Wednesday, March 12, 2008

To All The Friends I've Loved Before

I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to look at Friendships in my CLB in an entirely different way this week.

I received an email from a woman who had just left her church. In the email she said this, “I've pretty much lost about 85% of my friendships at my CLB but I'm beginning to accept that.”

In responding back to her I was pondering my words. I’ve been there. Actually, I lost a higher percentage, so I felt that I might know how she might be feeling. I wanted to help her feel better. I wanted her not to be shut in with grief over this loss.

So I was tempted to write some of the following: Things such as....You will find out in the next few months who really was your friend…..Don’t worry about those that are not talking to you…..They weren’t your friends in the first place……..

Have you heard any of those or have you spoken them to yourself?

You know what???? Those statements, while they may be true are not necessarily true. I agree that statements such as these were true of a very few in my CLB. But it is not true of all or even most of my relationships there. I believe that the beliefs of the CLB has blinded their eyes to the truth of my friendship with them. They feel that they are not allowed to be my friend or that they will loose too much to be my friend. (Remember, in my CLB you loose your destiny and your covering if you disagree too much with the Apostle. This is a very scary thing to be threatened with.) They are just as blind as I was before I started recognizing that this was not a good place to be.

It may seem to make it easier if you tell yourself that they were never your friend in the first place. But I’m coming to realize that it really does not make it easier. Here’s why. If you believe they were never actually your friends then why would you grieve for them? You feel stupid to be sad for something that was a lie. You feel doubly duped that you believed in all of the CLB’s crap AND you didn’t even know that what friendship was.

I’m sorry but that is just not true! I had friends, and I know what friendship is! Therefore, it is ok for me to grieve the loss of these friends. It is ok for me to keep an open door if they ever decided to walk back into my life. I know what friendship is….It is a linking of hearts. (It is rare when only one person feels they are in a friendship and the other person does not.) I am choosing to believe that I am not that dysfunctional.

So to own up that those people who no longer associate with me truly were friends allows me to grieve but grieve without feeling stupid. It allows me to love them now and not get angry at them (for allegedly never really being my friend). It strengthens my own self confidence that I can have friendships and that I am not crazy in thinking that so many of these women and men were truly my friends. It gives me hope that I can make new friends in the future and that I am not a failure at judging true friendship. And, it allows me hope that they might come back into friendship with me. (If they never really were my friends than there is no hope of having anything in the future).

It is funny. To believe the above paragraph brings all sorts of negative emotions. Grief, over the loss. Anger, over the blindness that our CLB perpetuates. Frustration, that they can’t also see the truth or that I can’t do anything about it. Hurt, that they see in small ways what they are doing and yet still can’t see the bigger picture.

But it brings out some very positive emotions. Hope – for one – that there will be friendships renewed at a later time. Love – That in the midst of their blindness I still can continue to love them and be willing to be their friends. Self confidence – I had lots of friends before this and I am a good judge of friends. I will have and build more friendships in the future. And Relief – that it is not me that is dysfunctional and crazy.

So, to my friend who wrote me about loosing her friends and to others out there who have walked this same path, I say to you…..Grieve, Hurt, get Angry and Frustrated but don’t top all that off with the lie that you are also crazy and these people were never your friends in the first place. Come to terms with those that truly were not your friends and who only used you for their own ends but then embrace the friendships that you really did have and base your feelings on the truth.

And……To all the friends I’ve loved before…. I say to them this:

Julie,Mark,Kim,Terry,Christina,Mike,Jim,Jess,Josh,Frannie,Paulette,Bill,Ali,Tim,Patti,Adam,
Christine,Nate,Sarah,Ben,Avie,Lance,Tori,Moe,Suz,Julie,Will,Rick,Dana,JoJo,Paul,Dave,Heather,
Mike,

I love you all. My door is not locked from the inside. It is wide open and ready to welcome you at any time. You were my friends. You will remain my friends until you tell me that you no longer wish to be on that list. Even then, I will love you.

19 comments:

Sarah said...

You are a wise woman. :)

Mary said...

Now I can't get that song out of my head! ;^)

On some days I just want to forget about the friendships and just move on, and on other days, I really yearn for my friends who are still in my CLB. I apprecite what you said here and think it's really helpful. Thanks.

Jeff McQ said...

I relate to this post. In our case, we tried to maintain some of our friendships from our CLB, but ultimately they did not last.

In some cases, the pastor went to our friends after we left, spinning information in such a way as to convince them to break ties with us.

With the rest of them, although many never even knew the negative dynamics going on with the leadership...with the subtle attacks from the pastor and the overall spiritual sickness prevailing on the church...we felt it was healthier overall to sort of drift away and stop continued relationship. In these cases, we didn't reject these people as our friends...we just felt we couldn't continue talking to them.

In some cases, relationships broke for various crazy reasons that can probably only be attributed to the corrupt environment of gossip and backstabbing at the church. The hate mail that prompted that open letter of apology on my blog was actually written by someone who used to be one of our very best friends. We had no idea this person was carrying this anger against us because all issues had been resolved with them before we left the CLB.

Interestingly, we left our CLB not because of doctrinal issues, but because we felt God calling us to start another church in another state. The offense was over the fact that because of the issues at the CLB, we couldn't permit ourselves to stay under the pastor's oversight.

Erin said...

I truly understand this...but I'm amazed by your willingness to resume relationship with them if they wanted to. I am definitely not there.

My friends were true friends, but like you said, only to a point, for what they feared losing if they maintained relationship with me. It was incredibly difficult. I only have retained one friendship from my CLB, and two others I'm on tentative speaking terms with once or twice a year. All the rest are long gone.

Then again. I'm not sure I really mind, deep down inside. Or maybe I just haven't healed yet.

I still dream about two of my former friends. What's that about? People tell me lack of closure...maybe.

7catz said...

WOW...This is strange. I was discussing this very thing with my husband last night.
I asked him weather or not he believed the people at my CLB were ever my friends (It's good to get an objective opinion sometimes:)

He answered yes, some were.

That's not easy. But it's true.
It's hard watching people you love and allowed yourself to be vulnerable with, 'choose a side'. I've called people- they don't call back. I've written e-mails- no response.
It's as if I've done something dark and sinister by leaving.
I get the feeling that a 'guilt by association' law has been passed:)
so that even if they wanted to remain a friend, they 'couldn't'
The institution won.(for now)

The good news is, I have

".... hope that I can make new friends in the future and that I am not a failure at judging true friendship."

Actually, I have a feeling that the ones who are fiercly against my leaving,
( or coming back! how confusing )
will show up one day needing to talk about it. In the meantime, I'll just keep working on the healing...stuff :)
Thanks for your post, you're a real blessing!

Barb said...

Sarah, Thanks....don't feel very wise right now...just vunerable.

Mary, I almost posted the lyrics for those who would sing it and have to dum, de, dum through them.
I have my good days and bad days too.

Jeff, We never tried to contact our friends except for a very few. Our leaders held a meeting the very day of our decision. No one was told to stay away from us but it sure happened. Something about being demonized I think was maybe one of the kickers.

Erin, don't erect a statue of me yet. There were people that I just could not put on the list. I guess I just understand where they are with me because I did the same thing with others who left.
The dreams...the dreams...even last night. They drive me crazy.

7catz, I have read so many posts that just happen to be at the same time that we were discussing that very topic. I'm glad this helped. One of the hardest conversations in our whole leaving was with Husband on whether or not our leaders wife was really my friend. I cried and cried.
My hope is that I am healed enough if they ever come to talk.

glenn said...

Barb ~

I am gushing as I think about your progress and the remarkable healing that you are experiencing and pursuing.

It brought back memories of when I would be around people who had left the church I pastored and were saying malicious things about me. I would make it a point to talk to them and try to sincerely understand their perspective. I couldn't do it all of the time, but when I did, it was good for me and maybe for them too.

I also had very close and faithful friends that are more like acquaintances now, simply because our circumstances have changed.

You are so right it was real, but there is a time to grieve and finally a healing and freedom comes so that we can move on.

I am hearing Solomon in my head along with Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.

Grace & Peace

Erin said...

Interestingly, what 7catz said here...

"Actually, I have a feeling that the ones who are fiercely against my leaving...will show up one day needing to talk about it."

Funny, I have had the same feeling. That one day one of them will call out of the blue and want to finally process all this. Is that because I lack closure (which I most definitely do with some of them) or because I'm hoping one day I'll get it, or something else?

Makeesha said...

I gotta say, while this post is very wise and positive, I'm with Erin.

A few things come to mind - 1. If I see them as real friends, don't I have a responsibility to try to reconcile the relationship and continue it? I just can't see myself doing that, so it's easier to write them off.

2. I too feel that they're going to ring up out of the blue wanting to process everything - - that makes me literally sick to my stomach, I have no interest in doing that. In fact, a couple women have called or emailed to "get together" and I have refused because I don't want to "fix" anything, I just want to get on with my life with my friends now who I actually care about - I just don't have the space in my life emotionally or time-wise to try to reconnect with people who just now are reappearing.

3. I really don't care about them anymore, that makes me a really shitty friend I think.

I dunno, I think it's more complex than them never being friends OR being friends who are still welcome to re-enter my life.

I've been out of my CLB for about a year and I feel I should be "further along" by now but I also need to be ok with what I feel even if I never change my perspective on the situation.

Erin said...

Makeesha - I think some part of me really wants them to want to talk so they can tell me how wrong they were and so I can give them a piece of my mind, not really in order to reconcile. That's a really passive-aggressive way to feel, or something, but it's the truth. Wanting an apology that will likely never come. Closure.

The fact is, there were two whom I really loved...and so coming to terms with a) that they don't want to be part of my life or b) that they will eventually want to return and I will be OK with that after everything, is a tension that is difficult to deal with. It's almost codependent...which I'm trying to overcome.

You said "it's more complex than them never being friends OR being friends who are still welcome to re-enter my life". That is the truth. There are infinite shades of gray to that.

I just know I have to let go, and letting go is a process. Two steps forward, one back. Repeat.

J. R. Miller said...

Lose of freindship is always painful. I wrote a poem about my own feelings of loss entitled, "A Wooded Glen"

Be encouraged...

J. R. Miller said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Barb said...

Glen, thanks. Hearing each other’s stories is good. You need to watch those voices. Especially all together! Made me laugh.

Erin, I have also had the same feeling. The lack of closure is the hardest part.

Makeesha, Truthfully, there are days I feel like what I wrote and then days that I don’t. The reason I wrote the above though is that those days are beginning to be more that way than not. It may be because I was part of the leadership too that I feel differently about those who were my friends. I can imagine though that they have no desire to relate to me. It does not make you a shitty friend.

I think also that being in what approached cult like activity in so many ways makes me understand what they are up against. It is easier when you have something to blame for the actions and for me, I blame the system – not the people in the system. Maybe that is naïve though.

I just know that I want to pour out the same grace to others that I want meted out to me. I am in need of it so much. I was so wrong.

If I had just been hurt by the system and not been part of the system, I think it would have been harder to get over…if that makes any sense. I realize I owe much therefore I am willing to give a whole lot here.

Erin, I think if people came to you to repent you would be the first with a big heart. Actually a website that explores this in a really interesting way is http://narcissists-suck.blogspot.com/2008/02/testing-for-repentance.html. This lady deals with how to test to see if someone truly is repentant and has a wonderful story from scripture to show how Joseph did not just forgive and forget. It gave me freedom to see how I might handle some people returning and talking to me. See what you think.

J.r. Beautiful poem. Thanks so much. Everyone else, please follow the link.

Makeesha said...

yeah, *sigh*, it's all just process I guess. I just keep feeling guilty for not trying to stay connected to some of the people from my old church (that booted us ftr) - the people who weren't part of the crap that happened - but I feel that I'm moving on and just don't care about them anymore. ugh.

J. R. Miller said...

Makeesha,

It is a journey... long and painful. God made relationships to last forever, and any time they are cut short of eternity... there is pain.

But there is also hope on the other side of pain.

Going through my own journey over the past 3 years, I found this Psalm to be of most help, I titled it, "I Shall Not Diminish."

Barb, I hope you don't mind my posting the outside links, but I do hope they can be an encouragement for everyone :-)

Ronni said...

Wow. Thank you for that. I sit here 6 months after leaving my CLB... having finally gotten to a point where I can run into my former leadership and bless them instead of wanting to spew the results of my pain... And today, I find that those same leaders are still spewing venom. Even after I apologized for my part. Even after all this time and supposed healing. I'm seeing that it's just not going to happen. I'm wondering if I need to cut ties with everyone else, even though, I love them dearly. I'm seeing the ties begin to run in with my current leadership and I am fearful it will perpetuate.

I had some great friends. I really did. I'm just learning to walk alone now.

Lindsay said...

i'll always be your friend!

Sue said...

Barb, this must feel very vulnerablefying but WOW - what a wonderful place for you to have come to

Erin said...

Leave it to Sue to invent a new word for it.