The Cult of Following

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I read something today that brought on sadness, frustration, a mini-migraine, and a bit of a mini-crisis. Just a few raw thoughts follow today.

It reminded me of how easy it is to find yourself somewhere you never meant to end up.

How do intelligent people get caught in cults or manipulative or abusive groups? Here’s a hint. It has nothing to do with intelligence.

We see this in marketing too. (And keep in mind marketers use psychology…so there’s that..) *Side note: Reason #1009 why I love Tad Hargrave from Marketing for Hippies. I also have a mini crush on him.*

There are two large competing essential oil companies and there are people I know, love and respect in both. And I have my own personal oil stash primarily from one…but I also have some from the other so I have oils from both. My sister likes one, I like the other…but I use both now. There was a time that I wanted to pursue additional training to help build my own Oily Business with the “upline’s” in the group I joined (not my sponsor who was very laid back and open handed about the process)…but some of the pre-training material language was immediately off-putting and manipulative or coercive, in addition to cherry picking a Bible verse to “prove” her point (which was completely out of context). (And this was just the sign-up process…which demanded you would make “no excuses” during the business “bootcamp” training period. Gross.

Then there are the food groups/diets/eating plans/lifestyles. The enthusiasm and benefits are touted. And I suppose it would only be fair to say this about yoga too. And cross-fit…so I’ve heard…lol.

I guess it’s not that word-of-mouth is wrong…but remember your experience is rarely duplicated. What “works” for one person, may not be the best _____(fill in the blank)____ for your friend.

Each creates a sort of cult following.

Churches promote small groups and attendance by enticing friendships and the overused and under-explained “community,” or worse, by calling it “family.” The peer pressure. The overspiritualized language. The bait of “belonging.” Formulas: do this “x” and get that “y.”

Imperfect people create imperfect organizations and companies.

But when is enough, enough? When do you draw the line in the sand or burn the bridge? When do you blow the whistle and call them out and demand accountability?

There is a big difference between imperfect and toxic; between imperfect and abusive; imperfect and manipulative.

Where do we go from here? More awareness. More freedom. Room for healthy skepticism and questions. Not fear.  Pursuing wholeness and freedom and spiritual health is a wholistic/holistic journey. No more shame throwing. No more judgment throwing or dualism. Permission to ask hard questions. Space and room to ask those questions and have them asked of you…and without being defensive or exclusive.

I’m going from memory..but I think in the book Families where Grace is in Place it talks about how unhealthy families that keep secrets become very defensive, reactive, and will quickly reject anyone who is not going to play along and turn them into an outsider, excommunicating, banishing or ostracizing them rather than sending them on with grace and understanding. (And unhealthy families aren’t just about your biological families, but can relate to other groups as well, including churches and religious groups or clubs even).

This is not to say that defensive is always a negative reaction…but it can be symptomatic, and being made an outsider…well that is a gross feeling, even when you have chosen to leave…to be told you’re kicked out…even after you have already left is a very strange, icky feeling.

Is it enough to just say that not everything is for everyone? Or that abuse of power can happen slowly, subtly and creep up on you, just like the frog who dies a slow death while cooked at a low temperature rather than a fast boil.

Does this resonate? Where have you noticed the cult of following?

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