“Poker Face” – What It’s Like Meeting Mercy Staff After Leaving
This post is from Sarah’s Collage – A blog written by a former Mercy Ministries resident.
I find it hard bumping into former Mercy people sometimes, whether they be staff or client.
For a long time after i left, i felt the pressure that many other former clients felt…
“Yeah, i’m great! Oh, it was amazing. Praise God. Yep, i’m all better now. I’m just like one of those girls in the videos”.
It was hard to know that any other girl besides myself was struggling (or “making bad choices”), but a number of years on, even the girls i thought were really 100% on top continue to struggle with the issues that brought them to Mercy.
As i am one of the girls who fought for their client files, my name is known to their Lawyer. I am also part of the Mercy Survivors network, an attendee at CIFS meetings (a cult watch support group) and the author of a blog that discusses Mercy amongst other things.
From the perspective of someone who hasn’t been directly involved, one would think that there is an “us and them” mentality between staff and clients. But that is not the case. It is so much more complex. There are no sides. Many staff and residents are friendly with eachother, even with the staff who i would personally deem the most responsible for what occurred.
Recently, i bumped into a former staff member. I recall having had no issues with her at the time i was a client of Mercy, so it was a friendly and unawkward conversation. But how do i know she’s not giving me a poker face? For all i know, all former staff could have been warned about me and my activities. And if she knows, how do i know what she really thinks? Would she agree with what i’m doing? Or disagree? Or both? Or neither? So i guess conversation will just stay light and avoidant of the elephant in the room.
This is very murky water, which makes it hard to recognise the poker face.
Poker face is helpful sometimes. The whole world doesn’t necessarily want to know or care about what i think and feel. It’s like the subject of politics. Do you tell every person who you vote for? It can be a contentious issue, and sometimes it’s just best to respect that they may or may not agree and just leave it alone.
I recently contacted a former resident, poker face free. (I actually mistook her for someone else). I just asked her about the process she went through with God before she made a particular choice believing it was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn’t her. I got blocked. I temporarily reactivated an old FB account to apologise to her.
It’s hard to know whether to give up my poker face with some people. I have mine up because i suspect they have theirs up. But if i let mine down, i worry that they would think i am being real with them to influence them for some personal agenda, such as wanting to infect them with my bitterness.
For a long time, i avoided joining the Mercy Survivors network because i thought they would all just be seeking company to wallow in their bitterness together.
Bitterness was one of the big words at Mercy. In fact, we did a whole series of teaching on it as part of group therapy.
At this point, i was stuffing my “bitterness” down multiple times a day, thinking that denying these feelings was called forgiveness. I later learned that these feelings needed to come out and be expressed before they would be able to heal.
I don’t believe i am bitter now, but even if i was, would that negate the seriousness of any part of my experience? Hardly.
But if i do let my guard down, maybe that girl is just like i was a few years ago, thinking she is alone in her experience, feeling afraid to reach out because of the expectation to appear to be healed. Maybe it’s something that would validate her feelings which could begin the process of healing for her.
Or, she might not be able to handle someone else having yucky feelings about Mercy, or might not be ready to face her own. Maybe by being honest about where i am at with the whole thing, she might feel like i am expecting her to agree with me. Maybe it’s just better to leave it alone..
Contact with some people continues to be one big guessing game. But perhaps over time, the truth will come out, unforced, just in the natural process of peeling back the layers to make way for authentic healing.