Every month I get emails and contact messages from Jehovah’s Witnesses asking me whether or not they should “take the leap” and try to leave the Watchtower organization. I wish it was easy for me to answer their questions – but it’s not. I know that while I have a very strong opinion, leaving has to be a decision that each person must ultimately make for oneself.
What I do try to get them to understand is that they will be just fine – no matter what their ultimate decision might be. If they are happy being Jehovah’s Witnesses (and many are quite content in that lifestyle), then I would be the last person in the world to suggest that they leave and face the complications that come from making that decision. On the other hand, if they are unhappy and really want out, then I urge them to set aside their fears. I want them to know that even though their lives will change, they will survive through everything they may have to face by making a decision to leave.
Many Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t admit it publicly but would really like to get out. No one knows the actual numbers for sure, but there are far more than the Watchtower would admit. Because the religion promotes and encourages shunning of those who leave, Jehovah’s Witnesses face issues that many people simply can’t deal with. Even many high-profile former Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to face the effects of shunning by family, friends, and even close business associates. When their own parents, siblings, and children are willing (or are forced) to break off all connections – and then say that it is the fault of those leaving – many Jehovah’s Witnesses simply feel they can not choose freedom. It’s a price too high for them to pay. They would rather stay in the cult and live with the pain than face being shunned by their own family.
As a person who has had some family members shun me, I can assure you that you soon get over it. Yes, there was pain and some problems that I had to deal with along the way. I soon realized that I was not the problem. It was the Watchtower (although they publicly deny it) enforcing shunning upon my family and friends. I realized that if my loved ones were so blind as to believe what the Watchtower and their elders were teaching them, and that somehow shunning was “the Christian thing to do,” then it was their problem, not mine.
I loved them enough to continue to try communicating, and when necessary having family fellowship with them. In past situations they were even quite cordial when it was necessary for us to be together. I was willing to look past their faults and lack of judgement – but I knew that ultimately their lives are guided by Watchtower concepts and policies. Compared to many other former Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have to admit that my family was more accepting and welcoming when circumstances put us together. Because of that I do not judge them too harshly and feel blessed to have them and not some other JWs for family who are far more unreasoning and nasty.
I’ve known many other Jehovah’s Witnesses, both active and on the fringes. I knew they were blind and could not see the truth – and yet I still reached out to them. They may have had doubts or failed to live up to the standards of their own religious teachings, and yet they could not accept me into their homes. I knew that they were unhappy and unfulfilled, and yet they could see no way to escape and try to make a new life for themselves.
I knew they didn’t believe much of what the Watchtower taught. They did not like the rules. They knew that a lot of the Watchtower’s rules and teachings were both non-biblical and unsupportable. They knew that everything the Watchtower had written before and after the 1975 debacle turned out to be mostly lies. Yet they felt they had to defend whatever the Watchtower published or preached – even the most obvious lies. They knew that the Watchtower had made other false predictions and reversed or made major changes to most of their basic teachings. And yet my friends (and my family) still called the Watchtower “The Truth.”
I knew they would rather be free like me, but they were afraid to make that move on their own behalf. At some point I’d tell them “you just have to move on and live your own life and let your family and friends make their own choices – no matter how wrong or damaging they might be.” But they were afraid to actually make the move. Most never have. Many never will.
The good news is that there is a life after being a Jehovah’s Witness. You can survive and prosper. In the end (and I guarantee this!) we will all end up at the same place. It makes no sense to live an unhappy life worrying about what your old friends and family might think of you. It’s just a case of your worrying about what they think – and they don’t give a damn about you.
Your life is YOUR LIFE! If you are still a JW then get a life! Enjoy the day – every day!
If there is a god, be it a “Jehovah,” an “Allah,” or any other so-called “supreme being” – I guarantee that your lack of faith in “Him” will have no effect at all on your final outcome. Don’t waste your life knocking on doors and going to four hours of boring meetings every week. Don’t spend your vacations driving to District Conventions where you’ll hear the exact same things that are said in your Kingdom Hall or that you can read in a magazine. Just remember that you are reading Watchtower and Awake! magazines and other publications that will be obsolete in less than a decade. You are hearing and preaching a message that will see significant changes in the next couple of decades.
Instead, get out and see the world, meet new friends, accomplish something.
Here is a couple, former Jehovah’s Witnesses living in the United Kingdom, who have described their personal experiences after leaving the Watchtower organization. They clearly describe the issues they faced and changes they’ve had in their lifestyle. Together they have made a series of excellent videos that you can find on YouTube. Watch and listen to this recent conversation: