"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: The Downside of Leaving

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Downside of Leaving

Anonymous posted this comment today, which I thought merited a page of its own:

I read through this blog when I was in the process of making my decision to leave. Now that I am gone I feel there is a side to the story of leaving that is slightly overlooked or at least not directly adressed.
I am just hoping to open the doors to discussion on this and hopefully this will also help enlighten those still in the midst of the religion as to how drastically leaving affects us as well.
In my jouney to freedom I have been extremely depressed and have developed anxiety to the point that my entire life is begining to suffer.
I am curious how many others suffered from depression and any other effects of depression; self-harm, suicidal thoughts, anxiety,ect.



  1. I am praying for you.

    I have to ask, how have you been treated by your family and friends since leaving? In most of the Laestadian churches the members are socially isolated from people outside of the group. When a person leaves and up to that point their entire social life was Laestadians and suddenly the Laestadians are treating the person differently, it can be devastating, especially when there is no social network outside of Laestadianism.


  2. I am praying for you, too. I have been thinking of your post all week and trying to find some wisdom for you. I have left in the past year myself, but I spent 20 years struggling inside the church. Finally, when I reached that tipping point where leaving the church was only slightly less painful than remaining there, I left. I never believed in the exclusivity of the church but when your whole family, most of your friends, and your culture is so firmly rooted in the church, it is very hard to leave. When I left, I actually took a very long break in seeing my family. I didn't even go to holiday gatherings or birthdays. I just didn't want to give people the opportunity to berate me for leaving. I knew they would, because I'd been berated for not going to big services or for missing church when I was ill. I had felt emotionally blackmailed for years by them to do everything their way. It was hard to hear many of the things they had to say to me, like it would have been better for me to die than to leave the church. I was even told that I could not really be part of the family if I continued non-attendance. I had to be tough and firm and tell them that I probably wasn't coming back, but if I did, it was going to be on my own terms. I had to tell them that if I am not part of the family, fine, leave me out then.

    I have also found that forming friendships amongst other former Laestadians is helpful, particularly those who are from a different group. You can feel freer to say what you need to about the fallout from leaving without worrying it will get back to your loved ones. It also validated my experience knowing so many others, even from other groups, had been going through the same exact thing.

    Sometimes Laestadians don't seem to have very good boundary issues. It doesn't matter if you are 14 or 40, leaving is hard.

    One thing that has helped me is a good counselor. Mine has had some special training in spiritual abuse.

  3. Anonymous, once you leave, it is very common to be threatened with death vis a vis being 'killed by God' as punishment for leaving (the only true) Christian church/faith. Some members actually pray for God to 'take them' rather than let them be led astray (aka leave the AP Church). This is all the same old claptrap I recall people facing 40 and even 50 years ago. Gradually reaching an internal 'tipping point' where the pain of staying is worse than leaving is a common experience too. Most people I know took at least 2 or 3 years to gather the gumption to extricate themselves out of their group. It is much harder to do so if one is married and has children as the pharisees will sic their kids on your kids. I found it was easier to finally make a complete break rather than sort of hang around-at first it was hard getting used to having my own freedom of choice, making new friends etc.... I found I fit in much better with an academic/professional crowd but each person has to decide that for themselves. From my observations modern day Laestadian children are so repressed as little children that they never develop an internal compass with regards to their own inner feelings. So it takes some time to nurture that part of yourself and begin to listen to one's own internal wisdom. Also I got involved with a great conservative Bible Church with none of the phoney baloney I had been forced to listen to before. I looked into the Laestadian Movement when I went to college. What you see now within the AP Churches is really just a shell of what it once was as the original meanings have been lost over time. Violating personal borders is symptomatic of 'a borderline personality disorder' in psychiatry. You will find that more than one AP type church collectively displays a sort of group borderline personality disorder. But the freedom to worship God in peace eventually makes the task of leaving well worth it. Several ex-AP's I know have personally related to me how they felt that they had 'wasted' years of their lives by having stayed in the church after they knew inside that they should leave. So leaving sooner rather than later seems to be the best course of action over the long run. You said, 'I had felt emotionally blackmailed for years by them to do everything their way.' But that is the basic tenant of each Laestadian group and that one has to do everything according to their norms. But you will find that those norms subtely keep changing over time so one must stay 'tuned in' to the latest changes so that one keeps fitting in. In other words one's own personal identity and self is squashed down as I mentioned earlier and substituted with the collective church identity....whatever that may be. I am glad that I do not have to live in serfdom any more. I think you will end up feeling the same way too at some point after you have put some space, time and distance between you and the group Zanon

  4. I had a lot of anxiety. I first relied on medication and that helped for a while. Kept the edge off but didn't help the deep seated issues, the rejection, lost friends, not knowing where to turn and how to live and who I was. It was years of just being. It wasn't until I turned my life over to Jesus Christ that I started to heal, I wish I had known him sooner. He is the one that is always there for you, he is the one that knows your pain and can heal your pain and give you a life of joy. He knows what its like to be rejected, hated, tossed aside. Things will not ever be easy I don't think for those of us that have left, the family issues will always be there, but I have learned to just accept them for who they are and let Christ guide me and love me. I didn't know him in my Laestadian church because we weren't taught how to know him. Also finding people you can trust is big. I'm still working on that. I have found a great church, but still working on those intimate spiritual relationships. Prayer and lots of prayer. I have found God is faithful and he is there whenever and wherever you need him. He got me through, thats that only way I got through. Without him I'd still be in a lot of anxiety. So yah, Jesus Christ was my answer.
    Saying a prayer for you! Its is a tough road but I would never change it because it was through the storms that I found the Lord. The song by Mercy Me- Bring the Rain comes to mind.
    It helps to talk about it too. There are lots of us here that understand and have been through it!

  5. For me, many of the 20 years of being in the church I was medicated for depression and anxiety. It was about the only way that I could remain there sane. I thought I'd have to go back on medication upon leaving, but I haven't had to. In fact, many of the anxiety symptoms I used to have have completely gone away, and I function much better at work, home, and in the community than I ever did when I was still in the church. However, my situation might be different from your own. I did not have a high social status at the church for reasons too complex to tell here. I am a modest person, not prideful. But a person can still tell when they are being looked down on. And I found that whereas I was treated pretty well at my work, in my community, and with my non-church friends, at church and with family, I was treated poorly. It took a new, non-LLL friend to shake my sense of reality. She told me how precious I was, and that she thought I was not only talented, but loving, caring, loveable, and attractive, and she wondered how on earth did I get such a low self-esteem?

    Perhaps many can stay and put up with that situation if they truly believed in the church's exclusivity.

    And perhaps those who don't believe in the exclusivity of the doctrine but have good social status can remain as well. But poor status + questioning the exclusivity of the doctrine usually equals leaving.

    There are those brave souls who leave totally out of not believing the doctrine of exclusivity but have strong social capital within the church. I think the way they are treated as a result can be a very big shock and blow to their ego, especially if they've been treated fairly well.

    For myself, I had very little to lose. I considered that all of my friends and family would want nothing more to do with me. And in fact, the first 6 months, that's basically what I got from all my family and all but two of my friends. Now, slowly, a few of my family have come around. I am careful with those relationships so I don't lose any more ground.

    And yes, I do feel like the last twenty years of my life have been wasted. This despite the fact my lifestyle has changed very little, and I did not leave so I could partake in worldly things. I just wish I hadn't stayed in a place where I was clearly not valued as a person.

  6. Anonymous,
    You said, "And I found that whereas I was treated pretty well at my work, in my community, and with my non-church friends, at church and with family, I was treated poorly. It took a new, non-LLL friend to shake my sense of reality. She told me how precious I was, and that she thought I was not only talented, but loving, caring, loveable, and attractive, and she wondered how on earth did I get such a low self-esteem?"
    I can easily relate to your experience. I learned at a very young age in my home that we children were not valued as creative and unique individuals. Our value as an individual was instead determined through a rather narrow and warped value system that demanded conformity. I remember my mother living with a paranoid fear of what the relatives thought. Fortunately, I was academically recognized by outsiders who gave me the encouragement I needed. In constrast in the church circles I was backstabbed and the subject of vicious false rumors which I later learned are one of the control mechanisms used by the AP pharisees. I had previously been berated by my church 'peers' that since Jesus was a carpenter Christians must work in construction too. Inside the AP church groups those that are 'different' from the construction/blue collar church norms gradually find themselves either socally isolated or they end up having to emotionally work very hard to fit in with the group, which does cause depression. I am glad you have found a way out. Better 20 years wasted than 40. I spent a number of years playing 'catch up' after I left and I managed to make some good progress enjoying missed life experiences in the process too. Tell yourself what you want in life and it can happen. Zanon

  7. Found this article saved in my documents, glad to see it's still online.. called "The Transition from Law to Grace". Maybe it would be helpful to you.. http://www.caic.org.au/biblebase/abuse/transit1.htm

    Also, John MacArthur has good insight into the issues of law and grace.. www.gty.org. I find it helpful to continually test issues that come up through the lens of grace, not law.

  8. I have read and repeated in reading this chain. Very interesting and openly written experiences, thnaks you everyone! I do agree that connections with other people who have leaved LLL (or any Laestadian church) would encourage and support recently leaved persons to rebuild the life.

    Someone might be interested in reading also discussion here in the Finnish team-blog:


    I am praying for you and everyone who is suffering in struggling with these questions thinking how to deal with leaving the Laestadian faith and church.

    Love, Anni

  9. I feel the same way as the anonymous who wrote that. I left 5 years ago, and I've been to counselling for anxiety and depression. It seemed to help for awhile, but then the depression came back. It's more low self esteem than depression, actually. I feel worthless, like I don't deserve my wonderful husband, and beautiful daughter. Like I don't deserve to have good friends who care about me. Like I don't have it in me to be a good mother, a good friend, a good wife. A big part of me wishes I could have been born to a normal family, and not into the llc, so I would have a chance at feeling normal. You are not alone in feeling like that. I would love to get in contact with you, if you read this. I won't give my email because I don't want anyone who knows me to find me out. I hope things have gotten better for you since your post.

  10. Thank you so much for the support.

    Since posting the initial post I have improved termendously I am quickly on the road to recovery although I always fear spiraling down as I know many likely events have the capability to pull me down.

    Just today as I was remembering the past and how far I have improved, I felt the overwhellming feeling of just being alive! The feeling that there is an entire world out there to explore without the fear of being confined to a religion, a set of people, petty outdated social norms that exist by installing the fear of hell. This is what I left for! :) It was quite amazing to have emotion again! I feel so blessed.

    Thanks for the links! And I must say this, I admire those who have been able to turn their lives back to christianity. I deal with a major incapability to trust anything religious as I associate it so drastically with the past.

    ym -I feel your pain with the guilt and low self-esteem. This was always the major cause of my anxiety. I would love to get into contact..I am also a bit hesitent though to post my email as I dont know if I can delete this post after :S. Perhaps I can make a temporary email and forward my email to you through that.

    My thoughts are always with those who are concidering that scarry decision to leave.

  11. I haven't been on for awhile, so I'm just seeing your post now. If you make a temporary email we could definately go from there if you want to get in touch! I'll try check back sooner next time.

  12. I went ahead and made a temporary email you can contact me through if you want


    I hope to hear from you :)

  13. I found this at churchabuse.com while researching to find a description of Spiritual Abuse.

    Here is a questionnaire to determine just how healthy your local church is. To find out how well your church ranks, answer "yes" or "no" to the following 12 questions:

    Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks?

    Does your spiritual leader use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers?

    Is your spiritual leader intolerant of questions or critical inquiry?

    Is your spiritual leader the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation?

    Does your spiritual leader have unreasonable fears about the outside world such as evil conspiracies or persecutions?

    Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are "evil" or "defiling"?

    Is leaving your group to join another church equal to leaving God?

    Does the surrounding community view your church as a cult?

    Does your spiritual leader consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned?

    Do the goals of your spiritual leader seem to supersede any personal goals or individual interests?

    Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion?

    Do former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances?

    If you answered "no" to all of the above 12 questions, your church is very healthy. If you answered "yes" to three or more, your church is showing signs of being
    unhealthy. If you answered "yes" to six or more, your church is very unhealthy. If you answered "yes" to eight or more, your church is more than likely a full-blown authoritarian cult.

    Also check out the articles at churchabuse.com I find them interesting and extremely helpful Especially "Walking away from Spiritual Abuse" and
    "Spiritual Identity Crisis."