This morning I got a call from a friend of mine who I was actually roommates with at Bethel in the 1990’s. He left that organization about 3 years ago. He was crushed because it was the 10 year anniversary (for lack of a better term) of the day that his brother took his life after being disfellowshipped many moons ago and not being reinstated. We talked about how screwed up the organization was and what the key factor was that drove his brother to take his own life.
It wasn’t the loneliness, it wasn’t the imposed shame, and it wasn’t even the weird feeling that many get that Jehovah would not forgive them. He said that just 2 days before his brother committed the act he called him and told him that he had no idea how he could make it in life without being a Jehovah’s Witness., his exact words were “I feel like I have no identity… I am nobody if I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.”
This kid was a very talented musician, he had all the girls in the entire circuit, he was also extremely outgoing. So the idea that he would view himself as not having an identity or being nothing without being linked to the JW’s seemed weird… at first. That is when I remembered something that my father told me when I was about 9 years old. He said, “I am a Jehovah’s Witness before anything else. I am not black, I am not a man, I am not ***insert family last name here***, I am only a Jehovah’s Witness.”
This got me to thinking just how true that statement is, and why people will kill themselves or never leave the org even when they are doubting so strongly. Basically, when you are a Jehovah’s Witness (a serious one at least) your ethnicity, race, nationality, family, friends, profession, history, skills, etc… all take a backseat or are outright abandoned when you become a JW. Even worse if you are born-in because you never identify as anything but a JW.
Imagine being a 65 year-old JW who has just found out it Is all hogwash… now what. Why leave? After all, you have nothing else to gravitate to or pick up on. If you are a young twenty-something born-in and you just learned something in your Religion 101 that destroys your beliefs. You might as well ignore it, because once you give up that JW hat, what are you?
This is why, when I see people of any age, that leave the JW eco-system and proceed to live life my hat goes off to them because they literally have to find out and establish who and what they are all over again.