What difference does it make if we are born in?

by wanderlustguy 34 Replies latest jw friends

  • wanderlustguy

    Born in, what difference does it make?

    I was thinking about this one a lot over the last few weeks. What difference does it make whether you were born into a cult or were brought in as a teen or adult? I believe there are unique issues with both, and a brought in has much less chance fully comprehending the effect on a born in than the other way around.

    Born in, from the time you can breathe the routine is embedded in your mind. You pray at every meal, and you stop whatever you are doing when you hear a prayer, just for starters. Three days per week you go to a building filled with people and you sit still for up to 2 hours at a time. Of course you don’t know to do this at first, because you’re a kid. So when you can’t sit still enough you get your little trip outside for a spanking, and then drug back in past everyone else, in tears. And of course every Saturday, the only cartoons you will see are on the TV’s in the houses you are lucky enough to get invited in to in the winter.

    When other kids are busy having their first Christmas, Birthday, or Halloween, you are learning that the birds will be pecking the eyes out of all of your “worldly” family members. You learn that people’s heads were cut off for birthdays, and that is what the cake represents. You also learn to raise your hand, and to give answers that are provided, no ones you really believe in. From the first time you say Jehovah and look around proudly at everyone smiling at you, you’re hooked. You know that acceptance comes from giving the right answer, the answer everyone expects.

    As you enter school, you are reminded to turn the other cheek if you are picked on, and you are also reminded you WILL BE picked on because you follow Jehovah’s will. You are taught you will be singled out, and of course you will. From the first time you cannot stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance, you are marked. Everyone knows you are different. Then comes Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, you always have to make a stand for what you are taught is right, or things will be much worse at home than they ever could be at school. The meetings become a haven, as you are surrounded by people who tell you they are proud of you because you are doing the right things, are giving the right answers, and you are not being independent.

    As you get into high school and other kids are having friends over, dating, learning diversity, again you find yourself outcast. You dress differently; you have no friends at school, likely because you have taken every opportunity to offer a witness. Or maybe you have figured out the gift…how to live a double life. Now you know how to lie, not only to others, but also to yourself. You can be two different people, but respect neither. On one hand you are at the meetings, in a suit and tie or dress, whistling your “s”es when you comment because you are so self-assured. The people there tell you how great you are doing, and push you on to baptism, because you are old enough to make a stand now at 15, 16, 17, etc. On the other hand you even take a change of clothes with you so you can fit in at school, keeping an eye out for the other Witness kids. Or maybe you have learned to be a really good Witness and keep an eye on the others. Either way you respect yourself less by the day, living a hundred lies.

    You learn to answer questions without really answering them. You learn how to set yourself up for future deception by planting seeds ahead, telling parents perhaps of plans for service with friends out of town then you’re really doing something else. Either way, you’re becoming a better liar.

    Then, after a life stripped of the love we all deserve, we pursue what we have been missing. We find someone who appears to love us, and marry them after knowing their name less than a year. Then the cycle starts all over, we do what we are supposed to do and act happy, or maybe even fool ourselves into being happy for a while. And one day, those of us who are intelligent enough to somewhere in the back of our minds know something is wrong lash out. We wake up and realize everything is a lie. We aren’t happy, are not content, and something is terribly wrong. We try to find happiness, and eventually try to feel something, anything at all. After a life of feeling no true love, no true warmth of family, we try to get back whatever it was that gave us the little moments of bliss we had. We try so many things, drugs, sex, therapy, and we can’t find it. We can’t get happy…until. Until we open up our mind and accept what we are. We are people that were abused. Taking away the love of a family, taking away the simple things of home, celebration, and appreciation for the life we have is abuse. Teaching people to have a hope of something that is a total fabrication and lie, even to the point of not speaking to their own family is the worst kind of abuse. They take away the one thing everyone is entitled to, the truth.

    So where does that leave us? It depends on what we choose to do. We can choose to keep this as the focus of our lives, focus on how we were done wrong and what was taken, or we can stop it. Not stop it by picketing or sending letters or putting fliers on cars, but stop it by choosing to live. We can choose to seize the dreams we have always had but been afraid to act upon because we though they were forbidden. We can do anything we want. We can take what was done to us, and know we will not let it continue to our children, our friends, and our lives. Because of what they took, we can appreciate the good in life so much more than most people. We can have our first birthday party, Christmas, Halloween. We can invite those we know who were stripped of family just like we were. We can live well, live happy, and celebrate the life we found that we never knew was lost.

    Those of us who would say we have no family would do well to look around at our friends, our children, and the incredible souls we encounter each and every day. We have a family, and it is one of our choosing…sometimes we just need a reminder.

    No one can appreciate life like someone who was never allowed to have one. Don’t waste the chance we have been given, make your life glorious.


  • John Doe
    John Doe

    I think of it like accents. People can learn new languages as adults, but will always be identifiable as their native language by their accent. When we are new to this world, our brains are wired to funciton in a certain way. Accents and speaking are just one crease in the irrevocable mold. Children who grow up learning several languages simultaneously do not retain an accent from their native tongue.

    Yup, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, even when the tree is on a hill. Being born into a cult leaves an indellible impression that will never be totally eliminated.

  • StAnn

    I think being a born in is so devastating because you don't get to learn normal communication skills and how to have normal relationships. Even as an adult, you just don't really know how to act and how to interact with others. It's not just being deprived of holidays. When you do leave the Dubs, you have no idea how to really function relationship wise. I think that's why so many people end up in bad marriages because their only concept of marriage is the twisted concept they've been taught by the WTS.

    What bothered me so much when I first left was that I knew that I didn't want to be a JW anymore but I didn't know how to be anything else. Not going to meetings is one thing but the WTS is in your brain. It still affects how you act and how you respond to things years later.

    I do feel it has left damage to me that can't be fixed. I'm not suicidal but I won't mind when this life is over. It's been a real bitch, thanks to the WTS.


  • nextdoorgirl

    Wanderlustguy, you are something else. That was awesome. I think that is publish-worthy. I got everything, everything. Everything except that part about confident "s's." Haha. Really, I need a little help with that one. But everything else I got. (Did I mention that? )

    I am a born in and I loved what you wrote.

    StAnn, Big Hugs. Awww...I feel a lot of what you've said.

  • lesabre

    i agree with stAnn. i left when i was 22. i had moved to my "worldly" husband's home state, clear across country. i had faded some before that and couldn't go to a meeting without a xanax because of how people were treating me. i felt GUILTY because they were being mean. moved out here, went to 1 meeting got sick and couldn't go for a couple weeks. felt more guilt. couldn't get the courage to go back. i've had depression since i was tiny. the first anxiety attack i can remember was when i was 8. suicidal thoughts by 10, half because i felt worthless that only worldly satan worshiping kids would play with me and half because of other issues. granted, my problems are hereditary, but i was also made to think at the meetings that Jehovah gives obedient JW kids witness friends, and satan gives kids worldly friends. my parents didn't personally believe that you were BAD by being worldly, i was just going by what i heard at meetings... and wasn't i supposed to live by what they said there?? now i'm 27 and i have THE WORST anxiety over the smallest thing i think that i say wrong but no one thinks twice about it. i just haven't a clue as to how to act. i've always sat back and watched others, i HATE meeting new people, CAN'T stand parties. i don't have any friends here that aren't guys my husband grew up with. i only have 1 friend that knew from before i moved here, and she was my only friend when i was a JW (she's worldly). she's totally awesome for putting up with my JW crap. sometimes i just can't take my awkwardness anymore. it really drives me crazy. but no one thinks i'm awkward, but i think it's the "struggle to act normal" that is the awkward part. >.<

    so. yeah. being born-in totally sucks.

  • finallysomepride

    How did you all know what/how I was thinking/feeling?

  • Scully

    I have memories of childhood Christmases, Hallowe'ens, Easters and birthdays up until about the age of 7. I remember wearing a Hallowe'en costume at school in grade 2 and going to a birthday party. By grade 3, I was getting my desk dumped on a regular basis by the teacher for not saying the Lord's Prayer or singing the national anthem. My parents did nothing to intervene except to tell me it was ok, because it was Persecution™ for being In The Truth™.

    My family wasn't particularly religious before the JWs came into our lives. But having made a major move I guess my parents were vulnerable to the "instant friendships" / love bombing by the JWs because we hadn't had time to make a lot of new friends, and the JWs filled a social gap for my parents (and still do 40 years later).

    I went from having a relatively normal childhood, with lots of friends at school, lots of fun activities, to a virtual recluse - only allowed to associate with JW kids (and there were maybe a handful in my congregation and only a couple of girls my age) and very limited socializing except for congregation activities. I knew my life had changed, but I went along with it because naturally I trusted my parents' judgement.

    Between me and my siblings, half of our number were born before the JWs came along, and the other half were born-ins. My younger siblings never had birthdays or Christmases or Hallowe'ens. And, I suppose to prevent any charges of "unfairness", photographs from my pre-JW childhood disappeared. It was as if those things never happened, they were never mentioned, and evidence of them ever happening was gone. It never really bothered me until my high school English class was reading Orwell's 1984, and the idea of revising history by erasing the past came up. Those last couple of years of high school - after reading that story - were quite rebellious for me. I became friends with a classmate whose family had escaped a communist regime in Europe before coming to Canada. Her father's recollections of communist propaganda sounded eerily familiar to WTS propaganda. I started questioning everything. My dad ratted me out to the Elders™. I was labelled as a Bad Association™ at the age of 15, and I was excluded from every social event from that point. I was told to "smarten up". In order for the shunning to stop, I had to study and get baptized. I had to prove I was worthy of their association. It took almost a year and a half of being dragged to the KH against my will only to be treated like pond scum once I got there, plus being denied any association with anyone else (especially my "commie" friend, as my parents called her), before my resolve cracked. I finally relented, agreed to a Bible Study™ and got baptized because my mother threatened to kick me out of the house after I finished high school unless I did.

    None of my other siblings, even though they didn't participate in JW stuff, were ever treated the way I was. I was the eldest, and they made an example of me, especially to my younger born-in siblings. I think the very same dynamic exists to this day, especially now that I have finally left the JWs for good, except that it's harder to effectively shun someone who understands psychological warfare for what it is and decides not to play the game.

    The eldest of my born-in siblings is a staunch JW. A complete know-it-all who will defend the religion to the death, even if it means allowing his children to be exposed to child molesters. I'm certain that he is the ringleader in making sure Mr Scully and I are excluded from "family" events. He's the one that has 'unfriended' me on Facebook at least 3 times. He re-'friends' me when he wants something from me. He has no reference point for "normal" other than life as a JW. And "normal" for a JW means using people like me when it serves his purpose. He believes there's nothing wrong with the WTS, and even if there is, he's sticking with it, the way he is loyal to his favorite hockey team.

    I've been "faded" from the JWs for over 15 years. I still have trouble opening up to people and making friends. I take things super slow with friendships, and things like birthdays, Christmas and other holidays feel so awkward. I still don't know how to "do" holidays. It's like experiencing culture shock.

  • wanderlustguy

    Scully...my original apostacrush.

  • joeblow

    Wow.... that nailed it perfectly. That is exactly my experience. it gave me shivers to read... I was thinking.. have you been watching me? :-)

    @StAnn: You're also so right on the marriage thing. Being in a relationship now as an adult... a non-JW relationship is so hard. We're almost hard wired into this bizarre way of thinking about marriage, relationships and what is "right"... but I believe that half the battle is knowing. If you are aware of where you came from... you can take steps to fix things.

  • AgentSmith

    I consider myself 'born-in' Was about 2 when my parents parents committed to the BORG.

    I identify with what you said. The 'first' birthday party, Christmas decorations, that feeling of guilty pleasure. I was 40 years old when I had my first birthday cake! I had that feeling of 'what if my old man walked in now?'

    But I shook that off, and looked at my friends that assembled to share my b-day with me. I lost my JW family, but I gained a much bigger family, a more honest family, as they loved me for who I am. And I did not have to conform to some man made rules to be acceptable.

    Every Christmas I have a small twinge when the decorations go up at my house. Will I get rid of it completel? I hope so.

    Thank you.


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