Calling South African Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses

Have you been hurt by the policies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

What are these policies we speak of?

1.) The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a patriarchal society, so women are relegated to a submissive role, this can lead to abuse.

2.) They adhere to the “Two-Witness rule” when it comes to allegations of child sexual abuse amongst their members. This means that if a child reports that they are being abused to the Elders (church leaders) they are required to supply a second witness to the said abuse. (How many child molesters have a witness to their vile actions?)

3.) They also adhere to refusing blood transfusions even when their life or the lives of their children are in danger.

These policies are erroneously based on the Bible. Scriptures that have been taken out of context and misinterpreted by their Governing Body (in other words their Pope) to mean what they need them to mean.

Do any of these questions strike a chord with you?

  • Were you the victim of years of spousel abuse?  
  • Were you molested or sexually abused as a child?  
  • Have you been belittled, pychologically, and emotionally abused?  
  • Have you lost family members in death as a result of suicide or the policy of no blood transfusions?

Do you think something should be done about it? 

You can help us to begin that change. Come forward and share your story. With enough voices the SA Human Rights Commission will take notice and with enough outside pressure change can happen. The Jehovah’s Witnesses will not be able to hide behind religious freedom when people’s human rights are being trampled on and ignored.

South African Victims Empowerment (SAVE)

Find us on Facebook @savictims

Email: info@thinkingwitnesses.org

Advertisements

Are we rewarded for being ‘good’?

My off the cuff answer would be, no. No amount of ‘goodness’ on our part automatically requires rewards of whatever nature to come flowing our way. Life is not like a vending machine. You put in the good coins and good stuff pours out at the bottom. With that said, I do recognise that when you put good out into the world, good stuff does come back to you in a multitude of different ways, but that doesn’t mean that you should EXPECT it. It’s not like a transaction that we make with the universe. If we do ‘good’ to others it’s because it is what we expect of ourselves, not because we are working for some kind of prize.

As a Jehovah’s Witness we are taught in many different ways that there is this ‘vending machine’ that rewards you if you are good. Even if you don’t get a single prize at all while on ‘this side of Armageddon’ we will ALL get the great big prize of Paradise. Yes, that delusional belief just fixes everything, no matter how awful your life might be now, holding out for that is worth it.

To break it down – if you attend all the meetings, you are rewarded with friendship and community with the Witnesses. If you prepare well and answer regularly at the Sunday meetings you get a reputation for being ‘spiritually minded’. If you put theocratic efforts at the forefront of your life you are ‘spiritually strong or even spiritually mature.’ That mature thing is a biggie because all Jehovah’s Witness children or those studying to become Jehovah’s Witnesses are urged to attain this standard of ‘spiritual maturity’.

 

Now, let me tell you a story of how awful that thinking really is. Once upon time when I was in my early twenties I really felt like I had achieved this spiritual maturity. Okay, maybe I was young to be saying such a thing but reflecting upon the life I led you could forgive me for thinking I was doing pretty darn amazing. I worked full-time at a responsible job, I was my mother primary caregiver, I kept to a gruelling schedule of theocratic activities, including three meeting a week (at the time) field service on weekends, devoting my time off to pioneering or helping pioneers get their time in and volunteering for ‘talks’ during the now defunct Theocratic Ministry School. Whenever a sister’s ‘householder’ hadn’t arrived for the meeting, I would become the substitute and quickly go over lines in the toilets before the meeting started, occasionally even going over them while in my seat, or on at least one occasion completely winging it because the sister hadn’t finished writing down my lines! (If you have no idea what this ‘talk’ and ‘householder’ business is, drop me a message and I’ll explain)

So, I had garnered a reputation, extremely hard won I might add, as dependable, mature and responsible. This led to being noticed by some brothers (not a whole bunch…I wasn’t THAT pretty) but one in particular was an elder at Bethel. He was a young elder only a few years older than me ( I was about 25, so already an old maid) and he made some ‘enquiries’ about me. He asked another Elder in my congregation about me and this Elder took me aside one night after the meeting and told me.

Let me tell you, I was shaking when Brother Elder told me all about this, it was like ‘It’s finally happening! A brother has finally noticed me!’ My joy was extremely short lived because this Elder had to tell me that because I had to work full-time to take care of my mother (seriously I had to) there was no way I could possibly pursue a relationship with this brother because he was adamant about not leaving Bethel. He could not ‘break’ his fulltime service. Being that I could not join him at Bethel since I had to work, that meant our getting together would simply not be happening.

I wonder to this day why Brother Elder had to even tell me…honestly, what was the purpose of it? To crush my spirit? To remind me of the absolutely shitty circumstances I was living with and the heavy responsibilities that I was carrying that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy? All I desired at that time was to be in full-time service, I would cry pitifully of my lost opportunities because I had to take care of my mother. Now, just to add the icing on the cake…a guy likes you, but oops, sorry…it’s not going to happen.

Since finding marriage mate is a pretty big deal to the JW sisters, and believe me I saw more than enough desperate attempts of snagging a mate in my home congregation, this was like a hammer blow to the guts.

I got home that evening after the meeting, it was around 10pm and as soon as the door was closed behind me I sank to my knees and just cried. My book bag, smacked against the floor and stuff fell out and I didn’t care. I just sat there and cried, in fact it was more like wailing. I had been suffering from depression for years (caregiving can definitely do that to you) and that night it was like something inside just broke.

I had done everything to be that ‘good girl’. I had avoided all the bad stuff. I avoided certain worldly friendships, I was careful about my movies and music, my clothes, I did all my Bible readings, I prepared my Watchtower every week, I read my Examining the Scriptures every morning, I hardly missed meetings… just everything, and instead of receiving said ‘reward’ I was getting nothing at all. I genuinely felt that Jehovah himself had looked at me and said ‘No’. My heart broke that night and when I stood up I was different girl, a wiser girl.

You simply cannot go through life and expect that ‘being good’ will mean God will reward you. I have said many times since my little awakening and then my very big awakening in leaving the cult, that God is not a genie. You don’t just pray over and over and magic and sparkles, there is what you asked for. With everything in life, it all takes hard work and effort, and sometimes even that doesn’t mean you get results. Now, I am a Christian, I may not strictly follow Bible but I do follow Jesus and I am also way more practically minded about prayer than I have ever been. Does that mean I lack faith, or does it mean that I trust Jesus so much that I reckon He trusts me enough to get on with it. (A discussion for another time perhaps.)

When we think that our being ‘good’ is just not working and why the hell even bother, we go in the opposite direction – we are then being ‘bad’. We go out drinking and partying and sleeping around and doing exactly all the things that we would previously have avoided – but why? Are we rebelling? Are we showing God ‘the finger’? Since you are not holding up your end of the bargain I’m going to do exactly what I want.  Just to clarify, if you enjoy doing those things, I am not judging you – seriously, I say enjoy yourself, and the mother in me says ‘for God’s sake just be careful, I don’t want to hear about you passed out in a ditch!’ We all have our own choices to make, and the consequences to bear, so have fun (and be safe), life is too short anyway.

Should we even expect God to hold to our view of ‘the bargain?’ To a Jehovah’s Witness, the big reward is paradise, so any and all discomfort and hardships now are small potatoes compared to permanent utopia. In reality paradise on earth is a myth so the bargain is void anyway.

To drive my final point home – we should be ‘good’ because it was what we expect of ourselves, whatever that may be. We each have our own view of what is good, our standard of how we treat ourselves and our fellow human beings. Being kind to one another is a massive positive in an otherwise very negative world. We do the good things because, firstly we want to, and secondly because that is ‘simply who we are.’ I do not save an insect from being crushed to death because I think Jesus is looking on and putting it on my list ‘of good deeds’. I do it because it is who I am.

The reward we receive is from ourselves. No outside source needs to hand it to us. If it does happen, its gravy, its extra – because all the reward we ever needed was right there in our own hearts, telling us ‘Well done, you! That’s who I am!’

“I’m not coming back”

That statement has been a long time coming in my subconscious and finally this morning’s dream delivered up what I had been waiting over three years to hear.

It was the usual attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall and somehow not being noticed by the rank and file or elders as being the apostate in the room. Brothers and sisters talk to me and behave as if I never left at all.

At a point in the dream I think to myself that I’m going to have to tell them because I honestly don’t want to stay with them any longer and since they are clearly out of date with my current activities I’d better inform them and move on. This time there was a change, as I was standing outside the Hall an elder I knew for years in my home congregation makes an appearance. This was an elder I really respected and he did look out for me back in the day when I was a Witness. I don’t respect him as much as I did back then, my opinion of him has changed but I suppose in my subconscious he was still that ‘gold standard’ of an elder.

He stops me and says that if I just came to the meetings more regularly I could then ask to be reinstated. Why don’t I just make that effort? I try to answer him politely but he immediately turns away, so I mildly scold by telling him that it was very rude to just turn away from me when I was still talking. He accepts that and agrees and stops to properly listen to me. It is right then that I say those important words. “I’m not coming back.” The looks on his face changes from concern to poison and turns on his heel and marches back into the Kingdom Hall.

I stand there, slightly stung by the abruptness but overall really relieved that ‘they’ finally know that it’s over and done with. There is NO hope I will ever return. My subconscious has made the connection and the lightness I feel is tangible.

It has taken over three years but my dream mind has finally got the message. 🙂

 

 

Needing to Belong

I’ve been thinking about this need for a while now, analysing it, and trying to understand it. Basically, all humans need it, just like we need food and shelter. Whereas obtaining food and shelter would seem straightforward, finding belonging can be an entirely different matter altogether.

Take for example someone who is a Jehovah’s Witness. If you were born into this high control group it would mean your entire social network would be other Jehovah’s Witnesses. These would comprise of family, friends, acquaintances, your congregation, the elders, the international brotherhood. In short all eight million plus that is reported in the year book as active members of Jehovah’s Witnesses could potentially be known by you, and that exclusive group is your ‘herd’ so to speak. Your sense of belonging to this group is incredibly strong, and in fact that desire of belonging to a special group is strengthened repeatedly and constantly through your years going to meetings, doing field service, and attending larger gatherings like assemblies and conventions. The outside world becomes undesirable and more often than not, entirely frightening.

I do think that assemblies and conventions are the high impact ‘belonging pill’ that JW’s get to emphasize in the biggest boldest letters possible ‘You belong HERE with US’ and for a little while that need feels sated, just like when we have a meal, even if it was really awful.

When you start waking up from the lies and delusions of Jehovah’s Witness teachings, the last question many have asked is ‘where will we go then?’ This is a loaded question – one aspect of the question is purely about belonging. Do you sacrifice your very intelligence, conscience and self-respect in order to maintain that sense of belonging, or do you let it all go and face whatever happens ‘alone’. I say alone in inverted commas because you may not be physically alone at all, but in your mind and your heart your sense of belonging is ripped right out of you. Your entire perspective on life and the world is shattered. Your herd is no longer on your side, but instead is ready to rip your heart out and cause as much emotional pain to you they possibly can, all because you decided that integrity has a higher value than a false sense of belonging.

It is similar to the phrase ‘falling in with a bad crowd’. How many of us in our younger days joined a ‘bad crowd’ simply because we wanted that feeling of belonging? The need is seriously strong, so the pain we feel when losing that sense of belonging is deep and all too real. It is not something we are just going to ‘get over’. There is a period of mourning we go through for the intense loss we have suffered. Our grief can take many forms and we all heal at our own pace. Giving ourselves permission to feel the pain and mourn what we have lost is important, even though what we lost isn’t truly what we thought it was, it doesn’t mean our hearts and minds didn’t think it was the real deal when we were in the group.

A sense of belonging is intricately linked to our self-worth, and we immediately crave and seek that sense of belonging again from somewhere. It is very easy to go straight into any other group just in order to placate the need driving us. Think of being ravenously hungry and making do with stale crackers or grabbing a high sugar snack just to keep going until you get a proper meal. We all know we can’t live on high sugar snacks alone, it’s unhealthy and over time our bodies will show us in a myriad of ways that our food choices were poor. In a similar vein we need to be careful with finding our new ‘herd’. How do we even go about finding a new ‘herd’ anyway?

Integrating back into society as a whole is a very daunting task, but it is doable. One of the first things to explore is finding out who you truly are. Really sit down and get to know yourself. What do you really like, not what you were indoctrinated to like as a Jehovah’s Witness, but what do you, in your heart of hearts really like? Start with the simple stuff, your music, movies, books – how would you describe your style, your taste, your dress sense? What hobbies do you have, if you discarded all your hobbies in your attempt to be more ‘spiritual’ in the eyes of the elders and brothers and sisters, what has always interested you? Make a list if that will help. Jot down ideas as they come to you. The world is open to you now, and though that can be incredibly scary, especially when you were trained from young to view the world as a dangerous place, being able to enjoy the things you were denied can be exciting in its own way.

So, you have been learning about yourself and slowly expanding your horizons, and maybe even joined a club, maybe signed up for dancing lessons – but still your feeling of not belonging eats away you inside. Recognise it for what it is, a simple, basic need that we all have and you have no reason to despair about not finding your herd yet.

The fact is all human beings are linked to each other, we all influence one another is millions of ways, from massive corporations to the little girl down the street who always greets you. We do all belong to each other, obviously we are far closer to some than others, but our feelings of being inescapably alone can be overcome by perceiving what is right in front of us. This entire planet full of people is our ‘herd’. We may like and love certain people in our lives, and perhaps openly detest others, but we all do belong on this blue and green and brown ball. Opening yourself up to the possibilities of being part of everything can be truly liberating. No group or charismatic leader could ever delude us into joining his exclusive group because our self-worth says loud and clear I know I belong, right where I am, with these people I love and choose to be with. I belong here where I help out at the food bank, or the soup kitchen, I belong here where I take care of and love my spouse and my children, I belong here, laughing with my friends at the pub. I belong here with my family, regardless if they are your blood family or not. I belong here, speaking out for those who are silent, working hard at my job, giving my best, enjoying my holiday, running through the forest, hiking up a trail. Whatever you may be doing, accomplishing and striving for. You belong.

Hmm…Dreams…

I second guessed myself a great deal whether I should even commit this post to the web. While walking up to fetch my son from Preschool it engrossed my thoughts to such an extent that it turned out to be only course of action. Perhaps in getting it all out this way it could finally be released from my mind and cease it’s nagging at me.

It must first be known that while I usually and regularly have very vivid dreams that doesn’t mean that I put that much stock in them. To me they are simply the unconscious mind cleaning our or filing away memories, feelings and other random stuff that gets filed away in the incredible vastness of the brain’s memory.

Last night was one such night, there was a whole scene of interacting with two sisters that had been my closest friends for over 6 years. That was when I was still a Witness and without going into the collapse of the friendship I got to see these sisters again and be reminded of the things I did not like. This time though I told them without hesitation what I thought and walked away, so I would assume the dream was just a way for me to find a resolution and a confirmation of my feelings and with that said and done it could be filed away in the memories oblivion to never be retrieved again.

The next part of my dream is the part that was bothering me. To explain it briefly I was walking home and I got a bit lost and instead of coming out a street I recognised, instead I was faced with a completely different vista. Street corners taken over by massive statues of demons. Every building adorned with a huge statue, portrait or pennant of a demon. I stood around gazing at this is perplexity until the tiny shards of fear congealed into a mass of cold metal in my stomach because marching all over those streets were groups of demons arresting people. They were all apparently women adorned with beautiful golden helmets that reached down the sides of their faces. As I tried to disappear into a side street one spotted me and grabbed me up, I of course struggled but her superior strength was no match for me. I started shouting what I had also shouted in my head when I had had bad dreams ‘Jehovah’ like some kind of magic charm. I said it over and over and she balked, her eyes glazing over to white, then she was back angrier than ever. “Your rite is dirty, it will not work” I shook, but said confidently. “It may be dirty, but it still stands”. She then threw me on the ground where a car was a seconds away from driving over the exact same spot. I was then getting up off the tar road and walked to the pavement with some vague realisation that I must have died.

With this I woke up and spent several seconds sifting through my mind to remember what was real and what was gain my vivid imagination. How can I explain the strangeness? The ingrained belief that chanting ‘Jehovah’ will save me is at least something I can grasp, I had done that since a young child. Even though the Witnesses will probably say chanting the name doesn’t work like that they still preach that Jehovah’s name is a strong tower and into it the righteous one runs. The golden helmets because of shine caught my attention and with some Google searching found something that could illustrate how it looked. Heimdall’s helmet was unfortunately the closest I could find.

The rest though…is anyone’s guess.

heimdall-helmet-thor-dark-world-prop

A visit with the ‘old me’.

I woke up this morning from a very disturbing dream. It wasn’t anything new just another dream about being back with the Witnesses, usually I remember I’m not one anymore quite quickly and the dream surrounds how I try to figure out how to tell them. This one was different in that I only thought that perhaps I wasn’t one of them anymore, near the end of the dream. It left me drained and oddly sad at the memories of running that desperate treadmill. A hamster wheel and grinder to absolutely nowhere but despair and loneliness.

While unpacking after the move I found my old diaries. I kept a diary for every year of my life from 1998 until 2010. With all seriousness most of it is just catalogue of how much work I did, whether at home or at my job and of course the thousands of hours spent doing ‘theocratic activities’ as well as my gut wrenching loneliness and seething resentment at my circumstances. A great deal of it makes we want to cry for the ‘girl’ I was, even though in ’06 and ’07 I was between the ages of 23 and 24. Those are the two years I decided to read through and revisit the old me.

Even though I recognise how much progress I have made since May 2014 it doesn’t mean all is better, or if it will ever be. We will always have our memories but with time and healing eventually those memories will not elicit the pain they used to. I can tell you right now so much of those two years still make me cry, so – no I have not sufficiently healed from those wounds. Perhaps I never will, those injuries are just covered over with scar tissue and instead of them incapacitating me they will give me strength, as evidence of my survival.

I could hear the ‘two me’s’ speaking on those pages. The cult identity and the real me who tried desperately to still be heard. Usually she sounded like a whiny cow, depressed, beaten down and drowning and I hated her because of her weakness, but the reality was so different, every day I had being trying to destroy the last vestiges of the real me. No matter how hard I tried to suffocate her, to smother her into oblivion she stayed. She was beaten, bruised but each time she stood up after my whipping. I would beat her into a corner, blood spattering the walls with my violence. Screaming at her to shut up, to submit, to accept and each time she got on her knees and then she would stand up to face me and I would lock her up again and leave her in the dark to punish her.

I did that for years, for all the varied abuse I suffered at other people’s hands they were never as bad as I was. It took me a long time to embrace who I really was, bad and good and see the cult identity for what it was – a poor shadow, a vindictive, terrified shadow.

Clearly I let her out of her prison and she never tried to get revenge, she simply was and there was no need to continue the battle. Finally the healing could begin. Though my vile words had caused pain they had not changed me fundamentally, I had only delayed myself. My struggles during those years and even now in different degrees have many names, and they are all true. Depression, anxiety, resentment, pain, loneliness, despair, hopelessness. They do not how ever describe WHO I am, and they never will.

Reading those entries was probably just an exercise in remembering past pain, but it did give me something useful. I wrote as if I could not survive another year, that my end had to be close, whether by a long drop or Armageddon, whichever came first, and no drum roll needed…I’m still here. One line that often kept me in the land of the living was ‘how will I know happiness if I’m not alive to know?’ So I stayed and I’m really glad I did. da044a12308c0a8c82b5eae66a424bed

Something to believe in

When-you-need-something

I was raised a Baptist and then in my teenage years as a Pentecostal so as you can imagine I had a pretty thorough bible education. I was married to a woman whose entire family was Hindu. My best friend at the time was a Jew (his father was a rabbi) and at work my friends and colleagues were Roman Catholic, 7th day Adventists and Muslims. I even had Atheist and Wiccan friends. After my marriage fell apart I stopped believing in anything.

I met and fell in love with a Jehovah’s Witness. I started studying and we married, we left the cult together and try to educate those who are being targeted by Witnesses and those trying to leave.

Now that I have stated my credentials it’s time to get to the point.

The hardest thing I ever had to observe was how my wife had to challenge what she believed as a Witness in the cold hard face of facts and proof. As a Witness she was taught to believe what the elders and Governing Body told her and never challenge the Governing Body no matter how absurd the instruction was.

I challenged the directives from day one. No beards on the platform… right. I grew a beard and a moustache and still gave my talks and readings. That was the way I started showing my wife my dissatisfaction with what was occurring and the seed was planted. The seed grew into doubts and doubts into questions.

Questions I was happy to answer as best I could even though they led to arguments and recriminations. It’s never easy challenging what you believe and I acknowledged this and loved her unconditionally through this process. It’s this unconditional love that I demonstrated that helped her wake up and leave and research all she was taught. My wife now spends a great deal of time exposing the lies and half-truths of the Witnesses and helping others to recover.

But a question remains, now what do I believe?

If I have been lied to my whole life and I reject all that the Witnesses stand for where do I go and what path should I take to get there? I do not have those answers as faith is a very personal thing. Some people will become Christian, some Atheist, some may veer towards non-Christian faiths like Islam or Judaism. All of these belief systems are great as long as you do the one thing that you were never permitted to do as a JW. You must question yourself and find out who you are before you take any steps towards faith.

As Asiza has written about in the past it takes time and work for your true personality to exert itself and throw off the shackles of the cult personality. I believe it should be a crime that the Watchtower and other cults break down your sense of self and replace it with their own creed and value system.

When you know yourself take the time to research the faith that is drawing you. Question its history and practices. One of the things I hated about the Watchtower was the way it treated women as second class members and that helped keep me focused on what I truly believed.

No matter what you choose it will take time to acclimatise yourself to your new surroundings. As human beings and as individuals we need something in our lives. In the words on Bon Jovi, “In a world that gives you nothing, we need something to believe in”!

Craig Tait

The Hero and Heroines Journey From Cult to Consciousness – Brien Pittman

 

tunnel picWhat a long time it can take for a person to become the one they have always been.

At one time or another, all of us have worn other people’s beliefs and personalities. And understandably so, when the very religion we belong to and the institutional structures of our society makes being ourselves; much more demanding than attempting to become someone else.

“Follow to Fit in” would be an accurate definition of the phenomenon’s social psychology refers to as conformity and obedience. A cursory look at world history is all the proof one needs to realize that after 10,000 years of civilization; conformity and obedience is still hard wired in the neurology of every human’s mind, and is most often used by those sick with desires for power to manipulate and control the masses.

Journeying, evolving beyond our minds primitive ‘hard-wiring’ is the only way to protect ourselves and break free from the abuse and trauma suffered by trying to ‘fit in” rather than working to become authentically who we are. If we learn the necessary steps and have the stubbornness needed to achieve such authenticity.

The resounding truthfulness, inner harmony, and peace, of being uniquely who we are is vastly more enlightened and rewarding than fitting into the herd.

Sometime during your repressive religious lifestyle, perhaps to your dismay, you found yourself living someone else’s life or, a dual life. Their values, beliefs, and rules were directing your behavior, your choices, and your perceptions about yourself, others, and the world; your entire life.

More than likely, the more you struggled to achieve the life of another, it never quite felt right, even though no other alternative seemed to exist. Even when you achieved the acceptance and praise of others, you secretly felt fraudulent. Because you knew their acceptance of you was hypocritical, conditional acceptance and most of all a violation of your spirit.

In fact, I’m willing to bet you repeatedly experienced a ‘rebellion’ of your soul so to speak; the desire for your life’s emergence, an overthrow of your oppressive religiously prescribed understanding of self and the world. And that is totally ‘normal’ for someone with an immense love for life, freedom, and truth.

It is also extremely common, since the dawn of time, for every human journey to authenticity and enlarged being; to begin with fear, confusion, and contradictions.

This series of articles is going to ask you to occasionally embrace the similarities of your journey and the mythology and poetry of the ancients, as they aptly describe ‘The Journey’ we must all take; if we ever hope to become the person we have always been.

Traveling With Dante

You were pulled or, more accurately thrown from your familiar environment into the darkness. Like the poet Dante, you descended and upon waking, found yourself, just like Dante, in the figurative underworld having lost your way. (some people know it as PTSD)

All of us, whether we are ex-jw cult members or not, despite our best intentions, commonly find ourselves, at different stages in life, lost in the figurative underworld.

No amount of good intentions, intelligence, forethought, planning, prayer or adherence to a so-called biblical blueprint, can spare any of us from these periodic encounters with confusion, uncertainty, depression or, disappointment with ourselves and others, and the subsequent ending of the blueprints, beliefs and stratagems that once seemed to work but, now are obsolete and ultimately are no longer of any value in our lives.

What can this apparently self-directed journey or process, which challenges us to overthrow our old ways of thinking, feeling and responding to life mean, and how can we grow from such upsetting disruptive encounters with the darkness of our underworlds?

In Dante’s case, his journey through the underworld began as a divided person. One-half of Dante was unyielding, moralistic and legalistic, which acted as the supreme judge and decided who belonged in hell and more specifically, which circle of hell each sinner belonged in.

The other half of Dante was a humble pilgrim who journeyed to sacred places for spiritual reasons. He was a man who had himself been lost in the underworld, and who was sympathetic to others who had strayed from their soul’s path.

When Dante finds himself lost in the underworld, he is terribly frightened until Virgil, who symbolizes human reason and wisdom arrives to deliver him from hell. Dante the pilgrim is at first apprehensive, cautious and frightened until he is reassured of Virgil’s noble intentions.

However, near the end of the journey, as things become increasingly complicated and difficult to comprehend, Virgil shows signs of failure and weakness. In other words, Dante is loosing faith in his reasoning abilities and wisdom, and this of course makes Dante the pilgrim irritated and fearful, until Dante’s, moralistic and legalistic side -now balanced with compassion- rises to the occasion, giving Dante support and strength.

In the end, Dante returns to the upper world, the two halves of his self-joined, united with wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment of himself and of life in general.

While Dante’s Inferno has many symbolic representations and meanings, the overall message is the duality of life: that there cannot be pain without its opposite pleasure, light without darkness or enlightenment and serenity without suffering.

Re-read the last sentence if you need to for, it is vitally important that you understand clearly, that this is why you are so different from the ones you were forced to leave behind. This is the great difference between you and all the other people who chose to stay.

Like Dante, you are learning to accept the duality of life; even though there are still times when it scares the living hell out of you.

Despite what they say and believe about you, despite what they cause you to believe about yourself, despite even being diagnosed with PTSD.  You, just like Dante, are on a Hero or Heroines journey to more enlightenment because, again like Dante, you are ‘courageous’ enough ‘stubborn enough’ to suffer the ridicule and rejection of loved ones, even the inferno of hell if need be, in order to find and become your true Self. What more loving gift could you or anyone else give to the world than the best you. Just think what the entire world would be like; if more humans were willing to embark upon ‘their’ hero’s journey.

All enlightenment means is the state of having knowledge or understanding. You can put ethereal meaning into it if you like but, it’s through your experiencing more life, even the suffering, that you have gained more knowledge, more enlightenment. Think about it for a moment, even if you are currently lost in the underworld, your world is still larger than the ones who are too scared to leave and live life authentically.

Not meaning to sound clichéd’ or all new ageie but, whether you are currently a Jehovah’s Witness, deeply contemplating leaving the organization or, whether you are one of the brave souls who has recently left; it’s all a part of your journey. Even if you are an old timer like myself.

Of course, when we are in the midst of suffering and tragedy, talk about Journey’s and growth and wisdom seems pointless and insensitive. Yet much later we will often come to realize that we have acquired a more discerning consciousness, a more complex but clearer understanding of our self, the world and also, a much more interesting life. Because of our Journey.

I hope that by sharing my thoughts on the subject you will be inspired and encouraged to remain with this part of your journey right up until you reach your destination. And another adventure begins.

 

 

 

 

Getting to know yourself again

There is a saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses like to use when it suits them. ‘You can take the person out of the ‘Truth’, but you can’t take the ‘Truth’ out of the person.’ This was supposed to engender the idea that this ‘truth’ is just so fundamentally correct that it stays with you as if it is a beneficial thing. The ‘truth’ I’m speaking of is their version of correct spiritual teaching. In reality this saying actually describes how difficult it is to remove the cult personality and the cult reactions to life’s situations. It takes time to form this cult identity and over the years as a Witness this cult version of yourself will be reinforced and strengthened over and over by the interminable hours spent at meetings (similar to church services), field service (public preaching or cart manning), assemblies and conventions (bigger church services) and only associating with other Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In my view you will probably have to spend just as many hours and far more to reverse the indoctrination, and let your genuine personality assert itself. While you are healing and recovering you will be very confused, the only way I could deal with this confusion was to research, read and study everything that was causing my confusion. That doesn’t mean that as soon as you have overturned every wrong belief of the Witnesses you are all better. Instead it is the beginning of the recovery process, which is akin to the grieving process. Your emotions will be all over the place, give yourself time there is no quick fix or short cut to healing.

While I was in this state of confusion I would stare at my reflection in the mirror. This may sound strange – but honestly  I was trying to find out who I was. If I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness then who was I? It was a legitimate question and I didn’t have an answer. You get to know someone when you talk to them and make eye contact, so this was probably what I was doing to myself. Slowly my genuine personality started to show itself and now instead of suppressing it I could just let it be.

It may sound utterly simplistic but list the thing you like to do, the things that make you happy and over time you build on that, you try new things and discover the person you were meant to be. I’m the introverted type and I gravitate to quieter activities, I can now celebrate my low need for social interaction. As a Witness you were forced to be extroverted, going up to and talking to people uninvited, giving those ‘talks’ on the platform in the form of conversing to another sister. It seemed to me that my natural inclinations were incorrect and I had to change to fit the ideal of being a ‘good Witness’. Now that could all change, I could actually be myself.

I have recently discovered a love for gardening. Previously it was just ‘work’ I had no time to do it and I ended up with dead plants because I would forget to water them. Now I am thoroughly enjoying it, you would not believe my excitement when I saw those little bright green shoots showing themselves! I was so proud 😀

The person you had to be to fit in with the Witnesses you can now discard, you can celebrate your true self and really get to know yourself all over again, learn and grow and step out of your comfort zone. As a ‘born in’ that is a huge ask because you weren’t given the chance to form a genuine personality apart from the cult identity, but we humans are incredible beings, we can survive the un-survivable, forgive the unforgivable and make better lives for ourselves upon the ashes of the last one. So the next time you look in the mirror, look yourself straight in the eyes and commend yourself for how far you have come. Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses is worthy of a salute and no matter where you are in your journey of healing, I salute you.

 

Trust issues…and then some

It’s been awhile since I wrote and there is good reason for that, I’ve been processing an awful lot of information and trying to form my genuine ‘uninfluenced’ opinion. Which believably is really difficult when you have been raised in a very narrow fundamentalist way.

When I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses I had zero interest in joining a new church, but there was something that I honestly missed. The community, the feeling of belonging – and a church appeared attractive in achieving that again. I wanted to go slowly, to just get my feet wet and see what it was all about. Undeniably I got a bit swept along, and ended up having to step back and take a hard look at where I wanted to go. Who I wanted to be.

This is not to discuss my spiritual journey and what I believe now…that is a work in progress, I wanted to discuss my deep seated trust issues and perhaps they are your issues too. Overall a church is lead my men to some degree, many are incredibly sincere individuals, genuinely just trying their best to follow their God, many others though are misled themselves and some are plain fanatical.

How do you navigate through all of that without completely losing your way while on your own journey? What has helped me is putting down what my core beliefs are, these are not even the doctrinal/spiritual beliefs, but the stuff that involves love, morals and integrity. That is essentially what I am building on, what adds to it, grows it, or strengthens it is what is kept, all the rest is considered, and discarded if necessary. My realisation is that being completely honest about how I feel and think on things is of more value than just following rules.

Will I be able to just join a church and be completely happy? Maybe not, it might take me years to finally find my ‘church home’ but in all of it I will learn and I will grow and I will meet some of the most amazing people and their experiences, personalities and stories will only add to the colour of my life. Though I may not agree 100% with everything they believe that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate them for the people they are.

Learning to trust again is a long drawn out process, and to be completely honest I am certain that I will never be able to trust a man on a platform ever again. It won’t matter how spiritual he is, or how learned he is, because I was so badly lied to once I will always keep my ‘exit’ light on just in case I need to get out. Organized religion is unfortunately run by imperfect men, no matter how sincere they may be they can’t get it perfectly right, I cannot expect them to either. We were taught as Witnesses to trust implicitly what the Governing Body said, we were also taught to trust the elders as our shepherds and trust their judgements even when it was so clearly and obviously a wrong call.

I think that with this training to trust so completely when we leave that ‘button’ is still there and needs to be crowbarred out of or brains because in trusting another so completely we are utterly not trusting our own consciences or reasoning. Imperfect men cannot be implicitly trusted as if they will never do anything to hurt us or always know what is best for us. How can they? How can we? We can only do our best and give each other understanding or forgiveness when things go wrong or advise is incorrect.

With growing up in an abusive home I saw my mother beaten terribly by my father when I was very young child. I swore to myself then that if my boyfriend or husband hit me, even once, I would leave him. No questions, no time for apologies, I would pack my bag and I would be gone, any children involved they would come with me. That was it, it was my line in the sand. Step over this, its over, I don’t care how much I love you. That is a pretty serious promise to make at 6 or 7 years old, but I was dead serious. I never wanted to be in the same position as my mother, crawling on the floor trying to get away from my fathers fists.

Obviously I did tell my husband about this promise and he completely agreed with me. He would help me pack if he ever done anything like that. He had seen some awful stuff and he would never raise his hand to me ever. We have been together for nearly six years now and not once has he ever raised his hand to me. With consistency I have learned that I can trust him in this. Does that mean he has never hurt me? No, he has, I have hurt him too – but we have forgiven each other and learnt from it and thankfully grown closer together.

When it comes to spiritual guidance and shepherding that is on a level that requires far more accountability, but at the same time we have the ultimate responsibility for our own beliefs and actions. When you are finally free to make your own decisions don’t just give it up. No matter where you are in your journey, be true to yourself, be honest, even if its hard to hear or understand, we really do need to like ourselves and embrace our own experiences so that we can be in a healthy place to learn to trust again. I suppose what I’m trying to say is you need to learn to trust yourself again first before you can learn to trust others. th[5]

We shouldn’t be looking for someone to tell us what to believe or think. We need to do that for ourselves now, and yes, its difficult when you first start in this because we are so used to being told what is right or wrong. We have to step up to the responsibility to ourselves to start making those decisions, what is acceptable and what is not.

This is turning into a much longer post than I thought – to close off, something I heard recently that really rang true for me was this – love of God is what has caused some of the worst atrocities known to man, crusades, inquisition, terrorism – instead we are told we should love our neighbour, which means everyone, we should love our fellow human beings, and that is what is being forgotten about in all the ‘love of God’ thinking. What about love for our fellow human beings, and giving them respect and dignity? Isn’t showing love for our neighbours how to show love of God?