When Family and Friends from the Old Group Drive you Crazy

Whenever someone decides to leave an intense community: like the hard line Churches of Christ, the Mormon Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Amish, parts of the military, some intense corporation jobs, or a commune, the person goes through a time of longing for connection; both connection with the old friends and family, and connection with new people. That is the power that old friends and family within the powerful sect have over the person leaving. The person leaving feels lonely.

So whenever there is contact with old friends and family there is a big upheaval emotionally for the person who is leaving, or has left, the sect. Just seeing their faces brings back memories of the old slogans and arguments about what is near and dear to their hearts: for the Amish it is often a dedication to working with one’s hands and a denigration of education as the lazy man’s way to earn a living. For a hard line Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox family there is the feeling that they are the Mother Church, the producers of the Bible, the caretakers of the faith for centuries. For those who have left the hard line Churches of Christ there is the memory of being in the One True Church.

Conversations are had, things are said or not said, but what the person who has left the group comes away with is a feeling of loneliness, sadness, and loss. Sometimes there is the feeling of shame, guilt, confusion and defensiveness. When this happens there is a cure.

The quickest cure is to look at the (abstract) needs one has not had met in the interaction. For instance: Are you needing respect? Needing to be heard? Needing acknowledgment? Needing equality? Fairness? When we are feeling torn and crazy after meeting someone from the old sect,  if we can just have a safe person acknowledge that one particular need has not been met, the one most important to us at the time, we sigh, we relax, we accept the sadness of not having that need met, and we move on.

Victim triangle Second best is when we can see the needs of the person who is driving us crazy. Recently I reached out to a relative I have not had communication with for 10 years because I would always get triggered by the relative’s accusations, shaming, triangulation and rebukes. When I told a friend about this relative who was upsetting me my friend pointed out that I had said this relative needed security and safety, yet here I was rocking the boat. What if my relative really thought that I was going to tip the boat over and drown him? No wonder he was rebuking me so strongly. His rebukes weren’t about me so much as they were about his need for safety and stability. Suddenly the sharpness of his rebukes softened in my mind and I was able to see his heart through all the abrasiveness.

TriangulationWe both have good needs. I have a need for connection, boundaries, fairness, harmony. He has a need for safety, harmony and connection. All good needs. We just disagree about the facts and how to get our needs met. As long as I reply to him defensively he will not get his needs met and I will not get my needs met. I have to keep his needs in mind when talking to him, if I want him to calm down and connect with me. Hard work.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
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21 Responses to When Family and Friends from the Old Group Drive you Crazy

  1. Regina says:

    This article is so so true! I was disfellowshipped from the church of Christ. I have learned when I am told “We do this because we love you” it really isn’t about doing something for me, it is about them doing it for themselves. Their actions are motivated by the fear of going to hell. As much as I have tried to explain what I NEED is not what they are giving me…they just don’t get it. I decided to practice showing them the mercy they do not show to me. Then I saw their NEED to feel safe in their salvation. Once I reached that point, I started healing. I realized I was judging them as harshly as they were me. I forgave them for not giving me what I needed and I now understand why they can’t (which is sad because they are my children). I just hope they will learn the healing power of being merciful.

    Mercy triumphs over judgement–it works on both sides!

    • BH says:

      Psychologically speaking, the other person may not be able to see your needs because of their fears. Once I learned this most of my anger and bitterness and sense of revenge went away.

    • Edward says:

      But why were you disfellowshipped?

      • Mark says:

        Hi Edward, Sometimes asking someone who has been disfellowshipped why they were disfellowshipped triggers them to experience the trauma all over again. They might worry that you will agree with the reason they were disfellowshipped, and reinforce the disfellowshipping. After all, you were once in the group yourself, and they think you probably still believe some of what was taught. Why not let people volunteer their own information when they are ready?

      • Edward says:

        Greetings Mark.
        My deepest apologies I did not mean to offend you in anyway. As for myself I was baptized in March 1972. Though I agree with some of the teachings I don’t agree with all. After 44 years in the COFC I left and am now attending a different congregation of another faith.

      • Mark says:

        No problem, Edward. I know you want to be as supportive as possible to everyone on the board!

      • Regina says:

        The reason does not really matter. My shaken faith opened me to spiritual growth.

      • Edward says:

        When my wife left me I still attended CofC. There was some support, but not what I needed. When I entered Social Work I learned more about people than I did as a minister

  2. BH says:

    For what it is worth I feel like I disfellowshipped the Church of Christ.

  3. garycummings says:

    Yes, I feel like I disfellowshipped the Churches of Christ. I was never formally disfellowshipped by them. Two people in the COC did that. My ex wife abandoned our marriage because I left the Churches of Christ. That was mostly true. The other truth is that she hated sex. It was convenient to use the “True Church” as an excuse to abandon our marriage.
    The second person was Bruce Terry, now a professor at Ohio Valley University. He disfellowshipped me when I divorced my wife for abandoning our marriage. His last words to me were: “In the Name of Christ, you are no longer a member of the Body of Christ.” Who in the holy hell did he think he was-the Pope?

    • willy says:

      I belong to a Church of Christ and have never experienced anything like being ousted from the church or seen anyone else ever booted..
      In fact I was always taught that Christ is the head of the church and no one else could judge me as to if I am saved or not.
      I am wondering if the CoC you all seem to be talking about is a denomination of a group of Churches of Christ as in the United Church of Christ.
      The church I belong to is not affiliated with any other church, other than having the same belief of following the new testament.
      And if they do not follow new testament teachings ,, then they are not the Church of Christ,,,,,no matter what is written on the building.

      • garycummings says:

        The COC I belonged to and left was the Churches of Christ in the US, Texas in particular. They called themselves the Restoration Movement. in reality there are about 10 different versions of the COC. They are a legalist cult who spiritually abuse their members. You have your opinion and i have my educated experience. The COC follows a “Pattern” they created by cherry picking verses which they like from the NT.

  4. garycummings says:

    When I became a Corpsman and later a nurse, I learned more about serving others than I did in Bible College or Seminary. When you have to manually disimpact a rectum, that is a very humbling experience.

  5. willy says:

    Could you give an example of the cherry picking verses that the CoC does?
    What is it that they disregard from the New Testament teachings?
    I’m not trying to grill you,, but if my church is doing something wrong then it is the Christian’s job to point it out.

    • garycummings says:

      Everything the COC teaches is cherry picking. I do not have the time or inclination to write a tome about it. Look up the term “illegitimate totality transfer”. That will answer many questions about cherry picking, One verse is taken up and then presumed to be what other verses are talking about because the same word is used, even though the context is different. This can be applied to the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, Sunday Worship, etc.
      It is not that your church is “doing something wrong.” It is fundamentally wrong about everything it teaches.

      • willy says:

        I know what “cherry picking” means.
        And your failure to give one example of it being done by the CoC only shows you make claims with no evidence.
        In other words, you do not, and can not back your own statements.
        And your statement of “EVERYTHING IT TEACHES” without one example, makes it look as though you do not like their belief in New Testament teaching ,,, but it isn’t really their belief that bothers you ,, but it is your dislike of the truth.

      • garycummings says:

        I am not here to argue with COC folks stuck in their cultic rut. Have a nice day.

      • willy says:

        That was expected .
        You make post after post bashing the CoC ,,but when asked to give ONE example of what the church teaches that is wrong ,,,you suddenly become one that does not want to argue!!
        You are also one who wants to make false accusations without being questioned about what you claim.
        Your problem seems to be with the truth and how it differs with what YOU want it to be.
        So you bash the church out of anger, the same way you bash your ex-wife by bringing personal things such as her sexual desires or lack there of onto a public forum !
        You seem bitter and wanting to hurt any who do not agree with what, or how things should be in your mind.
        So I do hope you get over your bitterness ,, and see that like it or not,,our opinions do not matter when it comes to what the real truth is .

      • JP says:

        Everything?! Amazing. How wonderfully easy that makes it. there is nothing good to consider at all. It’s so comfortable at one extreme or the other. Wish I could go there…..sometimes.

      • garycummings says:

        The whole basic approach of the COC is to turn the Gospel into a new law which much be grasped by deduction. The Gospel is not law, and we are saved by faith from first to last, Romans 1:16-17.

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