I Accidentally Joined a Cult: How a Cult Got Me and the Warning Signs

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I was part of a cult once. There was one warning sign that I missed—and I don’t want you to miss it. It’s not as easy to spot as you think. I never thought I’d fall for something like that. When we think of cults, it seems obvious: they take your money, they isolate you, they talk about aliens or conspiracies, they make you wear pajamas. But this one was way different. It took me a long time to recognize I was being tricked and brainwashed. Because I was a people-pleaser, it was even harder to speak up. If you’re at a church or workplace or student body or nonprofit or group that doesn’t allow for questions: you have to question if that’s a healthy place. The places I’m most worried about are not the weird ones, but the charming ones that get along too well. (In my book, I talk about how we can easily fall for hidden narratives, groupthink, and persuasive speech, and ways to proof ourselves. Link in my bio.) #redflag #warning #church #religion #cult #peoplepleasing #accountability #accountable #groupthink #wisdom #jspark #thevoiceswecarry #booklaunch #checksandbalances #mentalhealth #speakup #disagreement #danger #help #warningsigns #leaders #leadership #skepticism #skeptical #justice #awareness

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I was part of a cult once. There was one warning sign that I missed—and I don’t want you to miss it. It’s not as easy to spot as you think.

I never thought I’d fall for something like that. When we think of cults, it seems obvious: they take your money, they isolate you, they talk about aliens or conspiracies, they make you wear pajamas. But this one was way different. It took me a long time to recognize I was being tricked and brainwashed. Because I was a people-pleaser, it was even harder to speak up.

If you’re at a church or workplace or student body or nonprofit or group that doesn’t allow for questions: you have to question if that’s a healthy place. The places I’m most worried about are not the weird ones, but the charming ones that get along too well.

In my book, I talk about how we can easily fall for hidden narratives, groupthink, and persuasive speech, and ways to proof ourselves.

Grab my book here: The Voices We Carry: Finding Your One True Voice in a World of Clamor and Noise

Come on in, the water’s ice cold.



About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

Like everyone else, I first saw this as a cheap self-congratulatory trend that would die out quickly in internet history. But to everyone’s surprise, it’s also worked. Up to now, $50 million has been raised (dang), and most of us are now aware that ALS isn’t just something that’s affected Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrig.

I think the world has gone far too dark and far too cynical, and we dismiss these things with an enlightened air of pompous snobbery. But unlike other trends like the Harlem Shake or flash mobs, this is having a concrete benefit to those who are hurting. Even patients with ALS are endorsing it and participating. It’s something silly right out of a movie: and it’s really making a difference.

This is probably the only time ever in pop culture that we’ll get to do something this fun and philanthropic at the same time. Sure, a lot of it is “Look at me for attention,” but so is nearly everything else we do, and it’s not half as helpful. While it’s still a trend: we might as well enjoy it, and donate too.

There are enough downers in the world and enough terrible things that have happened in the last few weeks. This is a bright spot. I hope we’re not too quick to condemn such an enormous downpour (literally) of cheer and good will.

Please also be careful where you donate, because there are just as many corrupted charities as good ones. Or I’m being too cynical again.

— J


Grace Considers The Whole Person.


Grace is thoughtful. It considers a back-story, an upbringing, the entire person, and not just a tiny single slice of their life.

Grace brings wholeness to a hasty judgement; it regards my own flaws first, in light of the grace I’ve also been given.

Grace brings what could be instead of what should’ve been. Grace covers my past and empowers my future. It does not condemn nor condone, but convicts and re-creates.

Grace confronts the worst of a person and does not shy away from surgical rebuke: because at our worst, we realize how much we must confront the ugliness inside. But grace restores there, in the wreckage. It is always healing the fractured fallen weary sinner. It is not what we deserve, but what we need: and Jesus saw what we deserved, but gave us what we needed instead. That’s grace. Love unconditional, undeserved, unrelenting.

— J.S.