BLINDED BY FEAR: RECOGNIZING & ENDING THE VERBAL & EMOTIONAL ABUSE OF THOSE WITH DOUBTS
I’ve had enough, I’ve seen and heard it one too many times, too many friends, loved ones, good hearted people hurt, something had to be said or done… While I fully expect to to be criticized for speaking out, my conscience can’t take sitting by and watching dear friends belittled and humiliated for crimes they didn’t commit. The victim blaming has to stop…Let the chips fall where they may.
Is this really happening? I thought they Loved me? Why am I being Shunned for believing differently than everyone else? Why are you screaming at me, Belittling me, Judging me, Verbally and Emotionally Abusing me as if I’d just killed a man? For those courageous enough to study church history, where questions or doubts about LDS church teachings often arise, these feelings are all too common, loved ones with unbreakable bonds suddenly become irrational, irate to the point they no longer think or communicate, instead choosing to emotionally abuse the one they love, showing anything but Christlike love to the one who needs it most.
Having lived in the heart of Salt Lake City just blocks from church headquarters, I’ve seen and heard it all. Stories that enrich and touch the most heartless of souls, filling them with hope and joy. In contrast I’ve also witnessed the dark side of the church that few members will ever see. It was a stake filled with heroes, prophets and apostles, and again in contrast it was filled with those who hated the church a vengeance, with official church historians who told too much truth at times about our history.
Having been a long time church history scholar myself I fully understand why some question the way they do, why some issues just don’t sit well with members who seek to follow God. It’s a difficult line to walk to say the least, on one hand they strive to follow truth and light, yet on the hand other they see the flaming train wreck that is our churches sketchy past. Attempting to reconcile the two can be difficult to say the least, it should come as no shock to members that learning such truths would cause individuals to question or doubt at times.
You would think our natural reaction as members would be to reach out our hands, comfort, support, and communicate with those who walk that fine line, but far too often as I’ve witnessed this is not the case. It breaks my heart, NO, IT MAKES ME SICK, to see parents, siblings, leaders, and friends who upon discovering a child has doubts or no longer believes, proceeds to belittle or scream at a child, accusing them of never having loved God, accusing them of doubting because deep down they wanted to sin, of not having prayed, studied, fasted, or tried hard enough to understand the truth. They take emotional abuse to a whole new level to say the least.
Instead of someone to talk to, we hear of siblings who used to be joined at the hip, only to now be shunned because they are struggling with their faith. It’s Ironic to me how often we claim that “those who leave the church are “bitter”, “filled by Satan”, “gnashing their teeth” so to speak, yet more often than not the only “gnashing of teeth” I’ve seen comes from the devote believers, parents and siblings, and from friends who cut off all contact.
You would think in such a time of spiritual trial that loved ones and friends would be the first ones there to support and comfort the individual, that they would show Christlike love, empathy, support, and knowledge to guide those hurt back to safety. Instead they are met with hostility, anger, rage, abused and belittled to the point where it makes it easy for them to just say “forget it all” as they walk away from the gospel and the church, rarely ever to return, and who could blame them? Do we really think belittling and abusing those who doubt or question will help them feel the need to return to the faith?
Recently as I lay back in front of the television pondering this abuse, the answer literally appeared before my eyes. The popular childrens move Harry Potter had been playing, and as if a voice of thunder appeared, I heard the words “I’m afraid he will do almost anything to avoid facing that terrifying truth”, referring to the wizard president who was in absolute denial the most deadly evil villain had returned. IT’S FEAR. FEAR of loss, FEAR of change, FEAR of the unknown.
Think back to when you were a young child, bed time has come, you climb under your covers, rest your head, close your eyes, and then… you hear it… “Did something just move underneath my bed”? Your palms get sweaty, you tense up, breathing speeds up, panic takes over as your mind begins racing, is it a monster? Your imagination starts to run wild, and before you know it FEAR HAS TAKEN OVER. All logic, rationalism, and reasoning are gone…
FEAR CHANGES who we are, how we react, how we think, how we behave, and what we believe. It blinds us most times, rushing our thought process, clouding our judgment, making us irrational. Unfortunately for those who doubt their faith, fear begins to dominate their lives in the form of emotional abuse from those who were supposed to care the most.
You see, while some are brave enough to face the monster under our bed (church history), others choose to hide underneath the covers (bury their heads in the sand and ignore the facts) when hearing negative information about our churches past. Fear kicks in, they tense up, they get aggressive, hostile even, their palms sweat, they become red in the face, and the panic and fear of “what if” causes them to lash out in frustration at those who doubt.
But is fear reason enough to promote intolerance, hatred, rejection, hostility, and after all else had failed emotional abuse? The LDS church fights for tolerance and respect, complaining bitterly about being mocked and mistreated for its beliefs, is it then fair to turn back around and mock, belittle, disrespect, and become intolerant and hate filled towards those who choose to express a belief contrary to their own? It’s no wonder why tens of thousands flee our church every year.
I write for two key reasons:
1- To plead with LDS members who are “afraid and will do almost anything to avoid facing the terrifying truths”, not to let fear destroy the relationships between the ones they love. Choosing communication instead of shunning, love instead of anger, wisdom instead of judgment, and compassion instead of fear filled hate. Our churches motto is “family first”… Prove it…
2- To let it be known for those who doubt, that it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault our churches past is a disastrous mess, and though some may try to pin the blame on you for learning about it, instead of blaming the ones who are guilty of the punishment, its not your fault. YOU’RE ENTITLED to have doubts, to ask questions, to believe differently than others. It’s called “your beliefs” for a reason, they belong to you. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission”. Others blindly lash out not because you’ve done something wrong, but because THEY ARE FILLED WITH FEAR of their own doubts and insecurities.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned, verbal & emotionally abusing those with questions or doubts just doesn't work, it builds resentment, confusion, and breaks down trust, making it that much easier for them to walk away from it all. Perhaps before we judge, criticize, ridicule, or belittle we can act like actual human beings and ask questions, having real conversations?
And by conversations I mean not the type where we throw insults, ignore opinions, or allow fear to cloud the facts. The mentality of “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” does more harm than good, it discredits the truth, minimizes the credibility of the one giving advice, and insults the years of accumulated knowledge individuals have built from prayerful study of our past.
If we believe in love, preach about love, and demand love and respect, maybe its time to start actually showing that love when it matters most? When a loved one is barely hanging on at the spiritual edge, instead of criticizing them for getting too close to the cliff, or even pushing them off, maybe we should reach out a hand and simply talk to them, support them, love them… SOUND REASONABLE ENOUGH? Stop blaming the victim.