I’m Being Shunned

I’m Being Shunned

My mom, my sister, my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins – people that were once my world – have been actively shunning me for most of my life. Until the age of 15, I was a committed Jehovah’s Witness. I made the decision to disassociate myself and for the past 21 years I have experienced radical ostracism from family and friends. I want to tell you about the pain this shunning has caused.

Until this past weekend, I had not spoken to my mom at length in 20 years. She called me on Saturday and we spoke for 30 minutes. I didn’t even recognize her voice. We had a normal conversation and I soaked it in like a sponge. I asked her if I could visit and she reluctantly agreed. Sunday after church, a friend and I drove four hours one-way for a two-hour visit with my mom.

I left feeling that our visit could not have gone any better. My mom seemed broken, lonely, and depressed. She’s in poor health. In this moment of weakness, she reached out to me. It was something she had never done before. Choosing to meet with me brought anger and shame from her family and it has pushed her back into the fold and pushed me back into isolation.

I received this message from her the morning after our visit: “Michael I have to let you know that I have to go back to the way it was. Only in emergencies can you contact me. I just really needed to know some things to come to peace about the past. But my stand is the same as it was. I wish you and your family well. Please respect me and don’t respond to this. Just let it go. I won’t say anymore.”

I was crushed. I’m still reeling.

Why It Hurts

My family doesn’t want me. I’m not who they want me to be.

Why am I writing this with the emotions so fresh? Honestly, I am not the best at expressing my feelings. I hope that my experience will be of some benefit to others who may have experienced this type of suffering.

Shunning is abuse. Psychologists have confirmed that intense social rejection has the same effects on the brain as physical abuse. George Bernand Shaw wrote that “silence is the most perfect expression of scorn.” If someone hits me, it communicates a lack of value and respect for my person. If someone ignores me completely, their message is clear – you don’t matter to me at all.

I have lived with that feeling for over 20 years. I suffer from panic disorder and anxiety. I struggle to express my emotions correctly. I feel relationally broken most of the time.

How I Respond

I used to be angry. I used to be bitter. I suppose I still am a little. A few years ago, I don’t think I could have offered my mom as much grace as I did a few days ago. I received her in love and acceptance. I offered her forgiveness and kindness and affection. I opened my heart only to have to shoved back into my chest the next day.

A good friend reminded me that there is One who can relate. Jesus looked out over the city of Jerusalem and wept over their blindness. They would reject the only One who could bring them peace. He would suffer at the hands of the people who should have loved Him. In self-righteousness, the Jews hung unconditional love on a tree to die.

I’m not Jesus, but I am united to Him. His suffering for me helps me process my own suffering. His love for me is perfect even when I’m not. I will heal because perfect love drives out fear. I will forgive because I have been forgiven. I will hope for my mom and the others who are lost and hurting.

More than that, His family has become my family. Dozens of people who love me were praying for me this weekend. Those people are not blood relatives, but they care because we share the blood of Christ. I have received so many encouraging words. Jesus is loving me through His church.

If you know the pain caused by shunning, or know someone who does, point them to Jesus and His church. It still hurts, but I am not alone. He will go before me. He will never leave me.

29 Comments

  1. Montgomery Martin

    Mike – I have not seen you in awhile but have kept up with your work in Horn Lake. I just read this for the first time about you, your mom and your family. Regardless of the circumstances, it must hurt so much. I respect and admire your willingness to cling to the cross. Take care and continue building His church. I am sure you, the same as I, always try to be careful and respectful of other peoples’ religious beliefs. But your situation is so close to your heart that it must be 10x tougher.
    Take Care.
    Montgomery

  2. Eddie Foster

    Thanks for being willing to share this painful experience. I will pass on one of my favorite quotes: “Let me no more my comfort draw from my frail hold of Thee. In this alone rejoice with awe — Thy mighty grasp of me!”

  3. Bill Winebrenner

    I am Mike’s father. I too share the pain of his shunning, and 19 years of rejection by his mom. I can only hope that some day she will see how wrong this is and make amends. I only wish that I was able to fix this, but feel as helpless now as have been all of these past years. – We can only lean on the love of Jesus and the grace of God when faced with emotional, hurtful things such as these –

  4. John Woods

    Mike:

    Thank you for sharing this with so many people. I have not personally experienced anything like this and cannot begin to imagine the depth and scope of your pain. You are a genuine testimony of God’s grace and strength. You and your efforts in our community are in our prayers.

  5. Lee Mattox

    Mike, we had only shared generally about your family so I did not know these details. Thank you for sharing them with us. It is obvious to me that God has used this painful situation to make you into the man you are today with a burden to share your love for Him with the people of Horn Lake. The beautiful church family at Christ Fellowship is a testament to the work God has accomplished through you and Michael! We continue to pray that God will sustain you through the pain of being shunned by your family and for the mighty work He is accomplishing through you at Christ Fellowship!

  6. Mary Lancaster

    Mike I am so sorry this happened but am so glad your Mom saw the Godly wonderful man you have become. She is missing out on a true blessing. Maybe one day she will realize that and not listen to the people in her fold. Maybe she too will come to know the God we love and the way we love him. I appreciate that you are so transparent and are willing to share. You have so many people that love and support you and your work. You KNOW I am one of your biggest fans alive. You mean the world to me and my boys. And you are always there for us. For that I thank you. Praying for you always

  7. Samantha Gardner

    I am speechless reading this and flooded with so many emotions. As a mother I can’t even fathom shunning my child for any reason. I’m so sorry that you experienced this, but know God’s plan is far beyond our imagination. Your church family is here unconditionally full with love in our hearts for you and your family. I’m praying for God’s love to wrap you up in this situation may you feel him so close today. Hold your head up because God has you!

  8. Amy Killebrew

    I’m so proud of the person you have become. Your Mom is missing out and will regret it one day. The fact that she has contacted you should let you know that she is feeling guilty. You have us and thanks be to God for your Dad and Nanny. They were there for you when your Mom and her family wasn’t. We were the ones that were blessed to be around you. Your Mom and her family missed out on that blessing. We love you and are so proud of the person you have become.

  9. Joe Liberto

    Wow. Your mom is nuts! I remember her letting us play together in a park a long time ago. I believe we had a ninga turtle board game She may be too far gone man but I am sorry you feel bad, it’s natural under the circumstances I guess.
    I always wondered why jehova witnesses knocked on everybody’s door trying to recruit folks when they believe only 144,000 people can go to heaven. Seems like their chances would be better the less amount of people that knew

  10. Dick Butler

    Mike, as I have been reading through these e-mail responses to your situation, I don’t know that there is anything else to add. I have been so impressed with your growth over the years, not only as a man but in your faith as well. I was especially moved by your comments where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (his family) and was rejected by those he came to offer peace. Mike, my heartfelt prayers are with you and your family (here and there). May God truly bless you and what you are going through as He gives you the peace that only He can give.

  11. Peggy Tritinger

    Mike, ever since we first met, and you told me your background, my heart has been broken for you because of this. I do have some understanding of your pain. My mother, for whatever reason, wished I had never been born and told me many times until I was in my 50’s. I wasn’t shunned, but I do know rejection. It is a hole, that only God can fill. It was when God healed my broken heart and I came to realize if I were accepted and loved by God, Mom’s not wanting me didn’t matter. However, I believe your mother loves you, and probably longs to have you back in her life but has been intimidated into this shunning. I will keep her and all your family in my prayers that they will come to know the truth and the truth will set them free. Of course, I will always keep you in my prayers.

  12. Cecille Lee Gove

    Mike,
    I’m hoping for a miracle about your family, that they receive the Lord into their lives and that they receive you. I’m sorry for your pain and heartache.

  13. Debbie Jones

    God bless you Mike, so sorry that this concept exists and that you have been shunned by your Mother! As a mother, I cannot understand how it’s possible, except possibly thru external pressure. I pray for her and us Ephesians 1:16-23, Colossians 1:9-14, Philippians 1:9-11.

    When we were on the RYM bus with your youth group and CPC, as ‘Ask Mike’, I had no idea you were estranged from your mother, you’ve handled it well with Gods love.

  14. Beth Brewer Dees

    Thank you for sharing this,I had no idea,I only pray that soon,she will see the light and come to you not caring what others think,and I pray for those others too,you and Roxanne are wonderful people,and it’s sad she’s missing out on her grandkids,as they are a gift from God as well!

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