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Finding Healing from Disillusionment | Guest Post

by Elizabeth Wyse Cook
What do you do when someone you trust breaks that trust?  When you find out that they are a hypocrite?  When you finally realize that all the little things that didn’t quite make sense before, now make perfect sense, but in the opposite way you had hoped? 

I don’t know about you, but I felt lost.  Disoriented.  And hurt – deeply hurt. I totally believed the leader of the organization I was a part of.  Why wouldn’t I?  My parents believed a lot of what he said.  What he said sounded logical.  He seemed to have things all figured out.  He claimed to have answers that no one else did to very common problems that people face.  And his “answers” seemed to work.  If they didn’t, it must be my fault, not his.  I must not be doing it right.  I must not be committed enough.  I just need to keep trying, and then it will work.
Disillusioned Pictures, Images and Photos

I worshiped him, really.  Of course, I would have denied any such thing.  Everyone knows that you only worship God, not people, even really outstanding leaders.  But in reality, I worshiped him.  I believed every word.  I believed the stories he told of the wonderful things God was doing through him and the organization.  I wanted so much to be a part of those wonderful things!
Some things didn’t quite stack up, though.  Why did the board of directors change frequently?  Sometimes it was just one or two leaving and being replaced.  Other times it was almost everyone on the board.  Much later, I learned that the leader, according to the organization’s bylaws, can never be fired.  So, while he claims to be accountable to the board, he really is accountable to absolutely no one. If one of the men on the board disagrees with the leader too much, the leader has been known to be sure they leave the board at the end of their one year term.

 Unanswered Questions

Before I actually worked in the organization, I assumed that any problems I saw must be the fault of the underlings abusing their own power.  Surely, if the leader knew what was happening, he would put a stop to it!  I came to realize that these things were indeed coming from the top down.  The leader would not put a stop to it unless it looked bad to people he wanted to impress.  Reality was hidden, propaganda was disseminated, and the casualties were assumed to be the cause of the problem.

And I grew to wonder.

servant Pictures, Images and PhotosWhy was I never good enough to be invited to take part in some of the wonderful programs going on?  I would try harder to become more spiritual, hoping someday to be invited.  I eventually came to peace with it being “God’s will” that I serve Him in obscurity.  I later learned that only the pretty girls worked in the leader’s office.  Not only that, but he had strong opinions on their hair style and dress, definite preferences on hair color and height, and was totally intolerant of them being overweight.  Any girl who didn’t meet those expectations or take his suggestions on how to meet them would not be invited back.
Why did the leader defend sexual abusers and attempt to manipulate the people trying to hold the abusers responsible?  Did he really not understand what was going on?  I have yet to see him confront an abuser and defend a victim for any kind of abuse.  More often, I have seen the abuser protected and the victim either dismissed or made to feel that the abuse was their fault.  While the leader claimed to have answers for helping victims heal, it was really more like slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound.
When I eventually had a chance to work in the organization, more questions came.  Why was the leader unable to accept even a hint of correction on an idea?  Why did the leader refuse to allow any disagreement whatsoever?  Could I really trust the leader to be infallible?  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not a good idea to trust someone who appears to be perfect.
Why did the leader claim he wanted us to do a job a certain way, but then do things that would prevent us being able to fulfill that expectation?  Why did the leader seem more concerned with money issues than with meeting people’s needs?  Why did the leader make promises that he never fulfilled, in fact, had no power to fulfill?  I found myself having to protect the interests of those who were relying on my help, to the detriment of the leader’s pet projects.
Why did the leader surround himself with good looking young people rather than competent people?  Why did staff members suddenly disappear with no warning (having been sent home) and no explanation?  Why was the remaining staff always reminded not to “gossip” when this happened?  Why did a few people leave the leader’s office suicidal after talking with him?  Secrecy regarding the leader’s actions, but no secrecy allowed in the staff member’s lives – why?  I began to wonder what there was to hide.  There certainly were plenty of unanswered questions. 
Why were long standing rules suddenly changed for appearances’ sake?  Why was physical safety compromised in order for things to look good?  For that matter, why did everything seem to be done for show?  In spite of an emphasis on the heart and “root problems,” it seemed like all that mattered was how people perceived us.
Healing

So how is a person to deal with disillusionment? Honestly, I don’t have the answer to that.  All I know is that God is leading me through a process that is helping me. 

trust Pictures, Images and PhotosI realized that the person I trusted was not God.  I stopped worshipping the person.  I stopped believing the person, since he had proven he could not be trusted.  I began to believe the reality of what I was actually seeing and hearing, not the propaganda.  I began to take responsibility for my own decisions, rather than rely on the leader to make them for me.
I realized that God is not like the person I trusted.  This is huge.  God is not manipulative.  God is concerned with the heart, not outward appearance.  God loves me unconditionally, not based on my performance.  God is patient; He doesn’t demand that I obey immediately without thinking.  God welcomes questions.  God loves to hear me tell Him about my problems; He will listen even though He already knows the answer. 
I removed myself from the control of the no-longer-trustworthy person.  I removed myself from the spiritual, emotional, and physical control.  Thankfully, there was no financial control.  I refused to allow the leader to “live in my head” anymore.  In other words, I refused to keep thinking about what he would say/want/do.  Instead, I started figuring out who I was apart from him and what I wanted to do.  I started to figure out who I was in Christ, instead of who I was in the organization. 
I began learning who God really is.  God led me through the journey I described in my last post.  In fact, I am still on that journey.  I am learning to look at Scripture without the filter that the leader put on it for me.  I am seeking God – the true God, not a human god. 
I am healing.
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Eliza is a young woman who was burned by legalism, but then discovered that Jesus already kept the law for her.  Her desire is to get to know Him better.  You can contact her at elizabethwysecook(at)gmail(dot)com.  You may remember Eliza from this article by Sarah Posner.


9 comments:

  1. proud of you for posting this, Eliza! it's good to read another one of your posts. i relate to so much of what you said here! i was reading along, saying to myself, "yes. yes…yes!" haha. i am so glad that you are healing. i too am on a path of healing…a journey of learning who the one true God really is. it's so encouraging to know that God-With-Us will never leave us alone on that journey, and will faithfully continue to guide us and teach us…and lead us to a place of peace, healing, and rest. much love to you!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this, I really needed to read it. I have my own situation of disillusionment that has left me feeling void however at the same time I am realizing that who I am is not a bad person and not the person that others tried to make me be. That God is not a slave driver and neither does He demand us to "Snap out of it" nor does He condemn us when we don't match up to a so call idea. Instead any and everything He wants us to be in Him it is His strength, His will, and His doing in other words we are not left out in the dark marked as failures because we stumble and fall, because the Lord is the Author and Finisher of our faith meaning that He is the one who gives us faith and grows our faith.

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  3. Its funny but I could have written this article on a totally different subject– an abusive marriage.

    When I got to the section on healing, I literally had to do a double take. Went back to make sure you were talking about healing after involvement in an abusive religious organization. God took me through every single one of those steps also and I credit a loving heavenly Father with my deliverance– something this particular religious group would consider heresy, no matter how abusive the husband might become.

    Excellent article, thank you for writing this–

    Connie

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  4. ‎…realization, understanding, action, and new direction. I appreciate this article!

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  5. Rachel, thank you! Yes, I am SO happy that He never leaves us alone.

    Nikki, it took me so long to discover that He has already done everything for me. But now that I know, I can't imagine life any other way! I'm so glad you are finding that true, as well.

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  6. Connie, abuse is abuse. It may take different forms and each of us may need slightly different healing, but God is the same. 🙂 Thank you.

    Patricia, I like that summary. 🙂

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  7. Great summary of the problems you encountered and the questions you asked, as you wondered to yourself why things didn't seem right. I hope each person reading this will learn to ask those questions and not feel guilty for doing so, and hopefully then be able to get out of those situations of imprisonment, to be freed into joy in the Lord.

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  8. This 'leader' you write of reminds me soooo much of my stepfather. He ran our home pretty much like a cult leader, very religious and controlling, yet everything was done in a way that he could freely sexually abuse and brainwash us for his own purposes. Once I came to see what he was really like I was so hurt and disillusioned because I thought he truly loved me as his own daughter, but in reality he just wanted my body and my mind. It took me a long time to heal but claiming God as my father was what brought me freedom from my childhood.

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  9. Thanks Rebecca!

    Azure, I am so sorry! I am soooo glad that you found freedom.

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