The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Worldwide Church of God Recovery

From the Email List


I got the following off the Worldwide Church of Godrecovery mailing list. I contacted the author, and she gave me permission to forward it to you for posting on your site. I think it's very good, put it's out all very clearly. I've got another one from her, and I'll forward you her permission as well.

Keep up the good work!



From: Jan Groenveld: Warning! Some of you may find this hard to read. Get the tissues out first.

The Emotional Pain Of Leaving A Cult

The following is how former cult members and members of spiritually abusive systems described how they felt when they finally left their group. This may give you some insight into their pain and why there are no easy answers for them.

It Hurts

It Hurts to discover you were deceived that what you thought was the "one true religion," the "path to total freedom," or "truth" was in reality a cult.

It Hurts when you learn that people you trusted implicitly whom you were taught not to question were "pulling the wool over your eyes" albeit unwittingly.

It Hurts when you learn that those you were taught were your "enemies" were telling the truth after all but you had been told they were liars, deceivers, repressive, satanic etc and not to listen to them.

It Hurts when you know your faith in God hasn't changed only your trust in an organization yet you are accused of apostasy, being a trouble maker, a "Judas". It hurts even more when it is your family and friends making these accusations.

It Hurts to realize their love and acceptance was conditional on you remaining a member of good standing. This cuts so deeply you try and suppress it. All you want to do is forget but how can you forget your family and friends?

It Hurts to see the looks of hatred coming from the faces of those you love to hear the deafening silence when you try and talk to them. It cuts deeply when you try and give your child a hug and they stand like a statue, pretending you aren't there. It stabs like a knife when you know your spouse looks upon you as demonized and teaches your children to hate you.

It Hurts to know you must start all over again. You feel you have wasted so much time. You feel betrayed, disillusioned, suspicious of everyone including family, friends and other former members.

It Hurts when you find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed of what you were even about leaving them. You feel depressed, confused, lonely. You find it difficult to make decisions. You don't know what to do with yourself because you have so much time on your hands now yet you still feel guilty for spending time on recreation.

It Hurts when you feel as though you have lost touch with reality. You feel as though you are "floating" and wonder if you really are better off and long for the security you had in the organization and yet you know you cannot go back.

It Hurts when you feel you are all alone that no one seems to understand what you are feeling. It hurts when you realize your self confidence and self worth are almost non-existent.

It Hurts when you have to front up to friends and family to hear their "I told you so" whether that statement is verbal or not. It makes you feel even more stupid than you already do your confidence and self worth plummet even further.

It Hurts when you realize you gave up everything for the cult your education, career, finances, time and energy and now have to seek employment or restart your education. How do you explain all those missing years?

It Hurts because you know that even though you were deceived, you are responsible for being taken in. All that wasted time ... at least that is what it seems to you wasted time.


The Pain Of Grief

Leaving a cult is like experiencing the death of a close relative or a broken relationship. The feeling is often described as like having been betrayed by someone with whom you were in love. You feel you were simply used.

There is a grieving process to pass through. Whereas most people understand that a person must grieve after a death etc, they find it difficult to understand the same applies in this situation. There is no instant cure for the grief, confusion and pain. Like all grieving periods, time is the healer.

Some feel guilty, or wrong about this grief. They shouldn't It IS normal. It is NOT wrong to feel confused, uncertain, disillusioned, guilty, angry, untrusting these are all part of the process. In time the negative feelings will be replaced with clear thinking, joy, peace, and trust.

Yes It hurts but the hurts will heal with time, patience & understanding.

There is life after the cult.

Copyright 1985, 1995 Jan Groenveld

Cult Awareness & Information Centre, PO Box 2444, Mansfield, 4122, Australia


Here's the second message.


-----Original Message----From: Jan Groenveld

Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 10:37 PM


From: Jan Groenveld


Recovery means different things to different people.

Some ex-cult members simply want to "get on with life" while others have a real desire to understand, negate, and fully integrate their experience.

The rate and extent of recovery depends on several factors, such as:

* How emotionally developed and psychologically healthy the person was before being recruited

* How severe the dissociative state(s) was in the cult and/or to what extent the self was fractured (Vs attacked)

* Types of experienced within the cult, such as sexual, nutritional, physical, emotional, psychic, and ritual abuse

* Type and quality of exit, whether:

forced deprogramming intervention (injurious)

non-forced exit counseling intervention (healthy)

walkout (healthy)

kicked out (damaging)

* Help received after exiting, such as:

individual and group counseling

medical attention

housing and welfare services

legal services, particularly child custody

career and job placement services

* Support of other ex-cultists, especially those from the same group

* Support and acceptance by family and friends

* Time to heal and work through issues before taking on any major commitments, such as school and/or career

* Mental discipline to reclaim (or develop) the critical thinking process and to stick with reclaiming the process even when it gets difficult

* Courage to face the pain of loss and to stick with the process of grieving even when it gets painful


Everyone connected in any way to the ex-cult member can be helpful, and even the brief encounter at a party or on a bus ride can be supportive. Supporting is listening to and empathizing with the ex-cult member without judgement and without the offering of unsolicited opinions ("I never would have listened to them".) Simply being there is one of the best ways you can help.

Stages in Recovery

There are three main stages in the recovery process:

* Realization and Exit

* Comprehension and Emotions

* Reconstruction and Dreaming

Stage One

This first stage varies in length. The length is dependent on the method of exiting. This stage is marked by the time and experience that alerted the cultist to the danger of the group and resulted in the cultist exiting the group permanently.

The key to an effective exit is whatever helps to "jump start" the critical thinking process of the mind. This process has been on hold for much too long because the cult has told the followers that to question and doubt the group is to betray god (or whatever). The price for questioning and doubting, they are told, is eternal death. This is a very powerful fear to overcome.

Awareness of the insidious nature of the cult and the decision to leave comes slowly for some and quickly for others. For example, someone receiving exit-counseling becomes aware and leaves the cult very quickly as compared to someone who walks out after reflecting over several months or years on "devil inspired" doubts.

Even after leaving, some ex-cultists are not sure if they made the right decision and "float" between their old cult identity and their new freed identity or pre-cult self. The more information and support a cultist receives during this stage, the better equipped they are to handle the pain and loss of stage two.

Stage Two

The second phase is full of ups and downs, of feeling like you just returned from Mars, of exciting new freedoms and discoveries, and it is also full of rage and pain. It involves coming to terms with being raped, emotionally and spiritually. And for many, it involves coming to terms with being physically raped as well.

I don't know how to convey the extremes of pain possible in this phase. Perhaps, it is how you would feel standing by helplessly as some crazy person slowly murdered someone you loved. It seems so incredulousness to many that because they wanted to serve god and their country, wanted to help people, and wanted to make the world a better place for this extension of their selves they were cruelly used. This is a very difficult aspect of the experience to reconcile. "What ever did I do to be treated like this?" is a question that rings deep in the heart of any ex-cultist. The answer to this question resides in understanding how mind control techniques work.

It is no wonder, then, that the rage and anger the ex-cultist feels is often overwhelming and frightening. So much so, that many tend to repress or deny the full expression of their emotions. But, understanding and feeling ones' emotions in a non-destructive way, I believe, is critical to recovery.

This second phase can be extraordinary journey through pain and loss to learning and mastery. It varies in length and is dependent on how able the ex-cultist is to experience loss and how disciplined the ex-cultist is to study, think, and work toward a thorough understanding of the experience. A Big Job

One of the truly tough parts about working through the experience is the very fact that it's a very big job. The ex cultist must learn how to trust life again and learning to trust requires learning how to reality test. Because the cult phobias and teachings often touched on many aspects of life, such as family, government, education, religion, relationships, and economics, the ex-cultist often finds it necessary to examine and reality test most, if not all, of the teachings received in the cult for subtle, residual ideas that continue to manipulate the ex-cultist.

In addition, it is in this phase that the individual must learn how to trust themselves again and their ability to make decisions. Learning to trust after you have been used and hurt can be very scary, but trust in oneself and in others can be rebuilt with disciplined thinking and with courage. For those who come from dysfunctional backgrounds, recovering from the cult experience often means acknowledging and recovering from the effects of earlier dysfunctional relationships, such as:

* Abusive parents, relatives, siblings, spouse or abusing others

* Alcoholism, rape, incest, eating disorders, drug abuse

* Difficulties with intimacy, careers, law enforcement

Stage Three

To someone in the middle of the pain of stage two, the idea of having a dream again and building toward it is merely a sad, frustrating, and painful laugh. Having spent many years in stage two I understand that despondent feeling well. It is possible to rebuild your life. You will not be able to make up for all the years the cult has stolen from you, but you can make up for some of those lost years. I've worked very, very hard to recover from a severely dysfunctional family, a life of abuse emotional, physical and sexual, the death of a daughter, many years in a cult, time on drugs and alcohol to 'forget' and so on.

I'm here to share with you that if you are willing to stick with it, to work at it, to work through and let go of myths that look like truths both from the cult's teaching and from within society's teachings, and if you are willing to acquire new skills and improve others, you can and will be able to build a healthy and well-functioning life with a dream you can work toward.


From: "Marcy"


I read your article about leaving the "cult" and it really touched me. I too have left, after being raised in the "church" and spending 25 years there and am still going through what you described, although I am fortunate that my parents and sister, after a while, also left. I would really like to forward your essay to Ed , who runs the "Painful Truth" Website. Can I have your permission to forward this to Ed? I think a lot of people would benefit from it and I know that a lot of people read his site.


Go for it ..... I have no problems with this at all ....



Hi Marcy.

I'm just interested in your opinion. Since you differentiated, do you believe that Worldwide Church of God was a church (or "the church") and not a cult? I post below our own Jan's comments from the ex-cult website at which makes some very good points, along with comments of my own.



There has been much confusion about cults and how to 'pickem'. Some have difficulty identifying a cult because it is not so easy to identify one that is not even religious. For this reason, over the years, different definitions of what actually is a cult have developed to make it easier when you know little about their beliefs. The different definitions:


CULT From the Latin "cultis" which denotes all that is involved in worship, ritual, emotion, liturgy and attitude. This definition actually denotes what we call denominations and sects and would make all religious movements a cult.


CULT Any group which deviates from Biblical, orthodox, historical Christianity. e.i. They deny the Deity of Christ; His physical resurrection; His personal and physical return to earth and salvation by FAITH alone.

This definition only covers those groups which are cults within the Christian religion. It does not cover cults within other world religions such as Islam and Hinduism. Nor does it cover Psychological, Commercial or Educational cults which do not recognize the Bible as a source of reality.


CULT Any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person/persons at the top. The group will claim to be the only way to God; Nirvana; Paradise; Ultimate Reality; Full Potential, Way to Happiness etc, and will use thought reform or mind control techniques to gain control and keep their members. This definition covers cults within all major world religions, along with those cults which have no OBVIOUS religious base such as commercial, educational and psychological cults. Others may define these a little differently, but this is the simplest to work from.

Kimana: This is closest to the definition I prefer.


A group is called a cult because of their behaviour not their doctrines. Doctrine is an issue in the area of Apologetics and Heresy. Most religious cults do teach what the Christian church would declare to be heresy but some do not. Some cults teach the basics of the Christian faith but have behavioural patterns that are abusive, controlling and cultic. This occurs in both Non-Charismatic and Charismatic churches. These groups teach the central doctrines of the Christian faith and then add the extra authority of leadership or someone's particular writings. They centre around the interpretations of the leadership and submissive and unquestioning acceptance of these is essential to be a member of good standing. This acceptance includes what we consider non-essential doctrines i.e. not salvation issues (such as the Person and Work of Christ.) The key is that they will be using mind control or undue influence on their members. An excellent book on this subject is "Churches that Abuse" by Dr Ronald Enroth. Using these guidelines of definition, Bible-based, Psychological, Educational and Commercial aberrations can easily be identified. Kiman: now let's see if ole Worldwide Church of God fits anything on this checklist!!


(a) The group will have an ELITIST view of itself in relation to others, and a UNIQUE CAUSE. e.i. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT everyone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING GOD'S WILL everyone else is in apostasy.

Kimana: Check!

(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse God-given personal rights and freedoms.



1. Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive ministry, revelation or position of authority given by God.

Kimana: Check!

2. They believe they are the only true church and take a critical stance regarding the Christian church while at the same time praising and exalting their own group, leader/s and work.

Kimana: Check!

3. They use intimidation or psychological manipulation to keep members loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire calamity sent by God if they leave; certain death at Armageddon; being shunned by their family and friends etc. This is a vital part of the mind control process.

Kimana: Check, Check, and triple Check!!

4. Members will be expected to give substantial financial support to the group. This could be compulsory tithing (which is checked); signing over all their property on entering the group; coercive methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed; selling magazines, flowers or other goods for the group as part of their "ministry".

Kimana: Can we say triple tithe?

At the same time bible-based cults may ridicule churches that take up free-will offerings by passing collection plates and/or sell literature and tapes. They usually brag that they don't do this. This gives outsiders the intimation that they are not interested in money.

Kimana: Absolutely free literature!!

5. There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group's activities. They will have little or no time to think for themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is also a vital part of the mind control process.

Kimana: This one would vary from member to member, I would think.

6. There will be total control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control can be direct through communal living, or constant and repetitious teaching on "how to be a true Christian" or "being obedient to leadership". Members will look to their leaders for guidance in everything they do.

Kimana: Oh boy yes!

7. Bible-based cults may proclaim they have no clergy/laity distinction and no paid ministry class that they are all equal.

Kimana: Nope I don't think so on this one.

8. Any dissent or questioning of the group's teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.

Kimana: WOW is this one ever true!!

9. Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of "dobbing" on fellow members (including family) under the guise of looking out for their "spiritual welfare".

Kimana: Anyone care to comment on this one? I don't remember.

They may be required to deliberately lie (heavenly deception) or give up their lives by refusing some form of medical treatment.

Kimana: Yep!!

10. Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may be met with threats. Some may have taken oaths of loyalty that involve their lives or have signed a "covenant" and feel threatened by this.

Refugees of the group are usually faced with confrontations by other members with coercion to get them to return to the group.

Kimana: I'm not sure about this one either.



They adopt a "groupness" mentality. They are not permitted to think for themselves apart from the group and only accept what they are told.

Kimana: Remember those 3 piece suits and briefcases?


Relationships with friends, relatives, spouses, children, parents etc are broken or seriously hampered.

Kimana: Yep.


Pressure to give all you can to the group. In non-communal groups, members usually live at the lower socio-economic strata, not because of a lower income level, but because they are always giving money to the group for some reason.

Kimana: See 3rd tithe above.


Isolation from the community in general. Anyone and everything outside the group is seen as "of the devil" or "unenlightened" etc. Their enemies now include former friends; the Christian church; governments; education systems; the media the world in general. Those who are involved with these in any way see such involvement as a "means to an end".

Kimana: Yep.


The group controls and uses almost all the members time and energy in group activities. They are usually in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion.

Kimana: I don't think so.


They must unquestioning submit to the groups teachings and directions and their own free will is broken. Their "will" actually becomes the groups "will" without their realizing it. This is done either by coercive methods including low protein diets and lack of sleep, or over a period of time through intimidation. Both methods make heavy use of "guilt".

Kimana: I don't think so.



Relatives will say they no longer recognize the person. From a warm, loving personality will come heaped abuse, rejection and feelings of hate. The cult member sees himself as "righteous" in comparison and this comes across in their attitude toward all outsiders.


They cannot see themselves as individuals apart from the group. Some even change their name as a rejection of their former life.


Any time you say anything negative about the group, whether justified or no, it is regarded as "persecution". Any criticism of the individual is also seen as persecution only because they are the "true Christian" or "enlightened" one not because they, as an individual, have done the wrong thing. However, at the same time they will feel free to criticize whatever you believe, say and do because they are "the only ones who are right".


They lose their ability to socialize outside the group. This can go so far as to not being able to structure their time or make simple decisions for themselves when they leave. Their world-view alters and they perceive the world through their leaders eyes. They become very naive about life in general.

Kimana: This one happened to me, big time.


They are made to feel guilty of everything they did before entering the group and are to strive to be "good" and "worthy" for "eternal life". Misdemeanors are made into "mountains" so that members are in a constant state of guilt for infringing even the most minor rules. Guilt comes because they aren't doing enough; entertaining doubts or questions; even thinking rationally for oneself.

This guilt is piled upon pile with new rules constantly being laid down about what is sinful and what is not. Illness may be seen as lack of faith more guilt. Emotional illness may be seen as proof of sin in your life more guilt.


Not all these points will be found in every cult, but all cults will have some if not most of them, although these may vary to some degree.

Copyright 1985 Jan Groenveld

Freedom In Christ, PO Box 2444, Mansfield, 4122, Australia

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