JWs, ex-JWs and Non-JWs

by CeriseRose 34 Replies latest jw friends

  • CeriseRose

    I'm going to preface these comments with a disclaimer: In NO WAY am I meaning these observations to be inflamatory, exclusionary, or to devalue ANYONE. I believe everyone has a right to their opinion, and observations, and to share themwithin the terms of the board. I also believe that there is learning to be found from a variety of sources.

    So that being said: I am just curious on other people's "take" on this, as I've seen it not only on this board but others.

    "You were never a JW so you can't understand."

    "I know (live with/was married to) a JW (etc.) and this is how it is."

    I was just reading a thread where one poster made comment on the fact that another poster had never been a JW. I'm not getting into that, but it sparked a thought in my mind.

    Personally, I believe that no matter how well informed a person is about something, that in most cases having the experience themself is the ONLY way to truly "know." On a different message board there were a few non-JWs who were very opinionated about things and truly believed they "knew" as well as a JW or ex-JW about the religion.

    Unrelated example: I watched my parents pass away; sat in the room and watched them breathe their last, after sitting for hour upon hour as they declined. Now I know that most people have experienced someone dying in their life, even someone close. I had, and figured I "got" the whole thing. But that specific experience of being there while they died is quite unique, like nothing I'd ever experienced, and truly, don't believe that is something that can ever be fully described so someone could truly understand that experience without having gone through it themself.

    I believe that being a JW is like that. It is a cult; we can all be aware of what makes up a cult, how it operates, some of the repurcussions, etc. But unless you've *been* in a cult, it's very hard to 'relate' to it on a deeply personal level. Now that's not to say that peripheral knowledge that non-JWs can provide doesn't have value or benefit, especially for those who've been in the cult. I think it's important for transition that there are people in a place like this that have an "intimate knowledge" of the workings but never were "in": they provide a link between the old and new life that can be a great reality check.

    However, sometimes it seems that people here resent or dislike the opinions of those who weren't in. Sometimes, it seems, even to me, that whose who weren't a JW cannot really relate in a constructive way. I sense a certain amount of frustration from some, which comes out in their posts.

    There is similar tone of frustration between JWs "in" and those who've left, in varying degrees.

    Does anyone else see this happening? Is there a way to ever be past that? I mean, for those of us who were JWs, we were all taught to be exclusionary and are all in varying degrees of "sorting ourselves out" from that. Or is this all a long-lasting mark that will always be there.

    Or is it just plain old human nature, the subject matter notwithstanding, one of experience vs non-experience?

    I welcome your comments, from everyone.

  • under74

    mmm....I know what you mean. I've seen some posts where it was mentioned that there were people in this forum that never were JW. On the one hand I'd like to say that it would be good if most people got past this...on the other hand, I believe it's hard to take somebody's opinion seriously if they haven't been through the same experience. I don't ever want to resent people for that but sometimes I do. It hasn't happened on this board yet but I know in my life I tend to not take other peoples opinions seriously when it comes to JWs unless I know that they have been in the religion. I think a lot of us deal with resentment not just towards people who have opinions about JWs but also towards some of our fellow ex-JWs. OR maybe it's just me...at times I tend to resent people who converted as opposed to being raised JW. I'm not sure if it's completely rational-I don't want to resent converts but I can't help but sometimes think that they had a choice, but those of us who were born into it didn't.

  • Narkissos

    Useful topic...

    Yes there is nothing like experience... on the other hand, the more "objective" outlook of non-JWs can be helpful too (reminds me of the limited, risky yet real help a third person can offer to a relationship).

    About the "born-in-the-truth", it reminds me a painful experience on my first (French-speaking) exJW board. I soon became somewhat upset with what I felt was an overwhelming one-sided "victim talk" and suggested that we can be at least partly responsible for our choice of staying or taking an active part in the cult (even if it happens to be part of our family education). As I was baptized at the age of 13 in a "convert" family it was obvious to everyone that I didn't know what I was talking about... OK.

  • under74

    Narkissos-Okay....I think I know what you're saying. I in no means want to give the impression that I see myself as a victim because I was born into it. What I will say is that I think it's a little different when you convert (at the age of thirteen I'm not so sure). I would say that everyone bares some responsibility if they take an active part and so on but I feel that when you're raised in it you don't know anything different. And maybe there is some resentment on my part at times towards people who have converted. Its not overt, it's just something I feel sometimes. If I'm totally misunderstanding what you wrote in the last post please tell me...I don't want to get you wrong.

  • Narkissos


    I appreciate and really like your honesty, and I think you understood me all right. Of course I was a "convert", but as you gathered at the age of 13 I didn't have many clues about life either. Later I often felt resentment against my own father who converted in his 40's, not realizing in his midlife what his chosen religion could mean to a teenager.

    But that's the way life goes. Nobody chooses his/her lot in life. Even our own past choices become our present fate. We can deny them or stubbornly persist in them, what does that change really? Living today is somehow forgiving, the others as well as ourselves, don't you think?

  • CeriseRose

    I guess the resentment you feel toward converts is kind of like the flip side of the envy I used to feel as a JW of those who "were lucky enough" to be raised as a JW, in a family full of JWs. "They" had the history, the long lineage, the family ties. "They" didn't have to juggle worldly(TM) family and holidays, or divided loyalties and the constant struggle of being an "orphan" in the truth(TM). My sister (still a JW) married into such a family...in great part I could make the step to completely break from JWs because I knew that she'd stay in but she'd have some family for support still.

    Of course, now that I'm out, I think wow, I have family still to go to, who aren't judgmental and don't care that I *was* a JW. I also think that my transition out has been a LOT easier than someone's who was raised in...I think that I can "fall back" to my "normal" self whereas someone raised in has to completely redefine and usually without huge amounts of emotional or mental support. It's not an easy road for anyone, but those who don't have a paradigm of life as a non-JW are essentially starting from scratch.

    I think people that converted (like me! and yes, there was a choice, but for a variety of reasons, people do make that choice willingly...it's just by the time they find out what's really going on, there's emotional involvement just like with anyone, raised in or not...at least that's my experience) can relate to both sides of the coin. But a non-JW talking to a born-in JW must be like an earthling talking to a martian in terms of relation-ability!

  • under74

    Narkissos- What you say is very true, just hard to remember sometimes. Thanks for the wise words.

  • under74

    CeriseRose-I didn't mean to lessen anyones feelings (convert or non). The whole being "born in it issue" is just something I'm having to work on a lot more lately....

  • CeriseRose

    Under74 I didn't think you were and certainly wasn't taking offense! :)

    I think it's just varying degrees of resolution within ourselves and everyone's in a different place with it. I posted what I did so you'd get the perspective of the other shoe. Or the other foot. Or something.

    I think I need more coffee. !

    Anyway, sometimes it's only by saying this stuff "out loud" that it can be acknowledged and then settled.

  • Fe2O3Girl

    I think that boards like this are so popular, and many of us are such long term posters, precisely because if someone hasn't been in that situation, they cannot know quite what it was like. There is a richness in the diversity of backgrounds here.

    I was "born-in", but certainly no JW aristocracy. My parents were adult converts, there were no other JW relatives. My dad has been inactive as long as I can remember. When I was a JW, I never imagined that converts were made to feel different than anyone else - but they were. They bring something different to the board, because someone like me can't know what it was like.

    I have never been a non-JW married or related to a JW. Those posters are bringing another perspective that I cannot know.

    You can't start to learn until you acknowledge that there are things you don't know.

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