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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
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
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.
Our convictions can only be as strong as the questions we ask.
I’ve been in places where questions got me shamed, assaulted, and destroyed. Our platforms of social media, church, politics, and campuses might seem open-minded and willing to dialogue, but if you move against the status quo, you’re likely to be called a heretic, sinner, apostate, or ridiculous. Most places will stomp out dissension and cancel you if you mess up a single time. We can play the game of “we are a safe place,” but conflict always shows our true selves.
I’ve been guilty of this, too. I don’t like asking uncomfortable questions, or being challenged with ideas I’ve never heard, or assuming that my precious ideas are too narrow and naive, when really my own ideas have never evolved. I’ve shut down disagreeable opinions not because the content was unsound, but because I was comfortable where I was. God forgive me for covering my ears to a better version of life.
If you’re in a place that won’t ask questions and always reject what you ask, then 1) you might be called to shake the status quo, or 2) it’s time to leave.
I want beliefs that have been strengthened by skepticism, that have gone through the crucible of confrontation, experience, and a choir that doesn’t always echo each other. I want truth that will keep me through darkness. I need a faith full of doubt to make it through the hardest valley. I want resilience born of grit and growth.
Anonymous asked a question
Is it unwise to share your doubts with non christians? I don’t think we should make christianity look like you can’t come to Jesus unless you get fixed first bc we should come as we are so He can work and idk that not sharing our doubts with them helps to accomplish that. At the same time what if sharing doubts increases nonbelievers doubts or grievances about God or Christianity?
Hey dear friend, I think it’s not only wise to share your doubts out loud, but it’s imperative that we do so.
We need to ask questions. We need to be open to new ideas. We need our faith deconstructed and challenged once in a while. We all have a particular “box” of faith, and it needs to be under constant renovation. A stale faith will bring about cults, or will rely too much on spoon-feeding, or will never endure the worst trials of our lives.
The thing is, questions will come. Doubts will come. Pain will come. And faith that stays in the same box for years is the kind of faith that eventually collapses under the weight of our denial.
Yes, a few people might take your doubts out of context and say, “Yeah, that’s why I don’t believe that stuff.” That’s fine. Most likely they were going to say that anyway, and you’re not responsible for that person’s journey either.
In my experience, every single person that I’ve shared my doubts with has been receptive. Their response is always, “You too? Thank God.”
I can’t trust someone who has a thriving robust faith all the time. I’m thankful for them. They show me who I want to be. But I find myself unable to talk with them about the harder times or the weirder Bible stuff. They’re always telling me to just “Trust God.” And I’m not there a lot. To be truthful, I’m not there most of the time.
Continue reading “I Have Doubts: Am I Allowed to Say That?”