Jesse Walters

The Church Next Door: My Cult Experience and How I Got Out While Staying Close to God

What Defines You?

Just the other day I was having a conversation with a friend.

Once we got done jabbering about guitars, we had a good, long talk about relationships.  He made the point to be yourself as you grow closer to one another, whether that be in a romantic relationship, with friends, or with someone you just met.  It sounds obvious but he made a statement that really stuck out to me.

“We are a product of our own history, but we don’t have to let our history define who we are.”


I’m sure he didn’t just make that up, but it was the first time I had heard it.

For the last few years I’ve fallen in that trap.  I’ve let my past, my cult experience, define who I am.  Every time I meet someone new I feel like I have this BIG story to tell them before they really get to know me.  But, how do I bring up the subject of a religious cult just after shaking hands with a guy, or worse, going on a first date?

You don’t.

People don’t need to hear that story (at first) to know who I really am.  I’m a lot different from when I walked out of that cult.  I can’t see myself as a victim anymore.  I’m so many other things.  I’m a farmer.  I’m a musician.  I’m an entrepreneur.  I’m a writer.  I’m a public speaker (more to come on that).  I’m just like everyone else in this world trying to find their way in life, and so are YOU!

We all make mistakes and our history shows that, but we use those experiences to learn and grow to become better people.  If you let those “mistakes” define who you are now, it’s no different from living in the past.

Don’t let those moments define you.  You’re better than you were 5 years ago.  You’re better than you were yesterday.


  1. Well said! I’m from Boonville also and working on getting published the traditional route. I also play the guitar in a band but I’m no farmer. 🙂 I just featured several Boonville authors at a literature festival I organized in Blackwater at an event including 6 school districts. You might have seen it in the paper. If you ever publish any YA, PB or MG look me up. We’d love to feature you next year. You can see more about the festival on my WordPress blog.

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