This is a letter I received from a former GCMer. She has accepted my invitation to post this on the GCM stories page. I wanted to add a few words here. I am thankful she wrote to me. She does not leave out the good she received from GCM, but she does recognize some of the negatives. I am glad she is willing to share so that others can see an insider’s view since I am definitely an outsider looking in.
I came across the “Expose GCM” blog after learning about another big split that recently occurred in the GCM community. I left GCM a few years ago, and have never looked back until learning this news.
I first learned about GCM while looking for different parenting advice, because what I was using wasn’t working, and the advice I was receiving wasn’t any better or helpful.
Your blog brings up a number of good points; however, I have never found GCM to be a cult – very addictive, yes; and as commenter Amy brought up, it does suck a lot of time, which I also regret.
GCM is a huge community, and frankly, with way too many forums to manage effectively. (To GCM’s credit, the mods/admins have reported to the authorities cases of abuse which were brought up on the boards.)
For the positive points of GCM: it taught me a new way of parenting and interacting with my kids, as well as introducing me to a number of good Christian authors (such as Jeff Van Vonderen, Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller, Clay & Sally Clarkson and Tim Kimmel). The concept of “positive intent” has been invaluable, and it has helped me in many situations — with my family and in other areas of my life. The concept of setting healthy boundaries has been helpful. There were a number of sound, thought-provoking discussions on Bible and theology. For these things I am very grateful.
Now for the negative points of GCM: certain human/cultural ideologies held by a number of the members were allowed to take over portions of the community, despite the Statement of Beliefs (SoB) explicitly being against many of these views. Opposing voices were often shut down in discussions of these topics, and it was that happening one too many times which was when I decided to leave the community entirely.
Other negative points include the projecting a personal experience on to everyone or everything (for example, “I have a bad relationship with my mother/family, so therefore you all have bad relationships with your mothers/families”) and the subsequent buying into it by some other members, and the constant drama and being perpetually offended coming from some members was draining. This is a failing of not only the moderators, but other members of the community to lovingly but firmly call these ladies out and say that your experience, as bad as it was, does not mean everyone else had this experience nor should you project it on to others.
There is also a fine line between exhibiting grace (where you still hold the person accountable for their actions), and permissiveness (where bad behavior is excused away under the guise of grace). When this line gets blurred, it does become frustrating. In retrospect, this also factored into my decision to leave.
You asked in one of your posts how non-Christians can be allowed on a Christian board. They are allowed to join; however, they must abide by the SoB, and it was viewed as an opportunity to witness to them, which is what we are supposed to be doing.
The deeper levels of the boards are appreciated, especially when you are dealing with more sensitive (not abusive) situations or have prayer requests — having these publicly available is not a good thing either, the privacy is needed. As far as the encouragement to lie — in my several years there, I have never seen this (but I also did not participate in every forum, including the marriage forum). Did people lie? Yes, but again, from what I have witnessed, it was their own decision to do so, and some of these lies as well as ‘fake’ people were outed.
As with anything, some of the ideas promoted within GCM can be taken to an extreme — there are toxic people out there, but it doesn’t mean that everyone or anyone who disagrees with me is toxic; there are times when healthy boundaries need to be set, but it doesn’t mean I need to set them every time or with everyone or make a big deal of it in every single situation; yes, AP is a good thing, but when the husband is being shut out in favor of the kids, or if it gets in the way of relationships or it is the starting point of looking for a church (instead of adherence to Scripture and soundness of doctrine), it has become unhealthy and an idol.
What this all comes down to is that we each are responsible for our actions — our need to develop strong discernment skills (which comes from regularly studying the Word), the time that we spend there or on any online community, what we choose to share (GCM does not require or encourage a sharing of one’s entire life or a lot of personal information), taking responsibility for our own feelings and reactions, and ultimately, knowing when it has become unhealthy and that it is time to walk away.