I received another of these heartbreaking letters from a former Jehovah’s Witness today. This one has a couple of themes that appear in so many of the letters that I get that I thought it was worth posting once again. A few of the details have been altered to protect the privacy of the writer.
Hi. I left the “truth” in 19xx. I was baptized, but eventually got out of an abusive relationship and a religion that told me that I needed to stay with my husband because “by my good example his soul might be saved”. Anyway, I left and was disfellowshipped. The problem was my sister stayed in the religion. She wrote to me and told me she could not be my sister any more because I was now of the evil slave class. This went on for years, finally ending in some interaction when our mother died, grew and greatly improved when our father passed also. That went on and we were actually pretty close again. In the meantime I explored many different faiths, especially Eastern, and then I discovered Wicca. I felt at home there, and in the late 19xx’s I dedicated myself to the Goddess. My sister was aware of this and it had not been a problem. Our other sister passed away recently after a period of illness where my sister and I comforted each other, but I did notice a difference in her and so did our brother (who does not practice any religion). Well, today before I left to drive back home my JW sister tells me we cannot have a relationship anymore because having a relationship with me may imperil her soul and relationship with Jehovah. I could not believe she was doing this to me again. I am in shock. I guess we were getting too close and the elders had to step in. I feel so wounded and hurt. My brother is stunned. I feel like my heart is broken again. What religion would have her hit me with this right after the funeral? I don’t understand, how she can do this? I remember times when we were both JW’s and she was going through a really bad time. I kept the details to myself. I would not have dreamed of telling the elders. I know there is nothing anyone can do about this I just needed to talk about it. Thanks for listening.
Dear X –
My heart flies out to you, and I am so very sorry. Try to forgive your sister (to the limit of your ability) – you know why she believes as she does. It’s anti-agapic and false to the spirit of love, but as you know the governing body of the Watchtower Society keeps a tight leash. All you can really do is to follow your own path, grieve her choice and try to let it go. I know, it seems pretty impossible.
Don’t close the door entirely unless you feel you have to for your own sanity. You could, if you are strong enough in yourself, send some sort of message of love: “You are my sister and I will always love you, no matter what your religious decisions might be. I am always here for you if you need me.” You never know what may happen in the future, and for her to know that you are there for her (even when she has been very foolish) may make a difference in ways that may help you both over the years.
For now, though, it’s very hard. What is especially hard – and I’ve experienced this too – is when you’ve been a true friend to someone you love and it’s feels like everything you did means nothing, doesn’t count at all. But it does. Love is ever wasted!
It does help a little, I think, to write about it – and to know that there are others who “get it.”
Since you are dedicated to the Goddess, you have that imagery of the divine to access. You can draw on your connection to the energies of the Goddess to help you. Let Her enfold you with the comfort and love that is being withheld by your sister. Get concrete – find words and images that ease your heart. Add an item or two to your alter for your sister’s healing. You know she must be hurting, too. Intend healing and strength for both of you, and She will help you. Gather with your sisters and tell them your story – you can tap a deep reservoir of insight and support from them.
I’m reading a book that I like a lot. Maybe it would be good for you, too? It’s called The Red Book, by Sera Beak – a trained comparative religionist with a wonderful sense of humor. It is intended for young women, but I’m now (ahem) a slightly older woman and I’m finding that the intended audience is not limiting at all – I think that even a lot of men would find it valuable. It’s not so much that there’s anything “new” in it for me, but it’s functioning as a way to connect the dots in a slightly more solid – and fun – way. I wouldn’t normally recommend a book, but I have to say that if I were to write a book for others on spirituality, it would look an awfully lot like this one, and I’m happy to have discovered it.
I know you said there isn’t anything anyone can do, and that’s true. I wish I could change this reality for you and for everyone that suffers because of this kind of cruelty, but of course I can’t and neither can anyone else.
All you can change about this, ultimately, is how you view it, how you frame it, how you navigate through that experience, and how you integrate that experience into yourself. Sometimes spiritual truths are a real kick in the teeth.
That’s all I can offer to you. I wish there were more – maybe some readers of the blog will have other suggestions.