Rachel Baldwin “Born in Adelaide, South Australia, I was raised in a fundamentalist, Independent Baptist church. As a second-generation former member, I understand some of the unique challenges this group can experience. One of the key sources of distress, as for many other cult survivors, has been the estrangement from family members who are still part of the group. The grief I felt was intense for many years, but mercifully, I am no longer weighed down by it. Untangling the legalistic, black-and-white thinking inherent in my old belief system has also been a lengthy process, but a rewarding one. Amidst the suffering, I have experienced intense joy in the freedom this new life offers me. The most precious thing I have gained is freedom of mind. I hold this sacred. I am passionate about helping others affected by high demand groups or relationships to find freedom also. To this end, I recently completed a Bachelor’s degree in counseling. Additionally, I have always enjoyed creative writing and hope that others may benefit as I begin to share some of my musings, starting with this poetry submission to the ICSA arts site.”
Life in the Grey
I used to live in a world of black and white,
in the harsh, unforgiving light.
Where I was right and others wrong,
I even used to sing the ‘right’ songs.
I used to live in a world that felt safe and secure,
I was so certain, so sure.
Where I could judge and not really listen,
Look, but not see those within my vision.
A world sanctimonious, religious, legalistic,
full of self-importance and pretense,
talk of purity and separateness,
disguising thinly veiled contempt.
Then came the questioning and the CHAOS,
the Fear and the Freedom,
as belief systems unraveled,
and all I’d ever known...
Now I live in a world with tones of grey,
bathed in soft, forgiving light.
Where questions can be asked without fear,
I don’t have to be ‘right’.
I’ve walked away from safe and secure,
No longer certain, no longer sure.
I don’t have to judge, but can fully listen,
clearly seeing those within my vision.
This path takes courage.
Sometimes it’s hard to be brave,
but strength can come from faith,
the kind of faith that takes you to a deeper place.
This grey world is kinder,
filled with love and grace,
where curiosity and questions
can be embraced.
There is freedom in not knowing.
In this grey space
humility can flourish
and I can be of service to others.
Commentary on Life In the Grey
I wrote this poem as part of an ethics paper during my counselling studies. A two-part assignment, I chose the topic of humility, and the poem was submitted as the creative element. We live near the Murray River, which has long been a source of comfort and inspiration for me. The day I wrote this piece, it was an overcast, grey day and I was sitting at one of my favourite places along the river. The grey skies and soft light made me think of my journey out of black-and-white thinking, into a kinder, gentler, more forgiving space. Living life ‘in the grey’ has enabled me to connect with others on a deeper level. I can now listen freely, in an unfiltered way. I love not having to be right anymore, not having to know everything, being able to get things wrong, not feeling compelled to change anyone. In all of this I find great freedom.