Not all wire hangers are misogynists. Apparently.

A few months ago, I had an embarrassing incident with some wire hangers in my closet. I had set out to organize! cleanse! make all things new!

But the wire hangers, they were acting all privileged. Hogging too much room. Patriarchal, really. Wire hangers, as we all know, are EFFING MISOGYNISTS, AM I RIGHT????

Ahem. Forgive me, this will all make sense momentarily.

The Wire Hanger Meltdown was followed by The Pool Chair Incident. Because, obviously, Pool Chair is just another way of saying Cult Leader–especially when it refuses to properly recline and instead crashes down, landing your ass on the cement pool deck.

“Mommy, why are you crying?”

“BECAUSE THE EFFING CULT LEADER THREW ME ON THE GROUND!”

“You mean the pool chair?”

“No. I mean THE CULT LEADER.”

And that is what we call “My Rock Bottom Moment.” Clearly, I needed help. Probably this came as no surprise to anyone but myself.

: :

I’d been getting emails. Messages. Tweets.

I don’t like your tone, Elizabeth. You sound different. You sound angry. Not all churches are cults, Elizabeth. Not all men are cult leaders. You’re being unfair, unkind, preposterous. Sometimes you have good things to say, Elizabeth, but your tone is so harsh. Why are you so bitter? Why can’t you just move on? Stop being such a victim, Elizabeth. Maybe you should write a disclaimer before you share your experiences because your abuse is not the norm. –Signed, A Caring Reader.

I mean, enough people tell you the same thing and you finally gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Which I did. I checked myself right into an Online Timeout. I’ve been quiet lately.

: :

Back to the story. I was angry. Very angry. Mostly, at God. And pastors. And churches. And apparently, pool chairs. Little League. Citibank. Wire hangers. Cult leaders. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start with the anger.

Anger is exhausting. I think I read that in the book of Revelation. Which is to say, when you’re angry, you view all of life through an angry filter. It was like I put on my angry glasses each morning and went hunting for Bad Pastors, Bad Churches and Bad Theology.

This is an exhausting way to live.

I don’t know whether my rock bottom was burnout, anxiety or generalized hysteria but I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all three. The Interwebz can you make you batshit cray, this we know.

Point is, I put my ass in timeout—oh, wait. I’ve already said this. This, you see, is what happens when you’re angry: you forget you’ve already said things and then you start repeating yourself over and over until people are like: yeah, yeah, we GET IT. YOU WERE ABUUUUSED.

: :

I’ve been working a 12 step program. This is uncomfortable. Mainly, because at some point you have to stop talking about All The Ways You’ve Been Hurt and start taking responsibility for the ways you hurt others.

This is annoying. Also, profoundly difficult. I would really rather skip this part.

But I won’t. I’m gonna work it.

: :

I’ve been wrestling with questions:

At what point does the victim become the abuser?

At what point does my anger no longer serve me?

: :

I read this article about survivors of the Holocaust. The researcher was trying to find out why certain survivors went on to live meaningful, productive lives after all they’d endured? I can’t remember the details, but basically, it was that the survivors who lived long, meaningful lives maintained a deep faith and an optimistic spirit. They didn’t just define themselves by their awful experience, they proactively sought ways to make the world a better place for others–even if it was just their families.

: :

A whole person cannot be solely defined by what she stands against. A whole person must stand for something, too.

: :

I have lashed out, criticized, deconstructed, questioned and chided the religious powers that be. This was an important part of my journey and I honor it. But I made mistakes along the way and despite my good intentions, I have hurt people. I hurt myself.

I set out to organize! set right! cleanse! make all things new!

But I got entangled somehow. The weapons that were used against me I used against others.

The problem was not so-and-so-pastor or so-and-so-church. My mistake was playing whack-a-mole with every suspicious church or pastor that came across my radar. Sure, I can react, react, react all day. But then what?

In other words, what am I doing to build up the Church? What am I doing to edify and create new, healthy culture within the Church?

Criticism is necessary but it’s not enough.
I can’t build a culture of love and peace using weapons of hate and warfare. 

: :

I don’t have all the answers, here. But I want you to know I’m taking time to examine myself, to check my motives and sincerely seek to understand how I can use my words to effect positive change. Thank you for being patient with me…..

  • jen

    I’ve actually met these Holocaust victims who led enduring lives and it is mind-blowing how positively they can talk about what was a hideous event in their lives and in history. These people are the embodiment of grace.

  • Megan

    Thank you for this, Elizabeth. I’m on a journey to healing and I see a lot of myself in this.

  • Katrina

    this is beautiful elizabeth!

  • Hope Varnedoe

    i’m so proud of you. it really comes down to that Elizabeth, after a while we have to stop letting our abuse define our actions and motivations and let forgiveness and positivity propel us forward. thank you for your honesty.

  • Laura Jinkins

    What an amazing post — doesn’t the old saying go something like “the first step in fixing the problem is admitting there is one”? I struggle with this in different areas of my life — not necessarily situations that involve abuse, but just things I’m not happy about. I focus on the negative with microscopic intensity, rather than trying to focus on the positive. I applaud your efforts to redirect your focus. You continue to inspire, even in your struggle. Thank you for sharing your progress with us.

  • mamawest777

    so brave and so good. right there with you sister!

  • petrushka1612

    “At what point does the victim become the abuser? At what point does my anger no longer serve me?”

    Oh, I needed to hear this. Oh, I needed to hear it.

    But I am going to pick on you about one thing: “effect positive change.” It’s such an awkward cliche. :( You are a better writer than that phrase; I’ve read enough to know that.

    Keep writing — even when you’re angry, you’re helping those of us that are as well.

  • Mark S.

    With you in more ways than I can say. Hang in there EE, we are in your corner.

  • Celeste Wyatt Lee

    Elizabeth, I thank you for your honesty. It is something that those of us who have come out of situations like yours, so desperately need. I, too, do not want to work the 12 steps and look at my part, it is easier to cast the blame on others. Yet, I have been blessed by following the 12 steps enough to experience the contentment and peace when I do. I believe we get frustrated with the length of journey — how it is not resolved quickly — but takes time ….. I am so impatient and that is when I start to see and feel “cult leaders” (or whatever it is for me at that moment) in every event.

    Your honest sharing is a significant part of my learning and growth… thank you for being vulnerable.

  • EH

    Thank you for your courage, integrity and longing for truth. That’s what will make you whole – the yearning to know how to love and be loved and not stopping your search for that truth. Keep going – you are so inspiring. Just to affirm all your posts up until now though – they have been hugely encouraging to me and have helped me recognise traits/struggles in my own life and seek healing so don’t be hard on yourself for being so transparent. You’re blessing others by your journey – warts and all.

    • Aprille

      What she said…

  • Gloria

    “I set out to organize! set right! cleanse! make all things new!”

    *hugs* It’s hard to do that when it’s not your job. 28 Furthermore,
    we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of
    those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose; 38 For
    I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other
    heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming, 39 neither
    powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able
    to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through the
    Messiah Yeshua, our Lord. Not even misogynists or cult leaders.

  • TheresaEH

    What is the 12 step program you mentioned? Is it the one used for AA or ?? please share and know that you are helping others in their own “issues”!!!

  • http://canigetanotherbottleofwhine.com/ Kate Hall

    What a brave and honest post. I loved this!

  • Phyllis

    this is so honest, raw and real…this is a model of removing the masks…I pray for the steps…I have been there and it is hard work but does produce fruit. Grace and peace to you for your courage and transparency…this too will produce fruit..

  • Aprille

    Elizabeth, this post is beautiful. I’ve read your blog for several years, it’s one of my favorites, and it has inspired me to write and blog about my own journey away from legalism into grace. It has been costly. I’ve hurt people, people I really really care about. I’m trying to find restitution with those people but it’s very hard. I’ve been there too. And as much as I honor that part of my journey (and admire you so much for your bravery) you make a lot of good points here, for both you and me. Sometimes we all just need a good time out. I admire so much your willingness to put yourself in time-out publicly, share your faults, and apologize for the bitterness and anger. I just gained even more respect for you.

  • D

    I am a relatively new reader, and must admit that I’ve wondered at the tone of some of your recent posts. I highly respect what you shared here, and commend you for the courage to move forward. This is one of the best posts I’ve read all summer.

  • Carla

    You are precious to the core!

  • Anonymous

    This is wonderful, Elizabeth; thanks for sharing the snapshot of your journey here. I’m a big believer in not running away from our own humanity…meaning we need to actually feel and actually express pain, hurt, and anger. (How else can we come to God “as we are”?) So much of church culture discourages this expression, but I think it’s vital to healing. Only YOU can determine when (and if!) it is time to “move on” from the anger and pain. Actually, I like to think of it more of “integrating” the anger and pain. From your post it really sounds like that’s the process you’re going through. Heaps and tons and gallons of hugs to you!!! Your sharing this helps me and so many other people too!!!

    • J. Collard

      “Actually, I like to think of it more of “integrating” the anger and pain.” I really like that. Good, good thoughts.

  • http://hengilasinn.wordpress.com/ Laurie W.

    Beautiful. So proud of you. Anger does indeed have its place. My therapist likes to say that without anger, some boundaries might not be set. But you’re right. There’s a place where anger needs to fade and rebuilding needs to begin. Each season has its place and is important, I think. You can’t progress if you don’t approach things first. Anyway – ranting. I love you and your honesty, so grateful for the bravery you show in posting the rawness of where you are. Keep workin’ it girl – so many of us are working it right alongside you!

  • Emily Joy

    I’m so happy to hear from you again! I’ve missed your voice on the internet! <3

  • Adam Bryant Marshall

    Excellent meditation on the virtue and vice of anger, Elizabeth. It’s so friggin’ easy to justify hurting others by pointing to the ways we’ve been hurt ourselves; eating our own humble pie is a lovelier way to go, though. Good on you!

  • Anonymous

    Oh if we all could write such a post. Life is a journey. And life with God is even “journeyier”. Yeah. What the heck do I mean by that? Life without God is horrible, but life with God is difficult. I am not running away, but because of what he is doing in my life, making me face some ugly things about myself, I could have written a post like yours. We all should take time to examine ourselves and check our motives. We all need to be patient with one another. Isn’t that what is meant by giving grace to others? And although we need to give ourselves grace (and patience), we must still stay on the path. You’ll make it, Elizabeth.

  • colleen

    great post, elizabeth…it gave me a lot to think about. thank goodness we never stop growing <3

  • Nicole B.

    Anger is exhausting. I’m a pretty easy-going person most of the time but I’ve had a very easy-going kind of life so far and when I encounter little injustices I am always surprised by my flare of serious anger. I worry how I’ll respond to an ACTUAL injustice — not being short-changed at the super market or being screwed by a glitch in a health insurance policy, etc… I should have that 12 step program bookmarked in advance.

  • Alan Noble

    You are amazing. Thank you for this.

  • Laura

    Wonderful post and exactly what I myself needed to hear!

    A thought: I wonder if once you have finished your book, some of the anger will subside on its own? I think in an earlier post you alluded to the writing bringing stuff back up, so I would imagine that when you are not surrounded by your past in such a conscious way, it will be easier to be proactive rather than reactive.

  • Nina

    Hey Elizabeth….I don’t quite see or get where you need to be upbraided. There is nothing wrong with your “tone” in my opinion. It’s YOU. It’s where you are. It’s you being true and rigorously honest, no? Blogging, as I understand, is a form of therapy and even exploration/excavation on many levels? [I don't blog, but imagine it this way....it is primarily an expression of yourself....an online diary or journal, a living catalogue and keepsake. Yes-- serves, ministers to, and informs others. But primarily for you (or it's ego). And people can choose to read along and keep company with your inner workings and outward experiences, or not.] ??? Maybe I’m totally off. Ha. But just keep on keeping it real, okay? You serve us better that way.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    Elizabeth, you are brave, brave, brave. I admire your willingness to say “It’s time for a gut-check.” You have described a process of swinging to the other end of the spectrum, where you’ve worked so hard to counter-act the pain that you have to make sure you don’t go too far. If I may say, I believe that spectrum-swinging is just part of the process of healing, and probably most people who have suffered hurt are going to do it. The successful ones are the ones (like you) who recognize when they get to that point and handle it with care. But I don’t think it means you’re unusual or mean or have gotten off track. It means you’re following a messy healing process, and you’re honest enough with yourself to recognize the not-so-nice parts of that process.

    Keep on, woman of valor!

  • Heather Sherwood

    Your blog is amazing! My therapist told me to look you up. I have been so frustrated with sexism. Ever since I was a child I felt like second class as a female. My Christian culture made me think men had it all and that it just sucked that I was a woman. I am so glad I am not alone!

  • Margaret

    I appreciate your honesty. I had taken a hiatus from blog reading so I missed whatever drama or whatever there was. But that particular bend in the road in your journey is no surprise to me. It is very, very common. And not everybody has the courage to step back and breathe deep and realize that they let the pendulum swing way to far in the other direction. Honestly I would have been surprised if you hadn’t gone through that. But I am very glad you went through it without getting *stuck* in it. :)

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com/ Matt Appling

    Elizabeth, I’ve been out of town and am just now catching up on my reading, but I still wanted to respond. I’m just so appreciative of your honesty – because I’ve seen this tendency in myself and I’m discovering the freedom of not having to solve, criticize or win everything. I hope you keep finding more and more peace in your life. :) Blessings, friend.

  • J. Collard

    I’m glad for this post. It challenges me (and that’s hard), but it’s very good.