Today I want to share an excerpt from a new memoir I happened upon last week written by cult survivor Charity Rissler titled “Where the Willow Weeps: The Inside Story of Growing Up in a Cult, and how I Found Freedom in Christ.”
I’d never heard of this cult called “The Message,” but the author described it as a fundamentalist cult, so I knew it would be similar to the cult I grew up in. I immediately downloaded the book on my Kindle and began to devour it, though it was already 11:30pm.
Today I came across this paragraph, in the chapter when this brave woman begins to describe the pivotal moments that helped her eventually see that her beloved belief system was fatally flawed and that in fact she was trapped in a cult. Her words are startling similar to my own thought process while I was in the cult. Charity says,
“I’d imagined that when people were leaving The Message, it was big as they let the doubt in, tasted what the world had to offer, and lost respect for themselves – that the rules and mockery surrounding their appearance had been too much for them to bear. I assumed that at some point, they wished for acceptance outside of our sphere, and that’s what pulled them away from the words they knew to be true. While that may be true of some, I never sat with them to hear their stories, but they were dead to me. Now here I was, risking alienation, listening to ‘blasphemies.’”
These words resonated deeply with me, because I, too, believed that people who had left my cult were ones that had been snatched away by temptations of the world, or that the criticism they took from being set apart finally forced them to give into the pressure to conform and appear more “normal.” Never once did I actually sit and listen to an Exer’s story. I assumed they were wayward and dangerous. After all, I didn’t want to be corrupted by their new title of being a “bad influence.”
If only I had listened. If only I had allowed myself to think for a minute that perhaps all that I’d been taught from my cult leader (not to be confused with God’s actual Word) wasn’t the only way.
To all the Exer’s that I snubbed while I still remained in chains — I am deeply sorry. I should have listened to your story and to your pain.
And to those survivors who I have gotten to know in recent years and and who don’t align with the beliefs that I currently hold today — your value to me is not determined by how much we have in common. I still desire to learn from you and hear of your own journey.
If you’d like to read Charity’s memoir for yourself, you can find a link to her book HERE.