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Phases of Reclaiming Self Identity

At the heart of problems associated with cultic control groups, who use undue religious influence to persuade people to join their cause, is the loss of identity. The pressure in UBF specifically is designed to keep you loyal to the group as a “shepherd” or “shepherdess” who will agree to form a “family of mission” or “world mission family” or “house church”.

Reclaiming your identity can be difficult and will take time. I’m noticing some distinct phases of this recovery, not only in myself but in other former members of the group.

The Anti-UBF Stage

At first you just want to destroy the group. You realize they are not a Christian organization who is going to send out non-Korean missionaries. When you talk to Christian pastors outside the group, you realize how different UBF is from legitimate churches. For example, what church requires marriage before sending out missionaries? And what church dangles the promise of becoming a missionary with no (non-Korean) missionary program or plan after 60 years of existence?

The Silence Stage

After some time, the UBF group you left goes back to normal. They act as if you have died and no longer exist. While still a leader at UBF, I remember looking at pictures with a few other leaders of people who had left. We said they “ran away” and “lost faith”. It was always a somber moment, as if we were having a memorial to them. This eerie ghosting by the group, where all communication goes silent, can be disturbing after years of daily interaction with them.

The Frying Pan Stage

The saying goes “out of the frying pan, into the fire!”. This is our human nature; we flock to the familiar. Immediately after leaving UBF, my family joined a local Baptist church. I was even full-immersed baptized. This was good in some ways, such as when the pastor told me: “You are now free from the teachings of one man (Samuel Lee)!” But we only lasted about one year. Instead of dealing with our identity crisis, we were hiding in a church. It is a good church, and nothing like UBF, but it became evident that we need space and time to heal without religious influence.

The Tell-My-Story Stage

In time, you begin to reclaim your self identity. I started watching the NFL again, going camping, and listening to my favorite music! I wrote four books about what happened at UBF (one of them sold over 500 copies!) This is the best thing I’ve found so far on my recovery: Tell your story. Cultic control groups are typically filled with narcissistic leaders, and so exposure is their number one fear. Tell your story, and tell it publicly. If you read this far, and have a story to tell about leaving UBF or another cultic control group, please click the contact button and I’ll see about publishing your story here.

1 Comment

  1. TC

    A member usually does not realize the identity loss and the new identity superimposed on him/her, although the change is very visible to people who have known the member before.

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