Today is my shun-iversary. I thought maybe now would be a good time for an update and some reflection on my situation. It’s been exactly one year since my only sister called and informed me she would no longer have contact with me. Shortly after that, I was shunned by my parents and uninvited from my brother’s wedding after purchasing plane tickets and arranging travel for my family of five to make the trip from Texas to New York.
On October 13th I celebrated my birthday for the first time in my entire life (my 30th!), in part by publishing a long and detailed post* on what led up to my decision that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were not “God’s one true Organization”. After my parents and siblings turned their back on me I knew it was only a matter of time before word would get out to friends and acquaintances in our hometown, and I wanted the chance to provide an explanation. Once they heard I became “an apostate” there would be no chance of them talking to me… ever.
Can we just dwell on that for a moment? They believe they are members of the only religion approved by God. Any and all others will be killed during Armageddon. And they are told exactly how to feel about members who leave: “True Christians share Jehovah’s feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they feel a loathing toward those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance.” (from the 1993 Watchtower, Nov 1 p.19)
A JW friend recently reestablished contact and mentioned how my blog post led to a Local Needs talk in my former congregation. A Local Needs talk is given by an Elder once a month in every congregation; it can focus on anything the congregation needs to improve upon. The talks I remember were usually on increasing the time spent in the ministry; the importance of being on time; how young men should “reach out” to become Ministerial Servants and Elders. So having a talk specifically targeting me and my blog post is… amusing. Bizarre. Shocking. Not only that, but to top it off, the speaker was crying onstage.
At first when I heard this, I started laughing. To them, it’s unfathomable; catastrophic, even- that someone would “leave the truth”. I’m not laughing anymore; it’s just too sad. They are kept so sheltered, so in fear of reading anything that contradicts what the Governing Body says. Yet, when a member finally gathers enough courage– after YEARS of research, and silence, and biting my tongue, and ‘waiting on Jehovah’, and cognitive dissonance, and saying “well even if it’s a little wrong, it’s the closest thing to the truth”– and is able to stand up and say, “this is wrong, and this is why,” they immediately turn their backs, never to speak to me again… but cry? It’s convoluted. They’re making the choice to shun. They’re pressured to do it, because if they don’t, they could face judicial action- meaning a group of elders would meet with them to “counsel” them not to contact me. If they disregarded that counsel, they could find themselves disfellowshipped. They think I am about to be destroyed at Armageddon. If they don’t loathe me, God will loathe them for not loathing me. It’s emotional blackmail at every turn.
I feel for them- I know exactly what it was like to believe I held every answer. I know what it felt like to think I had to cut contact with loved ones in order to gain God’s approval. I don’t blame them for being under the influence of Mind Control. (It’s important to note that mind control is different from brainwashing; I will only ever use the term Mind Control when referring to Jehovah’s Witnesses.) I know they are instructed to loathe me and they’re just waiting until God brings vengeance against me, but I just can’t bring myself to loathe them back, no matter what they say or think about me. How can you loathe someone who is asleep?
There are aspects of this that I do loathe. Like, when the UPS guy dropped off a package and Philippa said, “He looked like your dad,” and burst into tears, saying, “I miss Papa!” Or when Georgia told me, “I had a dream I talked to your mom and she said she was going to live next door to us. Do you think we will ever see Grammy again in real life?”
No one said getting out of a cult would be easy. If you want to know what it’s like, just watch The Path.
If you’re a JW, exJW, or PIMO JW (that’s ‘physically in/mentally out’ if you’re not up on your exJW lingo), check out jwfacts. Read Combatting Cult Mind Control. Review the BITE model. Getting out is tricky, depending on if you have been baptized, if you have family or a spouse still mentally in, and who you are willing to cut ties with. It is so much easier if you join a support group, like exJW Reddit or Jehovahs-Witness.com; or if you find an exJW YouTube Channel you can identify with.
Just remember… life is hard for everyone. Life leaves scars on everyone. We just happen to be the lucky ones who’ve escaped a cult. Life isn’t over now; Life begins now.
*someday I will go back and fix the fonts on that original post. It was so much copying and pasting that somehow the coding got screwy. I’ll fix it eventually.