New personality or cult identity?

 

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I have recently been thinking about the good changes that some have made when they become Witnesses. That may be another reason why some continue to have a positive view of them – and the term ‘new personality’ is thrown about to show that they are now better people. I was interested in this term as found in the New World Translation Ephesians 4:22-24 and wondered if other translations used it too. I checked all the following translations compared to the NWT:

New International Version (NIV) New King James Version (NKJ)  New American Standard Bible (NASB)  Common English Bible (CEB) English Standard Version (ESV) New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

So after all that I feel safe enough to say that only the NWT uses the term ‘new personality’. Why is that? I found in my experience that there is a conflict between this ‘new personality’ and the way I really am. Now I’m not talking about the universal conflict inside every person between bad and good – that is a whole other story that I won’t even attempt to write about! What I’m talking about is from the perspective of changing yourself to fit in with the Witnesses. Conforming to their way of living and behaving (I’m using the term living here loosely).

I decided to try and find a reference to this in the Witnesses’ online library, and I found the perfect reference! Every where they expound the benefits of changing your personality when it relates to stopping heavy drinking, taking drugs, getting into fights, but what about all the stuff I remember being counselled about from the platform? What music I listened to, books I read, movies I watched, and on and on. Every small thing in your life that was even slightly off the Witness track had to be eliminated.

Here is the reference: — (The Italics are my own)  A full-grown Christian is also loyal. As we read at Ephesians 4:24, the apostle Paul exhorts Christians: “Put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” In the Greek Scriptures, the original-language word for “loyalty” carries the thought of holiness, righteousness, reverence. A loyal person is devout, pious; he carefully observes all his duties toward God.

What are some ways in which you might develop such loyalty? One would be by cooperating with your local congregation elders. (Hebrews 13:17) Recognizing that Christ is the appointed Head of the Christian congregation, mature Christians are loyal to those appointed “to shepherd the congregation of God.” (Acts 20:28) How inappropriate it would be to challenge or undermine the authority of appointed elders! You should also feel a sense of loyalty to “the faithful and discreet slave” and the agencies that are used to disseminate spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) Be quick to read and apply the information found in The Watchtower and its companion publications. w00 8/15 pp. 26-29 Are you a full grown Christian?  —

Well there it is, anything that comes from the publications and the platform or personal counsel from elders means you have to listen to it and apply it, doing otherwise means you are NOT a full grown Christian and are DISLOYAL.

A friend mentioned something to me in regard to this scripture and I had to insert it into this post. Witnesses are taught that almost everything in the Christian Greek Scriptures/New Testament is for the anointed. Therefore Paul is apparently only talking to the anointed  in Ephesians 1-3, then all of a sudden in Ephesians 4 he is speaking to the ‘great crowd’ too. How can that be? Paul either wrote to the anointed only, or he didn’t. Which is it? If everything from Chapter 1 of Ephesians is only for the anointed, how does the Governing Body know when he stops talking to them and the ‘great crowd’ must listen to the instruction too? This scripture is used extensively in the publications to reach out to those in the field who are ‘living bad lives’ and must change, are all those ‘householders’ potential anointed?

I remember destroying my mix tapes because that Sunday morning I had listened to a talk about not listening to inappropriate music. If you know me, my idea of inappropriate back then was mild stuff. I have been educated since then so I know that what I was listening to was really okay, but I was made to feel guilty about it because I really enjoyed that music. It depressed me thinking that I wouldn’t be able to listen to this music anymore in Paradise, it would literally no longer exist. For those who are asking, what was I listening to, it was Linkin Park, the first song I ever heard of theirs was Numb, and it totally lit my mind up. I swear sparks flew it was the most wonderful thing and having to give it up was painful, and here is the point I stumbled on. It was painful – why? I was denying a part of myself, I was putting this so called ‘new personality’ ahead of who I genuinely was.

There’s the kicker, changing to become a better person – that makes you feel good, makes you feel strong. Denying you who are in order to conform to a set of behaviour dictated by men, that is what makes it painful. The cult identity is formed over your genuine identity to make you accept and conform to the group mentality. If other Witnesses were refusing to watch a certain movie, there was an undercurrent of expectation that all Witnesses would also refuse. Anytime you try to suppress your genuine self there will be consequences, some mild, some very serious, but all bad.

In one instance I didn’t listen to the elders and I suppose now I can see that as my genuine identity asserting itself. I wanted to do a Creative Writing course, I had saved up the money and out of habit I ran this by my favourite elder. He was immediately negative, he completely shut me down. Why on earth do I want to spend my time doing a writing course? I was really hurt by his words, but in that moment I disregarded what he said because for once I knew it was rubbish. I did that course, and I passed it with flying colours. It is an accomplishment that I hold dear and makes me smile, that I stood up for myself.

The Witnesses idea of the ‘new personality’ is horribly flawed. You do not need to become a perfect Witness clone to be loyal to God. Far from it – We were created with individuality, we are ALL different, so why change that? Our differences in our tastes, in our passions is something to be celebrated, not suppressed.

Oh by the way – I know there are some Linkin Park songs with swear words, I skip those… I’m a total prude and I still hate profanity so you see – their music has not corrupted me. 🙂

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How important is that JW image? Part 2

thK36BQDWYThis long discussion regarding the image of the Witnesses came about because I suddenly thought again about the disgusting double standard of the Watchtower regarding Malawi and Mexico.

Even though I knew it was a complete travesty of justice I wanted to understand how on earth the Governing Body got to their decisions. In one case they refused the Malawian brothers and sisters to buy a compulsory party card which caused incalculable pain, death and suffering, but they found a ‘loophole’ to authorise the Mexican brothers to bribe military officials to obtain a compulsory cartilla card. Please go to jwfacts.com and read the Malawi vs Mexico page, it has documentary evidence from Watchtower’s own publications and letters from the Governing Body and it explains just how neck deep in guilt the Governing Body is for the inhumane treatment of their brothers and sisters in Malawi.

The Governing Body had registered the Witnesses as a ‘cultural entity’ in Mexico in order to protect potential property they may acquire in that country. Being a religious entity meant all your property belonged to the government. They lied to register in a way that would protect their monetary interests and because of that when the question came up about the cartilla card they had to find a way to not cause offense. How could they refuse to get one based on religious grounds of neutrality? They couldn’t! They weren’t a religion in Mexico! So, allowing the brothers to bribe officials to obtain the cartilla card doesn’t seem so bad since the Governing Body was already trying to maintain a façade of the ‘cultural entity’ after all. They had a image to uphold.

At the same time a very similar thing was happening in Malawi, but in this case they immediately advised the brothers to stay faithful and not buy the party card. Citing neutrality and that it was a test of their faith, they simply had to endure this terrible persecution. I remember reading about what happened in Malawi in the year books, I also remember some older sisters telling me their memories of the time, they all wrote letters to President Banda begging for better treatment of the brothers and sisters.

I thought to myself that perhaps the Governing Body didn’t foresee that terrible consequences the brothers and sisters in Malawi would face once they refused to buy the party card, perhaps they thought it was a small thing and would quickly blow over. Once the faeces hit the fan though, how could they go back on what they said? Once they saw the horror that it was causing, it went on for years, they couldn’t change their mind could they? They had to keep the hard-line of total neutrality. People were being tortured and killed, if they changed their minds and said it’s permissible to get the party card now, all those deaths would have been in vain and the Governing Body’s credibility would be undeniably harmed. There was also the very real unifying effect that was happening in the congregations, nothing like persecution to make the cult mentality really kick in.

Once again the image was all important, even in the face of rape, torture and murder.

What is the most prevalent news item regarding the Witnesses now? Child abuse. Why can’t they simply acknowledge they have a serious problem? Even the Catholic Church have acknowledged their guilt and are working with the authorities. Why can’t they just change the disgusting two-witness rule? Adhere strictly to reporting to the authorities and letting the professionals take over? I think that it all comes down to their hard maintained squeaky clean image. They will deny, lie and otherwise ‘spin’ whatever they have to because their corporate perfect image is the most important thing to them. Sadly, even death, torture, rape and thousands of molestation cases cannot out weigh the importance of maintaining that image.

How important is that JW image? Part 1

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Recently I had a very interesting conversation with a Christian who had some limited exposure to Jehovah’s Witnesses, they had the impression that they were a ‘mostly harmless Christian sect’ and they were impressed with their ‘sincerity and dedication’, and they were ‘also good at looking up scriptures in the Bible’.

Once upon a time I would have been almost pleased to have Witnesses described in this way, but no more. That impression is far from the truth. To get one thing out of the way – they are not Christians. Christians are followers of Christ Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses are followers of their Governing Body, so they are ‘GB-ites’. Christians would hold what God says above anything man says, a Jehovah’s Witness would want a voice out of the sky to be verified by the Governing Body first.

I explained the way I see the Witnesses now – they are a business which recruits members into their exclusive club (cult). Every Kingdom Hall I’ve ever been in was like an office, a boardroom. Extremely neat to the point of sterility and completely void of atmosphere. Everyone must look a certain way, and behave a certain way in order to present the business’s image, just the way sales reps have to do.

The Witnesses have worked extremely hard to portray and maintain a certain image and hubby and I discussed last night just how far they would go in order to maintain it. These two blog posts will explore what we discussed as it was a rather lengthy discussion!

First off those pesky dress and grooming talks. The brothers and sisters are constantly reminded of being smartly and modestly dressed. Some of the rules that have come out from this obsession with appearance is quite laughable but why are they are so obsessed with it? When someone is smartly dressed, hair just right etc, they give the impression of knowing what they are talking about it, having authority, being dependable, reliable, trustworthy, honest even – all these things are what Witnesses strive to appear as. This appearance is extremely important as it ‘sells the product’ just as much as what they say. Isn’t it true that some of us may have even listened to them simply because they looked so neat and were so polite?

Craig thoughts are in Italics:

“But does this image have any basis in reality? Does wearing certain clothes automatically make you a good person? Obviously not. Hence the pressure to be always ‘personable’, remember that word from the now defunct Theocratic Ministry School? Remember the bankers that caused the international financial crisis and the executives at Enron, and all of our politicians, they wear suits and ties and are very personable and are very good at talking, does that make them automatically good people?

No, its all about their image, some have entire departments devoted to ‘public relations’ which is all about the image of the person or the company.

“So perhaps the legal departments in their branch offices should actually be called the Public Relations departments, because that is what they actually do – they try to minimize fall out over something bad happening that would tarnish the almighty Witness reputation, and they would ‘spin’ any questions put to them.”

If you strip away the ‘spiritual aspect’ of the Witnesses all you have is a corporate pyramid scheme. As long as you don’t scratch the surface  – ask too many questions, their product looks amazing, but under examination its full of holes, it doesn’t make sense, and like a virus its designed to take control of your thinking and tear you away from normal society, to hammer you into another drone to join the ranks of the other drones who have done the same.

“To completely subvert your will and your common sense”

Part 2 continues

Taking off the jw blinders part 2

As soon as I published my last post, I realised that there was a big thing that I needed to add to it – huge in fact. It is implied in my post, but I wanted to explore it more.

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It sounds simple enough, but to a Jehovah Witness unconditional love is like a starving person tasting the best meal they’ve ever had, and then being told they can have it ALL the time. It’s mind boggling, when you’ve been given a false ‘love’ your whole life, the thought that someone loves you no matter what is just bizarre.

I was brought up a Witness, my mother was too, so all she knew was the conditional kind of love that Jehovah’s Witnesses know and practise so well. My father was an abusive alcoholic so I wasn’t going to learn unconditional love from him either – all he cared about was his next drink, I in fact was an annoying inconvenience to him.

Becoming a fully fledged member of the Witnesses certainly didn’t expose me to  unconditional love, no – I was given a Masters in knowing just how conditional it really is. Even God loves you conditionally because you have to do a whole list of things to be approved. The friends I had, they would drop me in a heartbeat if I went against the jw mentality. I went up against the brick wall of their expectations a few times in my life knowing them, and I came away learning that if I didn’t tow the line exactly, I would have no friends at all.

I came to expect recrimination if I disagreed with someone. Not even an argument, just a disagreement over something quite petty. Perhaps a difference in opinion, but just that meant that I had fallen in that person’s eyes and no longer warranted their affection. So again, I tried to maintain perfect behaviour in order to keep everyone’s approval. My very identity became tied up in this gaining of approval. This even manifested in my job. If I messed up and my boss was unhappy with me, I would be devastated for days.

Then walks in my now husband – and completely turned my head in on itself. I apologised to him about fifty times a day about anything and everything, he couldn’t stand it. It was as if I was apologising for being alive. Since I couldn’t succeed in gaining approval from everyone, all I had left was apologising that I didn’t have everyone’s approval.

His love for me started the process of learning unconditional love. When we argued it didn’t mean he stopped loving me, or withheld his affection. This I found astonishing. Even after the most hurtful screaming fights at the end of it he would still pull me into arms because I was crying. He kept telling me that it didn’t matter and that he still loved me no matter what. To be honest, I didn’t believe him. How could he? I gave him the benefit of the doubt though and operated in a new area of always being loved. It was the most amazing and liberating feeling. My self esteem sky rocketed and my need for others approval got chipped away to nothing. I was actually good enough – what a thought!

The completion of my studies so to speak, was when our son was born. That baby took me to school. He would smile and I would melt. He loved me just because I was his mommy. His complete trust and dependence on me taught me more than anything a book could. I loved him just because he existed, he didn’t need to do ANYTHING for me to love him. Suddenly my mother’s way of bringing me up stood in stark constrast to what I was experiencing. I could finally evaluate my childhood and reject all my feelings of responsibility for what went wrong. I finally knew it wasn’t my fault.

Unconditional love is so important in getting through to the cult mind. It won’t shut down immediately, in fact it won’t know what to do, but want more of this astonishing thing called unconditional love.

Taking off the ‘blinders’

It is hard enough dealing with the fall out when you are waking up from jw-dom as an individual, it becomes a shade more complicated when you are already part of couple. If you are both waking up at the same time, you can be a real support to eachother, though it doesn’t always work out that way. If one of you has already woken up and the other is still in deep – well that is where some real mental gymnastics find their true calling.

My husband was awake long before I was, about three years prior and during that time we had to find a peace that we could live in because actually talking about our differences only ended in arguments and recriminations. Our differences were only about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and especially the Governing Body. I still believed they were God’s spokesmen and my husband did not. No matter what the argument may have started out as, it usually ended with that.

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Craig explains from here:

“Trying to reason with someone with blinders on is like bashing your head against a brick wall. They cannot see the fact that they cannot see. One of things that I always loved about my wife was her intelligence, but when it came to the Jehovah’s Witnesses she refused to use it. I was raised by strong women, and I always believed that women are equal to men, and that was one of the first things that I hated about the Witnesses. The fact that she was tied to that irritated the hell out of me. Before I could help her wake up I had to give her a sense of self worth without the Witnesses. There were many times I wanted to shout, swear, bash the walls, because she just couldn’t see how she was being manipulated. It was either right or its wrong. There was nothing in-between. Unfortunately the real world operates in the ‘in-between’. The Witnesses see everything good is for Jehovah, and evil is not for Jehovah, the real world you have to learn to live for yourself and think for yourself. Being honest was not encouraged by the jws. If you were honest you would have to question their decisions, because even God says in the Bible, ‘test me’, the jws say ‘obey me blindly’. I could never accept that. Trying to open her mind was exceptionally difficult, eventually I had to back off and just lay some seeds so that she would think for herself and trust her own intelligence would prove true. When she did finally wake I was there to support her. Eventually that is what happened, but it wasn’t me that done it, it was the birth of our son. I was full of hate for what they were doing to my wife, but never for my wife! It was sad, the woman I loved was being completely subverted by bullshit that didn’t care about her.”

So, that should be proof enough that I was plugged in for real. I believed completely and utterly what I had been taught to the exclusion of all else. During the time we were at odds, I pushed him ALL the time that we needed to go to the meetings, we should be preparing, we should be doing our bible reading…and on and on and on. I felt like the worst nag in the world, but now that I can reflect on my behaviour it is very clear the conditioning that I was displaying. It was almost as if I was in panic mode because I wasn’t following the routine, it was distressing to me that we were ‘failing’, that I was ‘failing’ as a witness. I felt such utter loneliness during those times, and I would think of the talks I had heard warning us marriageable sisters to be careful marrying in the world, because this is what happens, you are more lonely that ever. Now I can pull that apart and say, yes – it causes loneliness because you have a cult mentality and your husband does not. Those kind of talks just reinforce the fear of ‘worldly’ people. It also shows that the Governing Body knows only too well that they have to control every member in order to keep them obeying. Associating with ‘worldly people’ is very dangerous for them. It will help clear your thinking.

The process of adjusting my thinking took time. It helped to miss meetings because it ‘loosens’ the grip of the brainwashing. Your mind gets freed up to think for itself. I spent an inordinate amount of time reading articles about the witnesses on the internet, researching all I could, at first it was to prove Craig wrong, but since you can’t prove lies to be true – the enormity of how I was deceived slowly dawned on me. I also got to discuss all these scandalous things with Craig. When I finally acknowledged that the Governing Body did not speak for God, the chains, the blinders, they fell away. Of course I was scared, but I wasn’t so scared that I would submit myself to continuing the charade. I was deeply ashamed that I had been a witness, that I had carried that name. I didn’t want to carry it for another second. I rejected them utterly, I walked away from them without a backward glance and ran into the arms of my husband. While he was my rock through my emotional turmoil, I became stronger looking at my baby boy. He would never experience the rubbish that I did. The cycle of lies and abuse ended with me, and I couldn’t have faced it without my husband beside me.

 

Free to give as my heart tells me

Something that bothered me a great deal when I was a Jehovah’s Witness was my complete lack of involvement in charitable works. If you don’t know, Witnesses do not spend time organizing soup kitchens, giving to the needy regularly or fundraising for needy causes.

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I thought I great deal on how I learnt to not give. It’s not as if Witnesses do nothing at all, it is very specific what they do and the Organization will decide what happens to the money that is donated. I remember being told to not designate your donation to the Society, for instance ‘for the Hurricane Katrina relief’ because what if they didn’t need anymore help for that, and instead needed it for something else? Being listed as a charity means that designated funds have to be used as said, they didn’t want that. Saying that Witnesses do nothing for their fellow man besides giving them literature will immediately spark a protest. They do indeed help when there are disasters and are very proud to point out that they are ‘often first on the scene’ giving assistance to their brothers and sisters as well as others. As commendable as that is, it shouldn’t be the only thing they do.

I was taught over and over that the preaching work is the most important work being done today. So important that it completely overshadows everything else. Take an excerpt from their Kingdom Ministry of 2010 – (km 3/10 p.2) ‘The Work of Paramount Importance’ it is on their site if you want to see it for yourself. In the first paragraph it reads:

“Why are we regularly encouraged to devote our time, energy, and resources to the ministry? Because no work has greater value!….

The last paragraph closes with: “Thus, preaching and making disciples is the most urgent, important and beneficial work taking place today. Let us give it the foremost place in our lives!”

No where in there was it telling me to not give to charity (I was still a JW in 2010) but it was telling me over and over that preaching is WAY MORE IMPORTANT, that it deserves ALL my attention. Now, as I’ve come to learn being regularly involved in charitable works means effort, time, energy and resources – so if you are giving everything in preaching, how will you have anything to help in doing something substantial for a needy person or cause?

When it comes to simply making monetary donations, there too is an overwhelming encouragement to donate to the Society, so again if you are giving all the surplus you can to them, how do you have anything to help anyone else?

I was also repeatedly told by my brothers and sisters back then that helping out someone with money or food was a temporary fix, and wouldn’t it better to rather teach them about everlasting life, where everything will be fixed in paradise? Of course, I did actually note that if someone is hungry right now, how would knowing about everlasting life benefit them? Its not going to take their hunger pangs away is it?

One of the first good things I felt when I left the Witnesses was a warm glow of “I can help whoever I want to now!” When my heart compels me to do something I can just go ahead and do so – no ‘witness logic’ stopping me. The freedom to decide for myself how my time, energy and resources is used is a wonderful feeling, and I get to do something worthwhile, far better than the preaching work I spent far too many hours doing. I often feel that I have years of not helping my fellow human beings to make up for, and so I’m constantly looking out to do better.

I have also been the grateful recipient of much kindness and sheer generosity, which has shown better than any words how human beings should treat each other. Their compassion when we were in need only encourages me to be ready to help others.

Perhaps you too have thought of this and have felt the pull at your heart to help someone other than a witness. That feeling is genuine and shouldn’t be talked away and ignored. Handing out literature is an empty gesture, sometimes people really need a blanket, and food and clothes. Your heart is not leading you the wrong way on this. Listen to it.

 

Witness guilt, how to get rid of it

I was thinking today of what my next subject will be that may prove useful in helping someone on the brink of leaving the Witnesses – and the word guilt jumped to the front of the queue.

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I was racked with the stuff when I was in the process of waking up. Everything that I had been trained to be caused me unending feelings of guilt and unworthiness. Lets break down how much I was guilty about:

a) not attending the meetings regularly b) not doing enough field service c) not preparing for the meetings that I wasn’t attending d) not reading all the magazines and publications I was supposed to e) fearing to attend assemblies and conventions f) and then being horribly guilty that I didn’t attend g) not enjoying the ‘fellowship’ I used to look forward to at the meetings, I’m sure I could think of more, but let’s leave it there.

Believe me I didn’t actually WANT to be at the meetings, I didn’t want to read the new releases or the magazines, with waking up I could finally see just how repetitive it was, there was NOTHING new, no matter how they spun it, it was still the same old, same old. ‘Fellowship’ felt strained and I was always so tense. I experienced panic attacks just thinking of going to the meetings, I once had my hubby leave field service with me and walk over an hour to get home as I was overwhelmed and crying, and there was no way of getting a lift home.

In proving to myself that the Witnesses do not have the ‘truth’ I freed myself from that guilt, it fell away like an old horrible smelly blanket, the relief at leaving all of that behind was so wonderful, it makes me smile even now.

So, take the time and find out for yourself if what you were taught was actually true. I trawled webpages reading everything I could, http://www.jwfacts.com was a massive resource and help to me. I would read some of the articles a few times to really get to grips with the stuff I was learning. Don’t stop there, look up encyclopaedias, newspaper articles, public records, individual’s stories whether written or on YouTube. All of this is not to swamp you with information, it will free your mind. One thing that the Watchtower knows only too well is how information is hurting them. Find out what they are so desperate to hide, in doing so you will be able to extract yourself from the mind numbing guilt that they use to chain you to their teachings.

Being raised a Witness my entire purpose in life was to be a ‘good witness’. I really believed I had achieved that, I was in ‘good standing’ and it meant everything to me. Losing that reputation was painful, but really what was it based on? Lies and deception, it was empty.

Now being who I am is enough. There is no checklist of what I need to tick off in order to be acceptable, or to be ‘good association’. I am enough, and you are enough. Believe that within yourself and the guilt will shrivel to ashes and blow away.

But where will I go?

Thoughts about this post have been bouncing around in my head for ages and I hope that enough has congealed into a rational mass that I may make sense to a reader – that one question that Witnesses will ask when they reach the critical point of needing to leave and being afraid to is: ‘But where will I go?’

It sounds like a simple question, but it is hardly that, it is a very heavy question. As a Witness you have been taught to need someone/something to tell you what to do. Not having that direction anymore can be scary. Being a Witness means you were categorized, you where in a box, you had that label of what you were. It is tied up in your identity.

Leaving often leaves two options to ‘go to’

1) Join another religion or

2) Become an atheist or agnostic.

Broadly that appears to me to be two main things that flash at you when faced with leaving, and sometimes, as in my case, neither sounded satisfactory. I had no desire whatsoever to join another religion, I had been taught for decades that all other religions are false, so how on earth could I sift through all of them until I found one that didn’t offend my conscience too much? I had no desire to become an atheist so I knew somewhere deep down that I would probably join something, I just didn’t know what.

With these two questions came a realisation for me, there is a third option and this is what I want to explore as an answer to the question in the title.

3) Don’t make a decision right now

It’s perfectly okay to wait. Your first priority on leaving is to heal. That is no easy task and cannot be rushed. Your genuine self needs to take over and while you are recovering you may find yourself moving in the exact direction you need to go. Instead of jumping into the first thing that will ‘tell you what to do’ give yourself time so you can tell yourself what to do.

It took me a year before I wanted to step inside a church ‘just to see’. I was pleasantly surprised and so comfortable there that I remained. I am happy with my choice and would do it again. I didn’t join a religion, I found Jesus.  I learnt just how much the Witnesses warped things in order to hide Jesus, and I understand why. You will also find your way when you are ready, and whatever that is – it will be just right for you. No matter what your choice is I will certainly be proud of you as will many thousands who have also taken the brave leap to freedom.

I remember visualizing a cliff when I first approached the scary thought of having to leave. Think of the Grand Canyon and standing right on the edge looking across and knowing that one move off that ledge will send you hurtling down to the bottom. There is a massive storm behind you and going back simply is not an option. Once you wake up – you cannot go back to sleep. Stepping off that ledge is the scariest thing I have ever done, and the moment I did…fresh green grass met my feet as I stepped off. The cliff is just in our minds and leaving means opening a brand new life, a whole new world. Look back and the storm is there – and the relief that you took that leap is intense. Fear is useful when it protects us, but when it paralyses us, its a liability.

With leaving comes the evitable shunning. Losing family and friends is a very, very tough thing, but know this, people who truly love you would never reject you over a religion. Unconditional love is real and you deserve that kind of love, not the ‘only if you are a good witness brother/sister’ will I associate with you, kind of love.

Taking control of your life is worth the effort and the pain. Gather support around you, don’t face it alone. If you’re desperate for someone to talk to I’m but a click away.

So in conclusion – where will you go? Wherever you want to go!

Toroweap Overlook
Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park, Toroweap Overlook a vertical panorama of the Canyon from Rim to River. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

All cults induce fear

Last night I was watching episodes I had recorded of ‘Escaping Polygamy’. The show documents that work of three sisters who escaped and how they are helping other women to get out too and have a future.

At first I was watching to increase my own knowledge about what these women are going through, but I soon found fear being triggered in me too. I recognised that fear only too well, yes the theology of ‘the Order’ is different and how they have used their control by having plural marriages and many, many children, but the structure of a cult is the same. There is always the major controller, the one who makes the rules and that they have to be followed no matter what, and another very important aspect, that ‘outsiders’ cannot be trusted and the only ones who you can trust and build a future with is other cult members.

The bravery of the young women reaching out and actually running to get out to have better lives totally inspired me. I found myself intensely proud of these strong women, and of course I thought of the many ex members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had to leave their lifetime of friends and family in order to leave the lies and fear and control and have a better future. The Order and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are identical in the shunning aspect. If you leave you are considered ‘dead’ in their eyes. Leaving means you are going toward certain death, this is not an idle belief – it is VERY real to members.

One of the first things I encountered when I left was sisters and a brother telling me and saying first ‘how could I leave Jehovah?’ and then very quickly on its heels ‘you’ve doomed your son to die at Armageddon!’ Leaving the organization means to them that you have left God, which is utterly not true. That I’ve doomed my son to death is their belief too, again completely untrue. In fact I have saved him from a life of being influenced for the worse by a cult.

The emotional and mental upheaval that those women have to face also resonated with me. A women who had left many years before met her younger sister, (who had just escaped) for the first time in 18 years and the younger sister asked how she managed to do it. She said ‘by putting one foot in front of the other’. That was profound to me, sometimes that is all you can do when you leave everything you know behind. When your family and friends will not look at you or greet you, when they send you ‘goodbye’ letters because they so strongly believe they will not see you in paradise if you do not return.

Learning how to get by in the outside world is difficult, but as was said a few times in the episodes I watched, ‘it’s worth it’. It most certainly is! Leaving the control of a cult is a huge step and often fraught with difficulty and pain, but just think with you ends the cycle of abuse. Generations after you will be thanking you for being that strong brave person they needed you to be.