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

Book Launch: The Voices We Carry


Happy day, friends! My book The Voices We Carry is officially released.

The Voices We Carry is about wrestling with our voices, such as self-doubt, people-pleasing, trauma, grief, and family dynamics, and finding our own voice in world of mixed messages. I talk about my hospital chaplaincy, what I learned from patients at the edge of life and death, and giving a voice to those who have been silenced—those like you and me.

The month of May is also Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. My book talks about the challenges of both. I believe that the more we can share our stories and make room for our many voices, the better we become.

God bless and much love to you, friends. Thank you for allowing me to speak into your life, faith, and journey.
— J.S.


The Voices We Carry is published by Northfield of Moody Publishers.

#MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
#AsianPacificAmericanHeritageMonth


I’m Sorry for the Bad Advice


It‘ll happen. You’ll give bad advice. I have given plenty. And it seems every season, I end up disagreeing with a lot of things I’ve said the season before. So is advice ever really any good?

I’ve met people who will say things like, “A long time ago you told me ___ and it really changed me.” And sometimes I panic. Do I even agree with what I said before? Wasn’t I a different person then? Wasn’t I just saying flowery poetic idealistic stuff that wasn’t field tested? That I wasn’t even living out myself?

Here’s where we need to be cautious. The advice we hear, whether from a friend or blogger or leader or pastor or celebrity or book or podcast, is probably good advice. But it might not be for you in your current walk of life. It might just be for that person, in that season, and they grew past it already. Or their advice was something they just made up, and it was never time tested or proven. It sounded pretty, but would never work in the dirt, in the hustle, in the hurt.

It’s amazing how a string of eloquent and witty combination of buzzwords can truly change a life. But I also worry that those same words can take us down a path not meant for us. Or it worked at the time, but can’t now. Or those words came from a version of myself that was a moron, and has learned much better. So the advice you’re hearing from somebody is just a temporal snapshot. It’s a set of clothes, and you can outgrow those.

Don’t trust me. Don’t trust this. Don’t trust an articulate, punchy, hyped up blog post or TED Talk just because of a few flashy graphics and catchphrases. Discern. Think through it. Investigate. Hear many opinions, not just one. Search yourself. Trust your own tears; they’re speaking. Seek new ideas. Seek God. Seek what is timeless. And don’t be too ashamed of your older self: that person believed some weird things, but those were growing pains. You’ll always feel weird about your old self, but that means renovation has happened.

— J.S.