I am pleased and excited today to welcome my friend Fi Macleod. Fi is a fellow blogger and an amazing survivor of horrific abuse. Fi has a passion for writing and the subject of spiritual abuse is close to her heart. Please help me welcome Fi and her debut post on Emerging from Broken! As always, please we invite you to post your comments and participate in the discussion. ~ Darlene Ouimet ~ founder of Emerging from Broken
SPIRITUAL ABUSE:- THE CONFUSION OF FALSE TEACHING By Fi MacLeod
There is no aspect of my life which has not been affected by religion, religious and spiritual abuse. I grew up in an abusive religious family full of unattainable expectations. I witnessed religion used to explain abuse of all kinds.
I went to a Catholic school from age 8-11 because my mother was a teacher there. During that time I was taught to be a good Catholic, say my prayers, kneel, genuflect, cross myself, do all the right things, say all the right things. I witnessed nuns slap, beat and mock kids in the name of religion. I was taught only Catholics were the true religion, the Catholic way was the only way. To me the Catholic church was cruel, controlling and about keeping people apart. I could not get my head round that. The abuse I witnessed taught me “no matter how religious you are, no matter how good you are, there will always be something which will mean you’ll never be good enough, there will always be something that will mitigate against your religious goodness“. It taught me God was a fierce old man with a big stick in his hand who looked for every opportunity to beat you. It told me “I was a big problem and I would always be a big problem because in God’s eyes I could never and would never, ever, be good enough“.
At home I was taught to be a good Anglican because my family were devoutly protestant. I was told not to believe anything the nuns at school told me. How confusing was that? I didn’t know what or who to believe. I was taught to recite the 10 commandments and know my bible inside out. I was taught“being a good Christian meant respecting your parents and saying nothing bad about them“. I was beaten and told I was beaten because that was how the bible says children are to be treated; “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” I was told “bearing suffering silently was the mark of a real Christian” and bad thoughts about it were “sinful in God’s eyes“. I was told my parents were always right because God had placed them in authority over me so I was wrong if I thought they were wrong. I had to learn portions of the bible then recite on demand with punishments for not being word perfect. Religion and the bible were about control and punishment. It taught me “no matter what I did I could never be good enough“. I was always guilty of something so grew up with a strong sense of guilt. Church was a charade of a happy smiley devout Christian family, once home my parents picked everything apart. I wondered what the point of going was if they despised it so much. I did not ‘get’ how they could act so charming and pious at church but as soon as we were in the car coming home they were making fun of everything. I was often selected to read from the bible in church because I was a very good reader. Each time there were violent repercussions at home because my parents always decided I said something wrong or read too fast. In church they were full of “how wonderful it was for our daughter to be picked to read the bible and what an excellent reader our daughter is“. After church it was very different. I could not be good enough. People at church knew I was being abused and did nothing.
I was the black sheep of the family and told I deserved everything that happened. Being good meant keeping quiet, saying nothing about what was happening, “never ever speak outside the family of what went on in the family“. To speak outside the family would be the greatest betrayal. But I was let down and betrayed by my family, the church and the system. Religion was manipulation, control and confusion.
There were people in the church who were kind and seemed to live what they believed. I did not understand why they did and my family didn’t. It was all confusing but made me think there was something in Christianity. I was sent to church youth groups and was taught the bible very differently. I was taught about a loving God not a punishing one. which was confusing but there was something about it that made me keep listening. Until then church and religion had been about cruelty and double standards suddenly I was experiencing something very different. It didn’t tie with what happened at home but resonated deep inside me. I wanted to get confirmed aged 15 but I was told no way. I could not understand why when they were so religious I thought they’d want me to go through that religious rite. I waited till I was 18 and legally an adult and got confirmed then, my parents couldn’t stop me. They showed up for my confirmation full of “how wonderful it was for their daughter to get confirmed“. I was mocked and beaten when we got home and thrown out of the house overnight for daring to defy them and get confirmed. Aged 19 I was beaten up and left for dead by my parents. My childhood showed huge differences between religion and real Christianity. It is religion (man’s teaching) that says you need to go to church and confession. I needed to find out what God had to say to me about it. Who is the church anyway? The real church is not man’s institution, it is men and women who have a living relationship with God that sets them free from the false stuff of man. Only in my 30’s did I realise my beliefs were not my own and I was going to have to drop everything I’d ever believed and start over. I realised my family used the church and religion as cover. They used the church and religion just as they used me.
One thing which has always been important to me as an adult is personal integrity, honesty and transparency, probably because of the hypocrisy, lies and double standards I witnessed as a child. I don’t take anything at face value, I always look deeper to find the truth. A lot of people don’t like that. Many ‘church’ people judged me because of that and my lifelong struggles with depression and non-existent self esteem. I experienced much abuse in many churches from many Christians. I left the established church with its rituals many years ago because of the ritual abuse I survived and how it affects me. I’ve been to all sorts of churches (Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, charismatic) but have always been left cold by the judging, hypocrisy and lack of compassion. When asked personal questions about myself if I found the courage to mention I was abused in childhood and estranged from my family I was told without fail “it’s bad and sinful to talk about such things and it’s in the past, forget it, forgive it, get over it, seek reconciliation with your family, no matter what they did, they’re your family“. That happened many times and caused immense guilt. Just as when I was a child I began to think “maybe I got all this wrong and should just do as they say“. But also as when I was a child I knew they were wrong and I was getting it right. Just like when I was a child, I had to navigate that confusion. It placed huge expectation on me that I could not live up to just like the expectation false abusive religion had placed on me as a child. I was told by many Christians I wasn’t good enough and defective because I could not conform to how they perceived “real Christians” to be.
Too many people judge and point the finger when we aren’t doing life the way they think we should. I had to walk away from ‘church’ and man’s rules to find out for myself what God had to say. I was flabbergasted to realise how much God had been misrepresented to me by the church, my family and all the people who chose to judge me and call me a sinner for not conforming to their sick systems and their sick way of seeing things. I had to step away from all of that. It was the best thing I ever did to see through religious claptrap. It took separating myself from all who tried to make me feel bad. It took stopping doing the right thing for the sake of being seen doing the right thing. It took time to get through the lies, misrepresentation and false teachings of man but there is a way through. I’ve not discarded the Christian beliefs of my childhood but have discovered a very different God to that which was so misrepresented to me. I have discovered a God of immense love and compassion.
Fi’s blog ~ You can fly with Broken Wings
BIO:- Fi Macleod is 45. She lives alone in a seaside town in Devon, in the South West of England. Fi is a survivor of severe ritual abuse and incest by all family members during the first 20 years of her life. She was also abused as part of a paedophile ring run in her grandparents’ house from birth to age 8. It took 25 years for Fi to break silence and report her abusers. There was a police investigation in 2010 which ended with all charges being dropped against her abusers. Fi blogs about aspects of the abuse she endured and her healing journey. Fi has been building trust with a support worker in her local Community Mental Health Team since October 2010 and is just beginning to talk about the sexual abuse within that therapeutic relationship. She is also being supported by a mental health recovery worker and a counsellor. Fi is on a waiting list for specialist group therapy .
Related Posts ~ Profile of a Spiritual Abuser by Pam Witzemann
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