Coat of Lies, Part 2
Lightening the Heav(ier) Coat of Lies:
Some comments on story telling and response-ability
I. Responding to the Urgency of Truth-Telling
The story that I wrote in May 1999 that I submitted to be posted here ("Heavy Coat of Lies") was written during a period of sharp and sudden clarity that blessed me when I stumbled across stories contained on this website, stories which provided me with a mirror whose reflection I could no longer ignore.
Yes, there are others who have stories. Yes, some of these stories sound much like mine. If someone else has risked finding out how they really feel inside about growing up under Armstrong, well, I guess I can too. And so we tell, and in the telling, we break the invisible hold that those stories might have held over us in their silence. In telling, we bring our stories out of the darkness of silence into the light where we can look at them and claim them as parts of ourselves . This is the healing art of story-telling, and as such, this website can work on us as a work of healing art.
I told the editor here that I would like to post a follow-up to that story; it has taken me well over a year to do so. I have been questioning what it means to talk back, and how to do that by using the anger as a tool, not as a weapon that only ends up hurting myself and others. I have been questioning the voice of authority I take in this text; authority that I am suspicious of, authority which I do not completely, as yet, trust to be mine. Coming from a place where authority was shoved down my throat and used against me, I hesitate to speak in a voice of authority myself. And so I invite you to read this text as a trip of a kind. If you are willing to come on this trip with me, then come. It is long, but perhaps in its length, you will find a little picnic spot of light. I promise to write this in the only way I know how; to write, with the faith that you will only put yourself on the line if I do. And so I will. I have included, at the end, a list of a few texts that have been guides for me throughout this whole process and that have informed this text, and also my young career as a writer and art activist. Comments are welcome. _____
Many of you who have contributed to this site or have been prompted by this site to release some of your own stories into the light in other places, are probably familiar with those feelings of simultaneous relief, risk, and fear that are triggered when we begin to put words to our truths that we have kept or have been encouraged to keep, hidden and silent.
Relief at finally saying what we have been wanting to say for years; risk at not knowing what will happen if we tell; and fear as we confront and challenge silence that has kept us bound to lies or half truths, fear that holds us in obedience to voices threatening us to remain silent, quiet, and obedient to those false truths.
I believe that these feelings of relief, risk and fear are normal reactions to years and years of being taught, encouraged, manipulated, and coerced into believing we did not have any truths of our own. How do you know what is true to you, if you've always been given Truth like a well-wrapped bright paper candy package that had little or nothing to do with you?
Some of those imposed truths were easier to unwrap and swallow than others, sure. It was easier to believe the Truth of non-encased-in-pantyhose church legs being ungodly, than it was to believe the Truth of people of colour being like oil to our white water. It was easier to believe the Truth of splashing into the Eternal Lake of Fire if you ate seafood, than it was to believe the Truth of the Tribulation; the inevitable, immanent destructive end to life as you knew it. But in the end, whatever the imposed Truth, the consequences were the same. I have come to understand that the most destructive aspect of a Worldwide Church of God childhood was not being barred from access to normal social activities, necessary health resources, friends, and make-up, nor even the pressure of taking daily silent inventory of the invisible yet ever-present Petra suitcase underneath the bed. The most destructive consequence of being a Church kid was that we were taught how to live by other's Truths and were discouraged, even punished, for doing what every kid has to do to develop into a healthy adult: developing our own sense of what is true for us, inside.
After so many years of being told what is True, it is obviously a scary thing to begin discovering our own personal truths. What do they look like? How do they sound? What is their smell? The longer we spent attempting to live by the Church's Truths, the more challenging discovering what our own truths may be. For those of you who went from one truth-imposition system (such as the Catholic church) to another (the Worldwide Church of God), to yet another (any of the splinter groups), this process may be doubly challenging.
We may be completely frightened by what we find.
Those truths may be as simple as actually discovering that we like shrimp, or don't like it for that matter. Or, as complicated as discovering the voice of truth within us that laughs, great big belly guffaws at the idea of the inevitable End Time, and actually believes in a future for ourselves and our children. For me, some of my truths were buried within the history of my folks, and telling the story that I posted here was a way of digging into the goopy, murky silence and pulling up what was, until then, treated as never-having-happened.
To re-member, to re-collect, to re-organize my daily reality by telling my truth-stories is refusing to be controlled by those stories that lie in the darkness. It is accepting to face the fact that I can no longer fool myself in thinking that as long as I can perch on the top of the iceberg, what's underneath doesn't concern me. Telling truth stories is refusing to obey the fatal assumption that if I never talk about It, then It's in the past and I can forget about It and therefore, I don't have to deal with the emotions that remembering It may bring.
We have a choice, and everyday we are faced with these choices. Do I face the sense of risk, fear, and relief in finding out what my truths are, with the faith that I am strong enough to digest whatever emotions those truths may release? Or am I so used to being handed Truth that I will take the safe path and choose to obey the fear that keep my own truths silent and locked up?
We have a choice. To simply survive, obeying fear, or to thrive, submitting to our own truths.
Once I begin to face this fear and I submit to my needs to know my truths, once I begin to tell my stories, I may find that there are inevitable forces that are working very hard to keep those stories locked up in that dark space of silence.
These silencing forces that would keep us forgetting ourselves in fear, can come from the inside, and from the outside.
Those voices that for years, have whispered within us to be silent, that our stories don't matter, that they are lies, that something bad may happen if we tell them, that we will hurt others if we tell them...those voices may prove more powerful, more convincing than the voice of our need to tell our stories. Those voices within can often be our worst enemy, keeping us believing that we are safer if we continue to refuse to own our own truths.
The silencing voices may also come from others. Specifically from those who feel threatened by our stories, by our truths, and whose self-defense against responsibility, accountability, transformation, and the discovery of their own truths, might take the shape of denial, anger, accusations, or threats, not necessarily in that order.
What you are defending, reveals what you fear.
Personal truths are scary things, especially if they are asking us to change.
And so I talk back. I gleefully and playfully as an adult, do the one thing, as a child, I was not allowed to do, the one thing, that in a situation of domestic violence, was not safe for me, nor for my family to do. I do it, because I can. I do it, because I would like to believe that in my backtalk, you, too, may decide to continue to talk back. I do it, because I am hoping that I can also describe the risks involved in back talk, how we can respect other's stories while at the same time respecting our own, and how we can prevent the understandable fear of our own truths from ruling the way we tell our stories or the way we use our voice of truth.
II. Back talk
"Heavy Coat of Lies" was, in a nutshell, about how, where, and perhaps why, a mother and her two children, my kid sister and I, were emotionally and spiritually blackmailed to remain in a domestic situation that was a direct threat to our physical and psychological well-being, by the orders of the Ministry of the Worldwide Church of God of a Vancouver Island congregation in the late 80`s.
I had nothing to hide. I was not, am not, and hopefully will never be, willing to water down the wine of my white trash queer activist voice to appear less offensive, more polite and respectfully obedient to those who might be offended by me, my language, or by the truths of the abusiveness and poverty of my childhood. I named names, those in Ministerial power who chose to make themselves responsible for making decisions that damaged our lives, those decisions that might even have cost my mother, myself and my kid sister our lives if my mother had chosen to respect and obey those decisions and stay in the Church. She chose obedience to her own truths, disobeyed the Ministry, and the only scars we have today, are the invisible, silent ones. Most of all that story was about power; who has it, who doesn't, who misuses it, and who covers up the misuse. It is my story, yes, but as I have found out, it is not a very unique story among ex-members of the Worldwide Church of God
You would think that hearing this story would trigger in anyone feelings of empathy, anger perhaps, or even hope, that there are women who exit abusive situations and thrive. Many of you had such responses, and I have been strengthened and encouraged by the overlapping of our stories. We cannot read stories like this and remain untouched, we cannot say this has nothing to do with me because chances are, all of us are in some way or another, survivors, or perpetrators of some kind of abuse of power. We all have power, each in our own way, and with the use of power, comes the capacity to misuse. We all have the choice to think of power as something that we hold over people, or as something that is passed between people. We all have the choice to think of power as something that gives us the ability to make decisions for other people, or as something that gives us the responsibility to enable people to make their own decisions. And so, we cannot say, "this has nothing to do with me".
Unless, of course, we are protecting something. Unless of course, we feel the need to protect ourselves against the truth story of another, and where that truth story may be asking us to change.
Those who have felt threatened by my story, high-ranking Ministers who had a part to play in making the last years of my adolescence a living hell, and others, have since used the oldest defense mechanisms in the book to extract themselves from any involvement in the part they played in that story of domestic abuse. And so I permit myself to outline those defense tactics for you. It is my hope that in doing so, I can shift the way that we have previously used the words accountability and responsibility on these pages. And hopefully, as a consequence, we may be able to understand how these defense tactics operate so as to use them as tools in our own lives.
There has been much said about the Minister's accountability; that they should be accountable and held responsible for the pile of doodoo droppings they slapped into our plates every week and made us slurp. The stories on this website, and my own stories since, have shown me that trying to wrestle accountability and responsibility out of the Ministry of the Worldwide Church of God is often like trying to bake a blueberry pie with the contents of your tool box. It's not gonna happen. You can spend the rest of your life angrily trying to pound those 2 inch nails into powder fine enough for pastry flour, but is that truly where we want to put our energies as ex-members? Is there not another way, besides frustration and anger, to respond to what we perceive as a lack of responsibility and accountability assumed by the Worldwide Church of God employees? Or, said in another way, to what, and to whom exactly am I responsible, able-to-respond? To what, and to whom am I accountable, able-to-account-for?
Suspend frustration and anger with me, for just a few pages as I go through these defense tactics and try and turn them into tools of our own healing.
III Defense Mechanisms: or, How to Protect Yourself Against Change
(1. Pass the buck, 2. Shut up you're hurting me, 3. You don't have the whole story, 4. Let me heal you.)
1. Pass the buck
Much has been said on this site about this particular defense tactic. Passing the buck plays on the assumption that the Passer is only responsible to the person above him. The Passer may deny any involvement in the trauma; denial which then transfers responsibility onto the higher-ranking Minister, denials which may take the form of such phrases as "I was just doing my job" (i.e., I was only acting on the authority of someone above me), or if the Passer is feeling backed into a corner, may, like the child caught with his hand in the cookie tin, also take the form of what may seem like ridiculous outright lies: "It wasn't me," (with crumbs on his face), "I had nothing to do with this".
Or, the Passer may, if for some reason he is unwilling to pass on the responsibility to some human higher authority, (who may be dead, who may be a friend, a colleague and the Passer may not want to spend the rest of his life making coffee in the office for that person!) bypass the whole hierarchy and slap the load right into the lap of god himself. (i.e. "such decisions were the practices of the Worldwide Church of God at that time and inspired from" (add appropriate Bible verse). Whoa! Who can argue with The Almighty?!
Yes, Ministers of the Worldwide Church of God have acted in ways in the past that have damaged countless people but while they are justifying those actions by quoting an authority other than themselves, lets assume, just for the hell of it, that they are still left with the following questions underneath their tongues:
Why did I not act on my own authority?
Why did I turn my back on human suffering?
Why did I make decisions that made that suffering, humiliation, beating, abuse, worse?
Why did I not act on my own sense of truth and therefore passed up the occasion to find out what I, me, not that higher-ranking Minister thought, but me, what I felt?
How I would have responded based on those feelings?
If I hold this particular defense tactic of the Ministers up to the mirror, what do I see?
Fear. I have come to understand that the Ministers involved in this trauma were not acting out of the conviction that my mother, my sis and I deserved the abuse. They were not, and are not intrinsically evil men. They were acting out of fear. This fear, is familiar to all of us.
Imagine standing in front of the mirror of yourself and asking yourself how you truly feel on the inside concerning a situation you might be in, or a nagging feeling you might have about a relationship, a job, or whatever. Imagine yourself doing this, or actually do it. Do you notice that there is a huge temptation to back away from that mirror, and say oh, this really is not that important. Or, oh, this really has nothing to do with me. Or worse yet, oh, I can't deal with what I see. How many times do we do this? Daily, perhaps? or perhaps our whole lives are based on turning away from how we really feel. We were not taught to trust those voices of truth, so it takes a bit of practice to even face the mirror, let alone look at it for any amount of time. But once you have stood in front of that mirror for long enough to identify that particular nagging feeling you may have about something, do you notice that you've crossed a boundary? You can no longer pretend that that pile of shit sitting in front of your door doesn't exist. You're going to have to actually do something about it. The very idea of acting on any truth we might have found, may really freak us out, especially if we have been trained to let others act in our stead. We may turn the mirror around and attempt to forget what we saw.
Another way of turning away from the mirrors of ourselves, is finding another face to focus on, other than the one in the mirror.
And there is where we can trip up. While I am busy accusing these Ministers for refusing to ask themselves those questions, I may be missing out on the opportunity to ask myself the very same questions. I may actually need the Ministers, as The Bad Guy, to focus my anger and frustration on so as to avoid looking at myself in the mirror of those very same questions and coming to face the realities and truths that mirror may show me. And I do not want to be afraid. My self-response-ability means being able to respond to myself at those times when I myself, try to slip through the fence of accountability. If my energy is still focused on trying to get him, the one I see as the Bad Guy, to see the light, then I am still allowing him to control me. I do not want this. And I do not want to be scared anymore, for someone who passes the buck is not only scared to look in the mirror and face what he sees, but is also scared to act upon what he might see. I don't want to pass the buck for my actions onto anybody.
I want to believe that although the impulse is always there to justify what I choose to do by trying to believe that I am acting out someone else's will, whether of a higher-ranking Minister, the white bearded gentleman in the sky, fate, destiny, my abuser, advertising, media, money, or etc. ad nauseum, rather than my own, I am always acting out of my own will. Always. We do what we decide to do, whether we are willing to admit that, and take the slack for it afterwards, or not. Whether we decide to face the mirror or not. It is our decision.
If you find yourself facing a Passing-the-buck response to your truth story, chances are that the Passer is not, at this time, willing to face the mirror by putting his old ideas of power, authority and control on the line.
It has been very tempting to me to want to hold some of these "I had nothing to do with this" lies, (lies later confirmed to be to be such by another involved and presently soul-seeking Minister) up to the face of the Passer and shake them like rattles till healing seeks in. I have been tempted to do this.
But I do not. Because, simply, it is not my responsibility to heal the Ministry of their power addictions, to enable them to look in the mirror of their own authorities to perceive their own truths, or to transform their ideas of control. It is not my job. I choose not to be able-to-respond to their own healing.
I hold this passing-the-buck defense tactic up to the mirror to remind myself of the options that I have: of seeing my life and my choices as controlled by someone above me, or seeing my life as a living water, its flow directed by my humble intentions and my faith in my truths, a river that are connected to millions of other humble intentions, just like mine.
2. Claim victim status: "Shut up, you are hurting me".
This defense tactic is a little slipperier than Passing the Buck, and can be very dangerous for those of us who have no desire at all to hurt anyone in our truth telling.
Since the posting of my story on this site, I have since been reprimanded for my direct speech which some have taken as symptomatic of my "anger", and my need to "blame" or "lash back" at those who have hurt me. I have been asked to "apologize" for the "pain" I have caused others, in this "lashing out". Most of you have experienced this turnaround if you have spoken out into your own truths.
I will be honest with you. I am a gutsy poet and activist and sometimes when I speak out against sexism, racism, and classism, I have heard worse accusations. I have studied the processes of trauma and healing and even participated in conferences on the stuff. And yet, when these reprimands were passed my way after the publication of that text I was shocked into silence for months. Everything I knew intellectually, disappeared in the fog of my fear. My activist work suffered, my writing suffered, and all throughout those periods of doubt, the same question persisted; how could it be possible that in my truth telling, someone else has felt hurt? How could anyone possibly take my story of domestic violence, as a personal attack?! This isn't supposed to happen. I knew this was going to happen, I should have just shut up.
Accusations such as these may just be enough for us to want to take our words back, apologize for our truths, sit back down quietly and promise to not move until the gun is fired. Let us be gentle with ourselves during these periods of doubt, but let us not be fooled.
My kid sister and I lived the last years of our childhood and my mother, many more years after, under the shadow of abuse where everyday was a fight for our self-worth, our right to speak and sometimes even our right to breath. The ministers that I "outed" in that story, are not the victims here. I did not victimize Patrickson, Stryker, or Rabey by outing their affluent lifestyles (luxury to my welfare-supported child's eye as anyone who has experienced welfare would understand). I did not victimize anyone by intentionally referring to the Minister's breach of a code of respect in the language of the black culture which livens and challenges my own white ass in the neighborhood where I live.
Some of those Ministers who encouraged that abuse to be maintained by refusing the truth of it, then protected the truth of the abuse from the community by "punishing" the victims, then sanctioned that abuse by refusing to hold the abuser accountable, are now crying tears because one of those women (myself) has actually had the courage to speak up about it. This is just another classic defense tactic. Claiming victim status can be an effective defense tactic to use, which is why so many of them use it. This is how it works:
Firstly, if these kind of "shut up you're hurting me" tears get under the skin of the story-teller, they can very easily deny the truth of the survivor's stories by making those stories out to be childish "lashing back" stories; ones told in order to hit back and hurt; thus making us, the story-tellers, out to be a horde of angry kids armed with psycho-patho sharp swords of unhealed wounds. If, years later, you find yourself telling your truth-stories, chances are the truth of these stories are gonna hurt. They're gonna hurt you, as you face the fear, risk and relief in the telling, and they're gonna hurt anyone else, especially those in positions of power (the Ministry) who are not willing to ask of himself those questions which would demand of them to transform their notions of power, authority, and self-and-other responsibility. When the power abuser claims victim status, you know that, again, at this time, he is not willing to make those moves towards transformation. And you know what? It's not my job to try and force him to do that.
Secondly, this defense tactic turns discussion away from the story-teller survivor's experience. And suddenly, instead of speaking of the pain of domestic violence, we are speaking of the pain of being accused of owning a Cadillac when in actuality it was an Oldsmobile; instead of speaking of the terror of living with violence we are speaking of the terror of having our ass described, in public, as being of a certain colour (white).
I don't know about you, but I would choose the terror of being accused of owning a Cadillac, over the terror of living with the uncertainly of whether or not today, I will continue to breathe, any day. A little perspective is in order here, please.
When I hold this defense mechanism up the mirror, what do I see?
And I do not want to live scared. I want to believe that when I feel hurt by someone else's truth-story (and I am not talking about evil gossip-story here), I know that I am being affected in some way, that that story has something to do with me, and I want to believe that I am strong enough to find out what that might be. In fact, in my "hurt", I am being invited to discover parts of myself that may be scary. I am being invited to discover my own truths. When the power abuser starts crying those "shut up you're hurting me" tears, you know that, once again, he may not be willing, at this time, to put his notions of power, authority, and control on the line, respond to that invitation towards his own truths, and is choosing the safe haven of being a "victim" to protect himself from those truths that will demand change. And I'll say it again, it is not my responsibility to heal that person or to bring them towards change.
3. "You don't have the whole story" (i.e.; you're not telling the Whole Truth)
You can recognize a story teller who has faced feelings of relief, risk and fear by the shivers that get sent down your spine; shivers that tell you; this person has the guts to face their worst fear; having their stories called lies. Betrayal. There are many such courageous stories on this site. I would like to think Heavy Coat is one of them. Following its publication, I was reprimanded to have exaggerated the abuse, fictionalized my trauma, and basically told that I did not have the Whole Truth, that the Ministry's files on the situation held the "real" truth which I had, in my sick need to lash back, ignored. Again, many of you who've shared your truth story have probably experienced this particular defense tactic.
For those of us who have faced those feelings of risk, relief and fear in speaking into spaces of silence and have had the courage to go through that long hard process of being able to own those truths and to face the emotions they may trigger; one of the worst things that can happen after this whole painful but valuable process is to have our truth-stories called lies, or anything less than the truth. Being called anything less than a truth-teller, or worse, being called a liar may be just enough for us to want to back down from the fear, risk, and relief of finding our own truths, and return to that familiar comfortable position of being handed the Truth from a higher authority, just like it was all those years. It is something we know so well as ex-members, and being creatures of comfort we might be tempted to do just that: give up owning our truths, and pass the responsibility of Truth onto someone who suggests they have better control over it than we do.
Again, let us be gentle with ourselves in our doubts of whether we are speaking the "truth" when we tell our stories, but let us not be fooled.
Whatever you remember of your trauma; whether that trauma be the state of hunger at being forced to wait for hours to eat at a Church potluck or the state of fear experienced in living with abuse, what you remember, is true. How you tell it, is how you need to tell it, at this particular time. In another year, you will tell it another way. Last year, you told it in another way. But you are not telling it that way, now, you're telling it this way, now, and that way is true, to you. Although I was frightened, confronting ten years of silence when I told my story, I know I told that story the only way a story can really be told: with the awareness that I was one of three women giving you one of three stories, all of them true.
The suggestion that the Church's files, would present a more truthful version of your story, of my story, than the truths of the women who were actually there in my case, in that house, fighting for our right to breathe, is a denigration of our truths, a denial of our pain, and is in itself, an act of silencing violence. "You do not have the whole truth" sets up a hierarchy of "Truth" where the stories of those in power are more truthful than the stories of those who were abused because of this power. Those files present the Minister's version. It is their story, not mine. It is their truth, not mine. And having been forced to live in abuse because their version was proclaimed as the "truth" (that the abuse wasn't happening, or if my step-father was a tad rough sometimes it was only because my mother did not understand Hebrews 11,) and our version proclaimed as untrue, I can only imagine what kinds of stories those files tell.
If I hold this defense mechanism up to the mirror I see
And I do not want to live scared. As I said, what you are protecting reveals what you fear, and I do not want to protect anything in fear, especially my own truths. I want my truths to be so transparent, to be so much a part of who I am that they don't need protection. I want to believe that I can find out what those truths are, that they will be so full of coursing blood and life that everything will question them, but nothing will destroy them.
You know that not all cats instinctively get puffy to make themselves appear larger when they feel threatened. The fur of larger felines remains sleek. They have nothing to fear.
If you find yourself in a position of being reprimanded for having ignored the Whole Truth in your urgency to "lash back", you know that the protector of those "Truths" is not, at this time, willing to let go of the control he needs to maintain over his own "history" of the trauma. If he is not able-to-respond to your questions, to your requests for information, to your attempts to paint a larger picture of your Worldwide Church of God past by releasing information still kept locked up in the Ministry files, then you know that he is not, at this time, ready to put his ideas of authority, power, control, on the line. And, it is, oh dear, here she goes again, yep, that's right. It is not my job to force him to transform his power addictions towards healing. It is not my responsibility. I choose to not be-able-to-respond to his need to change.
4. "I can help you to heal"
What? This doesn't sound like a defense tactic at first, I agree, for it is not like the overt shielding-from-truth mechanisms of the other three and yet it can be the trickiest of all of them. When Ministers who felt threatened, attacked and insulted by my story turned around and asked me what they could do to assist my healing, I was immediately put on my guard. And my response to this uninvited aid, is simple.
This emphasis on my healing on the part of the Minister, may just be exactly what will enable him to ignore his own healing, transformation and self-challenge. Emphasis on the illusion that he can heal me may be exactly that which helps him sidestep those questions he must ask of himself in order to transform his ideas of power, authority, and control. In a way, these Ministers who insist on thinking that they can heal survivors of this sect, need us, to relieve their guilt, and may use us and our confessions, to do so. Not all of them may have this motivation. The strength of their previous defenses will betray their offers to heal to be other than in your own interest. Either way, I dare to confirm that: the Ministry of the Worldwide Church of God are simply not qualified as active listening healers. Their track records and job as a Minister of the Worldwide Church of God do not qualify them as someone knowledgeable in the healing of the trauma of domestic abuse or any other kind of emotional and spiritual power abuse. It is that simple.
When, in the aftermath of your truth-telling, you find yourself confronted with a generous offer from a Minister for free healing sessions after he has used the above three defense mechanisms, you can only assume that again, at this time, he is still seeking ways to transform his notions of authority, power, and control, and thinks that he can relieve his guilt in the mirror of your tears of trauma. And again, here we go, you know exactly what I'm gonna say here, but I'm gonna say it till it sinks into both you and me; it is not my responsibility to facilitate the healing of the Ministry. It is not my job.
Instead of continuing to get pissed off that my tool box just will not give me a blueberry pie despite all my efforts, I have tried to write about these defense tactics in a way that shifts the attention away from the Worldwide Church of God and it's "leaders", back to each and every one of us. I have also tried to blur the hard-edged line between us as victims, and Them, as abusers. Sometimes, I commit the same abuses towards myself and others, as I try to transform my own ideas of authority and power as taught to me as something to use over others. Sometimes, a Minister such as Bill Rabey of Ottawa agrees to meet with me, and allows himself to be challenged and questioned without reverting to the fuzzy cat stance. Sometimes, despite myself, I revert to the fuzzy cat dance. I am still learning. We all are if we choose to.
I have also tried to write about defense tactics in a way that opens up doors for us, instead of closing them in angry dead end slams. We have much to learn from those defense tactics. Every one of those defense tactics can become mirrors for us, as we continue to transform a Worldwide Church of God way of life into a way of life that works for us, that is true for us. As we continue to refuse to live by other's truths by continuing to discover our own. As we learn how to voice our own truths without stepping on the mouths of others. As we continue to change the way we were taught to approach life (as if death was just around the corner) towards an approach of life that recognizes that we owe it to ourselves to not just survive, but to thrive. As we continue to get used to the idea that we have the authority and the power to make our own decisions, and the strength to recognize that this will of ours to create our own maps of reality comes with a huge responsibility towards ourselves, and to listening to our own voices of interior truth.
We will probably continue to be annoyed at the refusal of the Ministry to transform, change, and to recognize their accountability. But we could also thank them. While they may be refusing to own their own acts under their own authority, while they may be claiming the safe haven of victim status when their buttons are pushed, when they attempt to deny our truths by protecting their own wobbly ones, when they revert to the benevolent healer position, they are also providing us with mirrors of our own possible options of ways of responding. We have a choice. Will I defend my perception of life in which I am controlled by those persons or things which I see as above me because I am afraid? Will I refuse invitations towards transformation and change by reacting in self-defense when my buttons are pushed? Will I continue to think of power as something I can use over others? Will I continue to walk blindly, refusing to own my truths, refusing to look in the mirror out of fear of what I might see?
Will I continue to simply survive? Or will I begin to respect myself and my responsibility to myself to thrive?
We have a choice.
The bottom line: violence against women.
We live in a society called North America, where the most deadly disease that affects over one half of the population is not cancer related diseases , road accidents , even hereditary illnesses or drug or alcohol related health problems, but violence: violence specifically intended to silence women. If you are a woman, your chances of being accosted, raped, beaten, or killed by a man are greater than your chances of being maimed by cancer, addictions, or a road accident, combined. These are the hard, brutal, facts. If you don't believe me, go to any violence stat. site on the web and read carefully. Or don't. Listen to women. Any woman has enough stories that could affirm the fact that the threat of violence is a daily reality that takes on different forms according to the colour of our skins, our sexual orientations, our body types, our dis/abilities, our professions and confessions, our chosen dwelling places, our self-or-other imposed racial assimilations, and so on. Recent attempts to downplay the reality of the violence committed against women that is knitted into the fabric of our society, are just signs of the difficulties we have of accepting this reality. None of us wants to accept that we may, each in our own way, have something to do with this epidemic that threatens every single woman and girlchild.
This kind of violence is especially fertile in any situation where male power over female power is not only encouraged but moreover sanctified by a misinterpretation of the Word of God which posits woman under man and man under minister who is under one Head Minister who is above all and just underneath the nose of god himself. This interpretation of the Bible has been used as a very effective tool throughout centuries by the Catholic church, by the Ministers of the Worldwide Church of God, and by what I have been reading on this site and others, the present "splinter groups", to control women, to keep the power of women at bay by keeping power in the hands of the male ministers, at the expense of other men, and at the expense of, and sometimes for the lives of, women. This interpretation of the Bible allows them to justify the beating of, the abusing of, the misusing of, the manipulation of, and often the deaths of, women, and all under the stamp of approval of the men of the Double-Edged Sword.
I am still reading witnessing to domestic abuse on this site from women who are continually, amazingly, still, encouraged by the Ministry to "stand by your man" according to long time dead old white men's interpretation of the good ol' Book. I am begging you to draw the line. This is the one thing that I know to be Absolutely Positively True. Listen:
No one, especially not a male so-called "spiritual leader" of a "Church" that has proved itself to be consistently anything but spiritually healthy for its followers, has the right to tell a woman what is good for her. No one. No one has the right to make the decision whether she stays with him, or leaves him, except her. No one has the right to make the decision whether she will accept emotional abuse as being less threatening to her than physical abuse, except her. No one has the right to decide for her whether she feels betrayed when he insists on having his dinner a certain way every night, or whether she feels betrayed when that dinner is accompanied by a grilled backhand. No one has the right to draw the line for her, except her. Where she draws the line, is up to her and only her.
I did not post "The Heavy Coat of Lies" on this site only in my own urgency to speak out, to talk back or to put words to silences that have dwelt in my family for over ten years. I also told my story with the firm conviction that with each story told, we lessen the chance of having to tell any more stories of women abused, broken, bruised and beaten in situations of domestic violence and abuses of authority. Every time we tell these stories, we offer a mirror of resistance to others who might be able to, finally, see that they don't have to become another statistic. That they, too, can release themselves from those abuses, no matter what the cost might be. Because others have done so. And this is how they did it. And if they can do it, so can you. And this is the bottom line.
Survive? Thrive? It's up to you, and only you, and don't let anyone, anymore, not husband, friend, Minister, lover, boyfriend girlfriend mother father sister nor brother, convince you otherwise.
firstname.lastname@example.org Montreal, Canada.
(None of these are what might be considered "self-help" books. I prefer interesting, readable stories or idea explorations that help me accept to listen to my inner voices, over books telling me what kind of rules I need to follow in order to live happily ever after. Some of these are the if-I-was-stuck-on-a-desert-island novels and stories (I've starred those), and some are more academic (you can tell by the titles ). Any way, books are just words that empower us to weave our own word truth webs.
Dorothy Allison. Skin; Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature. New York
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. New York: Plume Books, 1996.*(this is a tiny autobiographical fiction illustrated with the author's family photographs if you only read one book on this list, read this one.)
Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Bantam, 1971.
Jean Shinoda Bolen. Ring of Power: The Abandoned Child, the Authoritarian Father, and the Disempowered Feminine. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992.
Julia Cameron. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1992.
Clarissa Pinkola Est,s. Women who Run with the Wolves; Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. New York: Ballentine, 1992.
Golden, Stephanie. Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Self Sacrifice. New York: Harmony Books, 1998.
bell hooks. Talking Back; thinking feminist, thinking black. Boston: South End Press, 1989.
Kappeler, Susan. The Will to Violence: The Politics of Personal Behavoir. New York: Teacher`s College Press, 1995.
Audre Lorde. Sister Outsider. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.
Alice Miller. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. Trans. Hildegard & Hunter Hannum. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1984.
Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Alan Watts. Live in the Moment. South Bend, IA: and books, 1987.
Virginia Woolf. A Room of One's Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929.
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