bitter and resentful. I still can’t forgive everyone.

I was told that forgiveness is closely related to acceptance and for me to forgive I have to accept what was done to me. For me to fully accept that, I have to accept that I wasn’t as powerless as I wanted to be. I couldn’t separate love from pity and didn’t even know what love was. I was supposed to love my mother but all I could do was pity her.

I couldn’t love God because I didn’t know what to pity in him. I couldn’t imagine God loving me because I just felt He did everything for me out of pity or condemnation.

Now I truly am learning who I am.

I am learning my limitations and boundaries. I am learning how to love without pity. I am learning how to trust people that love me. I am learning how to love God and that He loves me – not who I want me to be – but plain old me. I am learning to love myself.

The sinner’s prayer has long confused me – how can saying those magical words make you a Christian – who decided those words were the one they were going to use? But I think I’m starting to understand true Christianity and some of that prayer. I think when it says confess your sins –

He doesn’t really want you to confess your sins, he wants you to stop hiding and simply confess yourself.

I wrote this poem recently. It’s my confession of self…


Confession of Self 4/29

When she stops using,

The bitter bite of withdrawal sinks in.

Blood dripping from the gaping wounds

Her habit has left on her.

She tries to smile politely and courteously

So that no one discovers the secret she holds inside.

Another day hidden behind the mask of a perfect little girl

The fear of survival looms in threat of stopping

How will she be able to make it through the day without her addiction?

Her drug of choice gives her a dose of denial

So that she doesn’t have to feel reality.

So that she can ignore the fears, anxiety and horrors that await her in reality.

So that she doesn’t have to face the eyes staring back in the mirror in reality.

She fears letting the world down again if she stops using.

She’s never had enough strength to stop before.

She used to be strong – so beautiful – so full of life

And, here she is now, just a shell drowning in tears.

Suffocating in sorrows she’s too scared to feel.

She uses her body to feed her habit.

Abuses her body to fuel her habit.

She’s scared of the person that remains if she stops – the person she’s become.

The only way to support this habit is to sell her body.

To give up every piece of her in hopes that it is worth it.

That the high last longer this time

That she never comes down this time.

She’s died so many times before – what’s one more?


I am an addict.

Addicted to deceit,

Refusing to own who I am in the place of who I want to be.

Selling my life in hopes of keeping my soul

Buying an image that doesn’t require a God.

I am addicted to hiding myself – to wearing a mask.

I am addicted to selling myself to prevent being myself.

To prevent owning my depression, my downfalls, my numbness.

— The fact that I am but human

I am addicted to pity in the place of love

I am addicted to the misconception that I don’t need more than myself.

That my independence is my castle – my everything.

I am an addict.


I need more – I am worth more

I am loved and I can accept love

Your love isn’t a favor to be repaid at the cost of my soul.

Your love is what will allow me to buy myself

What will give me a soul

What will allow the wild, crazy, passionate life within to be loved and lived.

Your love is what will save me

Your strength will shelter my weakness

This isn’t pity – this is the opposite.

I’ve gained a soul, a self, a life.


Yes, I am an addict

But I am not alone.

I am truly loved,

I have gained a soul in owning myself,

And I can finally love the girl staring back from the mirror.

End of series.

“Everyone is Forgiving”: Bill Gothard’s Bold-Faced Lies

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Jeri Lofland blogs at Heresy in the Heartland. The following was originally published by Jeri on July 3, 2014 with the title “When Apologies Make It Worse,” and is reprinted with permission.

Since Bill Gothard had to resign from leading his Institute in Basic Life Principles amid allegations of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers, he has made few public statements. But in private, he has been far from silent.

An article published last week by Mother Jones stated:

These days, Gothard says, he is busy “contacting people I’ve offended and asking them to forgive me.” Asked how this process is going, he chirpily replies, “Wonderful. People are very grateful and everyone is forgiving.”

However, some former IBLP staff members take issue with Gothard’s version of the facts. Gothard has made efforts to contact them, they say, and “grateful” was not a word that came to mind.

One woman, who has had contact with Gothard since his resignation from IBLP, dismissed his attempted “apologies” as unethical and disingenuous. As this woman has requested anonymity, I will refer to her here as “Sally”. After her story was published on the website Recovering GraceGothard sought to engage Sally in an email correspondence. She has given me permission to share the content of those emails here. Gothard did not reply to the last message included below.



I was grateful for my talk with ***** and he told me of his contact with you. It would be an answer to prayer to be able to be reconciled with you and I would appreciate any direction you would have towards this goal.

Sincerely, Bill Gothard



As a starting point, I would like to know why you have resigned as president of IBLP?



Thank you, Sally, so much for your response. I resigned from the Institute because I have finally realized that relationships with the Lord and others are far more important than the work I do for Him. I have offended many individuals including you and it is my desire to be reconciled with as many as possible in the years to come.

Sincerely, Bill



You say that you have offended many individuals including myself.

I would like you to be specific regarding the manner in which you believe you have offended me.




I apologize for the delay in getting this message to you. For many years I have treasured the memories of the friendship that we had. I am praying that this can be restored. Some of my actions were inappropriate and offensive. Is it possible to hear your perspective on these wrong actions so that I can more precisely understand and acknowledge my fault and seek your forgiveness?

Sincerely, Bill



I should not have to explain to you what was “inappropriate and offensive” about your actions towards me. It is very wrong of you to ask me to recount them for you, and I do not intend to do so.

If you sincerely desire my forgiveness and you wish for reconciliation, then you need to acknowledge your offensive behavior in an honorable, fearless and truthful manner. If you are not willing to do this, then please do not contact me again.



Readers of the accounts on Recovering Grace will recall that Gothard commonly groomed his victims of sexual and/or emotional abuse by urging them to confide to him all the sexual details of previous relationships. It would appear from this series of emails that even at nearly eighty years old, he still takes a voyeuristic interest in hearing his victims describe the shame he sought to burden them with.

“He consistently asks the girl to tell him what it is she thinks he has done. Then he apologizes for ‘her perceived’ grievances. There is no ownership of his behavior. He’s putting it all back on the the victim.”

And once again, Gothard is breaking his own fundamental rules–this time for apologies. In his Basic Seminar textbook, he wrote a whole chapter on the right way to clear one’s conscience by asking forgiveness.

bsFor example, Gothard’s text points out:

It does little good to ask forgiveness for a small offense when in reality that offense is only a fractional part of a much greater offense.


There are several ways to ask forgiveness which are guaranteed not to work–such as, “I was wrong, but you were too”; “If I was wrong, please forgive me”; “I’m sorry”, etc. There is one genuine statement which reflects true sincerity and humility: “God has convicted me of how wrong I have been in (my attitude and actions). I know I have wronged you in this, and I’ve come to ask, will you forgive me?”

Carefully choose the right wording

  • Your words must identify the basic offense
  • Your words must reflect full repentance and sincere humility

 …One of the hardest statements for any person to make is, “I was wrong.” It is a lot easier to say, “I’m sorry about .. ” It is also much easier to say, “Please forgive me” than it is to ask, “Will you forgive me?” and wait for the answer.

Gothard then gives examples of wrong wording:

“If I’ve been wrong, please forgive me.”

And right wording:

“God has convicted me of how wrong I’ve been in ______ (Basic Offense). I’ve called to ask will you forgive me?”

This request, spoken in the right attitude, is certain to be well-accepted by the one to whom it is directed. This approach must include correction of any attitudes or actions which caused the offense and also restitution for any personal loss which was suffered by the one offended.

Oh, yes, restitution. Did you see that mentioned in the emails to Sally? No, I didn’t, either.

But let us go on. The seminar manual taught that one should not go into too much detail, and emphasized the principle with a verse from the New Testament:

In Scripture we are warned that, “It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:12) This warning definitely applies when asking for forgiveness. It is neither important nor appropriate to review impure details of an offense. This only tends to stir up the mind of the hearer to the past. 

And yet Gothard needs more details so he can “more precisely understand and acknowledge” his fault? Hmmmm.

Of course Gothard wrote the seminar text long before email, but he recommends making apologies only by phone or in person, not by correspondence. I have highlighted some relevant points in Gothard’s explanation:

Please don’t write a letter. Most people are tempted to use this method because it is so easy and the least painful to their pride. But it is not effective for many reasons. First, it documents your past offenses and your purpose is to erase them. Second, a letter can be misused by the one receiving it. This only complicates the problem. Third, it often embarrasses the one receiving it, and they may never reply to it. Fourth, a letter doesn’t allow you to gain their verbal assurance of forgiveness. That is a very important factor for you and for the one you have offended. A verbal forgiveness allows him to become free of his bitterness.

Oh, yes, bitterness! So we ask forgiveness in order to help our victim “become free of his bitterness”? No wonder these women are frustrated!

Let me give you a tip, Bill. Forgiveness alone is not enough to erase your many offenses. And the women you used for your own sexual or emotional gratification are wiser and more self-protective now. This is not about restoring a friendship, it is about your manipulative abuse of your position.

“I am not trying to reconcile – I am trying to bring to attention a problem that has been ongoing for forty years. I forgive him, but I have no wish to reconcile with him.” 


Perhaps most interesting of all, though Gothard’s attorney friend-turned-investigator failed to contact any of the women who spoke out on the Recovering Grace website, Gothard himself is contacting them. He is even contacting other women who have not publicly spoken about their IBLP experiences but who were indeed mistreated by him. Would he possibly be working from memory here? And if his memory is that sharp, why would he need to ask for more details?

This is, after all, a man who taught millions exactly how to ask forgiveness for the offense of “Behaving improperly on a date“:

Wrong Confession: “I realize that I was wrong in necking with you on our date. Will you forgive me?” 

Right Confession: “I realize that I have been wrong in my selfish actions and attitudes toward you when we were dating. It would mean a great deal to me if you would forgive me. Would you forgive me?”

…be as brief and as clear as possible…. Talking too much will not only “sidetrack” the whole purpose of your coming, but may give the impression that you are trying to justify or explain your offenses in order to minimize them. 

You don’t say, Bill? You don’t say.

Forgiveness and Power

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on July 29, 2013.

Over the course of my life I have been instructed to forgive so many times. Ironically, the people who were telling me to forgive were also the people who spent a good deal of time telling me that in reality there was nothing to forgive, or that no wrong doing had occurred. Technically I think this means I am off the hook anyways. But in reality, there was wrong doing from people in my life who were supposed to protect me.

I now believe that forgiveness is a religious concept. I believe it was created to control people who have been wronged, by investing them with an equal amount of responsibility for the relationship, so that if they do not choose to forgive and rebuild, they have at least half the blame. After all, if you are a person in power, you can do anything. All you need to do is make sure the recipient of wrong doing feels guilt if they do not choose to trust you again.

I think this can come in so handy for rogue religious leaders and fathers in isolated families. A fear can be fostered over decades that the recipient needs to be open to the idea of allowing similar offences over and over again in the name of forgiveness. The recipient can be handled as many times as needed to allow the cycle to continue.

There is definitely something to gain if you are already in a position of power. The person in power is already in a position to justify their own actions based on whatever act of god or man put them in power in the first place. I am speaking of power in the small scale, but when a person is in this type of power position, it is easy for them to lose sight of their own place in the world. They can become the king of their own little castle, as it were. They need the concept of forgiveness to exist, so that when they violate the rights of those they control, they can keep that control by inflicting guilt on the recipient.

I do think that there is some freedom in moving forward, which is often confused with forgiveness. It is a totally different concept in my opinion. In my opinion, moving forward is more about recognizing that those who violate your rights are choosing to do so, and have no reason to change in a vacuum. A recipient of wrong doing does not incur responsibility, but if they are going to take any kind of action, ending the ability of the person in power to retain the cycle of control is not a bad idea.

Sometimes the only way to break the cycle is to end the relationship. People often seem so horrified by this idea, but why should someone stick around and allow their rights to be violated over and over again in the name of a religious concept that only benefits the wrong-doer? If someone has been traumatized by their own parents, the options are not simply to stick around and try to maintain the relationship or else live in a cess-pool of bitterness and hurt. There is a whole other option out there. You can walk away. You can choose to surround yourself with people who are not interested in violating your rights. When you walk away, you can leave the hurt there too, because you are leaving the source. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, but everyone has a right to live their own lives, regardless of wrong doing in the past. This takes time but no one has to submit themselves to a proven risk.

This Road I’ve Traveled

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on January 20, 2013.

For awhile now, I have been wanting to write a background for everything that I am working through… I want to write about myself, and who I really am.

Exactly two years ago, I found out that one of my dearest friends passed away from two brain aneurysms. Not only that, Phil’s guitar mentor passed away, the day before my friend, from ALS. Two days later, my dad kicked me out of the house. All through this time as well, Phil and I were trying to get married and get my dad’s blessing. This time was the climax of many years of hurt, emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse, and it was the climax of Phil’s and my relationship.  That January of 2011 was a train wreck for both of us, and since then I have been deconstructing my faith, my past, and my broken heart.

I am the oldest of 9, 10 technically, with 3 sisters and 5 brothers. Being the oldest has given me heavy responsibility and has made me “old” before my time. I half jokingly say at times that I am an old soul in a young body. As with many typical Patriarchal and Quiverfull families, I — as the oldest — got the brunt of the house work. I took care of the children, made almost all of the meals, and all while trying to keep up with my school work for homeschool. I love all of my siblings, and I could never imagine life without them, but I will never have that large of a family. I don’t blame my parents, but when there are major issues that screw up the family, a lot of the love and togetherness that a “normal” family experiences ends up greatly lacking.

I don’t ever want to put my children through what I have been through growing up.

My husband Phil and I recently left Covenant Life Church for the purpose of finding a smaller church. But that wasn’t really my only reason for leaving. I needed to get out of an environment that told me that I had to forget and forgive, I had to not say anything negative, nor could I be angry over something that I should be angry about. For years, all of my life in fact, I have tried to block out, tried to forget, purposefully felt nothing (this didn’t really work though) whenever I saw my dad yell at my siblings, manipulate my mom, or whenever he got mad enough and started throwing things or getting in the kids’ faces. Getting kicked out two years ago, after all of the years I was my siblings’ protector to the best of my ability, all of the years that I have helped raise my youngest siblings, or made dinner consistently to feed the 11 mouths in the house, was the pinnacle of tolerance for me. I knew from a very young age that something wasn’t right in my family, and that something wasn’t right with my dad.

As my family bounced around over the years with dad being in the military, we have been in many different churches. And at each church, we would get a verbal beating from my dad on the way to church, but as soon as we pulled up, all of the fake smiles would go up, and the family would act like nothing was wrong. I could never do this. I could never put the fake smile on and pretend that I hadn’t watched my dad throw the breakfast dishes in the sink that morning because someone dared to speak back to him.

I couldn’t stand by and watch my siblings suffer while no one knew what happened behind the doors of my family’s home.

I don’t remember when my parents got introduced to Bill Gothard’s patriarchy ideas, but I have seen this stuff totally mess up my family, myself, and many other families. One of my biggest griefs with his version of patriarchy is that it enables narcissistic, controlling, manipulative, and abusive men to continue their abuse under the name of “God-given authority as the husband and father to rule over the wife and children.” Fathers who are abusive are enabled through this ideology by basically being “God” for their family.

There is no one above them, and they are the ultimate rulers.

God speaks through them, and never to the wife or children. It’s no wonder that I have seen, read, and watched so many children who were raised under this mindest leave the faith because of the hypocrisy they had seen in their dad.

Bill Gothard’s “patriarchy” says that women are simply baby-making machines who bow down to their husband’s rule, and who aren’t allowed to have a voice. “Patriarchy” says that young women are their father’s property and are to be traded to off to the father-chosen men when the times comes.  ”Patriarchy” seems to have this unspoken rule that even if it is a living hell at home, you don’t tell anyone else. “Patriarchy” told me that when I questioned something dad said, with the purpose of understanding better, I was not honoring him, or respecting him. “Patriarchy” said that when I fell in love with Phil, I was being idolatrous, lustful, and that I wasn’t honoring my dad. “Patriarchy” says that when I talk about the pain, the truth, the real life that I have experienced, I am not being forgiving, I am bitter, I am angry.

Well, “patriarchy,” I am angry.

I am angry that there are so many men out there taking advantage of this so called right to hold abuse over their wives and families and not being held accountable for the pain they inflict. Forgiveness is a difficult animal to deal with. It is not a one time deal, nor is it something I am always dealing with, or never dealing with. Writing these things out are just barely touching the surface. These are the truth, and these are not things I am bitter about, nor are these not forgiven. Patriarchy says that once you forgive, you must go on living life as if nothing happened.

I say hell no, and that is never the case in forgiveness.

When I wrote about reading my bible, and I wrote about how difficult it is for me to open my bible without being triggered, I meant that I can’t open my bible without hearing my dad’s hypocrisy, or without hearing the gut wrenching sobs that I had when my dad told me that he didn’t have time for me, that I was a bad influence on my siblings, that he wanted me to leave as soon as possible, and that he had had enough of me. Even though I have done my best to honor my dad, to initiate time and time again daddy-daughters dates so that we could have an actual father daughter relationship, he tossed all of that out when he told me to leave. I can’t open my bible without hearing the verses that have been thrown at me with the means of showing me how my pain is sin. I can’t open my bible without having flashbacks that start bringing on a panic attack. It’s hard enough opening the app on my phone to look up verses when I do make it out the door to church.

I can’t open my bible without feeling guilty of sin I did not commit and remembering the people who felt obligated to tell me about that so called sin.

The more that I have acknowledged the pain that is hidden in my heart, the harder it’s become to go to church, read my bible, sing worship songs, hear certain phrases, or even speak the lingo. Why? Because in all of those things I have been hurt, I have been burned, I have been broken.

I am eager to get to the place where I can once again enjoy all of those, but I am not there yet.

I am still rifling through the ashes trying to find the burning embers that are still burning me. I will, I promise, be able to open my bible again one day, but the promises that comfort so many of you, bring cries of pain and panic attacks for me right now. I find comfort in knowing that my salvation is never in question, and Jesus is always by my side. Through the uncovering of my broken heart, I am finding peace. But it takes a long time. The number of pieces that my heart has been shattered into time and time again makes it even more difficult to make sure that I have each shard back into place. I don’t think I will ever fully heal, but fully healing is not my goal right now.

My goal is to be able to admit to myself that yes, I have been hurt, and yes, it’s okay to cry.

This I believe is the step I need to take right now towards healing.

My story is an uncomfortable one. It sucks, it hurts, it has made me dissolve into a puddle of tears and totally forget entire weeks at a time because the pain is too great. I have learned great tolerance, compassion, and understanding for those who have been where I have been, and still are.

I can weep with those who are weeping, and I cheer the bold and brave who are finding their voice and stepping forth with their story.

Feeling Empathy for Christian Patriarchy Parents and Leaders

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on November 13, 2013.

I did a couple things I never expected to do yesterday. I had a thought-provoking conversation that left me thinking about how it is easy to decide that someone is an enemy, a jerk, a selfish person. It is easy to determine that people are unworthy, undeserving, maybe even unclean. It is easy for them to decide that about you too.

Yesterday I found myself talking about my blog with my Dad. 

He’d found out about it a month ago. It hadn’t mattered to me. We hadn’t spoken since before Father’s Day. I expected we might never speak again and it might be for the better. But I got off the phone from that thought-provoking conference call and sat in my chair for a bit, thinking. Then I called my Dad.

Why? Well, sometimes you find out information that humanizes people a bit more, that explains why, and that makes you realize you attributed motives to them that weren’t exactly accurate or that didn’t contain some missing pieces of a bigger picture.

The more adults I talk to or learn from who are walkaways from the Quiverfull and Christian patriarchy stuff, or even ostensible leaders or former leaders within it, the more I see them as not abusers and power-grabbers per se, but also victims. They often had harsh upbringings filled with authoritarianism and loss or were constantly uprooted, never knowing what to expect next.

My Grandad, the man I looked up to and loved so much, was not the same man when my Dad and his siblings were kids. He’d just gotten back from Vietnam back then.

He was a tyrant.

He beat his kids, like his father before him.

Even my Grandad said it, telling me “I was a son of a bitch, and I was a son of a bitch to my kids.” He realized later in life that kids need something different then what he’d gotten and what he’d given. He told my Dad, “Don’t raise your kids like how I raised you.”  My Dad thought he had found a different way. Except it wasn’t really all that different.

Him and my Mom got sucked into extreme religion like a drug when they were just kids, each not yet 20 years old. They became true believers. They more or less still are. That sort of faith easily attracts young people from dysfunctional families who are looking for guarantees, assurances that family life will be different, better, and that heaven awaits if they follow what I have occasionally referred to as “the faith equivalent of the Nutrisystem diet.”

They were trying and failing and starving away on the inside and it was as hard growing up with them as if they had been on drugs.

I thought of Dr. David Gil, a social policy professor I had at Brandeis, in his late 80′s and a holocaust survivor, a man who had testified before Congress against corporal punishment of kids back in the 70′s and had spent much of his career working on fostering reconciliation after atrocities. He’d spoken of society’s ills all coming back to unmet human need. That we have kick the dog syndrome, we have substance abuse, we have wealth hoarding, we have people treating other people (generally weaker people) like objects, and almost all of it is due to stunting – people not being able to reach their full potential during their formative years because the previous generation has hurt them, and the fact that they were born into a society that did not meet their needs starting at a young age. Dr. Gil talked about how people-led movements for equality and social change were all that could alter this dynamic. That it was about interpersonal interaction, sharing, and giving, collaboration rather than competition.

I am not a Star Trek nerd, but this video really moves me. Patrick Stewart’s father was an abuser. He watched his mother get abused as a small boy and couldn’t do anything about it. Later on he learned that it was untreated mental health problems from wartime experiences that caused his father to have so many issues, and while it did not excuse the abuse (because nothing does) it did help him develop empathy for his father. So he is doing work to help veterans and work to help battered women, in order to honor them both, in order to help others avoid beingthem both. I thought it was so moving because this is someone who gets what the cycle really is like. Hurt people hurting people.

We can sit here loathing each other, re-wounding each other, blaming each other, but an eye for an eye truly does make the whole world blind.

I thought about how people often try to improve a dysfunctional world by creating little Utopias and about how people do what they can with the tools they have and sometimes when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, and sometimes you get caught up in hammering away at everything only to get stopped in your tracks when you least expect it and find that you do have empathy for where someone is coming from simply because you see humanity there. Even if they’ve done things you think are shitty and even if you don’t agree with their outlook much at all. You remember that they are a person too, and if you remember that they are a person they just might remember that you are a person and then as two people you can do the hardest and most special thing that people can do, which is to be people, together.

So many homeschool parents who got sucked into the Quiverfull and Christian patriarchy stuff are still hurting. 

They secretly bear so much shame. So much self-loathing. So much guilt and fear and they are tired and worn down. They often have too many kids and not enough resources or answers. They are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, decide where their boundaries are, figure out what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s bullshit. I don’t think a lot of them are doing as good of a job as I’d expect, but then again I do have pretty exacting expectations, very little tolerance for the sort of brokenness that reminds me of my childhood. It’s pretty triggering.

But I am trying to be more forgiving. I am trying to bear in mind that once safety has been ascertained, that forgiveness is an option and sometimes recovery, rehabilitation, and reconciliation are too.

I try to remember that at one time they were all babies – they were all cute and innocent little children making mud pies or pushing their peas around their plates. They were all pimply teens trying to figure out what to do with crushes and first loves and first kisses and broken hearts and whether their friends liked them and their clothes conveyed the right message about who they were on the inside. They were learning about education and vocations and how to pay the bills in a world where none of those things were simple (and still aren’t). They were learning how to be parents and what it meant when nobody had ever taught them how. None of it was easy.

They went through hardships, too.

Hardships that caused damage and misconceptions and harms that they passed down to the next generation and sometimes the people around them in one form or another.

I expect most of the time they didn’t mean to cause hurt, but they did and we can’t change the past. We can only look to the future and try to do what we can with what we’ve got. I’m not a fool. I know the odds of my Dad and I having the sort of quality relationship that I would desire in an ideal father-daughter sense is unlikely bordering on neigh impossible. But maybe our relationship can be more than nothing. Maybe it can be more than him getting old and dying and me not seeing him for years before that day. If it has to be nothing I’m ok with that. But something would be better.

And that’s why I called my Dad. I told him that he was worthy of forgiveness. I told him that I forgave him. I told him that I had two rules. He couldn’t tell me what to do and he couldn’t try to rewrite the past. He said ok. Then we talked.

We talked about an old family photo my sister had texted to all of us, when I was just a baby and my parents were young, starry-eyed, and impossibly good looking, and how the picture reminded him of when I was small and he took me to the University of New Orleans once. He said he remembered how happy I was there. I said yes, that I’d remembered that visit, walking up the liberal arts building stairs, him buying me a Coke (a rare treat) out of the vending machine, and seeing adults poring over their books and listening to lectures in classrooms.

He said, “I did good things too, you know. I did good things too.”

I said, “I know, Dad. I remember the good things too. I remember them.

He told me that when he watched the Al Jazeera video he agreed with Pat Farenga’s perspective more than mine, that he felt I did a good job but my framework was off, that he figured modern technology and online schools solved a lot of the homeschooling issues I was concerned about, and with my skills (and here he sounded proud) that I should work towards bigger issues, things that could do more for society, that homeschooling was small. I replied that Pat was a nice guy and we just disagreed about a few things, and I figured if I used my education anywhere, I should start close to home, in an area I know, and so that’s what I was doing.

I said I didn’t do it to shame him. I did it to help other kids.

So I’m gonna call my Dad again in a few days and see if we can start small, start with more good things, attempt to be family to one another, and meantime I’m gonna work on some child abuse prevention resources so that other families can stop the cycle before it gets as bad as it did in mine.

I’m not going to whitewash everything and act like its peachy keen now (because there has been a lot of damage done and a lot of work still needs to be done to bring things in a positive direction and it’s a pretty tall order) but I am hopeful. There is still room for redemption. There is still room for improvement. We are all still alive. Or most of us are anyway, and those who aren’t should be held in our memories, their stories and hardships learned from, their lives honored, the lessons not forgotten.

It is a punitive, careless, and authoritarian culture that hurts us.

This issue isn’t about Christianity. It isn’t about homeschooling. It isn’t about families. It isn’t about faith or love or loyalty. It’s about power. Power that the fearful grasp onto or lash out with. That is what we need to try so hard to end, to use our own power to do.

Sharing is still caring. There is still room to learn and grow and try to make the best of the present, using what we know from the past. There is room to accept broken people and wounded people and people who have done serious harms that are not able to be erased but who are trying to do better now, even if they don’t hardly know the way. We don’t have to do it. We don’t have to do anything. But we can. If we want to.

I’m still pretty early in my career, green in the public policy profession, but today I wanted to share this lesson that I learned, that hit home, that I hope to always remember.

We think we’re just working on metrics, policy issues, and stakeholders and then we run into raw humanity – unmet human need, trauma, and people trying to find a way to get by and make it better than they’ve had it. Maybe this shouldn’t change our goals but our methods. Remind us that it’s never “just business.” It’s always personal.

Everyone is a person.

The Stones You Cast, The Tables You Built

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator


Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who never left the path be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and no longer wander.”


It’s a tale as old as time.

A Christian leader falls from grace. For the first time ever, people feel free to talk openly about disagreements they had all along but were too afraid to voice. But the freedom is short-lived. The Eighth Chapter of the Gospel of John is dropped like a noose around their necks. That one verse about casting stones, that verse of grace and freedom, it is twisted into the heaviest gag order by the very Pharisees it was meant to condemn.

We saw this last week when Doug Phillips resigned due to an affair. It took but a few hours before John 8 started dropping like the bass in a dubstep song. “We’re all sinners!” “You’re not better than him!” “Forgive and forget!”

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone!”

It’s funny — how quickly invitations to grace become commands to obey. How platitudes pretend to say one thing but really mean something else. That what these phrases are meant to imply is not reflection and forgiveness but that, for some reason, “all have fallen short” means “STFU already.”

It’s funny, too, that this verse — of all verses — has become an order to shut up. This, a verse where a bunch of men were literally about to throw stones at a woman’s face until it broke like a pumpkin and her brains splattered on the ground. The verse whereby Jesus condemns the religious power structures and the hypocritical religious leaders. The moment where he stands up for a powerless individual about to be brutally bludgeoned to death by the insular self-righteousness of the People Who Knew It All and Had Everything Together.

I do not think we fully appreciate the situation.

I do not think we appreciate that this woman was probably all too aware of her own-shortcomings, was terrified and shaking because this group of men, this group of People Who Know the Right Way, was more than happy — giddy, even — to condemn her. They were probably shaking their heads to make a public scene, saying “If only she didn’t leave her father’s umbrella of protection…” Yet deep down, they could not wait to dig a hole in the ground, bury her in it up to her neck, and throw sharp rocks at her head until her blood soaked into the sand.

But that day Jesus stood against Privilege. That day he stood for the woman, for the one who broke the Almighty Law, for the one who needed a safe place.

Yet you, you who spit John 8 in our faces, you demand silence.

You demand a quick and sudden forgiveness. You want to put Doug Phillips in the place of the woman. Doug Phillips, the one who was standing there all along calling the woman a Feminist and a Liberal and a Female Blogger, the one who built an industry and an empire around Casting the First Stone. And you want us to imagine the woman was the Pharisee. That the woman, nursing her wounds from being dragged to Jesus by her hair, has no right to speak. That, unless she remains silent, you will drag her right back before Jesus and repeat the Pharisees’ lines.

Perhaps you don’t get the irony here, but if there is a metaphor here, it is that we who are calling Phillips out are the ones who have spent our lives being dragged by our hair before Jesus. Being dragged by you. We don’t have stones to throw because you’ve held them our entire life.

We never said we were without sin because, oh don’t you worry, you made sure we knew that.

We aren’t perfect. Oh god we aren’t perfect. We know that because you beat it into our skin and you burned it in our ears and you raped it into our souls.

Our imperfections surround us like scattered pieces of a Tinkertoy set. They stretch on for miles and they are all we learned to see.

But today we realize we are more than what we are not. We realize that when you say, “Don’t cast the first stone,” you mean, “Get back in line.” Sorry, but you can go find new soldiers. We will not cast stones — we will learn to forgive — but we will do it on our own time and we will make our own paths.

And sure, we are angry. We are angry because legalism and hypocrisy hurts. Our anger is ok. If we do not feel, we can never truly forgive.

We have a right to be angry.

We have a right to weep and to cry and to mourn because of pain.

We have a right to rejoice when oppressors fall.

And we have a right to call your bullshit. We will never grow and we will never learn to love better unless we learn to say, “That is wrong and that hurts and please, please stop.”

If you think speaking truth to power is casting stones, you need go back to the drawing board.

So don’t tell us we have stones in our hands when you carry sacks of stones on your back, when you trained us to lift them for you and carry them into the future and throw them into the faces of the people you taught us were the enemies. You drew the lines in the sand. You trained us to see threats instead of people, to see sinners instead of brothers, to see lust instead of sisters.

We all have logs in our eyes. But we don’t build industries around our logs like you do.

If we threaten your bottom line, if we call your idols into question, if we melt your golden calves and dance like David in their shimmering puddles while we reclaim our lost youth, it’s on you whether you will listen or pick up stones. And if all you want to do is put your fingers in your eyes and scream “Lalala! Don’t cast stones! I can’t hear you!” so be it.

But don’t play stupid.

You cast the stones. You cast so many stones they formed a fortress from which you made an empire. You took those stones and constructed tables and placed those tables in your homeschooling temples.

And we will keep overturning those tables.

We will keep overturning the tables made from the stones you cast.

Have I Forgiven Them?: Katharine Diehl’s Story

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was a guest post by Katharine Diehl for Caleigh’s “I Have a Voice” series and originally published on September 16, 2013.

About the author: Katharine Diehl is 22 and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has a BA in psychology and her poetry has been published in Squalorly and Fickle Muses. She works part-time but she needs more money, so if anyone would like to pay her to write or be a professional poet, she is available. She blogs about writing and writes about other stuff at frozenseawriting.tumblr.com.


I can never tell if I have forgiven my parents.

Not for spanking my baby brother, who was crippled from neuroblastoma and died at the age of 5. The spankings were rare, compared to other families; my dad had a sort of business going, creating “spankers” out of conveyer belt. My sister and I laughed at the children we knew whose parents hit them with spoons or pieces of wood. I was tough. I could take it. But I hid and shivered when I knew they were doing it to my sick brother.

Later my dad held my brother, after the coma, after he was gone, and sobbed.

Once I put a few acorns in my winter coat pocket and zipped it up; when I opened it months later, there were tiny dead worms. I was a little girl and squeamish and terrified, and my dad yelled at me for not knowing that the worms would hatch, and he put the worms in his hand and chased me in a circle around the living room, trying to get me to touch them and clean out my coat. Later I had a nightmare he was chasing me with a WWII Japanese sword his grandfather had given him.

When I told him about it, he cried because he did not know I was afraid of him.

That is the essence of my childhood. I think that my parents loved us but were disappointed that they did not have good children, and blamed themselves, and read too many books by Dobson and the Pearls. I was not good. I had a rebellious attitude. I asked too many questions. My sensory integration problems made me afraid to touch terrycloth or crumbs or let others brush me lightly, and loud noises made me feel ill, and my parents worried that they were signs of rebellion. The other children in our church were so well behaved.

My friends’ parents told them not to tolerate my behavior.

Things got better after the black years of early adolescence — nights when even God would not listen to my pleas to take the burden from my heart and cleanse it. I prayed to him every day and read the Bible, especially the Psalms, but the peace that passes all understanding would not come. But I began college on a scholarship, found new friends, and took long, lonely walks for hours where I was able to inhabit my body instead of dissociating constantly.

I learned to soothe myself with reading and walking instead of food.

My parents, grown more liberal, allowed me to visit a therapist after some panic attacks, and when I got on medication it was as if the dirty pane of glass blocking me from the world had finally lifted and there I was, naked and standing in the singing air.

Last fall my progress shattered, that delicate glass framework that held me up, when my little sister overdosed on ibuprofen. I had seen her, homeschooled, isolated, only one friend who lived a state away, spending more and more time in bed during the day. She woke, ate breakfast, and retreated to wrap herself in a blanket and sleep again. She looked like a sad burrito, I joked, and she looked at me blankly. I found her thinspiration blog, and saw the cuts in her arms. I was afraid to tell my parents, though they were concerned, because I felt homeschooling caused her isolation and I could not say that to their face. After all, I’d turned out okay. Maybe it was a phase. I am ashamed to say that I did not advocate for her, did not tell another adult.

I was afraid like a little girl instead of the woman that I was. That I am.

I was about to present my proposal for my senior honors thesis before a group of professors when she called my cell and hung up. I called back and left a message. Finally she picked up — she was home alone — and asked me what happened when you took too many pills. I said she should go to the hospital, and she started to cry. So I did the only thing I could do. I called 911 and they swooped in and took my skinny little sister, cuts all over her arms, to a hospital and kept here there for a week.

She told the doctors she was trying to kill herself, and then she changed her story.

My parents believed the second story.

She, too, has gotten better — it was the catalyst allowing her to receive therapy. She also has Celiac, and her moods have improved since changing her diet. She went through an out-patient eating disorder program and she is a healthy weight now. She is dealing with other problems now that I don’t feel comfortable sharing, but all together, she is healing herself. She is making herself whole and it has ripped me apart and put me back together, I think, being able to see her do that.

My boyfriend has helped me. He has been my rock and my shelter, as blasphemous as it is to say that- because he is not a god, but a friend and a lover. I met him when I was 20 (I’m 22 now), and he is not a Christian. My mother has suggested I marry him (a law student) and “be very poor” with him. I think she doesn’t want us to live in sin any longer, because when I visit him, I stay overnight. Whenever I return home, my dad says he hopes I had fun — but not too much fun.

My sister says I am wounding my family by dating an agnostic. My aunts asked me if he loved Jesus with all his heart.

The answer is no.

But I love him with all of my heart.

And that is that. My parents have apologized for things that never bothered me — criticizing me too much, fighting too much. I know they love me, but they will never see that their insistence on those rigid Christian values and their insular homeschooling, their need to shelter us, are the things that have harmed.

They did not cause my little sister to become suicidal, but like a mushroom grows best in moisture and the dark, the conditions were there.

I had a dream once that my dad’s mother — an alcoholic in his childhood — came to me and told me that she was the mother of all our sorrows. I have always tried to place my troubles (and triumphs) in a narrative, in archetypes, because it makes them easier to bear; but I have rarely had dreams with such truth in them.

Trouble and sadness are generational. My grandmother’s mother, a strict Spanish Pentecostal, made her kneel on rice and pray for hours until her knees were embedded and encrusted with the raw grains. My dad’s father died in his childhood. My mother told me once that she felt she lived her life in a dark room with no windows. My parents have never forgiven themselves, though I have made halting progress toward forgiving them.

I say this to say that placing blame, no matter how it helps, can also hurt.

My blood has sadness in it from generations of mental illness and cruel religion. I don’t know who to blame. Myself most of all and least of all, perhaps. The blame is dispersed and I hope and pray and tremble that the sadness will leave us — that my children, if I have them, will never be taught about an angry God or fear that they are not scrupulous, pleasing, or pretty enough.

My precious children, I will say, you exist. That is beautiful and I know that is enough.

I pray that God, whoever or wherever He is, feels the same.

Let The Chips Fall Where They May: Jonah’s Story

Let The Chips Fall Where They May: Jonah’s Story

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Jonah” is a pseudonym.

“That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough”
–R.E.M., Losing my Religion

I’ve tried to write this more times than I can count. Each time it’s been something different to derail it. What is the point? How can it help someone else? Do I need to detail everything that happened to me? Is it for me to air my grievances? Am I still angry at my parents? These and more are all valid questions I’ve had to ask myself.

While outlining events and their details over the last few months in my private scribblings, I’ve come to realize a number of things. First, it has done me good to really look over my childhood with a fine tooth comb. So many things I’ve tried to understand about why I am the way I am have started to come to light. Second, there were things that affected me that I didn’t realize until I started thinking long and hard about them. Whether you plan on sharing it or not, I recommend you write out your story. Detail it, tell it to yourself. You may not realize how many things about yourself you never realized.

I was homeschooled K-12 in an ultra conservative Christian home (note when I say ultra conservative, I don’t mean biblical law over the top fundamentalism conservative). I was the good kid and my parents never saw anything bad coming. Then, at age 21 I slipped into a deep depression. It got bad to the point where I lashed out at my concerned parents and told them I hated them. This came as a complete shock to them.

How did I go from not a problem to this? It was something that was building for years. A combination of isolation, my parents’ emotional unavailability, religious guilt and other factors played into it. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood, at least not compared to what many have endured. However, depression can be incredibly crippling regardless of the cause.

My parents sent me to a Christian counselor. For the first time in my life I found myself admitting to someone (I had not even admitted it to myself really) how much I resented my parents for the years of being isolated and having few to no friends. I resented my parents for being unable to listen or talk about things like sex, relationships and so on. This was just the start, after several months of counseling I was just starting to unravel what was going on inside my head.

Coming out of counseling I was no longer in a deep depression. I could function, going to school and work. But, the darkness was still looming over me. I wasn’t at peace, I had not been for many years. I began to get my life back in order but I knew there was still a long ways to go. I had told my parents what I was angry at them for and had forgiven them

Why wasn’t I at peace? Isn’t that what I needed? To admit to myself what problems I had, forgive and move on? There was still an elephant in the room, something I couldn’t even think to confront at the time. Religion. Ever since I was little it was pushed on me. I was to be the perfect Christian with my parents perfect conservative Christian values. I needed to ask for forgiveness every day because I was a flawed sinner. There was a deep rooted guilt that loomed over my entire childhood.

I had my doubts for years. It always ultimately shifted back to me feeling there was something wrong with me. In spite of accepting Jesus I never felt like anything changed. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I wondered if it really mattered. Then I promptly got angry at myself for questioning Christianity. Then one day, I found my peace. It wasn’t with Jesus, or some magical prayer.

I was sitting in Church in October 2008. This was weeks before the 2008 election, in which Christians had a very big investment in prop 8 (banning gay marriage in CA) as well as getting McCain-Palin (Christian values!) elected. Obama is the anti-Christ and gays are the most evil, vile people on the planet! While I’m putting a snarky little spin on those things, that is very much the message coming from the pulpit. Spewing straight hatred and political propaganda. This wasn’t what I wanted to be. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I stood up quietly and walked out of Church. I was in no way demonstrative about it, I played it off like I was going to the restroom or something. The reality is I was done. I had found myself questioning more and more over the previous six months. Things from having my first gay friend to seeing my co-workers who were struggling to eat, to spending a lot of time with a buddhist girl I liked were changing my perspective on such things. I was done being a judgmental Christian. I was done thinking gays were evil people. I was done mocking people who used food stamps. I was done trying to judge others because they subscribed to a different belief system. Done.

Letting go of my parent’s ideology was the magic bullet. Years of guilt, anger and confusion were lifted in a matter of days. Was I rejecting the notion of God outright? No. I simply realized that I didn’t know. Nobody knows and nobody really can know for sure. Why should I spend my life trying to argue one way or the other? It was time to live my life for me and not to appease anyone.

That day was nearly five years ago. Since then I am still a work in progress, but I haven’t felt the ‘darkness’ that loomed over my life since. I’ve become my own person with my own opinions. I’ve done outrageous things like having a one night stand, exploring other religious philosophies and voting Democrat. I’ve found what works for me.

Sometimes I still feel the ‘darkness’. At times when I was detailing out for myself a recap of my childhood, I could feel those emotions looming over my head. But, it always passes. That is the past and I’ve moved beyond it. At times anger may bubble up, but I’ve forgiven my parents for the mistakes they made.

Today I consider myself agnostic, moderately liberal and I’ve been in a stable relationship for over two years. I have a job I like and I enjoy my life. I have a good relationship with my parents. I’ve never directly talked to them about my ideology, but I think they know. I don’t feel it really matters. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is I’m comfortable in my own skin.

The ultimate point I’m trying to make is this. Be yourself, do what makes you happy in life. It’s not selfish to think of yourself, it’s called self preservation. If something (religious guilt in my case) is choking you and holding you down, ask yourself if you really want that in your life. I’m not telling you it’s your religion, it can be different things for different people.

Many homeschoolers turn out fine as the prototypical conservatives that our parents always wanted. Many of us did not, for a wide number of reasons. That doesn’t mean you turned out wrong or should be unhappy with yourself. Embrace who you are, whatever you want to believe and let the chips fall where they may.