Witness Mom Quits
"My Life as a Witness and Why I Left"
A person joins and leaves a group for many reasons. I believe it was unusual for us to leave this group since I had never known anything else. Both my husband and I are third-generation Witnesses and raised our whole family as Witnesses. Within the last four years all of our immediate family has left the Witnesses.
I learned many things while a Witness. I learned to enjoy the friendship of persons of many different nationalities, and how to communicate with many different kinds of people. I learned courage under adversity and how to talk under varying circumstances. I was active in house-to-house witnessing, averaging 25-30 hours a month and was a regular publisher for 48 years. I learned to love the Bible and was conscientious in trying to serve God. I learned to love people in general. I was hospitable and socially adept. We could and did organize many social functions and parties in our homes and planned more weddings than many professional wedding coordinators. I have had a fun life and plan to continue doing just that. Little did I imagine that I would have to quit being a Witness to have any enjoyment in life. Until a couple years ago, I would have regarded myself as quite obedient.
Let me explain. I had long had suppressed concerns about my perception that many viewed a person who did NOTHING as a more successful Witness than someone who did SOMETHING. At times in the past and present Witnesses were discouraged from attending college, buying a house, getting married, having children, visiting their family or doing community service. Since every person I had ever known as a "friend" was a Witness, and every relative is also a Witness, I lived a very sheltered life. Usually I was happy in my box.
As a mother I also loved my children, so as they grew up, I wanted to teach them all I could and expose them to learning as many skills as they could. Our children had years of swimming instruction and piano lessons. I guess that was unusual, because I knew only two other Witness children who had piano lessons. The Organization also didn't allow for after school sports, but we took our children on trips. They learned to ski, are athletic, and in general have great lives. I also learned to be very, very organized. With so many congregational activities, meetings, and service, and since my husband was an elder for 26 years and gone much of the time, I was very busy, but happy doing it. I did what I was told, and if I didn't understand a belief or rule, I suppressed the thought.
The main issue that I couldn't agree to with the Witnesses was that while I had given up my chance for a college education, I strongly felt that since we are living in a competitive world and need to make a living, we also need skills. When our first child went to a local community college, she was semi-shunned. She still studied with and brought two persons into the Watchtower organization during this time. Our son was shunned when he went to college. Although this whole atmosphere comes from the top, the Governing Body, they would like us to think the atmosphere arises from a local level and that they are just imperfect people whom God uses.
Everyone is not hurt all the time in this very controlling, authoritarian group. Even when I or other family members were criticized, I would usually respond to myself and our family, "Oh, don't pay any attention to what others say. You just try to do the right thing. Others are also imperfect so don't worry about it." We were very conscientious, we tried to do the "right thing" as I assumed other people did. The difference I feel now, looking back, is that I am not a rigid person, but many people with authority are very rigid. I also feel strongly that this organization as a whole has become far more rigid, controlling, and authoritarian than they were 15 years ago.
I can recall many cases where elders were cruel, gave poor advice, and made rigid hurtful rules. I know elders, including those at Bethel, who have drinking problems themselves but disfellowship others, usually the less powerful young people, for the same reasons. I really love children in general and strongly feel we should help them communicate more, and we should not shun or disfellowship impressionable, confused young people who are definitely not "wicked."
My family lived through the build-up and deceit of "Armageddon Coming in 1975." While neither my husband nor I believed it while it was being taught, we were caught up in the atmosphere. However, I was told constantly and did believe that the Governing Body (the few old men who run this organization) somehow had "special knowledge" and "knew" that 1914 marked this generation as being the last one before Armageddon would come. It's been "right around the corner" for four generations from my grandparents down through my now-grown children.
When the November 1, 1995 Watchtower changed the meaning of "generation" I emotionally blew up, but spoke only to my husband about how I felt. Within six months our youngest child tried several times to commit suicide! At that point I really questioned everything, using only the Bible and the WT Society's publications. We also went to family counseling. I did not read anything against the Witnesses, nor talk to anyone who would have tried to convince me to leave. It was a very personal choice. Still, from the first time we didn't go out in service or attend meetings, we were shunned. Only three women and two couples (who we invited over) have visited us since we stopped attending 1 1/2 years ago. I was very shocked that we were branded as "apostates" and completely shunned. After all those years of faithful service, nobody tried to help any of us in any way. I tried to ask the Circuit Overseer and an elder a few questions on JWs beliefs, but they didn't want to help me. I was probably more shocked that we as a family were treated so rudely and so quickly shunned than I was that the Society had been deceitful with us in so many ways.
We are no longer Witnesses. It was very hard for me to stop going to the Kingdom Hall. I viewed these people as my friends, my family. I was told many times over the years while going door-to-door that we were Satanic. Now I have been told by two Witness "friends" that I am Satanic. I've also been told when I randomly meet some Witness that I've gone crazy, am going to die, am very weak and when I return to my senses, will return to the flock. Well, I guess I can't pay any attention to any of them. We're again, a smaller, happy family. While there was a painful period of adjustment and still is somewhat, I am much happier and much more realistic than I have ever been. Our youngest child is doing well now and is attending college.
What contributed to my leaving Jehovah's Witnesses?
1. I love to read. I never heard or read anything against the Witnesses, nor would I have because we weren't allowed to and I was obedient. I wasn't allowed to go to college because I was raised a Witness, but I encouraged our children to learn all they could. In order to support ourselves I believe we need further education so we gave our children freedom of choice in their education.
2. I don't like to be treated meanly. I like fairness. Three women have visited me since we stopped going. When I phone up a past "friend," she is abrupt, or if I leave a message on her phone, the husband phones up and asks "What do you want?"
3. The vivid realization that we have been deceived all these years propelled me out. I lived through the 1975 build-up and knew "the Society" was being untruthful. When they changed the meaning of "generation" in 1995, I reacted with tremendous emotional upset. Nobody I knew mentioned that article, which to me was the biggest change the Society ever made. I was used to "going along" with whatever the Society said, with all their changes of belief and rules over the years.
4. There was no help of any kind when our son was suicidal and all the local elders and the Society knew about it. Our son really believed and practiced what was taught, but none of us understood why he was shunned by many at the Kingdom Hall and they wouldn't tell him. It seemed impossible to measure up. Later on, he was quickly disfellowshipped for briefly smoking.
5. Many, many of my Witness friends were depressed and taking Prozac or other depression medicine. I felt I would have to change (leave) or I would be just like them.
6. I studied carefully the blood transfusion and military service issues. I feel the Society is changing its policies now because it doesn't want bad publicity. When a group is small, all publicity is good publicity. When an organization becomes large and has huge assets, it wants to protect those assets and doesn't want adverse governmental and community "persecution." The Society doesn't care about the individual at all. It cares about the numbers and control.
7. I left because I became very tired of not being able to make my own decisions. I was tired of being controlled by the authoritarian group I did not respect. I think by the time I reach half a century it's time to grow up.
This short story illustrates how I feel having been a Witness. I feel I've been in a very long child's game of "Follow the Leader." The game starts out as a great adventure. We're led through all sorts of twists and turns, jumping through hoops and over rocks. It's fun playing with the other kids. We're led through scratchy bushes and muddy puddles. Some are falling down and getting cut on the rocks we're climbing over. When one little kid way back in the line quietly asks a question, "Where are you taking us? Some are getting hurt!", he's hit on the head by the guy in front of him. The leader yells back, "I'm smarter than you. I know where we're going. Just keep playing the game and follow me." Eventually the little kid figures out the leader is just another kid like himself. He gets tired of being hurt. The game isn't fun anymore. So he decides to play by himself or find other kids with which to play. When he stops playing "Follow the Leader" a few rude kids yell back, "We won't play with you anymore. You're not our friend."
Now I think that with all the changes the Society is making lately, they'll mutate into a completely different group. Perhaps the majority of "faithful" Witnesses won't even notice. I did notice the Memorial attendance was down by 426,000 in 1998 from the previous year, so I think more than a couple people are disenchanted. This group advertises that it's a "spiritual paradise," but it has become a spiritual concentration camp for many.
The advice I give to every former Witness is "Be kind, be polite! ALWAYS!"
If you find yourself disfellowshipped, or shunned by your family and friends, always talk to THEM. Phone up your parents and friends. If they continually refuse to return the call, answer the letter or talk to you, those persons have to take the responsibility before God that they are unkind. There are many more people on this planet who are willing to be kind if you take the initiative and you look for safe people to be around.
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