Part 1, The day I turned bad

My earliest childhood memories are all good. Playing “cave spelunking” in our basement with my dad and siblings, the big climbing tree in our backyard, playing Indians with shell-face-paint at the beach with my cousins, going fishing with my dad, capturing fishflies and keeping them as pets: a collection of small childhood pleasures like those most of us have stored away in memory somewhere. I liked my early childhood. It was good. I liked my family. My life was safe and happy, and I don’t take those two things lightly!  By some odd quirk of personality, I was one of those kids that lived to please.  I was not only happy to do my own chores, but other people’s as well, and I used to get scolded for using up whole boxes of Kleenex to wrap miscellaneous small things to give as gifts to all and sundry (no laughing, Kleenex is the imaginative child’s wrapping paper!)  My mom would call me “her little sunshine”, and I think in many ways I was my parent’s golden child. My older sister, R, was a free spirit, quite mischievous, with just enormous quantities of energy that she had to expend every waking moment!  She was in constant motion for at least 8 straight years.  With such an energetic first child, having a second-born who was quiet and lived-to-please must have seemed like a godsend to my parents! My little brother B, who arrived two years after I did, took after my older sister.  So that made it two to one, and probably wore my parents out good and proper, while making my halo glow even brighter by comparison!

I was probably about 6 when I came to the dawning revelation that my eagerness to please and do things for everyone was leaving me with quite the unequal work load.  I would make my own twin bed in the morning…then my sister’s…then my brother’s…then my parent’s big double-bed, which was quite a feat for a small 6-year-old!  I was also a budding perfectionist, so sometimes I just re-did everyone else’s work after they did it, just so it could be done better, to my own strict and exacting standards.  In retrospect I sound rather obnoxious, even to myself!  In any case, I noticed that I was the one always getting asked to help with everything, while my sister and brother got out of work by virtue of complaining.  My good nature was being taken advantage of!  This unpleasant discovery rankled in my small soul.  I decided it was unfair, and from now on, I was just going to do my own work, and no-one else’s.

I always looked at this decision as the moment when I started to “go bad”.  I don’t know if I remember the exact moment or not, but it was kept fresh in my memory because my mom was always asking me about it, for years and years afterwards. “Do you remember the day you decided to stop being sweet and helpful?” she’d ask, sighing a little.  “You used to be such a sweet little girl.”  She would heave another sigh, and then ask “Do you remember why you decided to stop being sweet and good? Did Satan talk to you, and put that idea in your head?  That was when you turned into a selfish girl.”  I think this was just my mom’s way of complaining for the good ol’ days when she had at least ONE easy child to deal with. But at the time it instilled all sorts of guilt in me, and left me wondering if I had, indeed, made a pact with Satan that day, because certainly I didn’t act as nice afterwards.  This actually became a major point of doubting my own salvation for me, because I had “said the sinner’s prayer” at the ripe old age of 3, and wasn’t I supposed to keep getting better and better after I was saved? But here I was, turning selfish and bad at the age of 6, when I should instead have been comfortably far down the road of righteousness!  These doubts and guilt plagued me for years, I’m sorry to say.  I always think one should explain salvation a little better, even to young children, so they don’t fall into these sorts of theological pitfalls. Over-simplistic theology definitely never helped me as a child, and I bet I’m not the only one.  Anyway, after I “turned bad” at the age of 6, I went on still enjoying my life, despite being the selfish little sinner that I now knew I was.  Then, when I was about 7, we met Joe and Mary LaQuiere.

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7 thoughts on “Part 1, The day I turned bad

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve just read through the entirety of your posts this evening, (most recent to oldest).

    I had never heard of this Joe LaQuiere until I read something you wrote elsewhere that made me want to Google his name. And now I’m here and sickeningly marveled at how very alike aspects of your childhood and mine are, without the common ground of the same teacher/leader (I grew up in Great Commission International–now GCM–and Bill Gothard teachings most of my life).

    My heart is heavy reading your story and observing that these spiritual, emotional and physical abuse tactics are so insidiously similar to the ones suffered by children of those following other (ahem) leaders. Is there a spiritual abuse playbook I’m not aware of?!? So much of what you’ve written resonates with me. I and some of my family are on a journey rediscovering the God who is, and who was hidden behind the long lists of rules and Pharisaic beliefs of our childhood. I pray God continues to heal you and show you His true nature and unfailing love for you because of *who He is,* not *what you’ve done.* Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

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    • Really?? I’d be super interested in hearing your story sometime, if you’re ever willing to share! My email is sarah.dutko77@gmail.com 🙂 I feel like I’ve heard of Great Commission International, but I just can’t place it…maybe it’s time to Google! I’m VERY familiar with Bill Gothard…my dad, and dad’s dad both were super enthusiastic about him…I went to quite a few basic seminars, as well as a year spent in ATI (that was after we left the Joe LaQuiere cult…we only stayed a year in ATI because it felt too similar). So though I wasn’t as entrenched in the Bill Gothard culture as the ATI families who spent decades in and out of his training centers…still, I know my theology was shaped greatly by what he taught, as was that of my dad, and apparently, Joe LaQuiere (I’m surprised how similar their teachings were about nearly everything). Were you also in ATI?

      If there IS a spiritual abuse playbook, we both know who wrote it! Maybe it’s just the particular lie that Satan used to ensnare a whole generation of believers. For what it’s worth I feel like I’m nowhere near the end of my journey…God’s been so faithful, while I’ve been vacillating, at best…this is maybe the first year that I feel like maybe God has a purpose for everything I and my family have gone through…a purpose that maybe I’ll get to see! If you feel like it, I’d love to chat more with you and hear about your own experiences!

      Thanks so much for your empathy! It means a lot 🙂

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  2. Here’s a thought, for what it’s worth: when you described noticing the inequality of your workload and deciding to only do your work, I immediately thought what a smart 6yr old you must have been to recognize a boundary problem: you were owning more than what was yours. And what a proactive way to deal with that realization: stop doing what’s not yours to do!

    I can’t say that 10 years ago, it would have jumped out at me as a very good and healthy response, because I was still so steeped in the going-the-extra-mile and do-all-things-without-grumbling (and yes, with a smile!) rhetoric of my upbringing.

    This may not apply at all in your situation, but the response you received made me think of this: http://www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/narcissistic-supply.html

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    • Sarah, thanks for this comment! You know, you’re the first person to ever put a positive spin on this part of my story – I’ve never thought of it as a boundary issue (well, I’ve realized I’m notoriously bad with boundaries!) but that makes so much sense! Funny, I feel so much better just thinking about that! hehe It also makes sense that this would have come up when it did, with 6 or 7 being the “age of reason” (I DID read the article, see? :-P) Thanks for your thought – it definitely cheered me up today!

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  3. Pingback: The Story of an Ex-Good Girl: Part One | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  4. Hi, I have no idea if you still check this blog, I know it’s 3 years old, but I just found it. My husband and I have an 18 month old son and we stumbled upon the Raising Godly Tomatoes website. We read through her book (it’s available for free on the website, we didn’t buy it) and some of what she wrote made a lot of sense… other parts of the book we didn’t feel made sense at all and would never do with our son. As I was looking up others opinions on her book I found some comments you had posted detailing where she got her opinions and how they were carried out in your (and other children’s) childhoods.

    It seems to me that she toned her book down quite a bit from what was actually practiced. Her book sounds pretty reasonable (well, parts of it) but the experiences you describe are most definitely child abuse.

    I agree with a previous poster, your reluctance to help out when you turned 6 was a way to establish boundaries because your good nature was being taken advantage of. People spend their whole lives learning how to tell people no but it is sometimes good and necessary.

    So sorry for all the trauma you’ve been through and I hope God has brought quite a bit of healing into your life. I hope you’ve been able to rediscover God for the mountain of love and grace that He is.

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    • Thank you, Michelle! I’m sorry for the delayed reply – I so rarely check this blog anymore! But I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment, and share your thoughts and encouragement. God has definitely been healing me! I’m really grateful, because it’s put me in a better place to accept new evidences of past trauma surfacing in the lives of my family, decades later now. It’s heartbreaking, but I am full of hope, because God is bigger and greater than all of this! And I know He can bring good out of the blackest things. Thank you for sharing your heart! Our God really is a mountain of love and grace!

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