Leaving Jehovah's Witnesses is a Negative, Depressing Thing To Do, but....

by AllTimeJeff 47 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • cult classic
    cult classic

    Jeff I agree with Willyloman. There are more than three options (I'm not sure you meant that in a strict sense. Did you?)

    We left on our own terms and it wasn't a "fade" We walked out the door never to return as the exemplary witnesses we had been our whole life. We decided who was important to us. Turned out to be a handful of family members and another handful of friends we had served with. When we were ready we told them of our decision and why and left it up to them how the relationship would proceed. That has worked out well for the most part. We discovered unconditional love for the first time in our lives and it was beautiful. We decided the time had come for us to put down the weight of the whole entire association of brothers. It was too heavy. We could not "care" about what every witness we had ever come in contact would think, say and do about us. Not many know of our position and reasons for leaving. And they probably never will. We don't care what every member of this religion thinks of us. Contrary to what the witnesses think, they are not the center of the universe.

    I agree with most of your post though, especially about turning the negative into a positive so as not to give over any more of our lives to the WTS. I'm in no way saying our way was the best way, I don't even have a clear definition of what it was we did exactly. And we have definitely experienced the downside of leaving all we had ever known from a religious and social standpoint.

    Cult Classic

  • cult classic
    cult classic

    "To say “I was a JW, and damn it, I can’t do anything about the future they robbed from me” is to give the victory to the Governing Body. Aren’t they the ones who said if you left you would be miserable"

    This is a great point Jeff! It's a struggle for born-ins/long-time witnesses who exit because your whole life is tied in with a set of beliefs and way of living that you now choose to disown. It's a daily struggle sometimes.

    "If that positive place agrees with your conclusions, then perhaps you have a potential close friend. Even if it doesn't, to be able to respect how another person leaves and thus turns their lemons into lemonade is something that any person should be happy to observe and support."

    This seems to be the position that many on this forum take. One of the most destructive attitudes the witnesses have is that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to happiness

    Great post Jeff

    Cult Classic

    P.S. I think there is lots of fallout from leaving but largely the experience is so liberating and positive that I have to give it a It's important when you get out (however that happens) to really learn the truth about the religion, then you will truly be free!!!

  • Scott77


  • mindmelda

    I was always depressed and anxious as a Witness. A few years of counseling helped me realize it wasn't a coincidence. The teachings of the Witnesses actually were contributing to that. I wrote an article for freeminds.org about PTSD and anxiety disorder and how that was connected to my years as a Witness.

    Leaving that behind lowered my stress levels immensely. I had some initial surges of anxiety when I finally quit for good (any big changes in life make me anxious, I'm not good with that), but realizing that your worst fears won't be realized if you leave, that you don't have to live with the constant guilt and cognitive dissonance and that there's nothing wrong with you because you don't believe it all were immensely relieving to me.

    I spent a lot of years thinking there was something wrong with me because I couldn't force down that vomit...now, that makes me angry to think about it, but then I get glad again when I realize....it's not ME that is screwed up. Well I am, like nearly everyone else, but I never was screwed up as badly as the WTS are!

    I'm to the point now where most days, I even feel pity for most of them, the poor duped things. They really believe that stuff...it's like believing you're on Mars and no one can tell you you're on Earth without you having a conniption. Pitiful, really.

  • Dogpatch

    yes, put it up on freeminds, Jeff!

    Jeff has a blog there: http://www.freeminds.org/blogs/spirituality-beyond-gilead/


  • gubberningbody

    You nailed it Jeff. I am one of the fortunate ones. I was the only one in my family to get caught up in this nonsense and even though it took 25 years to get out, my "fleshly" family welcomes me back without any judgment or recriminations. My wife left with me and we were at one with the decision. She likewise was the only one in her family and I suppose for both of us it has been a rewarding experience to reconnect with people that the Borg had been keeping at bay with all the constant busywork and needless punctilious symbolic and hypocritical religious restrictions.

    I would love to "rescue" so many of the people that I really cared about, but you can't rush people who are putting money in a one-armed bandit it seems. They have to sober up on their own.

  • wavvy

    Hey Jeff, I always love your posts for their down-to-earth wisdom. There's no doubt that leaving the dubs can be a painful experience. However, I'm not sure that I'm prepared to agree with your statement that leaving in any of those three ways is always a negative. For those of us who have lived in doubt and forced ourselves to live a life that just wasnt us, leaving is a blast of fresh air. The pain came before. The pain was in living that way, not in leaving.

    I also do believe there is a 4th option as several others have commented. I am a 'fader', however, I refuse to pretend even to family and friends that I am still a JW. Neither do I rub it in their face. I simply avoid any conversation on that topic. I don't want to be disfellowshipped because I don't want to make things difficult for my family, however, I don't pretend to be anything I am not. Any JW relatives or friends who are uncomfortable with that are no longer a part of my circle. In effect I have d'fd them! The truth is, most of them don't want me disfellowshipped either. They would rather turn a blind eye to my non-Witness lifestyle than lose my friendship.

    I am inspired by the example of some other relatives of mine who have also faded. They were quite vocally apostate for some time trying to convince everyone else to get out. Then they realised the pain this was causing and so just went quiet on the topic. Now nobody in the family raises the topic with them, because they know their stand and don't want it brought to a head that might lead to disfellowshipping. If these relatives of mine are asked by some unsuspecting JW which congregation they are in, they say unapologetically, 'we belong to a congregation all of our own'.

  • SixofNine
    For those of us who have lived in doubt and forced ourselves to live a life that just wasnt us, leaving is a blast of fresh air. The pain came before. The pain was in living that way, not in leaving.

    This describes my experience too. The first day after I said to myself "I'm never going to consider myself a JW again", was one of the best days of my life. Six months later, I was amazed that seemingly every day was still getting better than the day before.

    And my fade being very much like you described your fade, wavvy, it was 5 years before they finally came after me to disfellowship me.

    None of this is to say I haven't felt anger for myself and for the pain the religion causes; I have. It has been depressing losing most of my family contact.

    I still get enraged reading stories about the way people are treated in the congregation, and it brings back the old memories. But that hurts a little, and for a little while. Trying to believe the unbelievable and trying to be "good" by following bad ideas and living up to bad standards hurt much much more, and it was constant.

  • Etude

    Leave, get disfellowshipped or fade away: Well, I guess I experience a triple whammy because I went through all three stages:

    First I had the disagreements --They dealt with my expectation of what I considered Christian and right and theocratic. That started at Bethel and I couldn’t take it anymore and left there. Going back to the congregation left me very disappointed. I had already started questioning the organizational arrangements and how the elders arbitrated over things. I experienced a sort of boredom which later turned into an annoyance at hearing the same crappy tidbits of fourth-grade wisdom coming from the platform. Needing something to fill my void (even though I was barely still attending the meetings), I started going to college. That was very exciting but it further alienated me from everyone else, including my family. You could say that I was starting to “fade”, but that was not the biggest shove in that direction that I experienced. It wasn’t a complete and final exit, but I was essentially on my own.

    By then, depression had set in. This was partly due to my nature and partly due to the guilt I experienced for leaving what I had come to accepted as true. I not only felt the loss of fellowship and the camaraderie I experienced at Bethel, but I couldn’t really talk to anyone in the congregation or my family about my curricular activities at college. Studying in a higher-learning institution was still frowned upon. Making friends in the “world” was not easy. I was a bit ashamed of my religious past and I had not completely gone over to the “other side”. You could say I was pretty screwed existing in a social and spiritual limbo.

    Fading away -- Eventually, I left my home in the East and headed to the West Coast. With new surroundings, I expected a change. The change was worse, I didn’t know anyone, even though I manage to look up a local congregation and make acquaintances. That’s when I really started to fade. I found myself alone not willing to share my past with anyone, not being able to communicate with my Witness family and being in a new unfamiliar place with little money for entertainment. I had been so desperate that I decided to risk my venture alone without much help from anyone. Even though I eventually had stopped associating with the new congregation (it was easy because I barely knew anyone), I still had the guilt and kept telling myself that I would return to it someday.

    After giving myself permission to “wander off”, I started to associate with some co-workers. That inevitably led to parties and some other stuff that I don’t regret but would rather not do again. With that came the women, the booze and some experimentation with certain other substances – I didn’t go sex-crazy or became a drunk or a drug addict. So, I feel lucky I came out of that OK. I credit my upbringing for having instilled in me some moral controls and to some serious evaluation on my part to keep me honest and not go off the deep end. I was still thinking that I would always go back to the JWs. I met a guy at a bar who turned out to be an ex. JW (we were both trying to pick up a lady). We felt kindred for being in the same situation. After some conversations in which I admitted to him that I would someday return, he emphatically stated that he would not. He said it in a way that revealed his hurt and disappointment. He apparently had some run-ins with the elders, especially with a few that had an unfair favoritism for someone else and antagonism for him. I didn't understand what he felt until much later.

    Being disfellowshipped: Even though I wanted to return, I wasn’t quite ready. I had encountered another ex-Witness that I knew from my days back East and he told me about Ray Franz’s book “Crisis of Conscience”, several months after its publication. It was pretty devastating because I knew Ray (we attended the same congregation for a time and I also saw him while I was living at Brooklyn Bethel) but I had been so out of touch, I had no idea all of that had transpired. It prompted me to write a letter to the Society asking about the military situation with the brothers in Mexico. Even though they replied directly, they sent a copy to the local congregation, which prompted a couple of visits from the elders. It was unfortunate that the elders decided to pay me a visit and found a pack of cigarettes on my coffee table. Yes, I had started that habit again having smoked for a bit before I was baptized. They told me that I had to come back and quit right now, otherwise they wouldn’t accept my desire to be with “Jehovah’s People”. I told them that I’d like to do that but that it wasn’t so easy at this stage of my life. They left and then I got the letter several weeks later. I was DF’d. I was saddened at first, but then turn angrier with the years. By then I had discovered all their lies; that the world wasn’t so bad; that non-Witnesses were not the enemy; that there were good people everywhere. It was a fast and furious education that turned me into a relatively savvy worldly person from a sheltered innocent youth (which was mostly consumed by the WTBTS).

    Yes, in many ways my pendulum swung to the other extreme, even to the point of questioning the fundamental belief in God. I then attacked those questions with all the intellectual intensity and honesty I could muster and have come to an unusual but comfortable conclusion. Leaving didn’t turn out to be just an unhappy thing. It was damned-right painful and quite devastating emotionally. My deception cut deep. However, I couldn’t be more fulfilled and secure because of it. I’m married, happy, non-smoking and have experienced many wonderful things. Even though I don’t talk much about it today, in a way I treasure that ugly past because it’s largely responsible for the person I am today. It’s like a guy at Bethel used to say to me: “I wouldn’t take a million dollars in exchange for this experience, but I would give a penny for any more of it.”


  • AllTimeJeff

    Hi all.

    In trying to be as general as possible in describing why people leave, I am well aware that there are many reasons why one leaves. I hope everyone knows that I wasn't trying to be specific. I am glad that this has sparked a little conversation on that, as it can help to talk and understand why and how certain people leave.

    In any case, the point was that for most, it is a negative experience in leaving, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

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