Do Not Rip Yourself in Pieces to Keep Someone Else Whole
“You should not
have to rip yourself
into pieces to keep
― Emma Bleker
So, for those of you who are not aware, I left the religion of my childhood nearly 20 years ago, and due to that, I was cut off and treated as if dead, by all who remained in it, including my mother.
Shunning is the policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), and it has led to countless suicides and despair in the people who leave, who have to navigate in a world without any of their family and friends.
Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage those who start studying with them to only associate with members of the faith, and gradually most will begin to withdraw from socializing with family and friends who are non-JW’s once they have tried to proselytize and realize that they are not interested in becoming a member.
Here is a direct quote from one of their publications about not associating with non-JWs:
Watchtower 2013 Feb 15 p. 24:
Our choice of associates. Of course, some contact with unbelievers — such as at school, at work, and when sharing in the ministry — is unavoidable. It is quite another matter, though, to socialize with them, even cultivating close friendships with them. Do we justify such association by saying that they have many good qualities? “Do not be misled,” warns the Bible, “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Just as a small amount of pollution can contaminate clean water, friendship with those who do not practice godly devotion [i.e. people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses] can contaminate our spirituality and lead us into adopting worldly viewpoints, dress, speech, and conduct.
As far as this relates to Jehovah’s Witnesses associating with family members who are not witnesses, any non-witness is considered to be “worldly,” and JWs strongly recommend limiting association with anyone who is worldly.
Of course, this is a grey area and is left up to the conscience of an individual witness so you may find some who shun non-witness family members and others who choose to associate.
In my case, as I had chosen to leave the JW faith, I was considered an apostate and as such to be shunned by all who remained in the faith.
They feared that I may contaminate them and their faith and as a punishment for having what they consider a “bad heart” for leaving the witnesses (as they consider they are the only ones who have “the truth”), I was shunned.
It has been nearly 20 years since my mother has associated with me and all my former Jehovah’s Witness friends (many whom I considered as sisters) cut me off completely.
My Dear Friend Who Returned to JWs
I had a fellow Jehovah’s Witness friend that left around the same time that I did, whom I recently found out returned to the faith for the sole purpose of renewing contact with her elderly parents.
She does not believe it.
She despises the faith for their teachings and the way they break up families.
However, she has had multiple suicide attempts and was broken emotionally by the fact her parents, brother and extended family cut her off nearly 20 years ago.
She recently married (a non-JW man) who is incredibly supportive of her and her life situation.
She decided she would pretend to “repent” and go through the steps necessary to be accepted back as a Jehovah’s Witness so she could associate with her Jehovah’s Witness family again (All her family is in JWs).
I do not judge her for her decision.
She knows she is living a lie.
She lives with that fact every day of her life.
But, for her, living a lie is less painful than living a life away from and separate from all of her family.
But for me, it is not.
I know when I first started to disbelieve some of the doctrines and was still in Jehovah’s Witnesses having talks with my mother as to why I disbelieved, she begged me,
“Please do not leave. You know that you would be forcing me to stop associating with you if you leave. You know you would be creating this situation. Please just stay in it even though you doubt and keep your doubts to yourself (not talk about them). Please do this for me”.
I considered it.
I truly did.
It was five years from when I first started doubting to when I left the organization.
But, for me, living life honestly was critical for me.
I thought if it is true that there is a God called Jehovah who can read my heart then he would KNOW I am faking it, living a lie, and so if Jehovah’s Witness teachings are true I will get destroyed at Armageddon anyway.
Also being a Jehovah’s Witness is not the same as being a believer or non-believer in another faith.
You have to attend 5 meetings a week, engage in Bible study, and participate in door-to-door proselytizing where you actively try and recruit new members.
I could not in good faith be trying to convince others it was true if I no longer believed in it.
I tried to explain this to my mother. But she was heartbroken.
She truly does love me. She believes 100% that I will die at Armageddon (as she has been taught) and that the only hope of me returning is for her to follow what she believes is the Bible’s instruction (as interpreted by JWs) to shun me as if I am “a dog returning to its vomit.” This is how she has been brainwashed.
Grieving for my mother and coming to terms with her loss has been one of the singularly most difficult things in my adult life.
In her eyes, I chose to leave, and I decided to go knowing she would have to cut me off.
She does not see that she has any choice. She believes I have deliberately harmed God and her by leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses.
She told me when I left that I destroyed her.
This has been one of the hardest things for me to work through.
I know that if I returned to the faith, even if I were pretending, she would rejoice in my return. She would embrace me again as her daughter. She would be so happy. She would never want to know if I really believed, or not.
It would be enough that she could fully associate with me and have me in her life again.
She is a sad and lonely woman.
When I see my father he tells me how she cries, how she misses all her grandchildren (she does see them as none of them are baptized, but she chose to limit her contact as she believes they will all be destroyed at Armageddon and she, therefore, doesn’t want to get too close to them).
According to my father, she has major depression and she sleeps every afternoon. She suffers from near blindness, is clinically deaf and has myriads of other health issues.
I let him know that if ever she needs a carer, or she needs looking after, I am willing to do this. He has passed this on, but she is not willing. She has already chosen a local nursing home to go into if she can no longer care for herself and if my father is not able to do so.
If I returned to the Jehovah’s Witness religion, it would make her whole, but it would break my soul.
It would force me to live a lie.
I cannot live a lie and live my life in separate pieces, to make my mother whole again.
The truth is, it is not I who have broken her heart.
It is the limiting beliefs and brainwashing she has chosen to follow and dedicate her life to serving.
Unless she is willing to confront that and see her daughter as a whole, complete and good-hearted individual, even if she never returns to the Jehovah’s Witness way of looking at the world then she will continue to exist in a vacuum of sadness and despair.
Going against her instincts as a mother by cutting off contact with her only daughter and isolating herself from all her grandchildren who still love her and wish to include her in their lives (if she would only let herself be involved) has broken her heart.
My dear friend has chosen her way of coping with the rejection, by returning to the Jehovah’s Witness faith (and pretending to believe it again) so she gets to spend the final years with her elderly parents whom she knows would never change their minds and see her unless she returned.
I wish her only the best as I know she has conflicts she has had to make peace within her heart, to do this.
There is no wrong or right way to handle this situation. It is terrifically sad.
But as for me, I cannot live my whole life a complete lie to make my mother’s life feel complete and whole again.
“Time doesn’t heal emotional pain, you need to learn how to let go.” ― Roy T. Bennett
And I have had to come to terms and live with that.
It is a daily decision to remain in my truth, to seek my path, and to find peace within as I endeavor to find answers and find joy and contentment in the remainder of my life.
“… but if I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: forgiveness is crucial.
If you can’t forgive someone you’re mad at, that anger will poison you. You have to learn to let it go”…
“people have reasons for doing the things that they do, especially when they care about you. You may not always understand what they are, but if you can try to understand the person then you might see that they really care, despite what happened.”
pg 100 Meredith to Vlad”
― Heather Brewer