“Why Can’t You Just Leave?”

I was sitting across the room from someone a few days ago and was broached with the question, “why don’t people just leave?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this about toxic churches. A very good friend of mine, when she first heard my story, asked me the same thing. “Why didn’t you just leave?”

For a person who has never been in a spiritually abusive situation, it’s difficult for them to fathom why on earth someone would stay for so long. Especially, someone who acknowledges the fact the church they are attending is doctrinally incorrect or worse, abusive in some manner. Why do so many people stay and even defend the leaders?

This is a difficult and lengthy question to answer, but most of the time, I would suggest, it’s just easier. It’s often, and in many ways, easier to stay and function in survival mode than leave behind the abuse.

In leaving, we left behind everyone we associated with. I lost friendships, my children lost friendships. We left heartfelt ministeries behind, Sunday school children, choir teammates. In many cases people’s livelihood is the very church organization that is abusing them. Not to mention the fear, the fear of losing protection and blessings for your family, the fear of going to hell, the fear of having no friends, the fear of the unknown.

For most of us, we were taught a twisted version of Romans chapter one. We were taught God would give us over to a “reprobate mind” if we so even shadowed the doors of another denomination’s church. I thought, if I trimmed my hair, my children would die immediately and my husband would give way to his lust and temptations and sleep with another woman. All of these things weighed heavily on my mind.

And it was difficult. I won’t sit here and say it wasn’t, because it was. It was as awful or worse to walk though then I thought it was going to be. The fear, the betrayal, the loneliness, all of it. It was like grieving a death. I think sometimes we minimize the pain because it seems so outlandish that leaving a church could be so terrible, but when you leave a toxic church, it can be. And, I’ve learned, it’s common.

Over the course of running this little blog I have had countless people message me. Each one a unique story of all too familiar tone.

I just want you to know, I see you. There is a whole community of people who have walked ahead of you who see you. Most importantly, God, the creator of the entire universe sees you. You are not alone in this journey.

Much love.

-Jen

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