Abuse or Mis-Use?

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mom3
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Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by mom3 » 18 Jun 2017, 17:08

Moderator Note - This response is a branch off this thread viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8255. It is also not meant to be the be all end all on any abuse - mis-use discussion. These are my thoughts and my experiences only.

In 6th grade I was abused.

Not physically or sexually. Only emotionally. So intense and subtle was the experience that I stuffed it away every day as I walked home. I hid it so well that it didn't surface directly until I was 27 years old. Married. Undergrad work completed. Employed by a Fortune 500 company. And totally unexpected.

I was sitting in RS one Sunday listening to the teacher wax on about how gaining a testimony of Joseph Smith had changed her life for the good forever. She wasn't a convert. But she had had a late in life, deep epiphany conversion to Joseph Smith. While all the class wept for joy with her, I sat shaking my fist at God, in silence. Mid internal rage, the locked part of my heart that held the horrid memories sprang open and like the proverbial dam I was flooded with visual, visceral recollections of the class, the teacher, the events.

That evening I called my mom hoping I had spoken with her about things then. I hadn't. But she recalled having a nervous feeling when she saw my name on this particular teachers class roll. She went so far, without my knowledge, to express her concern to the principal. We loved the school and had been devoted to it and to the principal. She trusted him. He reassured her that I was going to the most beloved teacher in the school. But promised if I had a an issue he would fix it right away. Well I didn't.

I didn't for 2 reasons. 1- I'd never had a problem in school so as an 11 year old kid I figured my problem with the teacher was my problem. Well no self-respecting pre-teen is going to out themselves on anything. 2- One girl in class tried it early on, and it backfired big time. It was among my memories that day. I believe it was watching her attempt backfire, that I chose to duck and cover instead of speak up.

For years after my "revelation" I couldn't stop sharing my trauma with anyone. If you barely knew me. You heard the story. I wanted justice. Validation. Something. I even ruined a corporate dinner over it. Somewhere along the way, I got tired of the story. I also realized how many times my grousing about it had probably alienated relationships, not helped them.

As the rage settled, a strange thing happened. A single good memory popped up. It was a biggie. But it was connected to the good this teacher did in the school and community. I struggled to accept the good memory. But I also couldn't deny it or the good impact it had on so many people.

Overtime Facebook came along and I realized that the "Big Event" that this teacher had hosted was 50 years old. That all those years a big piece of happiness happened for hundreds of people. Alumni from my era and others would chime in about all the other great things he did. How he and the other 6 grade teachers chose not to hang out in the teachers lounge at lunch but on the playing field and play ground helping us organize intermural sports. The Friday Dances for 6th graders so we would know how to behave at Jr. High Dances. Chinese New Years Celebration so we could be cultural and so much more. Most of all - how many students revered, loved, and still love him. He is dead now and hundreds went to his funeral.

I don't doubt my memory. I was once told he suffered from alcoholism, it may have influenced both of us. Kids are smart and he and I may have known something we couldn't express. I also now (these many years later) no longer feel like the victim. He mis-used me and others. I know that. He also lifted, healed and inspired more.

The church is just that - a church. An institution. It is what we make of it. I believe abuse in the church does happen. And this post is way too long to discuss those details. I also believe that we have gotten out of hand in our use of word definitions on both sides. We need to tread carefully when we throw strong verbiage around. Just look what's happened to modesty.

If you have been abused I am sorry. You can tell me your story for as long as you need. I owe it to the universe for all the hours I aired my pain. If you feel mis-used (and yes it hurts) leave a small spot for forgiveness down the road. Everyone of us is going to need it.

If you have read this far. Gold Stars for you. Thanks for listening.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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DarkJedi
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by DarkJedi » 19 Jun 2017, 04:46

I guess I get gold stars. Thanks for sharing. You have given me much to ponder, particularly about forgiveness.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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SilentDawning
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by SilentDawning » 19 Jun 2017, 04:52

Here is where we can draw lines between forgiveness and trust. The age-old principle that you can forgive, without fully embracing an entity or person again on a trusting basis is legendary. It's also necessary for self-protection sometimes. In my case, the misuse has been repeated, intense, and broadly based across multiple leaders. In one situation, it severely affected my mental and physical health. Some of the misuse is, or has been embedded in our culture, policies, doctrine and handbooks. So, on those issues, I think forgiveness is critical for our inner peace. But distance or lack of trust is also appropriate for sheer self-protection. That is true in my case.

Our stake president stood up the other day and told everyone they aren't volunteers -- we are a church of assignments. That to me, is the tip of the iceberg of misuse when it comes to respect for members' time, and deference to them when callings become burdensome. Therefore, he is one person I will not be able to trust with my true feelings about church service, the conscription model, etcetera, And I don't think I could ever accept a calling that is extended from his office. I am pretty sure he'll be discompassionate like other leaders if I ever need a release before he's ready to give it.

Therefore, boundaries and lack of trust seem to be in order, while providing forgiveness for past acts. This promotes peace about the past and peace for the future.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

Ray DeGraw
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by Ray DeGraw » 19 Jun 2017, 09:03

That was beautiful, thoughtful, and important, mom3.

Thank you so much for writing it. I probably will use parts of it in the future.

Would you mind if I post it on my personal blog, as something a friend shared with me?
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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mom3
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by mom3 » 19 Jun 2017, 12:03

DJ - :clap: :clap: - I couldn't find any Gold Stars - I hope applause will suffice.

S.D. - It is a fine line. I could have written pages full of comparison contrast, but it was already a mega ton read. Please keep the conversation going. That's what my hope is.

Ray - Holy Cow!! Yes. Please use it or parts as you need. I am honored that you found it that worthy. Thank you. I take that as high compliment.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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SilentDawning
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by SilentDawning » 20 Jun 2017, 07:06

mom3 wrote:
19 Jun 2017, 12:03
S.D. - It is a fine line. I could have written pages full of comparison contrast, but it was already a mega ton read. Please keep the conversation going. That's what my hope is.
OK...as a chronic poster here, I can't resist.

One takeaway from my years of Mormonizing is there are a few principles that are meant to be summative -- they "swallow up" all the other principles. In other words, there are a few key principles that represent the broad goal, and other principles are in service of those larger principles.

One is the oft-quoted "love God with your heart mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. On this hangs all the law and the prophets". The other is that happiness is the object and design or our existence. I think you could append "on this hangs all the law and the prophets" to this happiness quote if you wanted. Taken together they are powerful in directing us to be loving toward God and others, while being happy at the same time.

Although many go from the cradle to the grave with dominantly positive experiences in the church overall, there are some of us who feel abused by it. If you build up a history of extreme situations, no amount of denial will make you happy. It makes it hard to love your fellow man or woman, particularly if those people are leaders. It can affect your mental and physical health if the abuse is extreme and repeated. And some people can even become anti-Mormon as a result.

Distancing yourself from those people, so they can't hurt you anymore, is a very healthy reaction. You be kind to them, support them on initiatives for which you have commitment and strength, but you can also set clear boundaries about what they can extract from you, or how close they can get to you. Particularly if such extraction is going to make you miserable or has the potential to hurt you again.

So, I feel much happier in my relationship with the church now than I ever have in the last 8-10 years now. Involved, contributing, being kind to others, but not at all inflicted upon like I used to be. I am also free of the church's positive and negative opinions of me. I don't care as much anymore about their approval, and whether I frustrate them or not when I say "no" to a calling or just don't bother doing home teaching etcetera. And I am quite happy to enforce boundaries that keep the church from bestowing its conditional love upon me, or putting me in a position where they can hurt me again.

I want to be happy, and happy means insulating myself against church excesses/abuses, while doing my best to show love within the boundaries I feel are appropriate given my history in the church. And its potential to hurt me again. The culture still sits there, ready to bite in some respects. And there are leaders in my stake and in general conference that broadcast that potential to hurt in the tone of their talks, and sometimes, even in the policies we find in the handbook.

Forgiveness is also important, because it contributes to happiness and allows you to serve others again. It's very hard to serve someone against whom you have a grudge. But forgiveness and containment of the relationship, boundaries and limits on interaction are also necessary when you know the thing that hurt you is sitting there, sprung and ready to do it again if you let it.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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mom3
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by mom3 » 20 Jun 2017, 11:19

S.D. wrote - But forgiveness and containment of the relationship, boundaries and limits on interaction are also necessary when you know the thing that hurt you is sitting there, sprung and ready to do it again if you let it.
I lean 70% in favor of your observation. My healing began when I was away. Miles away from the problem.

However, 30% of me believes differently. I look at the Nelson Mandela's of the world and wonder. Must you have space before you heal? He couldn't escape Robbin's Island nor his 27 year confinement. For him though it was the construct that opened the door for something greater. Later it would save a nation. Today in South Africa the national healing process encourages and relies on the two opposing parties to meet face to face, to air their grievances, to wrestle with the pain directly. Then and only then does the miracle of healing/forgiveness truly begin.

You have the luxury of containing your circumstance. Others do not. Yet even those of us who can contain it must someday reckon with it - which ever takes place - Abuse or Mis-use. Both are damaging. But I believe both have the seed of light in them.

In honor of Nelson Mandela and You. - I leave you with William Ernest Henley's inspiring poem Invictus
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

Roy
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by Roy » 20 Jun 2017, 12:05

I compare church organizational abuse to organizational abuse by the U.S. (speaking generally of the government, the populace, the culture, etc.) There are certain segments of society that that have been abused/misused in the U.S. for a long time. Particularly those on the margins, that look or act differently.

We also abuse or misuse some of "our own" for the "greater good." Captain McVay of the USS Indianapolis was abused and scapegoated for a war tragedy. In addition to helping the military to save face this also helped America maintain an overall positive feeling about the war and the USA generally. Captain McVay was the one sacrificed for the good of the many.

Some of the abuse has taken place in part because we felt special in a "manifest destiny" sort of way. The knowledge of these darker periods of American history do make it harder to imagine the USA as some sort of Camelot - Hero, protector, and ideal of the world over.

(The U.S.A. and the LDS Church have both also done much that is good. True history rarely gives us saintly good guys vs. sinister bad guys.)

And yet, I believe that we as a country (and as a church BTW) have made important strides of improvement.
two opposing parties to meet face to face, to air their grievances, to wrestle with the pain directly. Then and only then does the miracle of healing/forgiveness truly begin.
Talking about these issues, especially in an honest and productive way followed by a healthy dose of humility and willingness to forgive, can help to lengthen the stride.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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SilentDawning
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Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by SilentDawning » 20 Jun 2017, 12:26

mom3 wrote:
20 Jun 2017, 11:19
However, 30% of me believes differently. I look at the Nelson Mandela's of the world and wonder. Must you have space before you heal? He couldn't escape Robbin's Island nor his 27 year confinement. For him though it was the construct that opened the door for something greater. Later it would save a nation. Today in South Africa the national healing process encourages and relies on the two opposing parties to meet face to face, to air their grievances, to wrestle with the pain directly. Then and only then does the miracle of healing/forgiveness truly begin.
Clearly my situation is different than Mandela's. After I distance myself from local leaders, I feel very little effect from the impact of church problems. No so with Mandela -- they put him in prison.. I am fortunate that my family accepts me, that there are still places I can serve in the church with integrity. So, it is not like I CAN'T avoid them -- I can avoid them nearly completely if i choose, except for small brushes with them when they want to call me to something.

Further, unlike Mandela, I have no ambitions to be a social activist within the church as I know such effort would fail, as it did with Kate Kelly. Nor do I have the resources to implement change on a full scale even if I wanted.

If I was imprisoned by such social activist behavior in the church (not realistic, but let's entertain the impossible) and saw that generations of people would continue to suffer, I might be motivated to engage with the status quo on full scale again. I had to do so with our local government a couple years ago. I launched a political action campaign and ultimately defeated a very onerous policy. The government office involved continued with some very egocentric, inflaming and provocative stances, which we found disturbing. But we persisted anyway without angst. In that case, distance didn't work -- it had to be full on mental conditioning.

Not so with the church. Placing myself in the thick of the leadership like I did in the past, would serve no purpose in my life, so the best way to handle it is to contain it. And so far, it's working.

Fortunately, the church is a force for good in so many ways, and its deficiencies are often a result of people with good hearts following policy or culture. It is not an evil empire and has very little recourse if you are not apostate, yet not committed. Distance works find in this situation...
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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DarkJedi
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Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Abuse or Mis-Use?

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Jun 2017, 12:42

One time in a priesthood lesson that I now fail to remember the subject of we were discussing Matthew 25 (For I was an hungered and you gave me meat, etc....). Someone put forward the idea that we generally don't do any of those things personally, and specifically asked the group when was the last time any of us visited someone in prison. No one had. There was a bit of guilt tripping going on, then this wise old guy in back said something like "Maybe you haven't visited people in physical prison, but there are people spiritually and mentally imprisoned all around us." I had never looked at it that way, but it is absolutely correct. There are lots of Nelson Mandela's all around us, even - and maybe especially - in church.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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