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!