We are not all the same--a real "Duh, David!" statement for me to make, I know.
But it has taken me time to realize that I sometimes unrealistically expect us to see things more eye-to-eye than we do, and it has made it a struggle in that I find my need to be supported emotionally in my "I-survived-the-Watchtower-too" psyche spent more on having to explain where I am now and defending why.
Yet the world is what we make of it. So I figured if I didn't feel that sense of solidarity that seems missing among the debating, then I was part of the problem. I'm responsible for making this place feel like a support and place of solidarity, just as much as anyone else.
But approaches I tried didn't work until I shut up for a while. And listened...
This list may not be complete, and it may demonstrate how little I really know about life, but I realized I couldn't appreciate the diversity of this group and the individuals in it until I understood what made it diverse, such as...
1. Born-in JWs vs. Converts.
I was not born in. I just passed through, spending roughly a decade in and getting out. I was even able to be converted faster than most because I had some religious training before, and it was simpler to wake up because of the same thing. I was searching to begin with, and when I didn't find it, I left.
Born into the religion, if that is you, is very different. You were made to do this. You may have liked it or parts of it or you may have hated it all, or a mixture of this. Your being baptized as a JW was not a choice, not like it is for converts. You were not necessarily searching for what the JWs claimed they had. This was probably expected of you. Leaving means leaving life as the only way you've known it. You are more likely to be done with all things religious after this because your only experience with religion was so distasteful. For all I know, it took you more courage and effort to leave than it did for someone like me.
2. Having JW Family vs. Having No JW Family
I have one family member now, barely hanging on, in the group, no blood relation but married in. Saying goodbye for me was simple. I was not leaving behind my family. In fact leaving the Watchtower was the opposite. It was essentially coming back to the family, to support, to my culture. It was like coming back to life after being dead for a few years.
I cannot imagine it being the other way around. How do you that? And watching those shunning videos recently released by the Governing Body--I thought Jewish mothers knew how to take others on a guilt trip until I saw that! Sheesh! If Witnesses complain that those who leave end up being haters and bitter, then they need to try leaving all their family members behind too and see just how hard it is. Don't expect such people to fart rainbows! The Jews may have been free after they left Egypt, but they complained in the wilderness, and often legitimately (something JWs never admit about the Bible). It takes time not to be bitter, and frankly if you did go all "Mary Poppins" on me after leaving a cult, I would think you had some screws loose. Even the fictional character Kimmy Schmidt has a hard time now that she is free from her previous cult's bunker.
3. Having more than TTATT vs Only Leaving Because You Know It's a Sham
Frankly, I had it easy. I had something else to go to. It was like making a switch from an airline jet to another on the trip to a pre-planned destination. I'm still headed in the direction I had planned to go, just took a few steps back on an airline I will never use again. I could be atheist, agnostic, religious, a combo, whatever once I left the JWs as the way to any of this was already set for me when I returned. I actually gave a public talk one night at the Kingdom Hall and the next day or so I celebrated Rosh Hashanah with my family. Sure I miss friends from my JW past, but today I think they are stubborn stupid asses for staying (now 20-30+ years after I left). You want to ride on an airline that never goes in a straight path, never ending up where it promises? Go suit yourself. I don't need idiots for friends.
Like me, all of you who left have likely learned THE TRUTH ABOUT "THE TRUTH" too. But now what? You have to start from scratch. You may have to be more defensive about your newfound convictions because you have to travel a path you must wield out for yourself. You must be your own advocate. No one brings home the bacon for you. You have to slaughter the beast yourself if you want meat, even guard it like a rabid dog once you have it. Who can blame you? It's tough. You didn't necessarily have a previous destination. You may have just got kicked off the airplane and left stranded at the airport. No connecting flight for you!
4. The Franz Era vs the era of Governing Body 2.0
You relatively new ones are probably tired of hearing this or maybe don't even understand it, but the religion I once belonged to died a while back. The Jehovah's Witnesses I belonged to no longer exist. I couldn't go back even if I wanted to. To return to the religious beliefs of the JWs from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s era requires a time machine. If I went into a coma as a JW in 1989 and woke up today, I would be an apostate with my JW convictions. There is not a religion that practices that belief system anymore. Sure it changed from Russell onward, but once Franz, one of the originals died, so had all of the original and authentic 1914 generation. By the mid-1990s that teaching changed and it all went out the window with it.
The amount JWs today study and the type of material studied would have been heavily mocked by the previous Governing Body. It is barely JW-lite. We knew more about the Bible in my time, more about other religions, more about the world than the JWs do today. Part of that is due to the fact that your JW oldies, the parents died, some there since the first. They are no more. No one to teach the "deeper things," no one to ask how to do such and such, just the belief that it is "the Truth." How JWs today aren't uprising with the Bethel layoffs, the lack of printed materials, the use of tele-evangelism and the request for donations just proves my point. Those original folks either left or died. Those things were once considered earmarks that we had lost Jehovah's approval or that the Devil was among us. Now such things are praised as gifts from heaven!
Therefore when we discuss things today, it ain't like it used to be, even among exJWs. Some of us are ex's of very different religions. Some of had made choices with more or less freedom than others, more or less support than I or you have. Some may seem angry and bitter, but it could be just a reflection of how strong they have to be merely to make it to the next day.
Some of us weren't searching for God to begin with, and the thought of religion sickens us because of what we experienced as JWs. Others were just passing through and didn't think twice about abandoning what was for them merely a wrong step or stumble on a longer journey.
Some of us left all behind, and some of us got everything back.
Some of us got freedom with the luxury to keep on where others are left unable to afford such a luxury now that they are virtually alone.
The majority here may be exJWs, but that doesn't make us the same. We each have a different definition of what being an exJW can be. It is never a failure to be one thing or another because different circumstances require different approaches. Unlike the uniformity of what it means to be a JW, the title exJW guarantees no such uniformity.