Growing up in a Bible-thumping, evangelical, apocalyptic cult meant growing up with an over-developed sense of responsibility to others. The sense that I was responsible for saving souls. I recall so many jw sermons emphasizing the "life-saving" work we were involved in. How being alive on this planet was like being on the Titanic. "It's all going down. And we have to save as many as we can," the elders would say.
Of course, I got this message through the cult but also through my mother. I am remembering how much she loved my first boyfriend. How much I was encouraged to stay with him, even though it was destroying me every day. "He needs a friend. Jehovah would want you to be there for him. If you're not there, what will happen to him?"
Yes, mother. Okay, mother. I will sacrifice myself on the altar of goodwill. I will save another soul.
At the end of those long days in the ministry, knocking on people's doors, I felt like I'd done this amazing thing. That I'd been God's direct tool in the eternal salvation of mankind. Yet at the same time, my own soul was dying. A slow, painful death.
I can still be that martyr. It is a hard pattern to shake. Feeling that I must surrender my heart, my life, my soul, for that of another. To help another at the expense of my own health, my own sanity. To attempt to save the suffering, the misguided, the lost. To be everything to everyone.
While I have shed the cult and its teachings, they have not shed me. Some days it feels like I will never be free of it.