When I joined the Witnesses I was welcomed with open arms and what I thought was open hearts. Over time it became clear that the hearts were far from open. As long as I was in the ministry doing field service and attending and answering at meetings I was loved. My health over the past 10 years has suffered. I am a diabetic and a stroke survivor which leaves me with a great deal of weakness and pain especially in my legs. This of course impacted badly on my ability to walk and balance.
I was forced to cut back on my field service. As soon as I done this the love for me dropped incrementally. In December 2010 I had an accident at work and broke both of my arms in fact I shattered all the bones in my left arm and had 2 operations to fix it. The ops were a success but my arm is permanently damaged as I damaged the nerves in my arm as well.
I was off work for 3 months and stared to suffer from acute depression which became clinical depression when I returned to work. I was unable to do the tasks and duties that I used to do, My entire life changed and I was attacked by people at work who wanted me out and tried to get me fired (they failed). This led to a deepening of my depression.
This led to me missing meeting and left me unable to do field service, I tried but I was hurt and disillusioned by the way I was being treated. About six weeks after my accident the circuit overseer and the PO in the congregation came to visit me at home. I had a wasted left arm and my right arm was still in dressings from the operation to fix my arm. I am right handed. They actually expected me to make coffee for them.
I made coffee for 2 able bodied people while still being in a great deal of pain and not being able to function properly. When my wife got home from work she was furious with them for their behaviour. A while later 2 elders came to the house to find out why I was missing so many meetings. The way they interrogated me really made me angry.
All this time I was trying to reach my wife and wake her up and get her out of the cult. I treated her with respect and love, unconditional love. She raged at me and spouted all the vile filth the Watchtower had taught her but still I loved her and made sure she knew it. In December 2012 we became parents.
The birth of our son led to my wife’s awakening. She looked at her life growing up a Witness and decided she as a mother could not allow her precious child to grow up the way she did as an outcast to society, picked on and fearful. My wife approached me and brought up everything I had questioned in the past. She examined herself and her beliefs and the treatment Witnesses hand out to each other.
It was difficult to watch her as she awoke from the cult and her hurt at being so completely deceived and the pain she suffered growing up as a Witness. The hurt turned to anger and then rage. Through all of this she was a new mother with me as her only support. I became her pillar of strength, her refuge from the storm. I loved her and our son with every fibre of my being.
Being a mum she finally knew what it was to give love unconditionally and that led to her understanding how I loved her so deeply. You see as a Witness she had only known conditional love. ‘I love you as long as’… ‘I love you because you’… This travesty of love caused her to be the type of person who always tried to please people and heavily criticised herself. As a Witness her sense of self was dependent on the meagre offerings of love she was given.
I was loved as long as I was useful to them, as soon as I was no longer able to go out on field service and attend meetings it was as though I was invisible to most of the congregation. Asiza suffered the same fate because she was a loving wife and mother. She cared for me and helped me through my pain and done what was best for me and our son. We were expected to take our baby boy to Tuesday night meetings. The meetings started at 7pm and ended at 9pm, way past this little man’s bedtime. Wednesdays became a nightmare with him grumpy and crabbit.
This was what was expected from all Witnesses, keep your children out of bed past their bedtimes and keep them quiet in the kingdom hall. As every parent knows babies need routine and positive reinforcement. On numerous occasions I watched as an unruly child was taken from the kingdom hall by his dad and ‘disciplined’ outside, tearfully and quietly returning.. This was encouraged by the elders. How is forcing your child to be quiet and behave while they are tired and bored showing love? How is hitting your child to force compliance with cult expectations love? How can parents justify their behaviour? It’s another example of ‘I love you as long as you…’
Witnesses were taught to follow the example of Jesus Christ, they even give him the title, ‘our Exemplar’. The way Jesus loved and the way he loved children especially is completely at odds with Witness behaviour. Jesus loved so much that he died for everyone regardless of who they were. When his disciples, the people closest to him tried to chase the children away from him he chastised his disciples with the famous words, “suffer the little children to come unto me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. It’s sad the Witnesses don’t follow this example.
On the 24th of June this year I lost the oldest friend I’ve ever known, my brother Gary. While we were Witnesses my brother came out as transsexual. As a Witness I was expected to cut off all contact with him. I could not do that I loved him. No question, I loved him and to add to the weight of all this my brother was dying of Multiple Sclerosis. The watchtower doesn’t care, they expect that the faithful will cut off all contact with such a person.
We came to England and I made the decision to stay to be with my dying brother and give my son a chance of a decent future. We had a year with my brother before he passed, a year the Watchtower would have denied us.
Where am I going with all this?
Unconditional love, it’s the thing that really builds us up and gives us strength to face anything and triumph and grow. It is the only true love. The conditional love practiced by the Watchtower tears you down and stamps what’s left of you into the dust. They ‘love’ you as long as you are useful and giving them money and recruiting new victims.
Love means putting yourself last, your children or better half comes first. Others come first. It’s a choice we have to make, to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. If the person, faith, thing you love doesn’t put you first then you need to take a good look at whether they deserve your love at all, because you deserve the best love has to offer.
When you are facing a challenge, a fork in the road, a choice remember the words of Lionel Richie: ”Show the world and all its people, All the wonders love can bring, Give us strength and understanding, Give us all one song to sing”.