SDA’s are an exclusive bunch. The reason they are exclusive, is because they have incentives to associate only with Adventists, and incentives to avoid associating with non-Adventists. Even worse, sect groups avoid associating with non-Adventists altogether, not just because it is awkward but because they flat-out don’t want to associate with the “evil world”.
This presents a problem for you; your social circle/network is likely only Adventist. This is made worse if you have grown up in the church. Birth in a SDA hospital, SDA school, SDA college, SDA friends and, if you’re old enough, you likely got a job in an SDA institution/business. Your immediate (and likely extended) family will be Adventists as well. If you are a 3rd, 4th or 5th generation Adventist you could very well have had no meaningful relationships outside of the church. Now that you are planning on deconverting, you need to make these friendships/relationships.
What is a “meaningful” relationship?
- Someone who you can confide your true feelings in.
- Someone you can “be yourself” around. Someone that you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with.
- Someone who doesn’t just hang out with you, but will support you. Someone who would take you in if homeless, someone who you could come to for food if hungry and someone who looks out for your well-being.
- This goes hand-on-hand. You need to be this for them as well.
- Pick healthy people to have a “meaningful” relationship with. So don’t go for people who are mentality unstable. Go for normal people. Don’t try to “fix” them (on a selfish note, you will need stable people when you leave).
Do I really need this? Can’t I just leave?
No, you can’t. Here are just some reasons why you can’t:
- Even if you are shy by nature, you need to have positive relationships in your life. You need to have people who you love who love you back. If you don’t, you are going to become very lonely and sad, potentially depressed. These feelings will ruin your life.
- When you deconvert, you will join “The World“. Remember all of the bad, negative things your current SDA friends/family say about “The World”? It hurts when the people we love say bad things about us, don’t try to deny it. You need to have positive reinforcement from people you love/trust, otherwise you will start to believe that the things your SDA family/friends say is true.
- Your non-SDA friends will help teach you about “The World”. It will make the transition easier.
- The more SDA connections you have, the harder it is to leave. That is why as part of the deconversion plan, I suggest you start to cut as many ties as possible.
You may choose to go against this advice. Everyone must make the decision that is best for them. But from my experience, it is important to cut ties (at least for awhile) for the following reasons:
- You SDA friends/family will put tremendous pressure on you to rejoin. Keep in mind; to them, this is a battle over your very soul. If you stick around, you will likely succumb to this pressure just to make the psychological torture stop. You don’t want to slip back – you want to ESCAPE!
- Even if you manage to avoid “going back” it is still psychological torture to deal with their changed attitude towards you now that you are part of “The World”. One step at a time.
- You want to not rely on your SDA social network for your needs. If you rely on them, then you will in effect owe them something – such as owe them visits to see them. Since their attitude towards “The World” will likely make these miserable, you will want to avoid this as much as possible. When you’re sick, you want someone else to look after you, not the person that says awful things about you/talks about you behind your back (yet conversely loves you and thus looks after your physical needs – just is bitterly disappointed in you). You want non-Adventist connections for help.
- When they make your life miserable – and they will – disassociating yourself with them is important to send the message that you won’t take it.
Tips for growing your non-SDA social network:
- If you’ve grown up in an offshoot SDA cult then your social skills will be stunted, there is no way around that, especially if you are a female. You will not understand life outside of your cult (trust me; even kids from normal-conservative families struggle immensely) and you will not know how to interact with people on a normal basis. You may also not know what normal people eat, normal slang, pop culture (which is talked about and referenced all of the time), you personal confidence will be low (since they take all of the choices away from you and make them themselves, and discourage higher education etc, especially for females) and you will not know what normal people wear (time to put away those disgusting skirts and frumpy tops!). You need to learn these basic life skills. This is a huge task. I ultimately urge you to seek professional help. Talk to a counselor, who will refer you onto a psychologist.
- If you’re young enough, encourage your parents to send you to a non-Adventist school if they already don’t. This is the easiest way to make MEANINGFUL friends that aren’t SDA’s. If your parents won’t move you, then seek out the non-SDA’s that go there and make it your mission to become friends with them. Avoid talking to your parents about them, and if you do and they disapprove, lie and say you are hoping to convert them one day as Jesus did. If you’re old enough, then head off to college, another great way to make friends. If you can’t go to college, ditch your Adventist job and go to a workplace with non-SDA’s and, again, make it your mission to become friends with them. Join clubs of people with similar interests; and then get to know people in there. This should be your top priority.
- Build up MEANINGFUL relationships. Take your time. Open up and find close friends. When you leave the church, chances are you will be leaving your close SDA relationships behind (‘how can light associate with darkness?’). If you don’t have close friends to confide in, to cry with and to get hugs from, you will be extremely isolated and risk slipping into depression from utter loneliness. DON’T LEAVE UNTIL YOU HAVE CLOSE FRIENDS TO RELY ON. If this means you need to put your exit strategy off for a couple of years, do so! It is risky to leave without emotional support; you might plan to make friends as-you-go but it is extremely overwhelming to hear extremely negative things from the people you love the most. Your isolated and guilt will lead you down the path to depression. Once you’re depressed, say good bye to making new friends. You need to have positive reinforcement to counteract the negative.
- Remember all of those “evil” thoughts you had as an SDA? Remember how you didn’t want to tell your SDA friends embarrassing, private things, because it spreads? (SDA gossip is legendary) Well, non-Adventists don’t do this! Part of the reason Seventh Day Adventists gossip a lot is because a) they are a small, exclusive and cliquey group and b) SDA’s, by their very nature, judge people. The religion has a lot of laws/rules to follow, and breaking any of these rules is seen as a huge slight against God and a violation of what makes the church special. So they watch each other all the time, to make sure everybody keeps them. But on the outside, people don’t believe they are “special” or that it is following rules/laws that define them. This means people judge others a lot less, and they have a wider social circle. So a lot less gossip/judgement goes on! Chances are your friendships with non-SDA’s will be much more meaningful because you won’t be afraid to open up and reveal that you sin.
Great video on learning to love “the world”. This advice goes against everything we have been taught in the church, but it is so true.