Gasp! A cult! Did I just title my blog post in such an inflammatory way? Well, now that I have your attention let me first confess that I was once in a Multi-level Marketing (MLM) cult. Yes. It is true. You could not have convinced me of it for many of those years, but eventually I was exposed to the truth and believed it. Thank God!
Some of you may have been following a controversial blog post I recently wrote and know what inspired this blog post. I fought the idea for a while for two reasons. First, I felt I would have to confess that I was in one of the legs of Amway that operates like a cult. Amway isn’t necessarily a cult, but some of the groups in it have cult-like behaviors. Secondly, I didn’t want to stir up the hornet’s nest of angry comments such as those from some MLM representatives and company supporters that have already been bombarding me when I wrote the blog Warnings dōTERRA & Young Living Won’t Tell You.
So here is the truth. It is so easy to fall into a cult whether it be in an MLM, religious group or other organization. I fell in because I had a need. The “plan” that I saw promised to fulfill my need beyond my wildest dreams. The other reason is that many cults use half-truths. The false parts are buried under the shadow of the truth.
Here are signs I learned from my experiences:
- Members are encouraged to only read the organizations recommended reading list.
- Friends, family and experts who do not agree with what the organization is teaching are labeled as negative, ignorant or any other derogatory terms. When someone leaves the organization they are labeled negative, sinful, lost, or confused.
- Information that contradicts the teaching of the organization is removed from chat groups, Facebook groups and so forth by the administrators or upline. They defend everything they do and teach even when others say it is harmful or dangerous. (Definition of an upline: A MLM sales rep’s upline receives compensation based on her sales as well as their own. The term is also used to describe those in the ranks above someone in a pyramid scheme.)
- Members are deemed negative when they question the teaching of the organization.
- Members have an inappropriate or almost star-struck god-like admiration of the leaders. The leadership is charismatic claiming special knowledge, abilities or experiences.
- Administrators and uplines have an overzealous and unquestioning commitment to the organization’s leader, belief system and practices. Leaders promote the goals of the group over the good of the individual.
- The organization is elitist. They may claim to have a special or exalted status or product above all others. They will often put down other organizations to build themselves up. They teach that they have a special corner on the truth or a special corner on the market.
- The group has a polarized “us versus them” mentality. They are openly hostile to anyone who does not share their beliefs.
- The leader has questionable character that is overlooked, defended or simply ignored.
- The group is highly focused on bringing in new members and making a profit.
- Members are expected to attend weekly, monthly or quarterly “training” by the organization via books, tapes, seminars, large and small gatherings, online training and so forth. All the training and teachings usually come from the leader and administration with few or no outside influences or references from other sources.
- Members are encouraged to associate mainly with loyal members. Contact with non-members is for the purpose of adding them to your downline organization, selling them product or converting them. There is a subtle control element throughout all the organization does, from friendships and relationships to daily living practices and speech that is considered “beneficial” or “acceptable.”
When I was in Amway, my parents were worried. They wanted to be supportive, but after one meeting they were alarmed that I had been sucked into a cult. My upline told me they were just negative and couldn’t understand the dream. When I met Dennis, he had a successful Amway business. He was not sponsored by my upline. I was told that he was negative and I should stay away from him. This was due to the fact that he had begun to question the practices of the organization. Also they knew that if I did marry him I would likely leave their organization and join his business.
I am not saying that all MLM organizations are cults. I am cautioning you to take a close look at these twelve signs versus the reality of any MLM you are in or approached by. Are any of them true? Or have you found a healthy line in an MLM? Don’t be afraid to honestly evaluate your surroundings. I don’t for one moment regret my years in Amway or the line of sponsorship I was in. I learned a ton and it was all worthwhile. I’m just sharing to be honest and give an insiders view from my own experiences.
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