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 Movingon.org 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.