... on the Watchtower Society.
I am not one who will ever bother to waste my time heaping praise on the JW religion as though it were some kind of improvement on Society. Please! Far from it. I have no qualms in saying that it was, is, and always will be a dangerous religion ? a religion that has damaged and continues to damage countless numbers of people caught in its ugly wake. Including damage done to the six inconsequential children of John and Ruth, my mom and dad, four decades ago.
Make no mistake....
To this day, forty years after the fact, we ? my five siblings and I ? individually and as a group suffer through the detritus of how we were raised vis-à-vis that religion. As a direct result of having been raised a JW, I have personally suffered in ways that are humanly impossible to completely recover from now. (I'll spare y'all the details.) Still, It wasn't all bad! There was always some good there. Still is.
Though you'll never be able to pay me enough money to say I was "blessed" having been raised a JW, it's been obvious to me for a long time that my JW experience was not as horrible as what some had. From what I've read (and felt from what I've read), some of y'all where in (or remember being in) a straight-up concentration camp ? no less an Aushwitz patrolled by brutal, sadistic guards with foaming-at-the-mouth German Shepherds at the leash.
It makes me sad. And ANGRY... to think of what you went through. Innocent, defenseless kids with their whole lives in front of them should never have to go through that kind of life-altering hell. All I can say is that I just didn't have it that way myself. I've learned that our individual tale depends more on who our mamma and daddy was and has less to do with what particular franchise of the Watchtower Society you worshipped at on Sunday mornings.
My apologies to all whom this doesn't apply?I know there are those who have had it a lot harder than me?but for a boy being raised in the projects without a father, I very fondly recall (what I remember as) the loving oversight?even friendship?of Sister Boyd, Brother Clayburn, Sister Griffith, Brother and Sister Kellar, Brother Nelson, the Skaggs family, the Spillars ? and no one will EVER purge from me the tender memories of those times and people. Good men and women, good kids... trying to live their lives right and do right by people. They were, believe it or not, GOOD.
Course, it's quite possible that if I came to know them now that I've reached manhood and saw all their fatal flaws close up, I might think differently about them. But as a kid... no. They were good people who cared about me and my family. Often went out of their way to take time to help my single Mama and her brood of six in ways too numerous to mention. Spent precious time out of their simple lives to help us along. (Brother Nelson still serves as City Overseer, and I can honestly say that, since becoming a fiercely strong, eyes-wide-open Black man, my opinion of him has not changed one iota. He's a good man, no matter how you choose to label him.)
Sorry, but along with the opportunities I know I missed, I have very fond memories of life as a JW kid. True... most of it was based in fantasy, but fantasies, I hate to say, very often beat reality...
No, I didn?t take advantage of the college scholarship I was awarded, but I discovered something somewhat disturbing/enlightening when I went back to my 25th high school reunion: nearly every other non-JW kid I grew up with didn't go to college, either. Just like me!
A lot of my old friends played brutal sports at a time when their young bodies really couldn't take it. And can't walk now. (Only one, that I know of, went pro.)
A lot of my childhood friends got messed up behind drugs. And died years ago.
At 10?TEN!?I had complete confidence telling a roomful of 30 knucklehead kids my age (and an adult my Mama's) that, "NO! Christmas is wrong!" and be certain I was absolutely right. I don't care what you say, but that's a damn fine thing to teach a kid where I'm from ? hold your ground; your opinion is as valuable as anyone's; believe in yourself. I hope I'm lucky enough to pass along that lesson to my little one.
I learned not to fear death ? either my own or those of people I loved. Death held no power over me. Not like it does now.
I had hope?confidence?of a life that more nearly approached what I perceived as my potential. A life where my Mama could rest. And have a good life of her own ? the kind she always wanted. And deserved.
I had a pact with reality and the universe. Knew my place in it. Unlike now, where so much of my present and future life is filled with dreadful uncertainty. Or foreboding.
I could go on, but probably the most important thing my JW upbringing taught me is this...
When I was young, at a pivotal time in my life, the JWs taught me to look confidently [u][i]within[/i][/u] no matter how alone I was (or felt I was). "Hold your head high, teejay" no matter what others say or how onerously they jeer. Stand your ground, dude! ? a true advantage for me since I was raised when, where and how I was.
Yeah.... I'll grudgingly admit it: it was all a dream. Unreal. Untrue. All lies, if you wanna say it that way. Go ahead and slap me upside the head. Tell me what a fool I was for ever believing it. You'd be right. You can't tell me anything I haven't figured out already.
But somehow... knowing the ultimate truth that I will die an everlasting death in a few years (or tomorrow) is not all that comforting. Or necessarily better, despite what anyone says. One or two or five decades from now when I breathe my last, I can't help but wonder if I'd be better off passing away with the idea that my next conscious thought will be spent in Paradise of Jehovah's making....
... as opposed to KNOWING that this last breath is it.
... on the Watchtower Society.
Interesting post. I also am not angry that my upbringing is what it is. I am who I am---good and bad because of it. Pleasant memories can be had by children that are abused too. Not EVERYTHING might've been awful. Yet, who could ignore the reality of abuse. Make no mistake--we all were abused, shortchanged and adversely affected because we were JW kids. But the beat goes on!
There are many postives about being raised a JW -- and many positives that proceed from being an ex-JW. I would bet that many -- not all -- of the "horrible, terrible, rotten" experiences that some recount about being a JW are subjective exagerations and choosing to ignore the positives. Personally I'm glad that I was raised a JW. And...I'm glad I left.
I'm glad you are able to notice the good that came from being a Witness, TeeJay. You are unusual in that regard.
Sounds to me like you have a healthy outlook on your life, which is great. Too many people do blame the past, and therefore affect their future, based on letting it get the best of them.
I think many of us can look carefully at our childhood, and see good in it.
I was raised a witness, and certainly wish things were different, however this is my life, and not much I can do about the past. I had good times, and times I wish I could forget.
The key is looking forward, and making adult decisions now, that will determine the rest of our lives. I wish I was not born into the witness religion, as there are many activities that I would have enjoyed. I am not a wild person at heart, so I don't see myself as one who would have gone off the deep edge, witness or not. But holidays, sports in school, etc, more dating, would have been enjoyable.
But, the past shaped who I am today. I like who I am, and what I believe in. I like my values, and enjoy my friends and family. I enjoy the pursuit of making myself better, and I look forward to what the future brings.
Having a healthy outlook on life is key.
I believe that life is a learning experience, so I can't say that it was wrong for me, just like dating the wrong men wasn't a mistake for me... just a learning experience. The thing is the religion either can keep you in a complete stupor where you are oblivious to reality, or you can actually WAKE UP and learn something for yourself and live a whole and complete life.
When you learn such a huge life lesson, why take that away. We have grown so much as people. We are more self-aware. We can't be bullshited anymore.
To me living a full and happy life is all I need. When I take my last breath I will be satisfied even if there is nothing on the other side, I will be satisfied that I had A LIFE, which is more than I can say for the robots who believe in a fairy tale and miss out.
I really enjoyed your post. I was raised in a divided household. It was confusing. My father hated the witnesses and actually made life very difficult for us all. I honestly have more anger towards him for his behavior then I do for my mom. By the way, they are still married after 54 years. I have good and bad memories. We were outcasts in many ways, because of my father. He did not allow us to attend meetings until we hit the teenage years and realized their control would be more affective then his!
Our legacy....us four kids have nine marriages between us. My brother is on his forth marriage, he is Df'd and is now a Mormon. My sister is on her third, is active in the org. My other sister married a extremely abusive man, was married six years, divorced and has never dated in 20 years. I was married for 28 years, my family looked to me to show them the way. They didn't realize that my elder husband and I were alcoholics, just trying to hang on. We are now seperated and awaiting divorce.
I have no idea what life would have been like in a family of spiritual unity, or if religion hadn't been a part of our family at all. We all seem a bit srewed up!
It wasn't all bad!
What's the point of this statement. It's like being raised by a parent who gives you good advice, sends you to a good school, feeds you, houses you well, even puts you through college and on to a good career, but also sexually molests you. Yeah...it wasn't all bad, but...
I enjoyed my stint in the Watchtower. Those were happy times for me in the sense that I really enjoyed the friends, the unity, the singular focus, the hope that we had. It was a heady feeling, here we are, working together in awesome unity, sharing the truth with the lost, the only truth, the best truth, and here I am with the direction of the most powerful loving force in the universe and I'm doing His will and i'm in accord with him. The New World ahead where all problems will be gone!!!!
Everything founded on one big, fat, exploiting lie to increase the power of a publishing company and those that run it.
Let's see what I got from the Watchtower experience after my eyes were opened:
The most unbalanced freaked-out childhood lived in constant negative motivation and negative reinforcement where an avenging Jehovah may take it upon himself to slaughter me for my sins.
Paranoia about unseen, invisible spirit creatures lurking to tempt me at every turn, perhaps physically hurt me, try to possess me or harass me.
Friends of the type that when I decided not to support some obvious and clearly false doctrine refused to even talk to me anymore
Religious mentors (read WT officials) of the type that when I had the opportunity to question them on troubles I had with the blood issue and chronology told me put the questions out of my mind and submit to the Governing Body. I learned loyalty to them was everything and truth took the back seat to that. They also told my wife, in-laws, friends, even my best friends and my own brother to shun me as evil.
The feeling of worthlessness that I just wasn't doing enough to please Jehovah despite the fact I was at the Kingdom Hall four freaking days a week. Learning to believe in myself and trust myself was very hard.
Emotional and intellectual dependence and slavery on the false drug the Watchtower propogated
Utter confusion that lasted for quite some time when I realized the leaders that dispensed truth weren't interested in truth. They were interested in preserving the lie that they alone are God's representative on earth.
A wrecked and perverted spirituality
So was it all bad? Nope. But in light of the overall effect I would say it makes any mention of the Watchtower's positive effects moot.
There are WAY to many what ifs in my life to ever think again that growing up in that insane envirement was good.I would have rather anything else.The way I was raised in that organization was completely wrong.It has only caused confusion and hurt along the way.Just my circumstances I guess.
There are a lot worse ways that one could have been raised. Being one of Jehovah's Witnesses is by far not the worse thing that could happen to a person. As you said TJ, much depends upon who is doing the guiding and directing thru the Org. not the Org. itself.
It's a good thing if being a witness helps you to steer clear of drugs, teen pregnancy, the pain of addiction thru tobacco and other practises that initiate either an early death, physically or socially.
In the right hands, even in ignorance of all the misgivings that the Society over time has handed down to its subjects, one could be, as many JW's are and live a pretty decent life.
I've heard in book study groups in the past, the study conductor made the comment while going over the Revelation book, " The Truth is not for everybody ". I wasn't baptized at the time and it kinda' hit me in the gut because I had wrestled all my life trying to get in the door, I had no one on the inside however who might encourge me in my quest, and at that point, I was really kinda' floundering around like a fish wash on shore fighting against the one trying to put him back in the water.
Had I been equipped with the knowledge I have now, of the Society and all that I was never told, I would have had a better chance of properly aquiring happiness on this side of heaven, for even my mom, long before I got baptized would say to me. " You don't have what it takes to be one of them, it's not in you, your not the kind of person they want in the KH ", I never thought that there was a type of person that specificaly fit that bill, looking back, however, I see that they both were right, and mom wasn't even a JW or have any great knowledge about the Org., she knew however that I would never fit in.
Brad, what you said is so correct. I'm, too, am happy to an extent to have been able to learn, go and grow thru the experience of having been a witness, and I'm almost as happy being out. Its taught me a wealth of things about this life, the brevity of it, and what truly is important to spend my life's energy on.
What lies between here and the other side of Heaven, I'm uncertain about myself, but I wont allow it to paralyze me, and sometimes, Gods Grace shows up in my life as a remider to let me know that I'm gonna' be all right anyway.
I still believe that God is going to make a way for those who are true in their heart, will make a way for those who truly love Him, and he will not just discount all the struggle and pain of being human and that he will be just and fair in his dealings with all of us. Otherwise, what's the point of having kept us all here in the first place.
I don't think we should focus on the bad. I don't think we should focus on the good, either. Just take things for what they are worth, both "good" and "bad" (notice quotation marks -- these are subjective, not objective, descriptions).
Mega, much of what you say is true, and I concur. I look back at the incredible -- yes, paralyzing -- guilt I experienced over masturbation as a normal, healthy male teenager. It's really too bad I bought into that crap. Yes, I bought into that crap. (I might add that many parents instill guilt into their children about masturbation and a boat-load of other things....in fact, most parents do!)
Nevertheless, I think you are guilty of the "compostion fallacy" in stating that any of the positives the JWs had/have are "moot." That's all or nothing thinking, my friend. And, some of the things you mention -- such as expectations and beliefs that you now feel are phoney, ie "paranoia about an unseen spirit realm" -- are things that most religions share to some extent. Does not the Catholic Church still perform exorcisms? And, am I mistaken in saying that you do indeed still believe in an "unseen realm" which includes "evil spirits"? I'm not saying that to denigrate your views at all, but to denigrate some of the WTs (similar!) beliefs seems a little odd.
I experienced many positives as a JW, including:
-learning to speak before a large audience
-at least some familiarity with the most influential book in Western history, the Bible
-knowledge (I was even going to say "accurate" knowledge!) about the roots of holidays, church history, etc.
-an "outsider" view on popular culture/politics/etc.....I actually think this is very beneficial
And then there are positives about my negative experiences in the Dubs
-the "agony" and "ecstasy" of insight into the wrongness of long-held beliefs....how many people are there that radically change their entire belief system? Not many. I count this experience as a positive
-similar to above -- enhanced understanding of group behavior and social psychology
-the good feeling I've gotten from standing up for what I feel is right in the face of opposition...this has built character.
And more as well. Of course, some of the experiences I mention could have been gained in other ways; by being raised a Mormon, for one. But, alas, I was raised a JW. That's just how my life played out. Big deal.