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.