Anybody ever "game" the system? (get out w/o DF/DA, keep family)

by AlmostAtheist 15 Replies latest jw friends

  • FreeWilly

    All great suggestions on fading but keep in mind...... NO ONE escapes unscathed. In exchange for fading yet keeping JW family ties, you should expect that they will consider you lazy, weak, a slacker and generally pitiful. You'll probably hear condescending remarks and little jabs. You, of course, will have to bite your tongue and all but agree that you are a pitiful lazy, slacker lest you alert the religous police. Sooner or later you'll probably get to the point where you tell them to "bite me all you spineless, paranoid, doomsday cult, control freaks." That's when you will truly be free. Until then it will probably keep eating away at you.

    It is best to fade first...

  • fleaman uk
    fleaman uk

    Apologies if this seem s hijacking,but it is connected.... is there a Fade time limit where by Elders cannot touch you legally after a certain period of inactivity?I have heard 2 Years before,but dont know if this is correct?

  • startingover

    You should find this info helpful. I didn't write it and I wish I could give credit to the person that did, but I can't remember where I got it. Whoever did please make it known.


    In October of 2000, I faded away from the Watchtower. Like most people, I have family and friends who are JW's (including my wife and parents). Fading is generally the best method for people in that situation. With the recent exposure of the Watchtower's coverup of child abuse, I think that there might be many JW's who will now be convinced that the WT is not the true religion, but a high-control cult. They may be ready to take the final step of moving away from the Watchtower, but be held in by family and social ties.

    So, for those who have gone through the process of fading, what worked and what didn't work?. Here are my thoughts on fading techniques. Some of these I used successfully, and some I wish I had thought of in hindsight. Feel free to add and disagree!


    Firstly, it must be acknowledged that fading is not a rapid process. We are talking years rather than months for the entire process. In fact, certain aspects of fading may never end. Some preparation can lessen the stress and hassle later.

    Avoid a hostage situation

    Therefore, before beginning to fade away, it is important to start cutting as many ties as possible. Most JW's are heavily involved with other JW's socially and sometimes in business ventures too. Obviously, the more ties of this nature, the harder to fade without others chasing you or checking up on you, or using these ties to hold you hostage within the organisation against your will. So a gradual process of withdrawal from business ventures with JW's, and replacing these with non-JW arrangements will give you far greater freedom. It will mean that you are not a financial hostage to a JW boss or partner.

    Socially, it is important to begin building a new non-JW network of friends and acquaintances before losing your JW network. So joining clubs or hobby groups, going out with people at work, and generally increasing contact with people is a good idea. This will make it harder to make you an emotional hostage when the time comes.

    The general rule is always to operate from a position of strength, and never advance unless these flanks are covered. Even your JW family are included in this. Reducing some contact with them now, lessening conversations about spiritual things now, will pay dividends later.

    You must also come to terms with the fact that your fade may not work, and this will have serious consequences. Bringing yourself to accept the possibility of these consequences can take a long time. I knew by the end of 1996 that Watchtower doctrines were a bunch of dingo's kidneys, yet it took several years to accept that leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses might mean losing my wife, my family and most of my current lifestyle. Only once I was sure that I could survive such an eventuality did I feel ready to commence the fade.

    All of this must be done gradually, so as not to arouse suspicions and concerns in local elders or JW family members. It could take months or years, depending on individual circumstances. Naturally, there will be a lot of frustration involved. After all, you don't believe the WT is God's organisation any more, or you wouldn't be wanting to leave. I found it extremely difficult to sit through meetings, go in service, give talks etc, not believing in any of it any more. I felt a hypocrite. Often I would go home from meetings with a stomach twisted by the frustration of not being able to say what I really felt. But this is necessary to a successful fade, and so must be accepted. Often I would spend the long meetings planning and reviewing the next steps of my exit, so as to emphasize to myself that this was not a permanent process, and that the frustration served a purpose.

    Once you have your other life in place, then the real fade can begin.


    The hollow person

    Again a general rule is that the better you are known, the harder it is to fade. This is why many people, including myself, have found that moving location is a great help to fading. The best scenario here of course is just to disappear, but if you are in a position to do that you probably don't need to fade out slowly anyway. Occasionally, people have managed to get hold of their record cards, or arranged to have them sent to the address of a helpful friend. This way the new congregation secretary has no idea that you are now in his territory.

    Even if this is not possible, there are advantages to moving location. In my case, we moved into another territory. I could have stopped going immediately, but I felt that this would merely have aroused more curiousity in the local elders. They would have called around to see the new publishers to encourage them. What I did was to attend meetings and service for a month in a lacklustre fashion, being there but not really getting involved. After that, I made meeting attendance sporadic for a couple of months, and then stopped altogether. This meant that I had introduced myself to the elders and made the impression in their minds of being semi-weak and therefore not worthy of much attention. The idea being that, by the time they noticed I was gone, some time had passed and it was much easier for them to let it go than chase me. Given that I have had only one halfhearted visit in the two years since, it seems that this has indeed been the case.

    Remember that elders are busy people, and use that to your advantage. It may be possible to wait for an advantageous time when there are other problems in the congregation or with their own families distracting the most pro-active elders.

    If you cannot move, then the fade should be stretched out. Again, you must create the impression in the minds of the JW's that you are weak, bordering on bad association (without actually going so far as to attract unwelcome attention). Make it a mild relief for them when you dont turn up for service because of your slightly worldly talk. Become unreliable with ministry school talks and any other duties. Slowly resign these duties, but don't give any concrete doctrinal reasons for doing so. Using poor health is a good excuse. Another is hinting at personal problems with other individuals in the congregation (without letting on who they actually are).

    Play the Watchtower's game, but not by their rules

    What about family? If you live with them it will be virtually impossible to do all this without them asking questions. Again, disagreeing with doctrine or expressing doubts about the governing body will be counterproductive and may result in your family involving the elders. I made the mistake of having several intense discussions with my wife about the changed generation doctrine and my doubts concerning the Watchtower's competence in science and history. It accomplished nothing but bad feeling. Fortunately we were distracted with moving at the time, or she may well have involved the elders.

    A tactic I found useful when under interrogation from my parents was simply to say that "I needed a break to re-examine my beliefs and study to make sure I knew the truth." This is suitably vague. It uses JW trigger phrases like "the truth" which reassures them you still are still part of the collective (and how could you ever discover that The Truth is not the truth?). It also gives them hope for the future which allows them to postpone forcing an unpleasant confrontation now, and as you know, JW's are highly conditioned to indefinite waiting for the fulfillment of their hopes for the future.

    Another thing that has worked for me is to say that "everyone should have the freedom to practice or not practice a particular religion without being persecuted for it, which is what the Watchtower has often fought for." Turning Watchtower techniques and buzzwords around in this way will often head off pressure.

    Recognize that it is extremely unlikely that your family will follow you out. There are success stories of this kind, but the majority of the time this is not the case. Not only that, but be prepared for some unpleasant and hurtful comments. For instance, it is likely you will be accused of being "materialistic" or "arrogant" or "bitter". You might be told that you will never be truly happy or successful outside of The Truth. Developing a thick skin is absolutely necessary when this happens. Responding in kind will merely lead to the failure of your fade.


    You must accordingly be perfect

    It is entirely possible that after you leave the Watchtower you will be periodically unhappy and bitter. And for good reasons! You are dealing with enormous changes and stresses! Fortunately these negatives tend to be short-lived, and more than offset by the freedom you now enjoy from continual fear and guilt conditioning. But, it is a sad fact that allowing your family or former JW friends to see your down times will not be a good thing. For them, it spells o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y. They will see an opportunity to try and get you back into the Watchtower, and will use emotional leverage to this end. If you're depressed, they'll remind you how you can only have true happiness in The Truth. Lonely? Satan's world is a cold place full of hate. Sad? Think how sad Jehovah is not to see you at the meetings! Fed up at something in the news? Don't you want to see all these problems solved? All of these have been used by my family when they think they spot a chink in my armor, and the fact that such comments merely added to my temporary negativity didn't even enter their minds.

    To avoid this emotional manipulation, you cannot be anything but happy, purposeful and confident around your JW family. Instead, use your new worldly friends (who hopefully have a far more benign agenda) as your ranting board. Even better, join an X-JW board like this one and rant away to people who understand!

    A final reason to be Superperson is to prevent your family getting their Watchtower conditioning enforced. If they see you unhappy, they will think it confirms what the Watchtower tells them about people who leave. On the other hand, when they see that you do not turn into a spitting, raging, psychopathic delinquent, it may just introduce a little independent thought into their heads that "maybe people can be happy outside."


    I am married to a staunch JW. Even the child abuse scandal has made little impression. How is it possible to have a tolerable and even happy relationship in that situation? A very important thing I've discovered is to enforce a no-fly zone over certain subjects i.e. the Watchtower. I don't try to pressure her to leave if she doesn't try and pressure me to go back. I will respect her choice if she respects mine. When the subject is mentioned, it will be mentioned impersonally as a matter of general knowledge or interest e.g. I have told her about the Panorama programme and showed her the BBC website, but went only so far as "there it is if you want to watch it". Not "you have to watch this expose of the pedophile paradise in

    What if, for whatever reason, the elders chase? My personal conviction is not to see them. They have no authority over me that I do not give them. If I happen to see them in everyday life I smile and move on, and do not get drawn into conversation. If they call I will be not-at-home. If they phone, I screen all calls through my answering service and will not reply. They will need to put forth considerable effort to get me, and since I am not being overtly "opposed" it is simply not worth their limited time. All elder bodies are different of course, and at the end of the day, if they decide to DF or DA you, there's not much that can be done. But, if there has been an obvious witch-hunt, your family will see it. I have seen several cases where a JW family recognized the injustice of the witch-hunt, and consequently maintained contact despite the WT's shunning directives.


    This does not mean that there is nothing you can do to try and make your family think. Some gentle involvement in activities with pleasant "worldly" people will show them that most non-JW's are nice people, not as the WT illustrations make them out to be. Recommend some interesting books and articles (I subscribe to The Economist, an excellent magazine) that do not mention the Watchtower specifically, but happen to touch upon well established historic or scientific knowledge that shows the Watchtower's teachings to be a crock. I've found that my wife has an amusing liking for Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies, most of which are R rated. We enjoy them together! We go to see movies like Harry Potter and enjoy them, and I know that the irrational demon-hysteria about such movies irritates the heck out of her. In time, I'm hopeful that my family will start to think for themselves, but I will not force the issue, because to do so will lead to slamming doors.

    Finally, these are my thoughts only, based on my own experiences. Obviously, there are far too many variables to cover everything. But so far my fade has been a definite success, and I'm now starting to build a rewarding non-WT life while maintaining relationships with my JW family. While not tormenting myself with unfulfilled expectations, I have some hopes of my family leaving the WT one day. One thing I do know for certain: leaving the Watchtower is worth all the effort. Life in the Watchtower is not life, it is a wasteland they have labeled peace.

  • jws

    I think there are a lot of good suggestions here. If you've got a child on the way, that might provide an excellent excuse to become more irregular. Our doctor said a newborn shouldn't be limited to who it is exposed to for the first 3 months while their immune system is building up. One of you can use that as an excuse to stay home for 3 months.

    I've managed to fade and keep contacts with my two sisters and my father. Some of the suggestions listed here were part of it. I had moved out of state. That didn't work and a month later, I moved back home, but to a different part of town and became inactive. Nobody came looking for me. When asked, I'd say I was going to a hall across town. They're in a different circuit and a different district, which helped. I'd also drop in on my old hall from time to time. I think it gave the impression I didn't quit.

    Eventually I stopped lying about it to my family. I didn't tell them I had been lying about going, just that I no longer was going now. Different people are going to react differently. My dad is in denial. We lost our mother, who we all loved very much. He believes with all his heart that he will all be in that paradise earth and he will see her again. He crys to think of having to tell her that we didn't make it, that she'll never see her sons again. Perhaps he blames himself and feels he did something wrong after she died. For that reason, I don't think he's going to do anything to harm the possibility of returning. To him, as long as I'm not DA/DF, he believes there is hope for me.

    We argued once about all the things wrong with the JWs so he knows I'm 'apostate'. Then some time later, he asks if I'm not coming because of the way the elders at my old hall treated me. I tell him that has nothing to do with it - it's the beliefs themselves. Few years later, "ever think about 'the truth'"?

    Meanwhile, we exist by trying to keep a truce. We don't discuss religion. Maybe in passing, such as he's going to a convention or assembly or his circuit overseer is visiting, etc. But we don't argue about it. He's threatened to stop talking to me if I talked against them. My sisters and I haven't gotten into this conversation about why I'm inactive but I can assume my father has given them at least a hint.

    My relationship with my dad is still good. We talk on the phone every weekend. He is actually skipping his circuit overseer's visit to fly down with my brother for a visit later this year. My sisters, I'm not as close with. They were teenagers before I was even born and I have few memories of them living at home. But they still treat me OK. I sense a little bit of apprehension and distrust. I feel it a lot more from their husbands.

    My advice would be to become irregular, then inactive. Don't discuss religion or at least don't tell them the 'truth' about 'the truth'. Even if they seem on the fence themselves at some point, proceed with extreme caution. If you pretend like you're still a JW at heart, just weak, they will always hope to bring you back in. Lie if you have to. If they see you as apostate, things could go bad quickly.

    Unfortunately, that also means presenting a JW lifestyle to the family. You probably don't want to grow long hair and a beard or start smoking. If you begin celebrating holidays and birthdays, you don't want them to know. My wife was never JW, so if the kids say something about a holiday or birthday when they're older, they'll probably blame my wife. Since you both were JWs, you don't have an excuse, so might have to make sure the kids are in on it too.

  • cruzanheart

    Chris was an absolute saint to wait for me to leave as long as he did! By the time I left it was easy for me to fade because no one noticed me anyway -- I was a woman alone at the meetings so elders didn't bother remembering my name at all, or who my children were. I did have one elder, my book study conductor, make a bullying attempt to get me back to meetings, at which point (on advice from my spouse) I moved my publisher card to a neighboring congregation that I knew would ignore me. I was right. Three half-hearted phone calls to harvest my "time" and then nothing for 1 1/2 years. When two elders finally showed up to invite us to Memorial, we told them that all we wanted to do was be left alone and so far they're doing it.

    Granted, it helps that I have no family in the organization anymore. My dad died a year and a half ago, but he understood our reasons for not going and was cool about it for the most part. My mom is in the last stages of Alzheimer's and a good day is when she opens her eyes and says: "Hello, sweetheart" with a little comprehension. No one has worked our street since we moved in three years ago, and our few remaining JW friends are used to us in this state and associate freely with us.

    Of course, they haven't seen the Christmas tree yet . . .


  • willyloman

    starting over: I read "the art of the fade" more than a year ago and, like you, I can't remember where it came from, either. But it was very helpful at the time when I was contemplating the best way out, and I utilized some of the suggestions.

    Not everything in "art of the fade" will work for everybody, of course. We all have different circumstances. But his over all tone is that fading really is an "art" and I found that to be true.

    Rule number one is to create an exit strategy. This has to be a well thought out plan. Of course, everything won't go according to plan so you will need to be flexible.

    Number two is to always remember this is a game, with rules, and you must understand the rules and play by them. It helps if you've been "in" a long time, or were an elder, so that you know exactly how the game is played. Your motto becomes: "Keep your head in the game and remember, it IS a game." Incidentally, by "game" I don't mean to imply that this is frivolous. I mean "game" as in 7th game of the World Series; it's a contest you have to win.

    The best advice in "art of fade" is to move or change congos. This gets you off the radar and makes it much easier to disappear. His suggestion that you change congos, go haphazardly for a month or so, and then start to slowly fade over the next few months, is generally good advice. Elders in your new congo will form an opinion about you immediately by your regularity in meetings and service. When it becomes clear early on that you are not particularly gung ho, they classify you as a problem. And they have enough problems, so they aren't going to be eager to assist. There is a level of participation where you are clearly a "problem publisher" but not nearly as much of a problem as some others, and at that level you kind of disappear, which is to say they don't really see you. Not having any history with you, your name just doesn't register when they hold their meetings and discuss the state of the flock. That's where you want to be. From there, just systematically show up less and less. This is where a specific plan comes in; don't hesitate to get out a calendar and "schedule" your fade. You may not follow it precisely, but at least you have a plan.

    As for his point on entanglements, yeah, that can be messy. But with a plan you can withdraw over time. Nobody was more "entangled" than I was and it worked for me.

    AlmostAtheist: You have a message.

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