How High School Helped Me Realize I Didn't Know How to Have My Own Opinion

by pirata 6 Replies latest jw experiences

  • pirata

    I used to get pretty good marks in high school, until it came to situations that required me to give my own opinion.

    My Social Studies teacher used to get quite frustrated with me when it came to anything political. We were asked to write paragraphs on how we feel about different issues. I always did something like: "this side feels this way, that side feels that way, here are the pro's and con's to each side, then maybe some obscure comment that didn't really state what my stand was". "Fear of man" was strong for me; I wasn't willing to write how God's Kingdom was going to come and fix everything (as I had thought for sure that would be a failing mark). So I just danced around the issue. Marks were mediocre, but I managed to avoid direct confrontation. Looking back, I think it was not so much "fear of man", but rather that my belief was not deeply my own,my beliefs were something that I had adopted as part of my heritage.

    The biggest impact on me was a Science Paper we needed to do on a controversial science subject; I chose "Blood Transfusions". The first part of the report outlined the controversy, then I gave the views of those who support Blood Transfusions, and those who don't (prominently JWs). My conclusion was that I was a JW, so I have their view. One of my classmates, and Evangelical Christian, wrote his controversial topic on "Are these the last days?". I thought for sure he was going to fail because his subject really had nothing to do with Science. A week later we get back our reports and the teacher had barely passed me with 50%. The Evangelical Christian got a pretty good mark as he had argued his point as his own personal conviction. I was stunned and talked to my teacher about it. He told me that the whole purpose of the project was to form your own opinion after researching the arguments on both sides. All I had done was said, I agree with side B, and didn't even bother to state my reasons why. I was suprised why he couldn't understand "of course that's what I think because that is my religion".

    That event has always nagged at me in the back of my mind. I kept pushing it aside over the years, until I eventually realized that I "believe" what I believe because that's what I HAD to believe. That's what I always "believed". I knew that as a JW you don't believe something else. The concept of having my own opinion was foreign to me. In the past few years, some of the Our Kingdom Ministry's have stressed that when a worldly person asks us why we don't celebrate X, we should say "I have made my personal decision not to celebrate X.." instead of "I'm one of Jehovah's Witnesses and we don't celebrate X...". That way it appears as if the decision not to celebrate X was one's own personal opinion. But that's not the case; at least it wasn't for me.

    During one class, we were asked to go to the Gym for a pep rally. I remember reading in an Awake!, Young People Ask article, that Pep Rallies were not for (true) Christians. So I told my teacher I couldn't go because I was one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She did not believe me, so she asked me what the reason was thatn Jehovah's Witnesses don't go to Pep Rallies. Embarrased, I didn't know, so I said "I don't know...". Well, she obviously wasn't too impressed, but she let me skip out. Later I went to check out the article in more detail, but I remember thinking that although I didn't really agree or full get it, I would still not go to Pep Rallies because that's what "true Christans" do.

    For the longest time, I thought this discomfort with some of my beliefs was because I had not studied enough, and that I needed to make the truth my own. I studied harder and deeper (including the discouraged "worldly" sources), one thing led to another and now I'm here. Only in the past few years have I started to get an idea of what it really means to form an opinion, instead of adopting another authority's opinion. And I'd like to thank a lot of you here for helping me to fully realize that. As a side note, I hope one day I can look up that Science teacher and thank him for making me aware of the problem in the first place.

    Another lesson I learned was why it's so hard to reach other JW's with information that we think will "rock their world", and how such change only comes from within. It is quite easy to dismiss contrary evidence when you have decided to let an (always presently true) authority make decisions for you. It took me decades of accumulated experience, influences, and information before I put all the pieces of the puzzle together and realized something was wrong. We can give others the puzzle pieces. But only they can put it together.

  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney

    Yup. People rarely think of why we believe what we believe. Dawkins laid it out really succinctly in his "Letter" to his daughter.

    If you believe because of tradition, revelation, or authority, your beliefs are on shaky ground. The only real basis for believing something is evidence.

    Thanks for sharing your high school experiences, pirata. Good stuff.

  • FirstLastName

    I relate completely to your post. I also struggled with forming an opinion as a teen because I was TOLD what to believe and to not ask why. So my "opinions" became the beliefs I was told. I struggled for a long time and now I love an educated debate ! It takes a long time to feel free to express yourself when you are indoctrinated to supress that.

  • d

    I know what you mean. I know do research tp back my claims by real experts not JW's. I form my opinion off of evidence and fact not made up bible stories.

  • LostGeneration

    *Shudder* You just reminded me of a paper I wrote in high school on evolution using the WT creation book. My teacher countered literally dozens of points in that paper, I had never seen so much red ink on one of my papers.

    I think he gave me a "C", I was pretty lucky to escape with that grade.

  • Pika_Chu

    I can relate. My questioning started in high school and just got worse and worse...but now I'm here!

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I've faced this problem most of my life. Business people are comfortable with risk. They want to know their risk exposure so they can make wise decisions. I would research and write the pros and cons. A law prof. might be interested. It is so painful for me to reach a conclusion. Of course, in the body I can state the pros and cons but a bottom line is needed.

    I've asked for comments/feedback on my writing samples. Several people ask me what I thought about what happened. B/c it is informal, I can tell them. We were raised to not think for ourselves. Professionally, people aren't that impressed with factual detail. It is certainly important but people expect everyone to know the facts. Creativity is called for and admired. This is exactly what was beaten out of me. It is strange b/c I have very strong opinions. I just like to not reveal them to authority figures.

    As I climbed from part-time high school jobs up the ladder, I feared the scrutiny of my betters. Repeatedly, I have found the lowest level the least interested in opinion. I am utterly shocked when someone asks my opinion. Within certain structures, I can argue forcefully. I don't have sufficient courage for my convictions.

    No matter what I did in JWs it was never good enough. My brother would get much praise for simply being male. I tried so hard for recognition. Also, I learned doublespeak at home. My parents were active but had doubts. I still don't understand why they complied with all the Witness rules which were so oppressive but had significant doubts. It sounds funny b/c I don't think of my parents as children of parents that they wanted to please. They are always mighty and adult in my view. People pleasing must be an epidemic in the Witnesses.

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