The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Seventeen


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on March 27, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Sixteen

Part Seventeen: A Different God

Though I had experienced my first real encounter with God, my life didn’t just suddenly get better. But it was the first step of a long journey back to God. I had to realize that a relationship with God was something that slowly grew, not something you could bring to instant fulfillment by following the “Rules to Godliness”.

I had to get to know God as a person, not a formula to follow.

But these are really my thoughts in hindsight. In the moment, all I knew was that I had been given enough gas in the tank to keep going a little longer.

The next step on my journey was my discovery of G. K. Chesterton.  I first read his Father Brown mysteries and loved his funny little priest. Then I read some of his other fiction, and then…Orthodoxy. I was simultaneously attracted and perplexed by jolly Mr. Chesterton. Everything he said was simple and straightforward and a genuine expression of his joy in his God.

But how could he find such joy and beauty where I only felt dread?

I decided he must know something I didn’t, and I delved into his books with the hunger of a starving man.

I found a different God there than the one I grew up with. This God was affectionate, happy, ridiculously pleased with the small antics of His earthly children. This God was a laughing God. Even in His solemnity, He still had a secret twinkle in His eye, like someone pretending to be stern but secretly holding a treat behind his back. I LIKED this God! I could conceive of not being afraid of Him. Chesterton taught about the Romance of Christendom, and I drank it in, because in his joyful God, I found just what I needed to combat the poison of my childhood. I found the same joy running through all of his books and his poems, which I fell in love in. This “joy without a cause”, as he once described it, fascinated and pulled me despite my misgivings. I desperately wanted to believe in this God who prompted such a joy.

In reading Chesterton, I found permission to start to enjoy the little things in life again. To experience the pleasure of a good book, a bowl of dessert, a solitary walk under the stars, without feeling God’s disapproval.

Each moment of enjoyment was still couched in the context of my parents’ displeasure.

But somehow, despite their rejection of everything I found joy in, despite their calling it “foolishness” and labeling me “irresponsible and immature” for pursuing such things, I continued to allow myself small pleasures. And in a way, they gave me back both my hope, and God.

Outwardly, over the next year or so, there were also some changes. I was happier. I made a few friends, including a best friend whose friendship I enjoyed for the next 5 years or so. I started college at a state university. I probably argued and debated with my parents even more than before. I no longer accepted their worldview, and the inevitable clash was often intense. I would have 6-hour arguments with my dad till the small hours of the morning, only ending when we were both so tired that our sleep-addled brains could no longer form meaningful sentences.

Inwardly, I came to a new crossroads. I was forced to the conclusion that there was one major thing holding me back from a relationship with God: I didn’t trust Him. At some point I heard or read somewhere a simple explanation of what Trust was. It was compared to a chair. You can SAY you trust a chair to hold your weight…you can look at it, and make all sorts of calculations to decide its load-bearing capacity…but ultimately none of it counts until you sit down in that chair. If you trust the chair, you’ll sit down in it. If you don’t trust the chair, you’ll stay standing.

I was definitely standing. All of my combined life experiences fought with desperate strength against even the idea of sitting down.

I had more than enough proof that it wasn’t safe to trust anyone, especially not God.

Not only had all the authority figures in my life either failed to protect me, or taken part in my abuse — but they told me they did so at the bidding of God. Even the thought of trusting God enough to let any control slip from my fingers was enough to produce gut-wrenching, nausea-inducing panic.

My mind rebelled and fought against it on one side, and God gently pulled me from the other.

It took me weeks of wrestling with myself. But I did it. I took a mental catalogue of my fears – of everything God might ask me to do, or take away from me, and I went down the list, fear after fear, and chose to accept the possibility of every one. That was really the scariest thing. Once I won the battle in my mind, the rest was just a formality. I sat down in that figurative chair.

And for the first time in my life, I chose to trust God.

Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Sixteen


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on January 11, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Fifteen

Part Sixteen: Gray

I can look back at pictures of those years, and somehow, I look happy in some of them.  I know that somewhere in that time I took a trip to Germany with my grandparents.  It was one of the few happy times I can remember.  In contrast, the rest of those two years, from 15 to 17, were very dark days for me.  Our home life was not happy.

Besides my dad being depressed, which lasted at least a couple of years if not longer, the discipline that my brother B received continued, and in some respects, got worse.

Once Joe LaQuiere was not there to cow B into fearful submission, my dad had a tougher time getting him to toe the line.  A now-teenage B became disrespectful, angry, arguing and talking-back to my dad.  He cared less and less that he would be punished for it.  My dad gave up using a wooden paddle on my brother.  He moved on to more creative tools, searching for one that would put the fear of God into his wayward son.  Sometimes it was a belt.  Sometimes it was a thin rod like that used for caning.  Then, he found himself the winner.  I don’t know what it was made out of, but it was a length of doubled-up, flexible, white line of some kind or other, about 1/8″ in diameter, and he used it like a whip, hitting indiscriminately whatever was in reach.  This whipping hurt far more than a wooden paddle ever could, and it left no permanent marks, which all the corporal-punishment manuals, like the Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child, which was a staple in my parents’ bookshelf, all were quick to warn against.

If it doesn’t leave a permanent mark, the books said, it was fine.

I would be on constant alert and tense when my dad and B started getting into it – I knew with inevitable dread that it would end in a whipping, and I swear I hated them nearly as much as B did.  My dad would hit his limit, grab B and push him to the basement stairs, and down they’d go.  The next thing I’d hear is my brother crying, then screaming for my dad to stop, while my dad chased him around the basement, whipping him as he went.  It seemed like it would go on forever.  In hindsight, it was probably only 10 or 15 minutes each time.  But it was enough.  It was too much.  With every beating I had to hear, my own heart was getting ripped to shreds, and my fear grew.

My mom would calmly go about her business, ignoring the cries and pleading from below.

More than ever, I tried to use my influence and experience to head off any altercation between my brother and my dad.  I played peacemaker as much as I could, and I begged the children not to do anything that would set my dad off.  We all knew how he got when things made him angry, but somehow I was the only one who tried to do anything about it.  I had always been the one to try to placate my dad and walk the fine line to avoid his wrath, but now it became a desperate need – I HAD to prevent him from getting angry, or my brother would pay the price.

Meanwhile, the whippings had the opposite effect to the one my father intended.  They made B even less tractable than before.  With each beating, he grew harder towards my parents.  He sneered more openly at them.  He grew more rebellious and more angry.  My dad continued these whippings until B was nearly 17.  Then, one day, B stopped taking it.  I remember it so clearly.  That day, when my dad tried to shove him up against the wall, B pushed back.  That was all.  That was enough.  He had grown bigger than my dad, and now, in that instant, he realized he was stronger.  It took my dad just a split second to realize what had happened.  He could no longer physically control his son by violence.

He took his hands off my brother, and said B was so far gone in his rebellion that normal discipline had no effect on him anymore…since physical buffeting was useless, he was spiritually turning B over “to be buffeted for the sake of his soul”, as it says somewhere in the bible.

I knew better, and so did B.  My dad was simply afraid of what would happen.  He never whipped my brother again.

It was some relief to know that I wouldn’t have to hear my brother’s screams from the basement anymore.  But it didn’t change anything else.  Life was something to be endured, long and weary, with no end in sight.  I became obsessed with the color gray.  I thought about it, wrote about it, all the time.  My life was gray.  Everything was gray; meaningless and gray.  I felt like I was slowly being smothered by a gray pall, and I no longer had the will to resist it.

Then, finally, came the day when I couldn’t bear it any longer.  I remember we were going somewhere in our big van, with the younger kids, and my mom driving.  I remember the seat I was sitting in.  It’s a crystal clear memory in my head.  I sat there, with daily life going on around me, while a storm of pain and desperation raged in my heart, and I knew I couldn’t take even one more second of living my hated life; and in my despair I cried out in my heart, “God, I don’t even know if You’re there anymore – I know You don’t love me, and never have – but I don’t have anything left to turn to anymore!  You’ve taken everything away, and I have nothing left – if You even can, just HELP me, please!  Do SOMEthing!”

And in that moment, for the first time in my entire 17 years of life, I felt God’s LOVE.

It was warm, and it engulfed me, wrapped me up in something indescribable.  In that blinding second, I KNEW, for the first time, that God loved me.  I FELT it.  I had never felt anything like it before, and I never have since.  It was an inescapable certainty.  I had cried to God, and He had answered me.

Part Seventeen>

Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Fifteen


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on January 10, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Fourteen

Part Fifteen: Black Days Ahead

The next few months were kind of a blur.  They were awkward.  We still ran into our friends/acquaintances/ex-cultmates often.  I didn’t know how to think of them or how to act when we saw them.  I’m sure it was equally awkward for them.  Within our family, not much changed.  We followed the same rules, lived the same lives as the people in the cult we had just left.  We just did it separately.

The main difference was my dad sunk into a deep depression.  I couldn’t rely on his sense of humor and warmth to carry me through the dark and confusing time I was now in.  He was now convinced that he was a failure, and nothing could reach him in the dark place he had sunk into.  I wasn’t the little girl that idolized her daddy anymore, but I was a teenager whose life had just been torn apart, and my dad was the one constant I relied on.  No longer.

I really felt like my dependence on my dad was the last feeble crutch I had left to cling to, and Someone had just kicked it out from under me.

Now I was not only confused and scared, I was bitter.  Bitter at a God I didn’t know, who had taken away the last piece of my security.  I decided that God existed, but He didn’t love me, and He never would.

About a year into our exile, my parents started looking for a new church to go to – a mainstream church, no more home-church for us.  We visited church after church after church.  They felt cold and unfriendly.  Even if the people smiled at us, I knew they had no idea what kind of people we were and where we came from.  We were in foreign territory, and no one spoke our language.  We would try one church for a couple weeks, then move on.  Occasionally we attended one for as long as a few months.  We weren’t allowed to do anything youth-related, so we just sat and listened to sermons with my parents.  I didn’t like it.  None of the teaching was challenging.  The preachers weren’t engaging, and no one cared about me, no matter where we went.  I didn’t like church.

I preferred the warm camaraderie of the cult family that we were now irrevocably cut off from.

Eventually, the church we were attending merged with another church, and we stopped going.  Then my parents found a new place – a Plymouth Brethren congregation called Lakeside Bible Chapel.  It was just a tiny bit more comfortable than the rest because they celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week, like we used to do.  Most things were still unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  They had a worship band.  They had a youth group, and the youth group (that we weren’t allowed to go to for a long time) had an actual BAND with DRUMS.  Even when my parents decided to let us go to Sunday school and join in on some youth group activities, we weren’t allowed to attend the youth worship service.  We had to stay in the main auditorium until the worship part of the service was over because my dad didn’t want us corrupted by the worldly music.  The people dressed in sleeveless shirts or even t-shirts sometimes, and wore things to church that my parents would never allow even at home.  But, we stayed.  Eventually, it became our new church home.

If anything, having a church “home” just made things worse for me.  People were always smiling at me in the halls and saying “How are you this morning!” in the friendly, yet impersonal way that left no possibility of a real answer.  I would plaster an empty smile on my face, and nod in return, and they’d walk on.  I hated being there.  At home I didn’t have to pretend things were fine.  At home, I started dressing like a boy.  I went for the baggy carpenter jeans and masculine t-shirts.  I pushed my parents for permission to cut my nearly waist-length hair.  It got shorter each time.  By the time I was 17, it was short enough that I was mistaken for a boy more than once.

It was my silent protest against a world that had betrayed me in every way.

My mom took the change personally.  “You’re doing this because you don’t want to be like me,” she’d insist.  “You’re just trying to be the opposite of me, and that’s very hurtful.”  She was wrong.  I wasn’t changing because I didn’t want to be like herI was changing because I hated being me.  I hated the fake smiling mask I had to wear on the outside.  I hated the growing darkness within.  I was empty.

The confusion and despair I felt, the anger that I couldn’t express, all crystallized into an intense self-loathing that grew strong roots deep into the soil of my self-image, fertilized by the years of repressive and damaging training that had taught me that I was only worth something as long as I could measure up to perfection.

I hated to be around people, and I hated to be around myself.  I hated everyone and everything, and most of all, I hated myself.  I took a look into my own heart and saw all the ugliness crawling inside, and I finally understood, with the finality of despair, why God hated me.

I used to lock the bathroom door, and look at the big bottles of pills in the medicine cabinet, and fantasize about swallowing handfuls of them.  Sometimes I’d pour them into my cupped hand and look at them for a while.  But I never took them.  My fear of standing in judgement before a God that despised me was too great.  I wasn’t ready to be sent on to more eternal torment.  So, I would put the pills back, and live through another black day.

When I was younger, I liked to draw.  I hoped to be as good as my uncle someday, who was an artist and drew amazing portraits of his children and wife, pictures that hung in the place of honor in my grandparents’ living room.  I hoped I could become good enough someday that my dad would be proud of me.  But those days were long gone.  Now I drew without creativity or inspiration, without purpose.  The last thing I drew was a bleeding heart that was ripped in two, sewn jaggedly back together with black, ugly stitches.  I finished this self-portrait, and then put away my pencils for a long time.

I’m not sure how the rest of my family was handling the move.  I feel that of all of us, my sister R was the least affected.  She started going to College and Career at our new church and made some friends.  My brother B took some time, but eventually even he made a good friend at church; heart-breakingly, it was probably the first time since he was a little kid that he found someone who actually liked him instead of treating him with contempt and abuse.  This friend was his lifeline, and without him, I’m not sure what B would have become.

My parents made friends quickly, and they were well-liked and respected in their new church.

People admired how well-behaved and clean-cut we children were, and people would commend my parents for turning out such great children. 

It was rather ironic.  My little siblings even started going to Sunday school, and to all appearances, we all settled into our new “normal” life.

I was the only one who couldn’t find a place to fit in.  I tried to sit in youth group and listen to yet another watered-down talk on bible passages I had heard a thousand times.  The shallow theology bothered me.  The lack of depth and interest in spiritual things bothered me.  The people…well, the youth leader overlooked me entirely.  It was a definite failure on his part not to recognize the quiet desperation that sat before him Sunday after Sunday…I’m not sure why he didn’t attempt to reach out to me, especially as he usually did with any other new teens that came along, but suffice it to say, he never did.  It was a familiar sensation.  I had always been the one that nobody noticed.  Unsurprisingly, the other teens in the youth group mostly ignored me.  A few were actually friendly, and I was very grateful, though I didn’t know how to respond or relate to them.  We were like two different species.  They talked about boyfriends, Superbowl Sunday parties, going to prom, and school cliques.  These were also the topics addressed by the youth group leaders.  These things were as foreign to me as they would have been to a pygmy.

No one had anything to say about what to do when your world’s been torn apart, or you hate yourself, or how to escape God’s wrath and disapproval.

I got no answers from church, and the friendliness of the other teens dissipated by the time we had been there 2 months.  I was left alone, and I didn’t even care.  I didn’t care about anything.

Part Sixteen>

Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Fourteen


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on October 7, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Thirteen

Part Fourteen: Leaving the Fold

During the last couple years we were in Joe LaQuiere’s cult, doubts were slowly crystallizing in my dad’s mind, no doubt increased by Joe’s inability to accept any criticism or challenge to his opinions.  I remember my dad being one of the only people willing to disagree with Joe on anything.  The other person who had no problem voicing open doubt was my uncle H, father of the S family.  In fact, a very heated argument between Joe and my Uncle H was the precursor to both their family and our family leaving for good.  I believe it was regarding his oldest son, my cousin J, who was around 16 at the time.

My Uncle H decided it would be a good experience for J to take a job with a landscaping company, mowing lawns.  Joe LaQuiere was vehemently against children being employed in the outside world, away from the direct supervision of their parents.

He was also very angry that my Uncle H would make this decision without consulting him first and getting his permission.

My Uncle H got very upset in return, saying that it was HIS child, and he had the right to make what he considered the best decision for J, regardless of what anyone else thought.  This argument went on long into the night, and involved many raised voices, and the other families ranged themselves in support of Joe…I don’t remember if my dad even supported my Uncle H in this.  The end result was the S family left the group.

It was very sobering to all of us who were left, and Joe LaQuiere made it clear to his followers that the S’s desertion was their first step on the road to inevitable spiritual disaster.  He would tell us horror stories of other families who had been obstinate and left the group, spurning his advice and counsel.  All of them came to horrible ends.

He told us that these families self-destructed, ending with the older children rebelling against God and parents, reporting their parents to CPS for child abuse, who took the other children away and ripped the family apart.

This was what we had to look forward to if we left the fold.  His phrase for this was “crash and burn”.  That is what happened to everyone who left: they all “crashed and burned”, and he gave the most dire warnings to us so that we wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

Then, about 3 weeks after the S family left, my dad called a family meeting and informed us that we were not going back.  We were leaving.  This was met with tearful protests and disbelief by most of us.  I initially agreed with my dad on principle because I idolized him and therefore took his side on everything, but eventually I caved and wrote him a letter saying that I agreed with my mom and sister R and wanted to stay.  The only person who was happy about leaving was my brother B.  He was so happy it was heart-breaking.

He told me later that he was afraid to believe it was true and lived for weeks in constant fear that it would turn out to be a mistake, leaving him trapped again in his personal hell.

At first it was unclear to us as children whether this was permanent or temporary.  Joe LaQuiere came by that first week looking stern and dropped off a yellow manila envelope at our front door.  He refused to come in.  He treated the visit rather like the proverbial “shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them”.  He apparently didn’t want to be polluted by the act of crossing our threshold.  The manila envelope contained a letter that we were never allowed to read.  I caught a glimpse of it once, and sure enough, it contained the dreaded words “crash and burn”.  When my parents read it, my mom cried.  My dad looked very grim.  I was told later that the letter contained warnings and dark predictions for the spiritual future of our family.  Joe made it clear over and over again throughout the letter that my dad was a failure.  A failure as a spiritual leader, a failure as a father, a failure as a husband…a failure as a man.  In Joe’s mind, we had sealed our fate when we chose to leave.

We were on the path to destruction, and no one could help us.

This began one of the darkest periods of my entire life.

As difficult as it had often been to live as a part of “the group”, leaving felt a thousand times worse.

Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Thirteen

BarnHA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on September 21, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Twelve

Part Thirteen: The Squeaky Wheel and the Persistent Widow

There’s an old saying, “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.”  It basically means that he who complains loudest gets attended to first.  Joe LaQuiere used to like this saying very much.  He used it, funnily enough, to instill competition for his attention among his followers.  If one family wanted help and asked him for it, that was fine.  But if another family asked him for help and was waiting on his doorstep early in the morning, well….they were placed first priority.  They received the coveted attention, and the first family would just have to wait for another day.

Any time you could show your zeal and fierce determination to shove anything and anyone aside to get to Joe first, he would honor it by giving you first priority and kicking others further down the line who didn’t show your passion for his help.

Families that wanted his time and attention would show their determination to be close to him by tagging along with him all day while he ran errands.  Nothing was allowed to get in the way – not even meals.  I remember endless hours following Joe around Home Depot with my little brothers and sisters in tow, our legs tired from walking, stomachs empty and pinching, because we hadn’t been given anything to eat since breakfast, and it was 4 in the afternoon.  In the adult-centric world in which Joe lived, children ate…or didn’t eat…according to his schedule, not theirs.  Only nursing babies were lucky enough to have meals provided during these outings.  Our parents quickly stamped out any complaining, making it clear that our empty stomachs were a small price to pay for the chance to be with Joe all day.

Today I look back on Joe’s behavior and see him as a bit of an egomaniac.  The more your world revolved around him, the happier he was.  The more you idolized him and gave up things to prove your devotion to him, the better he was pleased.

He wanted a fan club, ready to fawn on his every word.

I’m sure he felt he deserved that, because he was doing everything right in his own estimation.  He got it right, God approved of him, and this was his reward: his own groupies who would push and jostle to be closest to him.

Some members used to make jokes about the story in Mark where two of the disciples tried to claim the places to the right and the left of Jesus and would substitute Joe’s name for Jesus’s.

We weren’t concerned about getting to sit next to Jesus – we wanted to be next to Joe!

Joe LaQuiere encouraged this currying for his favor, even though it caused divisiveness in the ranks.  He would dismiss any hurt feelings by saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”, and then he’d shrug and walk away, and the triumphant family who had shouldered their way into first place would turn and follow him.

Another story Joe liked to use to demonstrate how we should be was the Parable of the Unjust Judge.  A poor widow goes before an unjust judge and pleads for him to hear her case and give her “justice against her opponent”.  He refuses to listen to her and sends her away.  But she is persistent and stubborn and keeps coming back day after day, after day, after day.  Finally the unjust judge, who doesn’t care about justice, gives in and settles her case, because he’s so sick and tired of seeing her in his courtroom.  Persistence wins the day!

These were our role models to follow: the squeaky wheel and the persistent widow.

In practice, it worked something like this: Let’s say my family wanted to go see Joe LaQuiere to get his help with some more child-training.  We would get up in the morning, get ready to go, and drive over there after breakfast, say 10 AM.  Ordinarily this would be enough to be first in line and get Joe’s attention all day.  But let’s say another family heard us say the night before that we were going to come over at 10.  So they got up, rushed out the door, and got there at 9 AM.  Joe would let them in, and when our family arrived, we were sh*t outta luck.  He wouldn’t see us that day, or at the most, he’d say we could wait until the other family was finished, but he had no idea how long that would take.  He might or might not get around to seeing us.  So we’d either wait around half the day, or pack it back into our 8-passenger van and go home to try again another day.

It quickly became clear which families were willing to go the furthest to guarantee Joe’s time and attention.  One family was willing to go further than anyone else.  Not only did this family take every opportunity to arrive earlier and stay later, but they were willing to do whatever it took to beat out the competition and get one-on-one time with Joe.  Then they took it to the next level: they bought a house on his street.  Joe was tickled and flattered at this show of zeal for his time and attention: and he gave it to them, generously.  They became his new favorites.  It became very rare to find them at home – they were always at Joe’s house, every day, every weekend, day-in-and-day-out.  They started going there after breakfast and would stay all day.  Then they started coming before breakfast and eating with the LaQuiere family.  It became next to impossible to talk to Joe without this family standing right there, “holding their place in line”.  The rest of us chafed a little at the special treatment they were getting.  It was nearly impossible to beat them for first place in line anymore.  They lived practically next door – I remember once or twice that we managed to get to Joe’s house early enough that they weren’t there yet, and boy, were we smug!  It was a pretty good feeling that this time we got to be around Joe all day, and they had to wait!

I can’t believe Joe actually encouraged this pettiness, but clearly he was more focused on getting his ego stroked than on preventing jealousy and petty competition between his followers.

One time my parents found a temporary solution to holding on to first place in line for a few days: we just got Joe’s permission to stay at his house.  It was like a sleepover that lasted for a week, except of course, it wasn’t about having fun, it was about being next to Joe all the time, to hear his life wisdom on each daily situation as it came up.  At the time, I thought it was just about the coolest thing ever!  We ate all our meals with the LaQuieres, we did chores with Mrs. LaQuiere, or got to tag along on errands with the older kids.  We slept on sofa beds or in sleeping bags every night.  Best of all, we knew we were finally the Number One family, at least temporarily.  We got Joe’s undivided attention for nearly an entire week. We felt like we were on the inside, and everyone else was stuck on the outside.

For that one week, we were special.

As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with the family I mentioned earlier.  They were determined to regain their first place in line.  So the next thing we knew, they had moved into Joe’s house…for good.  It was the ultimate line-jump.  They now had access to him 24/7 and had permanently cemented their status as first-in-line-to-Joe.  Never again did any of the rest of us come close, not even when three of the families also bought houses on the same street, one of them actually directly across the street from Joe’s house!

It didn’t matter: he had accepted the first family as adopted family members, and Joe considered that they had earned their spot in the sun, no matter how much anyone complained. 

From that day on, their family has lived in Joe’s house, a permanent part of his household.  They still live there today: I don’t think they’ll ever leave.  For legal purposes, they “live” in their house down the street.  That’s where their mail goes, because they aren’t legally allowed to reside in the same house as the LaQuiere family….zoning regulations or something, I don’t know.  But they do anyway.  Within five years of them moving in, the LaQuiere family built a huge addition on their house.  It was poorly designed, and an eyesore that the whole neighborhood winced at, but it made sure there was plenty of room for the LaQuieres and their new “adopted” family.

Even this wasn’t close enough of a connection for the mom of this family: she used to laughingly claim Joe’s youngest son as the future husband of her oldest daughter.  At the time, her daughter was 8, and his son was about 16.

True to her word, about 12 years later she witnessed her daughter marry this same son, making at least part of her family “real LaQuieres” at last.

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Twelve


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on September 20, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Eleven

Trigger Warning: Depictions of extreme medical abuse

Part Twelve: Exorcising Demons

Spiritual warfare is quite an interesting subject, all the more so because we don’t have much information on it, though what little we can infer from the Bible is quite fascinating.  Inferences to divine armies battling in the heavens, the devil being cast out of heaven, references to the “giant dragon” trying to devour the infant Jesus…what do we make of all that?  We know that in some hazy way these events are related directly to us, and that our actions affect the other-worldly battle going on in unseen realms.  But how exactly they’re related and clear specifics?  I have none of those, and I suspect you’re in the same boat.

I’m not sure where exactly Joe LaQuiere got his own beliefs on demons.  For Joe, spiritual warfare was simple.

Any bad attitude could be evidence of an indwelling “evil spirit”. 

Just like the devil went around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”, we were taught that evil spirits were lurking everywhere, just waiting for the chance to settle in our hearts and souls.  If we gave them an opening through having a bad attitude, they’d jump on it and invite themselves right in.  So our parents spent time “rebuking” the evil spirits in us every time we were grumpy.  As you can imagine, this did not endear them to me.  In fact, hearing my parents order evil spirits to leave me, in the name of Jesus, just made me even more grumpy!  It felt very stupid and silly, because I knew I was just in a bad mood, not possessed by a demon.  But our parents took these things very seriously, praying over us and ordering the demons to leave.  If our bad attitude didn’t immediately vanish, that was further evidence in their minds that it was spiritual warfare they were dealing with.

This was the environment that existed in our group when my little cousin H started having seizures.  The first time it happened, they called an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital.  She was prescribed anti-seizure medication, and I believe they even gave it to her, at first.  We heard about it the next morning, and even as children, were properly scared and worried for her.  I think she was about 6, but I could be off on the age…it was a long time ago.  We all hoped it was a one-time occurrence, and that little H with her blonde hair and sweet smile, would be fine from then on.  Then she had another seizure.  And another.  At this point Joe LaQuiere sat her parents down for some very serious discussions.

He was almost completely sure that these seizures weren’t medical – they were spiritual.

He thought they were being caused by demon possession, and he had a way to prove it one way or the other.  When she started having a seizure, or right afterwards, they needed to order her to say “Jesus is Lord”, because demons couldn’t say those words.  So if she said the words, then it wasn’t demon-possession, and presumably was just a medical condition that they could continue to treat with anti-seizure meds.  If, on the other hand, she refused to say “Jesus is Lord”, then they had a very very serious problem, and it was going to require a lot of prayer and work to drive the demon out.

With this fool-proof bit of theological wisdom in hand, they and Joe set to work on little H.  The next seizure came and went, and they tried to get her to say “Jesus is Lord”.  She wouldn’t say it.  There was the proof: their little girl was possessed by a demon.  This was further confirmed to them by odd things she would say…sometimes she would say there was a “black man” in the room, and she would want him to go away.  Even the little bit of reading that I’ve done on the subject has come up with information on visual and auditory hallucinations as a common and expected side-effect of epileptic seizures.  But apparently this research was outweighed by the expertise of Joe LaQuiere, who told them this was further evidence of demon possession: she was able to see other demons that were invisible to the rest of us.  The “black man” was clearly a demon, and little H needed to be delivered from her demon possession as quickly as possible.

So they stopped the seizure medication, and instead spent hours with her, Joe LaQuiere assisting, every time she had a seizure, ordering her over and over to say “Jesus is Lord”.

Often she would resist and fight them and cry, or say some variant of the magic words “Jesus is Lord”, but not the exact phrase.  I was told that many times they would be up with her all night, fighting and trying to hold her down to control the demon inside her.  This was a serious spiritual battle, and they were determined to win.  Joe LaQuiere told them they could, and they believed him.  Sometimes little H would say “Jesus is Lord”, and they would relax for a bit, believing the demon was gone.  Then it would start all over again with another seizure.  At one point I think she was having upwards of 12 to 15 seizures a day.  I’m not sure what else they tried in their quest to exorcise the demon from H besides prayer, and ordering her to say “Jesus is Lord”.  I was told of one time at least that Joe had them forcibly hold her in a shower as part of the process.  I’m not sure what affect that was supposed to have, but the seizures continued.  Little H started to look like she was in a constant daze all the time.  She didn’t act normally any more.  She didn’t talk much.

I don’t know how long this went on…I know that eventually the seizures lessened…for all I know, they put her back on seizure meds eventually.  I was never told.  The one thing we do know for certain: the effects.

H experienced permanent brain damage as a result of the untreated seizures.

Today she is in her 20s, but she’s never progressed mentally from the small child she used to be.  She is still sweet, but with the sweetness of a young child.  Her brain has been permanently scarred by the ordeal she went through, and her life will never be the same.  I grieve for her and her stolen potential.  What will happen to her now?  Will she ever be married?  Have her own family?  Have the emotional capacity to realize the spiritually abusive environment she is in, and the ability to leave?  I don’t know.

But I do know who is responsible: Joe LaQuiere.

Part Thirteen>

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Eleven


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on September 12, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Ten

Part Eleven: The Good Girl Who Couldn’t be Good

The first few years we were a part of the LaQuiere cult, it was fairly easy to meet expectations.

Everyone viewed me as one of the “good” kids…I was a rule-follower by nature, and that made me a perfect fit for Joe LaQuiere’s legalism!

I got in some small difficulties over the rule to “never argue”, because my dad had taught me from an early age the delights of debate.  He gave me books on detecting logical fallacies, and my favorite game (though maybe not his) was to debate issues with him, and, if possible, win my point through rock-solid logic.  If I could use logic to prove to my dad that I was right, then he would concede, and I would get my small victory!  I’m not sure Joe LaQuiere knew my dad allowed this…if he did, he would have been very disapproving (as he was already very disapproving of my dad for trying to debate with him).  When I disagreed with my dad, it was called debating, and we both understood the rules and appreciated the game.  With my mom, it was called “arguing”, and she expected (understandably) not to have to logically defend every instruction she gave me!  So I was often in trouble with my mom, but that was pretty much the only crack in my “goodness”.

My sister R, by contrast, had plenty of trouble until she was about twelve.  She was very stubborn…she liked to contradict…and she did not like to follow rules!  Joe LaQuiere believed she just needed strong enough motivation and she would “snap to”.  He was right.  Turns out, what she needed was a strong enough personality to win her allegiance, and Joe succeeded at this around the time she turned twelve.  I’m not sure what he said or did that caused her to change, but she did an astonishing about-face, and from then on, Joe LaQuiere had her complete loyalty.  She was now his biggest fan: she started scrupulously following rules, and was determined to live up to his expectations and please him.  When we eventually left a few years later, she went to bat as Joe LaQuiere’s model pupil–she begged and pleaded and argued with my dad to no avail to convince him to let us stay in the group.  Both she and my mom had extremely strong ties of loyalty to Joe, and it was very difficult for them to let go when we left.

To this day, both of them (but especially my sister R) have a difficult time hearing Joe LaQuiere spoken of poorly.

They don’t like to hear his following called “a cult”, and my sister will still talk about his “wisdom” and how much of what he taught was “really good”.  She raises her children using many of his training methods.

Meanwhile, I didn’t have my sister’s advantage of a flattering conversion story to endear Joe LaQuiere to me, but he still seemed to approve of me for being the small rule-follower that I was, and I eagerly lapped up the crumbs of his approval like a starving puppy.  As one of the younger children, I would vie for the coveted opportunity to sit on his lap while he taught – the ultimate place of privilege.  It made me feel special and noticed. On one very special occasion, I was sitting at Joe LaQuiere’s feet while he was talking to the adults, just quietly listening to him, while Mrs. LaQuiere was getting ready for dinner, setting the table, and handing out related small chores.  My sister R was enlisted to help from whatever she was doing, and after a minute, she or perhaps my mom tried to pull me away to come help too.  Joe intervened, comparing me to Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, and my sister to Martha.  He said he wasn’t going to send me away.  I had chosen “the better thing” by sitting at his feet listening to him, and that was where I could stay.  I couldn’t believe it: it was one of the huge moments in my young life where I felt of value.  I never forgot that moment.  Occasionally Joe LaQuiere would also use me as an example of a “good child”, or say to someone, “S would never think to do that, would you?  She’s a good girl.”  And I would duck my head shyly, but inside I was beaming.  It felt so incredibly good to earn his approval!  I lived for those moments.

Like my sister, I too had found in Joe LaQuiere someone to hero-worship: someone to fill the yawning hole left in my heart by my shamed failure to make my own father proud of me.

Years later, when we left the cult, I joined with my sister and mom in trying to convince my dad to change his mind.  I didn’t want to leave behind the only source of approval I had.

Even though I was a veteran rule-follower, it was still more difficult than you’d imagine to earn an “A” in Mr. LaQuiere’s class.

He taught us that God had given all of us “everything we need for life and godliness” – which meant everything we needed to be perfect.

In fact, we were called to “be perfect” – it was right there in black-and-white in Mr. LaQuiere’s King James Bible: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  Joe reasoned that God would never call us to do something that we weren’t perfectly (ha, see what I did there?) capable of doing!  Therefore, we could be perfect: we could live our lives and never sin, not even so much as one bad attitude or snarky look.  It’s pretty clear that if you can be perfect, and yet, you’re not perfect, it’s because you are choosing not to be.  Because of this, we were berated for any and every misstep, because our goal was to live perfect lives, and so win God’s pleasure and approval of us.

As a part of these impossibly-high standards, our parents used a system of public praise/shame to encourage all the children to work harder at correcting character flaws.

Every week, all the parents in the group would announce what character fault each child needed to work on, and then the following week, our “scores” would be publicly announced.  Those who did well…90%…93%…held their heads high!  Those who squeaked by with something in the high 80s could at least heave a sigh of relief and jump off the figurative hot seat until next week.  But those with bad scores had nothing but public shame to look forward to.  They would be reminded that not only were they required to please their parents and God in everything in all their outward actions, but to be perfectly obedient inside as well, in their every attitude.  Nothing less would satisfy a holy God.

As a champion rule-follower, (with no small amount of pride in the fact, I may add!) nothing less than a perfect score satisfied me.  But it was surprisingly difficult to achieve, even for someone like me.  I did get a perfect 100% the first few weeks…but as Mr. LaQuiere would have said, pride goeth before a fall.  The very next week I was supposed to work on “not arguing”…and on “doing everything I was asked without question, with a good attitude”.  Not only did I scrupulously avoid arguing with my mom, giving ingratiating smiles and being sickeningly cheerful while I followed out every instruction she could think up, but I even swore off debating with my dad!  Finally Wednesday night came around, and before we left for our weekly meeting at Joe’s house, my dad tallied up our scores and averaged out percentages.  He told us what we had earned, and I waited eagerly to hear that coveted “100%”.  I knew I hadn’t argued even once – I didn’t trip up a single time all week – I had been perfect!  Then my dad gave me my score…99%.  I gulped at the unfairness of it, and had to stop myself from arguing with him (talk about pouring salt in the wound!), which would have been punished by my dad lowering my score even more.  I carefully asked him why I only got 99%, and what I had done wrong.  He informed me, my mom nodding in agreement, that the 99% was because he wanted me to learn that I was not perfect, and that I could not be perfect, and that a 100% would be puffing me up with sinful pride.  And that was that.  I never got 100% again, even though plenty of other parents gave their children perfect grades.  I gritted my teeth every time another child got what I was sure in my youthful arrogance was an undeserved perfect score, while my own dad refused to give me the scores I felt I earned.

I’m not sure how I was supposed to reconcile Joe’s teaching that we could be and must be perfect to earn God’s approval with my dad’s insistence that I could never reach perfection.

Of course, I now realize that my dad was closer to the mark than Joe was.  We can never reach perfection on our own – but we don’t need to, because we have Jesus’ perfect score applied to us every day!  I wish I had been taught that as a child, instead of being pushed further and further into harsh perfectionism that exhausted my soul and set me up for a life of spiritual defeat.

In my quest to reach perfection, and finally feel God was pleased with me, my failures loomed far larger than my small triumphs.

There was the time that I said something wrong while working construction together with the rest of the families…I can’t even remember what it was I said.  I have a feeling I gave an adult a sarcastic answer (my gift of sarcasm was definitely not appreciated!) and I remember my parents, Joe LaQuiere, and my Aunt C discussing my crime while I sat unnoticed or ignored beside them on the floor in Joe’s office (a place I hated because it was always associated with shame and punishment).  I wasn’t spanked for being disrespectful, but Joe LaQuiere told me he was very disappointed in me, and that I had lost his respect, and my Aunt C said, not to me, but meant for me to overhear, “If I knew she was like that, I would rather have seen her dropped in the foundation we’ve been digging, and buried up to her neck.”  I’ve never forgotten those words.  I’m not entirely sure why she came up with that theoretical punishment, exactly…but she was quite fond of hyperbolic half-serious threats of things she’d “rather see” or “would do” if the occasion warranted.  She once told my sister R that if she ever caught her painting her toe-nails like worldly girls (what shameless harlotry!), she would rip her nails out by the roots!  And then she laughed, so we would know it was (at least partly) a joke.

My other failure that haunted me for a long time was of “carelessness”.  My mom’s best friend, Mrs. W, had a proof-reading business where she would scan and then proof manuscripts or articles for spelling errors.  She had the bright idea to include my sister R and me in her business.  She would send us some of the work to proof and would pay us a small amount per hour that we worked.  It was exciting!  I got to sit at a computer and read for hours – my ideal job!  I was about 12 at the time, and R was 14.  We finished our work, corrected all the spelling errors we found, and sent it back, delighted that we got to do real, grown-up work!

A few days later, Mrs. W called us in to talk to her in private.  She was frowning, and I didn’t know why.  She said she was seriously disappointed in us.  We hadn’t done a good job – they had sent the work back with spelling errors that we had missed, and she had to redo it all herself.  She told us she would pay us for what we had already done, but she was firing us for being careless.  She thought she could trust us, but she couldn’t.  She was sorry, but she no longer wanted our help.  I walked around all that day in a haze of shame and humiliation.  I felt that everyone’s eyes were on me, knowing what a disappointment and failure I was.  When we got home that night, I found a private place to go and cried there for a long time.  These moments still loom large in my memory…I can still feel the crush of humiliation, the painful knowledge that despite my constant efforts, I was a failure.

Each ugly incident seared itself into my little soul, pushing me deeper into the abyss of perfectionism and reinforcing my deep inner conviction that, hard as I tried, God would not accept me.

Part Twelve>

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Ten


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on August 29, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Nine

Part Ten: Wives, Children and Dogs

After we had settled into the routine of belonging to “the group”, as we called it, it was relatively easy to know what was expected of us, as children.  I knew I needed to obey anything and everything my parents (or other adults) told me, with no questions.  I knew I wasn’t allowed to complain about things I didn’t want to do or argue with my parents about anything.

As a child, I was inherently inferior to adults.

I was not their equal.  I learned this through watching Mr. LaQuiere, my parents, and the other adults routinely put down children.  We were taught we were all full of “foolishness”.  We “needed our wills broken”.  We needed to be taught our place.  We needed to learn absolute obedience and submission to authority.

I still remember the exact place I was when Mr. LaQuiere told my parents explicitly what “complete submission” meant.

“If I told my 15-year-old daughter to take off all her clothes, and get down on her hands and knees and bark like a dog, she should obey me instantly,” he said. “That is the kind of obedience children must give their parents.

Absolute obedience, without questioning.”  This level of humiliation had never even occurred to me.  To know that it was possible was a very distressing thought.  Would my parents or Mr. LaQuiere ever order me to humiliate myself like this?  I silently decided that if my dad ever told me to strip naked and bark like a dog, I wouldn’t, no matter how much I was punished.

I didn’t mind the idea of obeying, because I was naturally obedient.  But I hated the “without question” part.  I liked to ask questions.  I liked to know the reasons behind things.  I liked to know the ‘why’, not because I wanted to “challenge my parents’ authority”, as Mr. LaQuiere called it, but because I genuinely wanted to know.  I had an active mind, and it was always probing to get to the bottom of things, to know why they worked the way they did.  I was told this was disrespectful to my authorities, and that they should never be questioned.  I didn’t need to know the reasons.  I was only a child.

I had no right to know.

This absolute, unquestioning obedience did not just apply to small children.  It applied to all children (a label determined not by maturity, but by parentage), regardless of age.  Mr. LaQuiere expected his adult sons and daughters to snap to attention and instantly obey with the same cheerful alacrity that he expected from a 5-year-old.

This system was put in place by God himself, and it was God who said that any child who did not obey was rebellious, and should be stoned to death by his parents, his siblings, his friends, and everyone else as a lesson in how seriously He viewed disobedience.

Obedience was a universally-praised virtue, with the exception of men.  Men didn’t need to obey anybody (except God, that is).  But wives, children, and dogs were all expected to obey.

Dogs and children were often trained with similar methods.

We had a small, fluffy, Maltese puppy named Sasha.  She was friendly and happy, and eager to please.  But just as my parents were told they didn’t know how to train us the right way, Mr. LaQuiere told them they were failing in training our puppy as well.  She needed to learn absolute obedience as well.  She needed to instantly come every time she was called.  She needed to be punished severely for every infraction, whether it was not coming right away, or making an accident on the rug during the process of house-training her.  Any time we found a mess she made, Mr. LaQuiere said, we needed to drag her over to it, rub her nose in the excrement, and tell her “BAD DOG!” in stern, disappointed tones.  He demonstrated this for us multiple times.  I felt bad for her…she looked so forlorn and sad, being reprimanded for making a mistake.  But Mr. LaQuiere said it was the only way to train a dog.  If she didn’t come when she was called, he demonstrated the proper punishment technique – sometimes he would drag her by her collar or the scruff of her neck.  Sometimes he would hit her, not with a rolled-up-newspaper, which he said was useless, but with his hand.  One time when he was correcting her for something, and dangling her in the air by the scruff of her neck, she yipped at him.  I imagine it hurt to be hung in the air by her skin like that.  He responded by throwing her against the wall.  Never allow a dog to challenge your authority like that, he told us.  I still remember how she yelped, and what she looked like in a frightened heap on the floor, her sides heaving in and out.  After Mr. LaQuiere “trained” her in obedience, she did learn to come when called…her tail between her legs, often slinking along the floor, looking guilty and anxious, never knowing if she was going to be smacked across the room, or welcomed.  Poor little Sasha.  She wanted so badly to please us.  I honestly think she didn’t know what she was being punished for most of the time.  My parents might have thought his techniques were more cruel, if it weren’t for the fact that there wasn’t a single one that he didn’t also use on children.

Children, dogs, and wives were taught absolute obedience. In wives, however, it was called “submission”.  Wives were to submit absolutely to their husbands, who were the heads of the family, and their authorities.

This was true not only if the husband was right in what he asked, or if was kind, but also if he was cruel or wrong.

Mr. LaQuiere said God instructed wives to submit, and men to love their wives: and one way to love wives was to teach them to submit.  One Wednesday night, he described how he taught his own wife absolute submission.  He called it “The Story of 11 Mile”.  He and Mrs. LaQuiere were driving somewhere one day, and it was a place they hadn’t been before, so Mrs. LaQuiere was trying to help him find the way there.  They needed to turn on 11 Mile, so as they were driving, she saw it, too late, and said, “Dear, we’ve passed 11 Mile!”  He said she was wrong, he was sure they hadn’t passed it yet.  She disagreed.  He was displeased by her lack of submission.  As they drove on, it quickly became clear to him that they had, in fact, passed 11 Mile.  But this was not important compared to the fact that Mrs. LaQuiere had insisted on contradicting him, showing him disrespect, and refusing to submit to him and agree that he was right.  So to teach her a lesson, he refused to turn around, until she showed submission by saying “You’re right, dear, we didn’t pass 11 Mile.”  Apparently she didn’t want to do this for a while, and he kept right on driving.  Finally she told him, “You’re right, dear.  We haven’t passed 11 Mile.”  Once she submitted to him by accepting that he was right, no matter what, he turned the car around, and they drove on to their destination.

Today I think of this, and I HAVE. NO. WORDS.  What the heck?!  He was wrong, and she merely pointed out that he passed a street, but he couldn’t even allow her to think he might have made a mistake.  His pride, his sense of absolute authority and need for submission was so great that he actually forced his wife to lie to him and tell him he was right, before he would make a simple U-turn.  Poor Mrs. LaQuiere.  I sometimes wonder how she stood it.

Mr. LaQuiere’s worldview was simple: wives, children and dogs were all divinely ordained to be submissive and obedient to him.  He wasn’t being revolutionary – he was just following God’s plan.  It wasn’t his fault that God had made him male, human, and given him offspring.

He knew his place in God’s design, and no one was going to shove him out of his rightful position of superiority.

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Nine


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on August 21, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Eight

Part Nine: Smile

I was reading an article about the Duggars this morning.  People were commenting about how “happy” the children were and how that was evidence of a healthy, well-balanced upbringing.  It reminded me of my own upbringing and how “happy” we always looked…to outsiders.

This was because we followed one of the cardinal rules of Godly Christians (as defined by Mr. LaQuiere).  You may not know this rule, because, poor you, you probably grew up without the benefit of Mr. LaQuiere’s Super-Christianity, so I’ll just tell you right now what it is: ALWAYS SMILE!  This is because the only godly facial expression is a smile.  It’s true that there are multiple godly emotions… happiness… gratefulness… sorrow over your sin… but they can pretty much be covered with the one facial expression (some lenience can be given for the “sorrow” category, but only if it’s the right kind of sorrow).

Not only is a smile important because it portrays our proper gratefulness to God for all our blessings, and because it provides a “good witness” for God, and our parents, and godly large families, and homeschoolers, all of whom we represent…but it’s a way to change how you feel on the inside!

I’ll show you what I mean.  The following was written by the mom of the K family I mentioned earlier, who has her own website ( and book about raising godly children (it’s not a gardening book, though gardening can also be a godly activity, if done correctly):


One cherished, but highly erroneous belief is that a parent should not correct a child for displaying a wrong emotion, because the child will “suppress” the emotion rather than change it. Experience convinces me otherwise. Require young children to display the right emotions outwardly and their hearts will change, producing the right attitudes and emotions inwardly as well.

Of course you can’t simply order your children to “be happy”. If the child is small, it works much better to tell him to “smile” or “straighten up your face.” If the child is very young, I’ll cheerfully say, “Let’s see a smile now”, or “Where is your smile?”

The child may initially resist, but when he finally obeys, the resulting smile will often break into a radiant grin, accompanied by sincere laughter and other expressions of genuine joy. It is hard for a small child to hide his true feelings. It is equally difficult for him to display an emotion that he does not really feel. Get him to smile on the outside and invariably he will smile on the inside.

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.  Proverbs 15:13

(excerpt from

So, to recap, in order to avoid showing the “wrong” emotions, if you require your small children (and the rest of them too) to “smile on the outside”, you will change their hearts and get them to have the “right” emotions and attitudes instead.  Also notice the verse at the bottom, which clinches it: if you have a joyful heart, you’ll have a joyful face! (This may sound somewhat different from the lesson “if you have a joyful face, you’ll have a joyful heart”, but that’s just semantics.  Don’t be so nit-picky, for gosh sakes!)

You can easily see that smiling is the first line of defense against all attitude problems.

Smiling will change your heart – smiling will make you happy – smiling will help you be godly!

This necessity to smile was tacked on to most requirements: instant obedience…with a smile!  Do your chores… with a smile!  Finish being spanked… now smile!

You can see how “smiling” and “looking happy” becomes the necessary mask that all children raised in this belief system must wear.  (The Duggars also follow this, by the way – read up on Bill Gothard’s ATI character-training program, which they are a part of, and you’ll find plenty about having a “bright countenance”, and how looking unhappy is publicly shaming your parents/authorities.)  It’s not a choice, and it has nothing to do with how ‘happy’ they really are or aren’t.

The main problem I have with this type of training is that it not only separates all emotion into two categories of “good” or “bad” – but it also teaches children from the earliest possible ages to stuff their emotions.

This happened to me (to be fair, it was already happening to me to some extent before I met Mr. LaQuiere, because my dad was very anti-emotion…but it was reinforced and drilled home by the training I received from Mr. LaQuiere all through my formative years).  I learned that not only should I not ever express negative emotions like anger, or disappointment, or unhappiness, because they were sinful (unless it was, say, “righteous anger” – but somehow only our dads ever managed to feel this one, while disciplining us, go figure), but I learned how not to feel those negative emotions, disassociating myself from them for years.  This latter part wasn’t expressly taught to me, but being a smart kid, I figured it out on my own.  I taught myself to “think my way out of feeling”.  Any bad feeling I had, I thought through logically, analyzing it, until the feeling faded, and only the analysis remained.  I also discovered that if I held my breath, the overwhelming emotion would fade.  I trained myself to stay calm and not cry, or get angry this way.  I got so good at this that it became second-nature

Anytime something bad happened that would trigger a negative emotion, part of me would just “shut down” all by itself, and I felt…nothing.

Not happiness, not sadness, not anger…nothing at all.  It was like being in an alternate reality where no emotions existed.

I’ll touch more on this later, specifically on the journey God had to bring me through to learn to feel things again, but I’ll just say now that living emotion-free is not healthy for anyone, and especially for a child.  Emotions are sign-posts of what is going on beneath the surface.  Emotions tell us to look deeper and see what need is being missed.  Telling a child who you’ve just severely punished to smile…as tears stream down his face…does not teach him to have a joyful heart.

It teaches him to hide, even from himself, what he really feels, and who he really is.

If you don’t know what you really feel anymore, you lose your God-given signposts meant to alert you to danger.  Instead of a built-in-warning-system for unmet needs, or dangers to be avoided, you learn rigid control over your outward expressions, and you start to live on the surface only, without even realizing it.  But it makes it easier for parents to avoid difficult situations with their children…to avoid dealing with difficult emotions their children are experiencing…it makes parenting easy, because you only have to enforce a one-size-fits-all set of rules, not deal with the complexities of childhood and individual needs.  This is why I was told there was “nothing to be sad about” when I watched my brother being severely beaten, and told not to cry when Baby J was being suffocated in couch cushions.  I was taught to ignore my strong emotions that told me this was bad and wrong, and to put blind trust in my authorities instead, who told me it was right and good.  In retrospect, it’s little wonder I learned it was safer to divorce myself from emotions entirely.

I don’t smile as much today as I did back then, but when I do, at least it’s genuine!  And my children?  They cry, or feel grumpy, or are happy, without having their emotions prescribed for them and enforced through threats and punishment.

We’re working on learning parenting techniques together that affirm them for who they are, and address their needs, instead of placing their only value in being a “happy” advertisement for me or God.

I love when they smile!  But I will never tell them to.

Part Ten>

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc

The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part Eight


HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Exgoodgirl’s blog The Travels and Travails of an Ex-Good Girl. It was originally published on August 19, 2014 and has been slightly modified for HA.

<Part Seven

Trigger Warning: Depictions of physical abuse and gaslighting

Part 8: A Whip for the Horse, a Bridle for the Donkey, and a Rod for the Back of a Child!

From the beginning, my little brother B was a happy-go-lucky troublemaker, more interested in exploring and trying new things than in whatever rules he might be breaking!  Like most small boys, he was often getting into things he shouldn’t, being loud, engaging in rough boy-play, and sometimes careless with the truth.  Nothing too unusual for a small boy (or girl!).  These small misdemeanors brought scoldings from my parents, after which he’d continue on his happy-go-lucky little way.  He wasn’t a bad kid.  He was just a kid.

His personality did not sit well at all with Joe LaQuiere and his philosophy of parenting.  Everyone had the responsibility to be self-controlled and model godly behavior at all times, he said, and children were absolutely no exception.  The reason everyone around Mr. LaQuiere had bad results (bad children) while his were good was that he recognized that it was a misconception that children needed to act and be treated as children.  They should absolutely not be held to a lower standard than anyone else – that was insulting them and their Creator.

They were subject to the same expectations as adults.

And if they violated the rules, stern discipline was the key to correcting the problem.  “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”, said Mr. LaQuiere.  If you want to correct the wrong bent in a twig, you must exert as much force as necessary to force it to stay in a straight position and maintain that force until the new position becomes permanent.  Children are malleable.  If they are expected to act like adults, they will learn to act like adults.  They will rise to the level of expectation placed on them – and if they don’t, it is the responsibility of their parents to forcibly hold them to those expectations.

From the first, Joe LaQuiere zeroed in on my brother B as a “bad seed” in need of a strong hand of correction.  He didn’t like his attitude, his carelessness about rules, his little-boy jokes, or his tendency to be found in the middle of any mischief.  These were all characteristics of a fool, he said.  Mr. LaQuiere despised anyone who was a fool.

Because B was a fool, Joe decided he needed to make an example of him whenever possible, to teach him (and the rest of us watching) a lesson about how God feels about fools.  This started when B was five years old.

One of the character flaws Mr. LaQuiere hated most in B was a tendency to lie to avoid getting in trouble.  As B was always getting scolded for getting into mischief, he’d often lie about things to avoid being punished for his little crimes.  Mr. LaQuiere decided this was one thing he would not stand for, and he intended to stamp it out quickly and forcibly. He informed everyone in the group that my brother B was “a liar”, and nothing he said was to be trusted at any time.  Unless there was independent verification from someone else “trustworthy”, any statement B made was jumped on and accused of being a lie.  Mr. LaQuiere encouraged all the men in the group to join in on “helping” to correct B in this way.  One time, the husband of my mom’s best friend, Mr. W, decided he would give B an object lesson.  He pointed to a green ball on the grass and asked him, “What color is that ball?”  B said it was green.  Then this man turned to me, and asked me, “What color is that ball?  Tell me it’s yellow.”  I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to respect and obey all adults, so I squirmed a little, and said it was yellow.  He turned to B and said, “See?  You’re a liar.  I trust your sister because she tells the truth.  You…you’re a liar.  It doesn’t matter what you say: everything you say is a lie.”  That scene impressed itself deeply on my memory and my conscience.  It was just one of many conflicts that raged in my heart from then on.

I knew B hadn’t lied, but I was told that adults were infallible, not-to-be-questioned, and God’s direct representatives to us.  How does a child reconcile those two things?

Punishments (though they were never called that–Mr. LaQuiere made it clear that this was “discipline”, never punishment) were many and varied.  B was often made to stand in the middle of the floor for some misdemeanor or other, and stay there all day, missing meals, until Mr. LaQuiere said he could move.  He wouldn’t be allowed to work with the other boys and men (“that is reserved for boys with good character who we can trust”) and was made to help Mrs. LaQuiere with laundry and other “women chores” as a mark of shame.  He had all privileges revoked, even the privilege of speaking sometimes, or having anyone speak to him for days at a time.  He was “tomato-staked”, which meant he was to be within twelve inches of Mr. LaQuiere or my dad at all times, and not allowed to interact with anyone, because he “couldn’t be trusted” out of their sight.  But those were the mild punishments.

“The rod is for the back of a fool,” Mr. LaQuiere would say, and he didn’t mean it figuratively.  In the bottom drawer of a tall chiffonier in his living-room he kept The Paddle.  About 2 1/2 feet long, and 1/4 inch thick, the Paddle was made of wood and had finger-grips carved into it, to make spanking easier for Mr. LaQuiere.  It was an instrument of fear to all of us and used to “correct” children for anything from minor rule infractions to major “sins of rebellion”.  The offending child would be sent to fetch their own instrument of punishment and bring it back to Mr. LaQuiere.

In our own homes, our parents would inflict corporal punishment: in Mr. LaQuiere’s home, he always carried it out personally, no matter whose child it was.

B was sent to get the Paddle more than any other child in our group.

Being “paddled” involved telling the child to bend over and hold his ankles.  They were not to let go under any circumstances until Mr. LaQuiere finished the punishment and said they could move.  They were also only allowed to cry silently, or as silently as possible.  Wails or screams were punished with further beating.  Any infraction of the rules resulted in starting the punishment over again.  The minimum number of “paddles” was 5, but that was reserved for extremely minor infractions, or for very young children, maybe 3 – 5 years old.  For most of us, the average beginning number was 10, but this was quickly increased for any breaking of form while being paddled: if you let go of your ankles, Mr. LaQuiere started counting again from the beginning.  If you put your hands behind you and they got hit with the Paddle, Mr. LaQuiere started again from the beginning.  If you cried loudly, he started over.  If your crying sounded angry, he started over, and sometimes tacked on extra paddles for showing “rebellion”.  It was common for my brother B to be struck upwards of 20 times during one “paddling”.

Each “paddle” was accomplished by Mr. LaQuiere taking a full-bodied swing and hitting the exposed rear end of the child with the full force of an adult male (this was modified for the small children, but it still hurt good and proper, as it was intended to).

For the children that were considered “good”, like me, spankings were rarely experienced first-hand.  Instead, Mr. LaQuiere told my parents that I was a child “who learned best by watching”.  Meaning that I wasn’t actually committing offenses deserving of being spanked, but I was forced to watch all my siblings and friends get spanked, because that would teach me to be “afraid of sinning” and I would be even less likely to sin myself.  I was forced to watch a lot of these spanking as a young child.

What made it the most traumatic for me, even more than seeing my terrified brother or cousins being hurt, their wide eyes streaming tears as they fought to hold back the cries that would earn them further punishment, was the fact that Joe LaQuiere treated it like it was funny.

He would smile, laugh, and even joke with the other adults while he was carrying out these beatings.  This was to show that he wasn’t punishing “in anger”, but out of love and genuine care for us.

Once when I was 9 or 10, during a public “paddling” of my brother B, I ran into the dark front room and hid under the piano, my tears mixing with my panic.  I sat there in the dark, hugging my knees, until Mr. LaQuiere’s oldest daughter came and found me and coaxed me out, telling me “everything was fine”, and “there was nothing to be sad about”.  I dried my tears and went with her, but the fear remained.  Maybe these kinds of experiences – watching my siblings be hurt by other adults while my parents watched and joined in laughter – are why I can’t remember ever being afraid.

I live with fear every day of my life since then, and it took me well over a decade after we left to realize that it is really not normal for a child to live life in constant fear.

The thought of how I’d feel if my own children were forced to endure or watch the things I was made to, makes me want to vomit.

When my brother B was 10, he developed a nervous tic – an involuntary twitch in his eye. I’m personally surprised it didn’t start sooner. It started off happening every time an adult made eye contact with him but increased until it was nearly a constant thing.  It was nearly impossible for him to look anyone in the eye.  To correct this “misbehavior”, Mr. LaQuiere told my parents to put rubber bands on his wrist, and snap him every time he did it.  His wrists were red from then on; even so, it was a long time before he could learn to control the eye twitching.

“Paddlings” were not the only punishments my brother B endured.  As he got older, it seemed like any and every expression of anger, contempt, disgust and violence was fair game.  The most violent of the treatment took place during the times we were working construction with the rest of the families.  My memories of this time are somewhat hazy, maybe because my subconscious is protecting me, but I easily recall him being called “lazy” “foolish” “ignoble” “idiot” “knucklehead” “stupid”, and other names — not by other children, but by the adults.  In addition to the regular beatings he received in public, or behind closed doors in Mr. LaQuiere’s home office, he was often dragged places by his hair.  He was thrown against walls.  He was held up against the wall by his throat, high enough that his feet dangled off the ground.  These things were mostly done by Mr. LaQuiere and the other men in the group, but eventually they were also done by my father in the privacy of our own home, as he fought to control an increasingly-troubled B who was getting older and older, and still a “problem” to his authorities.

Other children were considered “hardened” and “problem children”, but none received as much time and attention at the hands of Joe LaQuiere as my brother.

B was targeted for verbal, emotional and physical abuse from the age of 5 until we left the group when he was 13 (though the pattern continued at home for many years after that).

Years later, my dad would express regret over this treatment of B, but his most recent comments on the situation to me were that “he doesn’t have much sympathy for B and J, because they weren’t ‘innocent’, and also, it’s hard to feel too bad for them when they’ve gone on to make bad life choices as young adults”.

I’d like to ask my dad why he considers my brothers “not innocent” for acting like children, but seems to carry no lasting guilt for himself for letting other full-grown men physically abuse his sons and joining in on it himself.

I’d like to ask him how he can see the devastation and depression in my brother B that followed and that has plagued him through his adult years, and not feel responsible.  How he can’t see the link between the abuse and the high level of control they grew up under and their tendency to make “bad choices” later on.

But I also feel guilt myself.  Guilt that I didn’t stand up for my brother.  That I didn’t tell somebody who could have stopped it, though we were strongly ingrained with fear of Child Protective Services, and heard horror stories of older children who “informed” on their parents, and had CPS come snatch all the children away.

So calling CPS would never have entered my mind as a possibility, even if I hadn’t been too afraid to take action.  Though my adult logic can admit that I couldn’t have done much, if anything, to stop the abuse, I still feel guilt and grief over what was done to my brothers, and my own inability to stop it.

Part Nine>

photo credit: Joel Dinda via photopin cc