Dear Fellow religious trauma survivor,
I used to feel that anytime anyone asked me a question about my deconstruction process, faith, trauma, or spirituality, that they deserved a thoughtful, articulate explanation.
“What’s deconstruction?” they might ask, as if I were a human Google.
“Why do you say your religious experience was traumatic?”
To be fair, I also felt this way when I was a homeschooler, as if the way I educated my children represented the movement. And I definitely felt this as an evangelical Christian. It’s in the Bible:
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
It was drilled into us that our example could point someone to God, and to salvation. Our example could save them from hell. Also, any time we were caught in sin, we had to answer for ourselves, kind of like practice for the Great Judgement Day.
Feeling like I owe someone an explanation seemed like a default setting at this point, and it’s taken hard to work to find the freedom and autonomy that every human deserves, that existed before the abusive teachings.
Backing someone into a corner and forcing them to explain themselves is an abuse tactic. The demanding anger and vitriol in a scenario like that is pretty clear, right?
But what about the more subtle versions of “explain yourself?”
What does it feel like when someone comes to you and says they’re in agony over the way you’ve changed…and they want you to explain yourself and listen to how your growth has harmed them.
Or, the “blessings!” cheery-church ladies who are “just concerned about you” and want to be sure your journey lands in a “safe” place.
Pressure to explain yourself can come from friends without boundaries, who also won’t respect yours. And it can mean the exhaustion you carry as you feel pressed to educate and represent as you also toil. What’s even worse? When the pressure is so silent and intense that we overshare on autopilot and then feel gross shame and remorse.
I’ve found my tendency to compulsively overshare is a trauma response that stems from anxiety. I betray myself when I let it run the show. It’s okay to be private. It really is. And, it’s okay to share. The choice is yours.
Purity culture teaches women owe men access to their bodies, and the church in its many fundie forms teaches us to be martyrs, to die to self for a cause.
This is where your healing shows up. There will always be someone you can blame for the pressure to explain. That’s on them. You don’t have to play along. Take up your yoga mat and walk, friend.
What I’ve learned is that I don’t owe anyone my story. I don’t owe them access to my heart, soul, mind, journey, experiences, or process. I’m writing my memoir on my terms and I’ll share it that way too: with autonomy, clarity, and freedom.
P.S…want to practice how you button your lip when some nosy person asks?
“Google has great answers”
Look up the Religious Trauma Institute
“That’s a big subject I don’t have time to get into right now.”
“Healing is a process and I need to keep that private.”