When a Loved One Leaves the Watchtower Society(A rational re-write of the September 1, 2006 Watchtower article "When a Loved One Leaves Jehovah", by Scully)
(Scans of the original article can be found here: Re: WT desparate: Aug 15 WT- In Our Next Issue: When A Loved One Leaves Jehovah)
Mark and Louise are Jehovah's Witnesses.* With diligence and plenty of physical discipline, they indoctrinated their children in Watchtower beliefs, as the Watchtower Society requires. The Bible is referred to only insofar as it stresses obedience and loyalty, and where its examples can be extrapolated in application to the cult leadership. Thankfully, not all children succumb to the mind control techniques and abandon the Watchtower cult in adulthood. "My heart aches for the children who strayed," says Louise. "How can I pretend that it doesn't hurt desperately from day to day? When others speak of their sons, my throat tightens up and I have to hold back tears." Louise's dysfunctional attachment and codependent tendencies betray her real desire to keep her children ensnared in dependency on the cultic Jehovah's Witness belief system.
* Some names and experiences have been fabricated.
Yes, when a person chooses to get out of a cult and lead a normal life, the family that is left behind typically experiences anguish and confusion. "I love my sister very much," says Irene. "I would do anything to see her come back to Jehovah." (Anything???... muahahahaaa!) Maria, whose brother exited the Watchtower cult to pursue a university education and a very lucrative successful career, says: "This has been hard for me to bear because in every other respect he has been a wonderful brother to me. Especially when I've needed him to bail me out financially on occasion; pioneering makes it very difficult to make ends meet, you know, when you can only work part time doing minimum wage jobs. I especially miss him at large family gatherings, but I guess I can't really blame him for not being at them, since we make a point of excluding him and not telling him about family events that are coming up."
Why Is It So Hard?
Why does it cause Jehovah's Witnesses such deep distress when a child or other loved one wants to get out of the cult? It is because they have been indoctrinated with irrational paranoid beliefs that "Jehovah God" will destroy anyone who is not one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and that only Jehovah's Witnesses have any hope of surviving the destruction of wicked humans at Armageddon and being allowed to live in an earthly paradise. Jehovah's Witnesses are required to shove these irrational beliefs down the throats of children, mates, parents, siblings and grandchildren, and to avoid contact with any of these who do not adopt their cult's indoctrination. How it frustrates and angers them to think that they failed in their mission to recruit new cult members! Even with regard to the present life, Jehovah's Witnesses realize that the Watchtower Society's instructions have time and again screwed many thousands of people out of an education, a secure career, financial stability and retirement savings. Jehovah's Witnesses are therefore extemely envious that their loved ones have escaped the same tragic stupidity that they embraced wholeheartedly, and are going to have things that they never could have or will have, and are bitter at the success that their former Witness family members enjoy.
It may be difficult for some who have never experienced how exciting it can be to see a child grow up, mature and make their own way in life. Virtually every aspect of life is affected when you can't accept that this is a natural developmental process. "It has become harder and harder to sit at the Kingdom Hall and see other parents with their children, oblivious to what is going to happen when the children grow up," says Louise. "Any happiness is overshadowed by emptiness because we are forced to shun our children. It's so unnatural." One Jehovah's Witness Elder™ recalls the four year period during which his wife's daughter was shunned by them because she was expelled from the Organization. He says: "Often, even the 'good times' were difficult. If I gave my wife a gift or took her to the Circuit Assembly for a weekend, she would break down crying, because her
Are such Jehovah's Witnesses over-reacting? Not necessarily, but Sisters™ should be careful to avoid unseemly hysterical outbursts that would make outsiders think that we are not The Happiest People On Earth™. They may to some extent be reflecting the qualities of the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society - men who have never had children and in some cases never married. What does this mean? Well, how did Jehovah feel when his people Israel wanted to worship other gods? The Bible shows time and again his petty tyrannical desire for unquestioning obedience, by destroying Israel and eventually abandoning the nation all together. Obviously Jehovah feels the need to be entertained by "the work of his hands", by giving them "free will" and brutally punishing them whenever they exercise that "free will". He implanted in humans the same capacity to torment one another, and dysfunctional family systems are a perfect example of this. So it is not surprising that humans would lash out over a family member's desire to leave the Jehovah's Witness cult.
Indeed the rejection of one's own flesh and blood who do not choose to conform to the cult belief system is one of the most difficult things that the Watchtower Society requires of its followers. Jesus said that accepting his message would cause divisions in some families, and the Watchtower Society makes damn sure that it happens. This is not because the Bible message of itself causes family division, but it is what happens when some people come to realize that Jehovah's Witnesses are not true disciples of Jesus and that the Watchtower Society is no better a vehicle of salvation than any other belief system. As a result, family members who remain in the cult are forced to choose between loyalty to family and loyalty to the leaders of the Watchtower Society. We can be thankful, however, that many of those who exit the Jehovah's Witnesses leave the way open for family members should they desire some day to exit the cult as well. If you are presently shunning a former Jehovah's Witness family member, what can help you endure the pain and stupidity of rejecting them and find a measure of emotional anaesthetization?
"By building up yourselves ..., keep yourselves in God's love." (Jude 20, 21)Depending on your particular circumstances, it may be that there is nothing you can do at this time to compel your family members to return to the cult. Nevertheless, we have lots of things for you to do to keep your mind off your troubles, and reinforce the cult indoctrination in your own mind so we don't lose you (and your money) too. Veronica, who saw two of her three sons exit the cult, says: "My husband and I were reminded that if we remain in a firmly indoctrinated state, it would be the only way to attempt to reindoctrinate our sons if they gave us an opportunity to recruit them again. Where would the prodigal son have been if his father had not been in a condition to receive him back? Just like our sons, he'd have to sit at the back of the Kingdom Hall for a year or more until the Elders™ decided they were Repentant™ and ready to be Reinstated™."
To keep yourself in a fully indoctrinated condition, be absorbed in cult recruitment activities. This would include maintaining a schedule for repetitive Watchtower Publication review and attending cult indoctrination meetings. Make yourself available to help the Elders™ in the congregation as much as possible, even if it means letting other day-to-day things be neglected. True, initially you may find such activities difficult. Veronica recalls: "My first instinct was to get the hell out like my kids were. But my husband insisted on keeping me roped in because he was afraid of losing his Privileges™. He dragged me to all the meetings. When it was time to attend a convention, I couldn't stand the thought of being around other Witnesses and their holier than thou superior attitudes. Eventually, I couldn't resist anymore and allowed myself to be re-indoctrinated. Our son who was still in the cult was relieved that he didn't have to shun me too."
Maria, mentioned earlier, finds it especially helpful to stay busy in cult recruitment activities and is presently working on four potential recruits. Similarly, Laura says: "Although I still cry daily, I'm grateful that the Watchtower Society has helped me recognize what a failure I was as a mother, and that I should just focus on recruiting strangers. One day I hope to have a recruit of my very own." Ken and Eleanor, whose adult children left the cult, arranged their circumstances to move far away from their relatives so that they could pursue cult recruitment activities on a full-time basis and avoid being contaminated by the prospect of associating with grandchildren who are going to be destroyed at Armageddon anyway. This has helped them remain as fanatical as ever and avoid being swallowed up by silly emotions.
Do not give up hope.Love "hopes all things." (1 Corinthians 13:7) Ken, mentioned above, says: "When our children left the cult, I thought that it was like their death and I was sad. But when my sister died, I realized that it might be the only hope for my children and now I just keep hoping something bad will happen so that they might at least have a Resurrection™ in the New System™." Indeed, experience has shown that many who have been disfellowshipped commit suicide after being shunned, and it can give much needed hope to parents that they might see their children again.
Resist self-blame.Parents especially may look back and regret that they did not handle certain situations differently. However, the main thought conveyed at Ezekiel 18:20 is that Jehovah holds people responsible for their actions, and if you did something to screw up your kids, you should feel bad about it. But don't become self-indulgent and blame yourself for your mistakes, because the Watchtower Society has perfected this art and is more than happy to do it for you. You likely handled matters as well as you could at the time, but we warned you not to have kids, didn't we? Learn from your mistakes, determine not to repeat them (don't have more kids!!), and pray to Jehovah for forgiveness, because we're sure as hell not going to let you forget. (Psalm 103:8-14; Isaiah 55:7) Then look to the future and forget about the past.
Be patient with others.It may be hard for some to know just how to strengthen your resolve to remain loyal to the cult, especially if they were smart and listened to our advice and didn't have children. Besides, people differ as to what they consider encouraging and comforting. So if someone makes a particularly boneheaded remark that temporarily makes you feel like calling your disloyal children, apply the apostle Paul's counsel found at Colossians 3:13: "Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has cause for complaint against another." Just because you are prone to being stumbled, that doesn't mean that so-called thoughtless remarks aren't meant to be mean and hateful, because that's what we hope to achieve.
Obey the Watchtower's arrangement for shunning.If your relative has been disfellowshipped, remember that this is part of your test of loyalty to the Organization. It is in our best interests if you continue to shun them, because in some cases they become desperate for your love and attention and can be coerced into becoming a cult member once again. Opposing this directive can only result in added distress because we're liable to disfellowship you too, and you'll end up being destroyed along with your renegade kids.
After Israel's deliverance from Egypt, Moses regularly served as judge. (Exodus 18:13-16) Since a judgment in favor of one individual would probably have been against another, it is not hard to imagine that some were disappointed by Moses' decisions. Finding fault with Moses' judgments perhaps contributed to some instances of rebellion against his leadership. However, Jehovah was using Moses to lead his people, and He punished, not Moses, but the rebels and their families who supported them. (Numbers 16:31-35) We can learn from this by striving to obey and cooperate with decisions made by those in positions of authority in the cult, and use whatever opportunities you have to remember that favoritism does exist among the Elders™, and there's really very little you can do about it unless you want try to find fault with the Organization™ and end up being disfellowshipped yourself.
In this regard, Delores recalls how difficult it was for her to maintain the Watchtower's viewpoint when her daughter was expelled from the congregation and Delores was required to shun her own family member. "What helped me," she says, "was to read over and over again propaganda that reinforced that this was the appropriate thing to do. I made a special notebook of points from talks and articles that would help me keep the 'logic' straight in my mind, and stick to the Watchtower's instructions." This leads to another important means of coping.
Express your feelings.You may find it helpful to confide in one or two understanding friends who have your trust. In doing so, select friends who will help you maintain your resolve to follow cult directions, and who will turn you in to the Elders™ for correction if you slip up. It will certainly be most effective to "pour out your heart" in prayer to Jehovah. (Psalm 62:7, 8) Why? We don't have a clue really. But if it makes you feel like you're doing something productive and helps you keep focussed on cult goals, then why not? If, for example, you feel that it is unfair that you should have to experience such emotional anguish, you could complain to Jehovah and believe he's actually interested, because the congregation certainly won't put up with your crap. Commit your feelings to Jehovah, and ask him to help you view the situation in a less painful way. (Psalm 37:5) If that doesn't help, get some Prozac and just shut up already.
With the passing of time, you will likely be better able to manage your feelings. You'll learn that nobody in the congregation really gives a crap, and eventually neither will you. Meanwhile, do not give up in your efforts to keep putting in your Field Service Reports™, because that is really all we care about. Remember, if we were to exit the cult, we would still have to deal with life and face the fact that there is no New System™, no Armageddon™, and no Jehovah. On the other hand, by remaining loyal to the Organization™, we can pacify ourselves with stupid little fantasies instead of dealing with the realities of life. Be assured, then, the Watchtower Society doesn't give a crap about your situation, and only wants to ensure that you don't leave too or stop putting cash in the Contribution Box™. If you can remain a brainwashed drone, you'll stop having feelings and it won't bother you anymore.