Mercy Survivor Sarah shares about her process of overcoming denial and about her experience at Mercy Ministries. The original piece was published on her personal blog and can be viewed at Sarah’s Collage.
When I was a baby, my parents went on a really long drive in a sweltering heat wave to see this car. They had asked the lady over the phone if it had any rust.
“No rust, no rust”.
So they get there and the lady comes out to meet them. They start looking at the car. My dad opens one of the doors and it falls off.
Lady looks at him and then runs inside. She locks the door.
Mum knocks a couple of times but she won’t come out.
What baffles me about this story is WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? Did she really think that they wouldn’t notice the rust when the door happened to “detach itself”? Or that the rust would somehow make itself invisible until they got home, and by then, she could have had time to choof off on her broomstick to a place where she can never be tracked down? Did she think that if she believed a lie hard enough that it would magically come true?
After much bafflement, I have decided that the most likely explanation is denial. And I realised that I am equally baffled by other examples of denial.
Anyone who has a loved one in their life with an addiction (who is not in recovery) will understand what I mean.
“I’ll just have one more drink, THEN I’ll go home to my family”
“I’m not an addict, I can stop any time I want”
“Mind over matter”
“I don’t have a serious health condition”
“It’s just a flesh wound!”
Even though it is based on a myth, I still like the ostrich analogy.
People in denial stick their heads in the sand like ostriches, thinking that if they close their eyes, block their ears and think happy thoughts, then AAAAAALLLL the yucky things around them will disappear.
The logic of a person in denial fits a round peg in a square hole.
Denial is proud. Denial is narcissistic. Denial puffs itself up to mask fear and insecurity. Denial has no self awareness. Denial does not take personal responsibility. Denial blames others. Denial is reactively defensive. Denial is escape. Denial makes promises it can’t deliver. Denial is not open to the process of reason. Denial stunts emotional, mental and spiritual growth. Denial is a loss of touch with reality. Denial is insanity.
Denial can be very dangerous.
Denial is what justifies the abuse or neglect of a child in the mind of it’s perpetrating caregiver.
Denial is the reason that pyramid network marketing schemes are successful… for the handful of people at the top.
I have been in some pretty serious denial in my life.
There are three main times in my life that come to my mind.
The first two, I’m to embarrassed to share about in great detail.
One is when I became very mentally unstable at the age of 14. It was like mania on speed, and it was never diagnosed or treated. I don’t know what really came first…denial or insanity. Both are loss of touch with reality, so I guess I’m just not sure if it’s something I chose, or was pushed into it by stress levels, or maybe a bit of both.
The second one… too embarrassed to elaborate, let’s just say I heard a voice and “God made me do it”.
The third and more recent one involves my 12 month experience as a resident of Mercy Ministries Australia. I guess it was a projected denial that came from being psychologically broken down. For a long time, it was as if there were two separate realities that were very far from each other. One knew that something was very wrong, that this place did not represent God. The other reality was that Mercy was God.
In this denial, I felt a duty to protect Mercy staff and Mercy as an organisation from consequences resulting from accountability. Because, as they say, “no one is perfect”, “we all make mistakes”, “slander and gossip are sin”, “touch not the Lord’s anointed”, “I’m sure they meant well”.
In conformity to this denial, I am ashamed to say that I, along with some other Christians, initially condemned those brave girls who exposed Mercy in the media. Even after experiencing and witnessing many of the same things first hand, I decided that the girl who claimed she was “exorcised” was not common practice at MM because I had never seen it happen in the way she described, so therefore one staff member made a mistake and it should not reflect on the organisation as a whole. I thought that those girls should have expressed their grievances to Mercy directly because surely Mercy would listen and make changes to the program. For those girls to go to the media, well that just proved they were bitter and judgmental and that their issues were really about the condition of their own hearts.
I didn’t know how sick I was.
Facing the reality of my experience there was like going through a faith crisis. It was terrifying but incredibly empowering at the same time. It took me a long time to process this with God, and understandably I was very angry with Him for a long time.
I thought that if I just kept stuffing all the yucky feelings down (sometimes multiple times a day) that it meant I was forgiving them for their 0.1% of imperfection and would mean that I wasn’t bitter.
It took time to understand that they were not God. It took time to understand that all the good they may have done or intended does not neutralise or lessen the seriousness of the evil they did, intended or not, due to no staff accountability and no qualification to run a health care/rehabilitation facility. Anyone who understands the needs of at risk troubled women, many with life threatening conditions, can see that they risked girls lives every day.
In my denial, I was judgmental towards the wrong people, incapable of being objective or impartial, unwilling to accept valid critique and was over protective of the “real reality” out of fear of God (or rather, Mercy). I debated in my mind the definitions of “exorcism”, “abuse”, “attitude problem” and many other things in order that I could think of Mercy as exempt from responsibility by squeezing that round peg into that square hole. I made excuses for Mercy, minimised anything I could honestly admit from my first hand experience and naively gave them the benefit of the doubt in the face of very serious allegations simply because they claimed to be a Christian ministry.
It took me a long time to come to terms with objective reality, and I am still very much in that process.
I am just so grateful to God that I am being set free from the torment of denial, that I can truly say I am free and am becoming free.