Ex-JW – Expressing the Pain

Ex-JW – Expressing the Pain

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.

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6 thoughts on “Ex-JW – Expressing the Pain

  1. This experience is so sad. I, too, lost my sister on the alter of Watchtower theology. The sad thing is that members really believe they have to do this to be loyal to God. The Society is very careful to equate shunning with loyalty to Jehovah, over it beng loyalty to their current policies and teachings.

    This psychologically damaging practice receives “window dressing” as most propaganda does, to make it acceptable and palatable.

    But, in the final analysis, is destroying family relationships a part of rational and balanced worship? Did Jesus treat people to harsh shunning?

    I always remember what he stated: “Learn what this means, I want mercy and not sacrifice.” Jesus was trying to emphasise that being obedient to the letter of the Law was negated, if human compassion was put aside in so doing.

    I hope that in the coming years, governments will allow for freedom of religious belief, contingent upon that very belief not harming others. Emotionally and psychologically abusive practices should not coexist alongside of freedom of belief. While free to believe whatever they want, people and organizations should be held accountable.

    My mother, who was not a Witness, said it best: “Any teaching that separates families is harmful.”

    She showed more wisdom than the spiritually abusive men at the helm of the Watchtower movement.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses and Thought Control´s last blog post – Watchtower Readers Receive Predigested Food

  2. My God is Sovereign and Providential.

    The Sovereignty of God means that there is really nothing I can do to compel him to act one way or another. He is so holy and separate from me that there is nothing I can offer to make him say “Hey, I owe it to her to let her come into a relationship with me.”

    If there was a way I could, then He would not be Sovereign.

    It is sad and I have much compassion for people who have a theology where deeds are seen as a measure of goodness which in turn make somebody better than the next person.

    As it is written:
    “There is no one righteous, not even one;
    NIV Romans 3:10

  3. Your story speaks to me as well. For many many years after I was disfellowshipped, my father behaved in the same cycle as you are experiencing with your sister. I actually worked for my parents in their small town business but for some reason, every few months, my father (an elder) would declare that he had to distance himself from me because I was leading him away from Jehovah.

    They say time heals all wounds but for me, distance helped more than time ever did. My parents moved 1,500 miles away when my father retired from his university job. I was devestated for the first year; it was only later that I realized the distance helped to soften my father’s attitude towards me. Now, when I visit, about once a year, we are careful but loving around one another and he no longer tries to talk me into becoming reinstated.

    I too have moved away from Judeo Christian religeon and embrace a faith now with both male and female gods; I don’t define myself as wicca but that’s close enough. May the loving Father, the hunter and the tender Lady, mother and sister to us all, bring you peace and healing.

  4. Oh gawd, I have tears in my eyes now. The pain this person feels comes through so clearly. I wish I had some helpful suggestions however upon reading this I was blindsided by something I’d put aside during the last few months. My cousin, who is still a JW, sent me an email telling me in a “lookie what I get to do and you don’t” fashion that she would get to see my disfellowshipped parents again and I wouldn’t. The truth is Witnesses are trained to believe the things they do are all in their best interest. As my cousin told me she “knows that Jehovah is real and that she is doing what he wants her to do.” I’ve been there and I do remember but it makes my stomach ache to think of it all. My wish for this person is peace. It’s hard to find sometimes.

    traci´s last blog post – it’s christmas

  5. I have recently been through a similar situation. I was disfellowshippied when I was 16. I am now 21. My father called me last Wednesday and told me that he could no longer have a relationship with me and that he hoped that I would “soon realize that I needed the truth in my life”. He also said something that really caused me intense pain; he is willing to have a relationship with my 1 year old son but not with me. He said that if I would allow it, he would like to come and visit my son. My question is, How is it possible for him to have a relationship with my son and not with me? I trully know how feel dear X, I am going through the same situation at the moment. The only difference is that my father’s decision includes my mother and my sister. I feel so alone and confused. I really don’t know what to believe anymore. It seems as if they ran out of options to convince me to get reinstated in the congregation and this is a drastic measure to see if I will “come to my senses”. I have found myself to be very confused and realized that I don’t know what exactly I believe anymore. I have relied on constant reading and keeping myself busy at work. Please know Dear X that you are not alone in this at all.

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