Terry - As the Brits say, "Here, here!" You are the first person that I've run across on this site who has postulated self-accountability, but then, I haven't been here very long. I was beginning to worry, though. One thing that I finally figured out along my trek thru the land of WTs was that the "elders", the "society", the "brothers and sisters" had as much hold on me as I gave them. One of my favorite people on this planet was a brother named James (no last names please). James is now dead, having succumbed to cancer many years ago, but this guy had always impressed me because he had spent a true lifetime of service to Jehovah, but never, ever, once used it against anyone else. We were discussing filed service once and I asked him how he dealt with the "One More Door" syndrome. The syndrome being that at the end of any FS day, I could always do "one more door" until I'm doing it 24x7. His answer was so cool for as much what he didn't say as to what he did. He didn't say, "Oh, well, there's a national average in the KM", nor did he say, "Well, when you got baptised, you dedicated your body to Jehovah", nor, "Well, brother blah-blah has 16 children, 5 jobs, pancreatic cancer, and one eye tied behind his back and he still gets in ...." He just said, "You know how much you should do. That's all Jehovah expects." It took a couple of months before the full impact of what he had told me sunk in. Yeah, by golly, it is up to me! Just me and nobody else. From that time on, most of the "admonishments" that came from the platform just became a lot of noise.
There was a study done at UC Berkeley (see how the credentials thing is pervasive) where the prisoner/prison guard psychology was studied. They took a group of students (50-60) and divided them up at random and made one group (2/3 of the students) prisoners, and the remainder were made guards. In the basement of one of the campus buildings they had built a jail and on a particular friday night the prisoners were loaded into their cells and the guards began guarding them. Now, the experiment was to run from friday night to sunday night and everybody knew this. Plus, the rules of the prison were explained to everybody: no abuse, prisoners had to obey the guards, the guards were there just to keep order and see the prisoners didn't escape, etc, etc. The entire group were given all of this info together in an auditorium before the start of the exercise. In less than 24 hours, the guard students were screaming at the prisoner students for the slightest of perceived infractions, while the prisoner students were screaming back. Some student guards were actually beating on some prisoner students. I'm not positive about this, but I think that the exercise had to be called off prematurely because things were starting to get out of hand. My point is that this is what happens to people. No matter how amiable bro. Goodguy is when he becomes an elder, unless he is a most unusual man, he is naturally going to gravitate in the direction of the student prison guards. A lot of the stress within the congs is caused not by religious intolerance or malice or ill will, but simply by humaness. The more that we tend to give of oursrselves to the other person, be it our loyalty, our love, our admiration, the greater will be the hurt when they abuse it. I call it an "emotional investment". What James had told me (and you confirmed, Terry) is that we bear some responsibility to ourselves when we give ourselves away.