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.
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.