You may find it therapeutic to write down and crystalize the feelings and thoughts that led up to your making one of the hardest decisions in your life. It is very healing and comforting to read your feelings in print which were written by someone else who experienced the same thing. To know others felt like you did/do; to have confirmed that you weren’t alone or crazy! People crave confirmation of their thoughts and suspicions.
It is also VERY beneficial for others to know the specific details (the naked truth) regarding experiences where you were disappointed or hurt; which caused your illusions to come tumbling down. These incidents aid in diminishing undeserved confidence and worship in men, the workers and man-made belief systems. It is far easier for someone to make a decision to leave the group behind when they know their feelings and thoughts are not unique, and that they have the company of others who have been where they are. It is extremely helpful to others for you to pass on the methods you successfully used to overcome your obstacles and fears about leaving.
Writing your story can actually be quite a simple matter—even for those who claim they cannot write. All you have to do is write down the answers to the following questions in complete sentences in paragraph format. When you finish answering all the questions, you will have told the high points of your story. Just skip any questions you don’t understand or like; that weren’t relevant to your situation, etc. The questions are merely guides to help trigger meaningful memories.
If you are feeling reluctant to write your story because your grammar or spelling is rusty, simply request that someone else critique your story and edit and recommend changes—BEFORE you give out a single copy to anyone. If you feel reluctant to give individuals names who played important parts in your past–you don’t have to. You may prefer to substitute a fake name and to state (as magazines often do), that the name(s) have been changed to protect certain people/parties. If you do not want your own name to be listed as the author—don’t’ sign your story. “Name Withheld.”
SETTING THE STAGE
Are you Male/Female?
What geographical area do you live in presently? And what areas have you lived in?
What is your approximate age range?
How many brothers and sisters do you have? Where do you fit in birth order?
Were you raised in a professing home?
Did both your parents profess?
How far back does “the truth” go in your family?
What state or geographical area did you spend your teenage years?
While growing up, how did you feel about the way you were raised?
How old were you when you professed? How long ago was that?
Did you feel loved by your parents? Wanted? Mistreated?
What was your parent’s style of parenting (authoritarian, permissive, reasonable, etc.)
Did your parents strictly follow the rules and require you to do so also?
Do you consider your childhood to have been “happy?”
What do you resent or regret concerning your childhood years?
As a child, how did you feel about the workers? How did the workers feel?
If raised in professing family, how did you meet your spouse?
How long did you know each other before you married?
Did your spouse profess when you married
How old were you and your spouse when you married?
How many children do you have? Do they profess now? Did they ever?
What type of a “friend” were you? (liberal or conservative)
What things did you not agree with wholeheartedly?
What things did you like, appreciate or enjoy about being in the 2×2 group?
How did you view the workers? Did you tend to place some workers on a pedestal?
Did you have a meeting in your home? What kind of meeting? (Sun, Wed, Union, Special, Conv., etc.)
FIRST STAGE – First Doubts
Over the years, in what areas were you dissatisfied?
Which categories do the circumstances that raised your First Doubts fall into?
Give details of these circumstances.
3. Disappointments? Loss of confidence?
4. Specific events?
5. Discrepancies & Contradictions?
Did you seek out someone with whom to share your growing dissatisfaction, doubts, fears and questions?
Did they reinforce the reality of the problem by being sympathetic?
Did they downplay the reality of the problem and encourage you to re-evaluate the situation?
Did you talk with the workers regarding your concerns? If so, what did they say? What helped you overcome your fears? (Example: I no longer felt afraid to question the workers when I realized who I was in Christ; that in the sight of God I was their equal and that God speaks directly to me.)
What areas of dissatisfaction did you seriously focus on? That REALLY bothered you?
Did you review previous events in your life and reevaluate these in a different way?
What subsequent events occurred that supported your initial doubts? How did you explain these events to yourself? (i.e. way had fallen in the ditch; had veered off course; men go wrong, but the way is perfect, etc.)
Did your faith in God or the Scripture ever waver? How did you handle this?
SECOND STAGE – Seeking & Weighing Alternatives
Did you enter a period of serious Bible study? Describe the experience, feelings and methods you used to study. Were there any particular books you found extremely helpful? What did you find that surprised you? What beliefs of yours changed? Do you believe you were saved while in the group?
What caused you to see or admit to yourself that the system was not perfect?
What brought you to the point where you began to look at alternatives to staying? What did you see as your options/alternatives?
Did you think in terms of exchanging one way for another (i.e. If this isn’t right, then what is?) Or were you mainly interested in getting out of a bad situation, cutting short your losses and planned to deal with the future after taking the major step of exiting.
What behavior of yours might have cued others as to your inner doubts and questions? Were these cues made consciously or unconsciously?
What negative response did you receive from other insiders to your cuing behavior? Positive response?
Weighing the Pros and Cons – The Costs and Rewards
What did you feel were the high costs of leaving?
What was the very hardest thing?
What did you see that you had to gain by leaving?
What did you fear the most? Second most? Third, etc.”
How did you conquer your fears?
What were the rewards of staying in your present situation?
What were the costs of staying?
What advantage or reason had the most sway in your decision to leave?
What was the chief obstacle to your staying?
What caused you to see/believe the 2×2 system wasn’t God’s only true way on earth?
Did you experience extreme anxiety during this stage? to what level?
If not, to what do you attribute your peace of mind?
Identifying with Outsiders
Do you recall when you began to identify with some Christians outside the group that you knew? What caused you to no longer believe all outsiders were not saved??
What did you see in some outsiders that caused you to change your mind?
How did you feel if/when insiders harshly criticized outsiders? or their worship practices?
Did you anticipate how your life might be like once you left? Engage in role rehearsal?
Did you review your life, verbalizing your feelings and thoughts? Reinterpret past events that you shoved under the rug in light of your new viewpoint?
STAGE THREE – The Turning Point
Which one of the following categories of significant events caused you to take a firm stand to exit?
1 A specific, traumatic event
2 The last straw – event following gradual build up; where a relatively minor event that took on symbolic significance
3 Time-related factors (age, mid-life crisis,
4 Events that gave an excuse or justification for an exit
5 Either/or situation where the decision not to leave would have serious consequences
Describe the events and feelings that led up to your turning point.
What emotions did you experience? Anger? at whom? Guilt? for what?
Did you go through a time when you felt you didn’t belong anywhere? Like you were in a vacuum, ungrounded, neither here nor there, at loose ends? A period when you take one last backward glance but know it is no longer viable? A stranger in two worlds?
STAGE FOUR – The FINAL Exit
How did you “go public” with your decision to divorce yourself from the group?
Why did you choose this method?
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Did you write an exit letter?
How did you explain your decision to your children and what was their reaction?
What was the response of Significant Others to your announcement/decision?
Did any significant changes occur in friendships you value?
Did the quality of some of your family relationships change? How?
Did you experience a profound “freeing” feeling of liberty and freedom when you finally made up your mind? (i.e. “It was like having a tremendous weight lifted off my heart?”) Euphoria, relief, excitement, a release?
Had you ever before stated what “the first thing I would do if I didn’t profess would be…”
Did you do that thing?
Did any events occur that surprised you, concerning your exit?
Do/did you occasionally have feelings of guilt afterward? Fear? Concerning what?
Did you exit alone or were you supported by someone else? Describe your support and the effect it had on your life and decision.
Adjusting to the Role of an Ex
What cues did you deliberately give to signal to others your exit? (i.e. changes in clothes, hairstyle, possessions, enroll in college, etc.)
Did you do anything symbolically (burn your denim skirt, hymn book, hairpins, tear up old pictures?)
How do you view/feel about your time spent in the group now? the way you were raised (if raised in a professing home)
What positive things did you experience?
What negative things did you experience?
Do you still occasionally feel pangs of guilt? panic? fear?
What triggers them?
What do you do about them?
Where are you now?
A. You make sure people know immediately who you used to be
B. You hide your previous identity
C. Your ex-status only comes up in conversation occasionally. It is something you used to be that has become incorporated into who you are now.)
What did you find especially helpful to your adjustment to your role as an outsider?
Do you have a sense of having made the right choice?
Would you consider going back?
Do you think it possible for the 2×2 way to be changed enough to make you consider going back?
What are you doing presently? What do you do differently?
What do you especially enjoy about your new way of life?
Are there things you wished you had done differently? What?
How do you view other churches now?
Have you looked for a new church home?
Have you found a new church home? Joined a church? Ever think you will?
Did you feel a need to be baptized again?
What have you found that other churches do better than “the truth and way”?
Do you feel that given time, you will seek out a church home?
What do you find objectionable in other churches?
What things that you were taught concerning other churches, Christians and preachers have you found to be false?
See Companion Article: The Role Exiting Process
See Writing about Child Sexual Abuse