True Stories

Michele’s Story : The Past Doesn’t Define You

The past doesn’t define you. Let me tell you why. I was raised in a cult. The ‘Church’ as they liked to call themselves, was actually called The Worldwide Church of God in 1973. This church was established in the 1930’s under the leadership of the self proclaimed apostle and prophet, Herbert W. Armstrong.  Most of the doctrines were later found to not be biblical. I was not surprised to read years later that this church was considered and listed as a cult. You can read about this here.


Throughout my childhood I was angry.  Part of belonging to ‘the church’ meant that you must disassociate yourself from non-believers. In my case this was all of my paternal family. I had just lost my dad and I also had to lose my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as I was only allowed to see them on a very limited basis. I didn’t understand why this was happening and I carried this anger inside for many years.


As kids, we spent quite a bit of time in the library. We did not observe Christmas, Easter, Halloween, St Patrick’s Day or anything else that looked like fun. We had to sit out for all related art classes and concert preparations. I was segregated and lonely. All I could do was hope that the weird(er) kid who ate paint was also sent to the library so I would be the normal one. Speaking of not celebrating holidays…. have you ever hid in the dark on Halloween being very quiet when the doorbell rang? I have! Christmas was not a fun time. Those Christmas presents Grandma sent…. yeah sorry, she should have known we were not ‘of the world’. How dare she try to make us sin by wearing Christmas socks! We could not go to any birthday parties because it was better to celebrate the day of one’s death rather than the day of their birth.


We could not participate in sports or any other extra curricular activities. Why not? Well, most of these activities took place on the Sabbath. The Sabbath took place from sundown on Friday to Sundown Saturday. We did no manual labour on the Sabbath, except minimal cooking. If you had a job that required you to work on the Sabbath, you were commanded to quit. The fact you needed that job was irrelevant. We couldn’t spend money on the Sabbath. It was very sinful if you forgot to fuel up before sundown, which was needed to get to church.


Lets see…. what else? It was a sin to be rich. There were serious money hangups. If you had any money you had to get rid of it as quick as possible, preferably through a donation to ‘the church’. One way they kept everyone poor was by using a tithing system. At least 20% of your gross income was paid in tithes and every 3rd year you paid 30%. The ministry and higher up people in ‘the church’ were paid from these tithes, and they were paid well. The church pulled in over 200 million dollars a year back in the 1970’s. The fearless leader Herbert W. owned several mansions along millionaire’s row in Pasadena, California and was at the center of numerous scandals. Herbert W. was also the subject of a 60 Minutes investigative report.


Every aspect of our life was micro managed by people in powerful positions. Everything from what we could wear to how we wore our hair. Modest clothing always, preferably skirts or dresses and long unadorned hair for the women. While men’s hair must be cut around the ear and could not touch the collar of their button up shirt. Makeup was also not allowed. Men ruled the household, and managed the money. Women were to be meek and submissive.


As an adult I have done a lot of work on myself over the years to fix what ‘the church’ left me with. My friends and I came out of it okay, but it was sad to see how this ‘church’ really messed up so many people. So many lives were ruined, so many families broken and torn apart. I’ve rarely talked about how I was raised, and spend as little time as possible remembering my childhood. It can be summed up in a couple of words – sad and lonely. Through most of my young adult life I certainly did not feel awesome. I spent most of the time feeling inadequate, not smart enough, not good enough, just not enough. I am ready to come out of that childhood closet though, tell my story and hopefully help others realise that their childhood isn’t their fault and there is no need to be embarrassed by it.


I have successfully raised 2 now adult children who are productive members of society. I have succeeded at an almost 30 year marriage. I have witnessed over 100 babies born, including 2 nieces and both of my grandbabies. I have watched someone I loved die. I have felt the fear of my husband being very ill. I am a pretty good friend, daughter, sister. I have laughed a lot, I have cried a lot, I have been mean, I have been kind, I have been hurt, I have survived.



It took me until my 40’s, and a lot of reading and soul work to feel more comfortable in my skin, my body, my passions and my life. It took me until then to realise that each step I took, each thing I tried, everything I learned over the years made me who I am. I am almost 50 and I have sweet skills. Now is the time in my life to help others realise that they have so much awesome inside them. Now is the time to shine, to be and celebrate who we are. Your past doesn’t define you. You can find your awesome that has always been you! You are enough.. You are enough..


Submitted by Michele.

You can read more from her @


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1 thought on “Michele’s Story : The Past Doesn’t Define You

  1. As one of my best friends, Michele has been a role model and inspiration to me and so true that the past does not define you. She has more than proven it in her life!

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