Having a sense of peace

Photo of river and sky invoke a sense of peace.

Nature can help us maintain a sense of peace.

Sometimes having a sense of peace in this world is hard to do. Of course we hear that we should keep our sense of peace about us. Christ said He gave us His peace. Other times, however, we are enveloped in peace, like a field of energy surrounding us, emanating from within. It might sound a little woo-woo, but it’s real nonetheless. You’ve probably experienced that yourself.

Sense of peace amid turmoil

The kids are fighting, the baby is crying, the insurance company is denying your claim, your spouse just got fired, the house is a wreck, and you have company coming over in ten minutes. It may be “natural” to scream and pull your hair out, and you may find yourself doing just that.

You may also feel as if you’re standing in the eye of the hurricane, aware of, but not controlled by, the things going on around you. This is one of the goals of Orthodoxy: to maintain a sense of peace, no matter what is going on in our lives. I think it’s a result of theosis and taming the passions. I am no expert on Orthodoxy, though, let me tell you.

How to have a sense of peace

I don’t have any silver bullet or magic pill to make that happen for you, or even for myself. There are still times when I feel shaken up, angry, or afraid, such as every time my cyberstalker sends someone else to contact me for him. Also, there are times when I can’t see the next step in the path, or when nothing seems to work, and I’m frustrated.

Getting out into nature, even if it’s just for a few minutes, almost always helps me. Sometimes standing in front of our icon wall and praying helps the way I feel, and sometimes it doesn’t. Notice I said “how I feel,” not “how things are.” Feelings, while important, aren’t the most important thing sometimes. Sometimes what we do is more important than what we feel, and sometimes things can be getting better even when it doesn’t feel like they are.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety my entire life, stemming from severe abuse with no way out. Trusting God is HARD for me. I can CHOOSE to do it, but I might not FEEL it. That’s okay, because the feeling follows the choice. It might take a while, but it comes. I have to do it over and over. Perhaps someday it will be automatic, but for now… I have to make the choice. Trusting God, for me, is what provides that sense of peace. Not all of the Saints had that abiding sense of peace, but many did. I hope one day it just stays with me. Until then, I choose to step into it whenever I can. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, may you do the same. I wish you a deep and abiding sense of peace.

Is raising kids enough?

Mother in bed, feeding her children. Is raising children enough?

Is raising children enough, or does delaying your dreams make you ill?

“I always dreamed of being a doctor and traveling, but I had children and that killed my dreams. It’s okay, though, because I raised three kids. One is a doctor, one is a CEO, and the other is traveling the world working for a magazine. They are my contribution to society, and I guess that’s enough. It has to be. Oh, I’m okay with it, really,” Mabel said, as tears dripped off her face.

Sherry told me, “I planned to be a professional writer and speaker, to change the world, you know? But I didn’t get to do that. Instead, I gave birth to twins, and two more after that. Between taking care of my children, my husband, and my home, I never had time to think, much less write or speak. My husband didn’t approve of daycare, even though he could afford to pay for it. So I stayed home and reared my children and let my dreams die. I tried not to think about what my true purpose in life was. When I did, it made me cry, just like I’m doing now. I woke many a morning with a tear-stained pillow, but I just turned the wet side down, made the bed, prepared breakfast, and got on with my day. My health is gone now, so there will be no empty-nest career for me. I have nothing to show for my life except for my children, and I am useless now. But it’s alright. They’re grown now and have children of their own. They’re happy, doing what they like to do, so it’s okay that my life was spent on them. So I never got to do what I was designed to do. I created four good people. That’s enough.” Her face was red with shame, and didn’t match her assurance that it was alright.

Sad stories of lost dreams

I’ve spent over 30 years hearing stories like these, from women all over the place and from all socioeconomic levels… women who had dreams, goals, aspirations….women who gave up everything they wanted just because they gave birth and they thought they had to stay home and raise the children because religious leaders told them they had to…women who SAY that it’s okay, but who cannot say it without tears in their eyes and regret and shame all over their faces…

Not one, in over 30 years, has been able to say it’s okay (that they gave up their dreams) without showing those emotions and signs of deception all over her face. They do not believe what they are saying. In other words: they are lying. They lie to themselves, and they lie to others. It’s not okay with them. It breaks their hearts.

There are a couple of possibilities (that I can see) as to why.

The women were told that being a mother isn’t enough, that they should do more than that to make a worthy contribution to society. They believe that they did not do enough.

OR

Women really ARE wired to do more than just raise children and take care of a home. Having children is not “enough” for a person. Using one’s gifts and talents, pursuing one’s goals, those are needed as well, regardless of what pastors and others say about it.

Society says we have to do it all

What do I think it is? I think it’s probably both. Mary is held up as the Mother of God, and nothing else about her is emphasized (or even mentioned) in most churches. For years, I thought it was such a shame that “all she did” was raise Jesus and his stepbrothers. I wondered if perhaps she did do other things but they weren’t mentioned for some reason. Now, though, I think it’s such a shame that our culture teaches us to think that way!

I’m somewhat balanced on it at this point: I think it’s fine for Mary, and for any other mothers who truly want to have it be enough for them, and it’s fine for others who want to do more than that. Fighting societal messages is hard, but sometimes it’s needed.

Orthodoxy leaves room for different opinions

Each person is different. Each person has different goals and needs. No one should try to cram others into a mold. No one should try to tell others what they should and should not do, believe, or think. Abbot Tryphon shared a statement on facebook about how the Orthodox Church frowns on telling people what to do.

Women who are mothers have owned businesses or held jobs throughout time. It has been the exception, not the norm, for a woman to take care of only her own home and family. Taking in washing or ironing, baking extra bread to sell, babysitting, raising and selling vegetables and eggs… all of these were common in households all over the world, throughout time. If a woman did not do something to earn money, it was because she was well-to-do, not because mothering was enough.

People are goal-oriented

Humans are teleological. We need a goal to work toward, a purpose. Some things in parenting and housekeeping fit well with that, but some just don’t. Might a person have that goal-achieving need met by taking care of home and family? Sure! Especially if they write out goals and mark them off as they happen. But people don’t like to be someone else’s project. They dig in their heels at that. I know that all too well. So if housework goals aren’t enough for someone, they’ll have to get that need met elsewhere.

Perhaps a mother only has an hour a week free. That amount is not an unreasonably small amount for a stay-at-home mom. Can she accomplish any goals with such a tiny time allotment? Yes.

Learning new skills

She could choose to spend that hour following her dream of learning to dance, paint, or play a sport. Just 20 hours will give her a good foundation in nearly anything, according to Joshua Kauffman, the author of The First 20 Hours. She could develop two skills in a year, if she only has an hour a week. Over time, that will give her more abilities, more chances to do things she wants to do.

If she has an hour a day, she could develop 18 new skills in that year. Developing a number of new abilities seems worth having Dad take care of the kids for a change. Now, I know that some fathers take care of their children and give the mothers time to do things they want and need to do, but the vast majority of the ones I know don’t do much, even now. No hate mail, please.

Is raising kids enough for you?

Please don’t be like all of the stay-at-home mothers I’ve spoken to over the last 30 years. Whether you pursue hopes and dreams in addition to parenting, or whether raising kids is enough for you and you have no other ambitions, please, please do not get to the empty-nest stage and regret your choice.

Please don’t put things off in the hope that you’ll be healthy enough to do them once your children are grown, or even “older.” I’ve seen far too many people do that and find themselves confined to a rocking chair and chained to an oxygen tank. You might have the chance to do that, but please don’t count on it. Scripture is clear that we’re not promised tomorrow.

Contribution to society

Do whatever is going to make you honestly feel that you’ve made your contribution to society, that you’ve shared the music within your soul, that you’ve been who God made you to be—whatever that may include.

We must all choose either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The pain of regret never fades, but it does fester. Join the ranks of women who feel good about how their lives were spent, not those who cried bitter tears of regret and shame. Is raising kids enough? If it is for you, fabulous. If it’s not, that’s fabulous, too. Tell Daddy-O to man up and take care of the kids while you develop another side of yourself. In either case, I pray that you will be blessed.

Cyberstalking by clergy

Cyberstalking is a nightmare, no matter who is doing it to you. It’s always bad, but I think it’s really “sick and twisted” when it’s done by people who are supposed to be religious leaders. You probably already know that some churches and groups are cults in disguise. Sometimes cult escapees find that the leaders don’t want to let go of them.

These leaders continue to harass them long after they’ve left the group. Sometimes it’s through phone calls, emails, text messages, facebook chat boxes. This is cyberstalking by clergy. Sometimes the harassment is done in person and the stalker shows up at or near the escapee’s place of work, new church, or home. I’ve become friends with some people who have left cults and cult-like churches, and we’ve had discussions about these kinds of experiences. I tip my hat to them. They are strong survivors, all.

Dislaimer: I am not a member of the legal profession. This is not legal advice. It is information which is publicly available. Please speak with a legal professional for legal advice.

What is cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is two or more instances of harassment through electronic communications. What is harassment? Contacting someone in a way that alarms, torments, or terrorizes that person. Electronic communication includes phone calls, text messages, emails, pagers, or any other electronic means.

Cyberstalking may include direct threats, but doesn’t always. Sometimes the person has reason to be fearful or shaken up even though a direct threat hasn’t been made. Sometimes just the experience one has had with the stalker is enough for them to be worried about harm.

Cyberstalking by clergy often includes threats that go beyond this life: telling you that you’re in spiritual danger if you don’t mend your ways (and by “mend your ways” they mean coming back to them). Some people are not bothered by threats of hell, but others are deeply disturbed by them.

No cyberstalking sign. Cyberstalking by clergy or anyone else is a felony in Illinois.

Cyberstalking by clergy or anyone else is a felony in Illinois. Image by Internetsinacoso.

IL cyberstalking law

If you’ve been harassed, you may be able to put a stop to it through legal channels—criminal, civil, or both. The National Conference of State Legislatures has links to the different states’ cyberstalking laws. In Illinois, for example, cyberstalking is a Class 4 Felony. The following paragraphs are from the Illinois General Assembly website. See the site for the rest of this section of this law.

Sec. 12-7.5. Cyberstalking.
(a) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she engages in a course of conduct using electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that would cause a reasonable person to:
(1) fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person; or
(2) suffer other emotional distress.
(a-3) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, on at least 2 separate occasions, harasses another person through the use of electronic communication and:
(1) at any time transmits a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person; or
(2) places that person or a family member of that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or
(3) at any time knowingly solicits the commission of
an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
(a-5) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, creates and maintains an Internet website or webpage which is accessible to one or more third parties for a period of at least 24 hours, and which contains statements harassing another person and:
(1) which communicates a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, where the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person, or
(2) which places that person or a family member of that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, or
(3) which knowingly solicits the commission of an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
(b) Sentence. Cyberstalking is a Class 4 felony; a second or subsequent conviction is a Class 3 felony.

 

Cyberstalking by clergy is a crime

Here’s my interpretation of what the Illinois General Assembly says (again, consult an attorney for legal advice): Threatening or alarming someone just twice via facebook, email, or text messages, after that person has told you to leave him/her alone, is a felony. Sending someone else to do it for you is legally the exact same thing as doing it yourself.

To demonstrate this, let’s look at Tim and the Reverend. Tim had some really bad experiences with The Reverend and his followers. Traumatized, he left the group and asked them to stop contacting him. The Reverend persisted in trying to convince Tim that Tim had sinned by leaving the group, and that Tim must reconcile to the Reverend and the group regardless of what Reverend and his followers did. If he doesn’t, the Reverend said, Tim is in danger of hell. Tim told the Reverend that he’d press charges if the Reverend contacted him any more, in any way whatsoever.

The Reverend then succeeded in getting other people to contact Tim even though Tim made it clear that he didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to be contacted anymore, even though each mention of the Reverend’s name sends Tim into a tizzy.

The law seems to say that The Reverend is committing a felony, and so is every person he gets to contact Tim. The poor shmucks who are contacting Tim probably have no clue that they’re being used as pawns and could go to prison for helping the Reverend harass Tim. They probably believe that the Reverend truly is concerned about Tim, and just wants to be sure Tim is okay. They don’t know that the Reverend suffers from prelest and is a control freak who just can’t let go. They especially don’t know that they are committing a felony on behalf of the Reverend.

Legal protection from harassment

Even if the person harassing you is a pastor, deacon, or priest (a person who is supposed to be godly), it is still a crime—a major crime. You have the law on your side, and you have the right to prosecute stalkers, including the cyber kind. Please keep yourself and your loved ones safe, physically and emotionally.

You have the right to conduct yourself online, and to feel safe while doing it. Cyberstalking by clergy or anyone else doesn’t have to be part of your life.

To clergy and other leaders: If someone leaves your “fold,” you may choose to contact them one time. If they indicate that they don’t want you to contact them anymore, leave them alone. If you contact them again, you may be breaking the law. If someone wants to leave, let them go! Bless them and leave them in God’s hands. Then stop talking about them, because according to Illinois law, that counts, too.

Stalking on facebook

Facebook is just one of the avenues a stalker may use. Fortunately, the block feature exists for the purpose of preventing someone from further contacting you on there. It doesn’t prevent them from sending their friends to harass you, however. You’ll have to block each person as it occurs, and you also have the option of reporting them to facebook.

Yes, it may be upsetting each time it happens to you. You’re minding your own business, catching up with friends or managing your enterprise, and someone pops up out of the blue to remind you of that person or group of people, or to order you to “reconcile” with them. If you’ve been traumatized enough, it may be sufficient to trigger an anxiety attack or PTSD episode.

You don’t have to be shaken for long, though. That’s why block and report exist. Perhaps one day facebook will allow users to block all of the friends of a particular person at once, to save you the trouble of handling one at a time as they join in the harassment of you. Until then, it’s whack-a-mole. Please stay as safe as you can.

-This post is dedicated to all survivors of spiritual abuse and cyberstalking.