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Getting Out : Inside Out

Bitterness -- the four letter word

from Lauren - Saturday, December 20, 2003
accessed 1844 times

There are few trigger words quite so vile to me as an ex-Family member as the word, “bitterness”.

I am no stranger to bitterness. When my sister was 17-years-old she suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that nearly killed her. It “blew up” a quarter of her brain leaving her a complete vegetable. Over the ensuing weeks, against all odds, she gradually regained her motor skills and re-learned how to sit, walk, read and write. The skill to return most slowly was her ability to speak. Today her neurologists have no idea what part of her brain is allowing her to speak because the part of her brain that would normally control speech is simply not there.

From the hospital she retuned to the Monterrey school in Mexico where we were living at the time. As a punishment for nearly dying, she was secluded from the camp. She was put on work detail cleaning toilets, she had “lessons” extracted from her on a regular basis (since she couldn’t talk, her caretakers put the words into her mouth for her and she learned quickly that the easiest way to stop the insanity was to nod yes and get it over with). She was told that God was so upset with her for her sins that He had nearly killed her and she was beaten down as her “sins” were shoved in her face on a regular basis. I watched my sister turn into a shell of the spunky personality she had once been. I was punished for trying to speak up for her and protect her. We were separated and not allowed any form of contact.

That said, I know what bitterness is. I know what hatred is. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. And coming from that position, I believe I’m fully qualified to say that in my own life, I also know what bitterness isn’t and I know what hatred isn’t. I believe that I’m not alone in this.

Why do I find the word, “bitterness” to be such a vile trigger word? Because by using the “b” word, Family leadership dismisses the accusations of those who have suffered abuse under their auspices as non-relevant. It’s as if, by the very fact that we are displeased with what happened to us as children, our testimony of the events is tainted. Who complains about the stuff they’re happy about?

Not only does Family leadership attempt to exculpate themselves, by throwing around the “b” word, the dirtiness of the event is placed at the feet of the victim instead of at their own by forcing the victim to have to defend the motives for coming forward. By using the “b” word, rationality is thrown to the wind. By using the “b” word, logic is tossed out the window.

Family leadership has chosen to label their disenchanted second-generation members as “apostates”. [See “Freedom for All” under “Getting Out > Inside Out on the site for a very well argued statement on why we, as second generation ex-members are not and never have been apostates]. Even still, the label “apostate” has little weight on its own without its regular printed companion, “bitter”. The term “bitter apostate” coming from their publications automatically translates into “liar”, “exaggerator”, “not to be trusted”, “distorted facts”, “clouded judgment”, “vendetta” and so forth.

I know for certain that the stories I have to tell about growing up in The Family are not exaggerated. If anything the stories from my childhood are understated. I have no need to exaggerate – truth is so much stranger than fiction. Like most people I know, I do not take kindly to someone calling me a liar, or saying that my testimony of events is no longer credible now that I’m no longer a member of the group.

This mindset is perfectly summed up by a conversation I had with a relative earlier this year. Our views regarding The Family are diametrical. For the sake of family ties, we have to steer clear of the issues involved but inevitably they do come up. In the conversation I am about to quote, the topic was education in the Family.

My official education stopped when I was 12-years-old. I had sporadic classes here or there after that – a couple when I was twelve – that’s when I learned that “a lot” was two words and “really” has two “l”s. When I was 16 I learned how to properly spell “friend” because I had spelled it wrong on a visa application and the adult with me kindly pointed out that “friend” ended with “end”. These events are so clear in my head because that was the extent of my education. To this day I severely struggle with even basic math problems--trust me, for someone as passionately interested in real estate investment as I am, this is no small handicap. I know that I am not stupid (although, yes, I tend to wonder about that sometimes) but my struggle in mathematics and trying to educate myself in what I should have learned 17 years ago has brought me to frustrated tears on more than one occasion. Education is not an off-handed subject to me -- the lack of it has very real repercussions in my every day life.

In the conversation I had with this person, I tried to point out the reasons Family education was not sufficient; I tried to explain in a calm way that not having an education beyond 12-years-old continues to hamper me in every day life and the same lack of education is one of the primary factors contributing to the struggle many ex-family youth face as they enter the real world. The reply? “Oh, Lauren, you’re just bitter”. The conversation continued on something like this,

“No, I’m not bitter, I know what bitterness is and what I feel is not bitterness. When I tell you these things it’s because it’s the truth, it’s not because I’m bitter”.

“Lauren, you’re very good with words and you can say whatever you want, but I know what I know, and I know that you’re bitter.”

Is there any other way to say, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts”?

What do you say to someone who in one sentence has the audacity to proclaim that they understand your motives, your thoughts, your experiences and everything about your life better than you do? Take that experience and extrapolate it by the thousands and we get a scenario somewhat similar to what Family leadership has done in labeling anyone with the nerve to state that their childhood was less than exemplar as a “bitter apostate”.

Am I bitter about being deprived of an education as a child or any of the other life altering events of my misguided upbringing? Actually, no. I have every right to be, but I’m not.

Just because they claim I am a bitter apostate does not make it so. As a very good friend of mine pointed out recently, they can claim we’re mutants or space aliens for all we care – that doesn’t make it true. They do not define who I am; I do.

If they want to believe that any one of us is a bitter apostate, that’s their problem. If it eases their consciences and grants them a false sense of righteousness, if it opiates what is left of their moral reasoning and justifies their turpitude, it’s their funeral, not mine. I refuse to allow their name-calling and labeling to affect who I am as a person or to influence my actions. They do not set the tone. They do not say who I am. They do not say what I am feeling. They did that to me for too many precious years. My mind and emotions are no longer their playground.

Quite frankly, I am sick and tired of having to defend my actions and my motives to the very people who should be apologizing and asking forgiveness for the events in question. I am tired of the truth I have to tell being waylaid by the accusation of “bitterness”. Every time I have had to clarify, “I am not bitter” I have taken a defensive position. Why should I have to defend myself over something that was done TO ME?

I refuse to do it one more time. I don’t care how many times it gets thrown in my face that I am “bitter”, or worse, a “bitter apostate”. Even if I was bitter, does that change what happened? Does it suddenly make it all OK? I will not back down. I will not allow them to define me or who I am, nor will I be forced to defend myself. I am going to claim ownership of that word “bitterness”. I am going to re-define it.

To Family leadership and any other cult-leader that has chosen to hide behind slinging around the “bitter apostate” label I say this: Truth can be a bitter pill to swallow. If you can’t stomach the truth because it’s too bitter for you, then so be it, I am bitter.

My definition of “bitter apostate”: A former group member that has pissed off group leadership by daring to tell the bitter truth. If that makes me a bitter apostate, then so be it.

I am a bitter apostate and I’m proud of it.

Reader's comments on this article

Add a new comment on this article

from catuireal
Friday, February 22, 2008 - 18:48

Nice deconstruction of the "b" word. The way you use your personnal account to clarify how the words' use may affect reasoning is good too. Makes the point very clear. But I wonder why you let in so much emotion at the end of the article. It adds nothing to point you were trying to make. Actually takes away. With the first part of the article you can easily persuade anyone to agree with you. With the second, because you come through as a victim, you let only "bitter apostates" to carry on with your reasoning. You redefine the "b" word according to your own personnal viewpoint - just like Family leadership. And of course it doesn´t add anything to the discussion - much less comes closer to proving them wrong. And the last sentence - the worst - makes the family member you had the conversation with right in what he thought about you. If you consider yourself a "bitter apostate", even if redefined, and are proud of it (should´ve explaind why), bitterness MUST have had anything to do with the motivations (consiously or unconsciously) of your "speaking the truth" or for writing the article. It takes its logic consistency close to zero.
(reply to this comment)
from ChrisG
Thursday, December 25, 2003 - 00:03

Oops, I pressed the wrong key. Even though I haven't heard the "b" word in a while, it did a lot to hamper my creative thinking and self-awareness when I was still in the group. For years before I left I was trying to make sense of my childhood and put all the pieces together regarding all I had been through. For me this was very important, because I felt my childhood abuse, as well as all that had been said in the purged lit, was what really discriminated David Berg and TF, because it all proved that there was an evil skeleton beneath the self-sacrificial, loving façade of family leadership, both past and present. However, every time I tried to bring up a story of abuse from my past, or a sentence that I remembered from some purged letter, however understated it was, I still got the same sentence flung at me: “you’re just bitter”. This very simple, mechanical sentence discredited everything I had been through and shrunk all my experiences down to a small mass of unimportant matter that should be thrown out of my brain and forgotten about. Worse yet, after hearing the bitterness word many a time, I began to doubt my own memories, and thought that they were deceiving me. Along with the bitterness sentence came a chiding that people do not usually remember childhood experiences clearly, and they are largely fabricated. This well-thought up combination did work for awhile, because automatically I started storing my past into compartments of my brain that I didn’t refer to often; I rolled it into little “bundles of faith that I put on the shelf”, which caused me to stay in the family for much longer than I would have if I would have looked my past square in the face a long time ago.
(reply to this comment)
from ChrisG
Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 23:45

Even though I
(reply to this comment)
from Hanna_Black
Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 08:40

Great article--enjoyed reading it tremendously! Especially how a "bitter" person will end up having to defend or justify his feelings to the one who harmed him. I also noticed that when Family members say "oh, so-and-so is just bitter!" they never say why! It isn't like, "she became bitter cuz of this and that!" It's as though to them, there could not be a reason to be bitter since "all things work together for good" or some similar crap. Anyhow, I really liked your article, Lauren and it got me thinking. ;-) Take care, and happy holidays!
(reply to this comment)
from frmrjoyish
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 21:09

Don't give up on the math, Lauren! I know you can do it. I'm, naturally inept at math and my upbringing didn't help either. I had to take four semesters of math classes just to reach the levels of calculus that would be accepted for credit in my major. It was hard as hell but I did it. I regularly use statistical calculus applications now as part of my research. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it! I know that math is one of things a lot (yes, two words:)) of us struggle with, but if we tough it out we can do it. Good luck!!
(reply to this comment)
from Joe H
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 15:52

Damn straight! What's wrong with bitterness? I say hang on to it, it'll make you sharp, and insure that the same shit never happens again.
(reply to this comment)

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