The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
Where Would I Be Today Had I Never Been In The Worldwide Church of God And Learned To Have Low Self-Esteem?

By Sharon

 Hi, Ed.

John B.' article was touching, and the core message about "self-esteem" hits home to many others of us ex-Worldwide Church of God members who were not alcoholics. Denying oneself of any value was very central to the Worldwide Church of God paradigm.

Female Worldwide Church of God survivors have, arguably, a lot more legacy of low self esteem to overcome on average than males. Women were deemed even more worthless than men in the Worldwide Church of God "self-hating" paradigm.

Although I was very young when tapes of HWA were played at Sabbath services the FOT, I remember his diatribes (every single time there was a sermon) about how we should not love ourselves because it was a sin. HWA explained over and over how sin was first committed in the Garden of Eden, and how Adam and Eve went the "way of get" rather than the "way of give," etc. Two illogical corollaries of learning NOT to love ourselves were: "love thy neighbor as thyself" and "esteem others higher than ourselves."

Deflation of the "self" reached absurd levels. The teaching of the church not to celebrate birthdays produced children in our local area who were fearful to admit that they even had a "birth date." One I knew did not even know the date on which he was born.

I took the Worldwide Church of God's self-negating paradigm very seriously. At the age 7 or 8, I asked my parents why they birthed me because I was such a horrible person. The only way I could feel better about myself was to convince myself that I hated myself, as instructed by the church and "God." But even that wasn't very satisfying.

If I asked my mother questions about God or what was preached at services, she would defer to my father, who was able to answer the questions better than she. Looking around the local congregation, all the women deferred to their husbands and ministers because they esteemed themselves lowly. Observing the marriage dynamics in the local church, we overheard nasty exchanges between the overly dominant males and the submissive females. It was a status symbol for a husband to have a submissive wife. The behavior was more extreme in the privacy of the members' homes. By example, us women and girls were conditioned to think that maintaining the lowest self-esteem possible was Godly and would please our husbands.

I dare say that most of us ex-Worldwide Church of God women today still have low self-esteem, or may not even realize it. Many of us crave authority figures in our personal lives and in our bedrooms.

How many of the abusive marriages, once fueled by church teachings, still exist today? How many women are afraid to stand up for themselves after having abandoned the Worldwide Church of God? Or, how many women have gone from one abusive marriage to another after having divorced their husbands in the Worldwide Church of God. How many of the girls who grew up in the Worldwide Church of God have sought a husband who is excessively dominant?

Ed, there must be others in my shoes. I'm just beginning to realize how much the "self-esteem" issue took hold of me and how much more independent and secure I would be today had I not been exposed to Worldwide Church of God teachings.

My mother was the dominant figure in our household. She would defer to my father only on spiritual issues or matters of supreme significance, including financial ones (tithing). In all mundane household affairs, she called the shots. If it hadn't been for Worldwide Church of God teachings, she undoubtedly would have asserted her dominance in the important realms as well. She sought counseling from our minister as to how she could learn to be more submissive, arguing that it was against her nature to submit to her husband. She was afraid of being thrown into the lake of fire for not submitting.

I left home at age 18 to attend college. My favorite professors were always male. I looked up to them and respected their academic accomplishments more than those of their female colleagues.

During my freshman year, I looked long and hard to find a boyfriend--one that was sufficiently mature and whom I could look up to. I met someone 9 years older than myself who, I thought, would be a good match because he was much more experienced and smarter than I. He was an MD/Ph.D. graduate student, knew six different languages, had lived and worked in several different countries, AND, most importantly, reassured me that he could turn me into a successful person as well (from the uneducated ex-Worldwide Church of God hick I was)--if I'd only submit to his way of doing things. It sounded like a good deal at the time. Four years later, we separated after I almost called the police to have him removed from the property of the apartment building in which I lived. He followed me to and from my job and telephoned me incessantly, telling me that I could never make it on my own. To this day, I still wonder if I would have been a more successful person had I stayed with him.

Having done well academically, I planned to attend graduate school. But a series of internships and work experiences abroad delayed it. I sought out dominant male companionship time after time. Every man I dated had to be more intelligent than I and command my respect. I wanted to have someone by my side whom I could trust more than myself and who would make the final decision for me on key issues. Each relationship became abusive long-term. One man continued to stalk me for several months after our breakup and caught me one day at my dormitory alone. He slammed the door to my room on my hand, and abandoned me as I had to get myself to the nearest hospital emergency room. In another instance, the male figure was an alcoholic who tried to convince me that I needed to drink as much as he did if I really loved him.

New Relationship. Intimidation. Submission. Regret. Breakup. Loneliness. New Relationship. Intimidation. Submission. Regret. Breakup. Loneliness. The cycle continued until I was to begin graduate school.

Securing a stable dominant male husband became my preoccupation and ultimately prevented me from sticking to my career path. My financial situation was bleak and I would have had to take out tens of thousands dollars of loans to complete the degree program. I convinced myself that long-term career goals were nowhere near as important as getting married to an intelligent dominant male.

I left the academic track I devoted many years to pursuing and moved into the apartment of a man I had spent less than a few weeks getting to know in person. I had become a good friend of his while overseas, keeping in touch every day through email and phone calls. We were certain that we were in love. He was certain that graduate school was a mistake for me. He'd figure something out for us both to do professionally. I would just have to trust him. It was a small price to pay, I thought, for having a dominant male and financially secure future.

Well, today we are still married. We respect each other's intelligence. We are generally happy, but my husband calls the shots, at least he makes all the important decisions. He decides where we will live and what kind of work we will do, as he owns his own firm. My interests have been put on the back burner. I've submitted to everything lovingly and willingly. I can now admit to myself that finding a dominant male whom I could love was my subconscious agenda in life.

I cannot complain about my current life, Ed. But I will always wonder where I would be today had I never been in the Worldwide Church of God and learned to have low self-esteem.






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