"Father, forgive them, for they know
not what they do."
It is with that famous quote from Jesus that
we open this page. Forgiveness is a very deep, wide and for many of us a subject we are
only now learning to grapple. What is forgiveness? Can you forgive someone who
doesn't desire or seek forgiveness? Are your wounds so deep that foregiveness seems
out of the question? Strangely enough, it was not Jesus who forgave in wholesale
fashion those who were responsible for his situation, but He sought His Father's
forgiveness on their behalf. It would seem then, that ultimate forgiveness, the
final dispensation must come only from God. The Gospel teaches us that it is God,
for Christ's sake, who is able to forgive our transgressions. When Jesus taught us
to pray, He asked His Father to "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our
debtors". Is it then incumbent upon us to forgive the debtor whether or not
forgiveness is requested? Is wholesale foregiveness even possible? Can you or
I forgive, for example, the two assasins of Columbine High School? What is the core
of forgiveness? Before the barrage of scriptures come rolling off your tongues or
your keyboards, make sure of your definitions.
The following was reproduced from Madeline
Kandau Tobias and Janja Lalich's book "Captive Hearts, Captive Minds". We felt
it could be of help to those who have left the Kingdom's influence and are adjusting to
being "out from under". One of the recurring statements one hears ex-members
repeat with regard to leaving the Kingdom, is the advice given by those being left behind,
"Well, we hate to see you go, but whatever you do, don't be bitter." We the editors believe it is unhealthy to hang on to anger and
know that hate is destructive, but, in light of the recurring Kingdom advice, we thought
it prudent to reprint some insights on the subject from the authors of "Captive
Hearts, Captive Minds". Tobias and Lalich have demonstrated a broad
experience with regard to cult recovery issues, and their wisdom reflects on the
importance of Anger and Forgiveness. We suspect that some of these comments will make
great discussion topics on the Guestbook
The emergence of anger is one of the first signs of recovery. Anger is a normal and
healthy reaction to the hurt and assaults that you experienced. Anger is the most
appropriate response to the abuse and manipulations of the cult. It is also the hardest
emotion for some ex-members to get in touch with and deal with. If you feel angry, it
means you are now ready to acknowledge that you were victimized, which can be incredibly
painful. What was done was heinous--and you are entitled to your rage. Just as fear is the
backbone of mind control, anger is the fuel of recovery. Anger is an extremely valuable
tool in healing. It fortifies your sense of what is right by condemning the wrong that was
done to you. It gives you the energy and will to get through the ordeal of getting your
life back together. Suppression of anger while in the cult contributed to depression and a
sense of helplessness. Now the reverse is possible. Anger can be a double-edged sword,
however. It can motivate healing or be turned inward, against the self. Some people may
find it easier to blame themselves than to use their anger to make necessary life changes.
This can result in alcohol or drug use, physical illness, or emotional disorders including
depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Anger can also be directed at innocent
others. If expressed inappropriately or unconsciously, anger can further a person's
isolation. To be used effectively, anger must be focused on its source--primarily the cult
leader. Remember that your anger may be hard for family, friends, and sometimes even
therapists to accept. You may be urged to forgive and forget. Ex-members who have been
brought up to hide or deny negative feelings may not have the tools or experience to know
how to express this potentially healing emotion.
Former cult members "need to realize that what was done to them was wrong
," writes Michael Langone. "[They] must be allowed - encouraged even - to
express appropriate moral outrage. The outrage will not magically eliminate the abuse and
its effects. Nor will it necessarily bring the victimizer to justice. But it will enable victims to assert their inner worth and their sense of
right and wrong by condemning the evil done to them. Moral outrage fortifies good against
formidable evil. Even implicitly denying victims' need to express moral outrage shifts
blame from victimizers to victims. Perhaps that is why so many victims are
disturbed by 'detached' therapists, or 'objective' scientific researchers. They interpret
the detachment or "objectivity as implicit blaming of themselves."* People who
have experienced a particularly traumatic cult involvement or childhood physical and
sexual abuse share certain experiences. Both have been victimized by those they depended
on and trusted. Many cult members have also been sexually and/or physically abused. All
have been emotionally and spiritually victimized. Anger at such abuse can be expressed and
transformed through the use of the techniques given below. Initially, it is important not
to do these exercises alone. When repressed anger is first released, the intensity can be
overwhelming, even frightening. Therefore, some of the activities listed here are best
done with a trusted and stable friend or therapist.
- Keep a diary and write about your anger and
other strong feelings. Former cult members have consistently said that writing about their
experience has been one of the most helpful vehicles for working through their feelings of
betrayal and abuse.
- Write a letter to your cult leader. Tell him or
her off. It is not necessary to send it, especially if doing so would put you in danger.
You don't have to mail the letter to feel the positive effects of having written it.
- Talk to someone about your feelings. Make sure
it is someone who can understand and empathize.
- Turn on the shower, get in, and scream.
- Get in your car, turn the radio on loud and
scream - but not while driving.
- Do something physically expressive: pound
pillows with a whiffle bat or tennis racket. Go into the woods and pound boulders with a
sledgehammer (wear protecdve goggles). Direct your anger into the activity.
- Fantasize taking revenge; imagine it. People
spontaneously imagine scenarios in which their injured pride is restored. Don't, however,
act out by doing something illegal or dangerous to another.
- Speak out publicly about your cult experience.
Get involved in an anticult group. This has been therapeutic for many ex-members. 9. Get
the law on your side. If your group has been involved in criminal acdvity, consult a
lawyer for your own protection before going to the police.
- Consider a civil suit for damages against the
cult. Again, seek legal advice about this first.
- Take an assertiveness training course.
Forgiveness as a Means of Recovery
Forgiving yourself is essential to elimination shame and guilt. Shame is toxic. It
cripples self-esteem and retards emotional healing. Although guilt may help a person avoid
the same mistakes again, excessive guilt prevents growth and learning from those mistakes.
The first step toward forgiveness is to bring into clear focus where you were when you
were recruited. Your own vulnerability and the cult's recruitment tactics need to be
understood. Separating what the cult recruiters did and said from your needs at the time
of recruitment will help put the process in perspective. Remember, being vulnerable is not
the same as being to blame. Knowing your vulnerabilities can help you to identify
deceptive recruitment and indoctrination techniques.
Once a person is recruited, his or her personality changes, as the secondary or
"cult" personality develops. Few persons can resist the systematic manipulation
that occurs in a cult environment. Those practiced in thought reform techniques can sense
just how far and fast a person can be deceived and exploited. Pressure to conform and the
promise of reward, along with induced feelings of guilt and fear, are powerful agents of
change. Take all this into consideration when evaluating your situation. Above all, have
compassion for yourself.
The following technique, adapted from 12-step programs, is a useful exercise for working
through guilt and shame:
1. First make a list of
everything you did in the group that now produces feelings of shame, guilt, and regret.
2. Share this with someone you trust, someone who will not judge you.
Talk it over with a therapist, counselor, clergy person, or another ex-member. You need
someone else's perspective and objectivity. You need to get it out of you.
3. Look at the list and see if you can make amends to any of the people
involved. This should not be done if it causes further pain to another or puts you at risk
of reinvolvement with the group.
4. If you can, and if you find it helpful, ask for forgiveness from God
or your spiritual source.
5. Don't forget to forgive yourself. This is both the hardest and the
most important part. As long as you are operating on guilt or shame, you are emotionally
We can seek forgiveness from those we hurt, from God, and from ourselves, but forgiving
those who so deliberately hurt us is a different matter and a highly personal one. As more
than one ex-member has said, "As a fellow member, I can forgive those in the group
who hurt me. They were as much under the influence of our leader as I was. As for the
leader, since he shows absolutely no remorse for what he has done to me, what he continues
to do to others, and what he would still do to me if he could, I do not forgive him."
It has been said that success is the best revenge. Becoming functional and happy outside
of the cult, rather than getting sick and dying or becoming a complete loser as the cult
may have predicted, is the best manifesto of your success and the best exposure of the
cult's lies about life outside of the group.
from Madeline Kandau Tobias and Janja Lalich's book "Captive Hearts, Captive
Minds". 1994 Hunter House Inc. Alameda, CA. p. 134-139, Used with