Freedom is a state of mind? Story of my life.
When I publish this post, I will change my life irreversibly. However, I am ready to take this risk so that I can finally live life to the fullest. I am aware that the family probably will reject me, even the closest one. Friends will not want to know me. It seems to me that I am ready for it emotionally. I’ve been preparing for this for many months. On the other hand, is it possible to prepare for it? Going to a psychiatrist is not the beginning of my fight against depression – it was just a diagnosis. The real battle begins today.
Probably most of you do not know about me one thing that has defined me since my birth. I was brought up in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I suppose that their actions and lifestyle are not in the circle of your interests. Perhaps you’ve been seeing them from time to time somewhere in the city, maybe they knocked on your door on a Sunday morning, arousing irritation in you. Maybe they’re your colleauges or schoolmates and you think they’re weird but nice people in general.
And that’s how it is. Jehovah’s Witnesses try to be honest. They aren’t allowd tosmoke cigarettes, they do not take drugs. They say about themselves that they have high morals. In fact, it happens differently, as in every group of people. Personally, I know a lot of really nice humans who belong to this religion. I believe, however, that this religious relationship brings much more harm than good and that’s why I would like to tell you my story.
I was born in this religion, so I did not really know another life. The Witnesses do not care about birthdays or holidays. Members of the religion are also discouraged from maintaining relationships with people outside of this group. So when you go to school, your mind is telling you all the time that you should not be too much of a friend with other children, „because they do not worship Jehovah and will die in Armageddon.” And that was the first thing I did not agree with. Witnesses believe that only they will survive the end of the world (Armageddon). You will probably say something different, something like „God is looking at the heart”, etc. However, their publications clearly state that only those who belong to this movement (and are good enough at being proper Witness) will survive. Here, I could give specific materials from their publications, but you probably do not care about such details. Already as a little girl, I could not come to terms with the thought that many people close to me should die. My aunties who are wonderful, good women? My classmates? So I explained to myself that God would overcome it somehow. It is impossible that hecould enjoy the deaths of billions of people! That is why I lived in fear from early childhood. I was worried about people who were close to me. I was also worried about myself, because every kid has something on his conscience, and God looks and sees everything. Certainly, Jehovah saw that, contrary to my parents, I watched fairy tales about magic and would also destroy me in Armageddon.
Such fear of God’s wrath is one thing. Witnesses regularly meet and listen to instructions, and are encouraged to study materials published by the Watchtower Society on their own. Every now and then I heard that I could do more to please God. Let’s say I’m not in the mood for public service on Saturday morning (walking around the houses), and here in the magazine, it is written that in Africa JW go 20 km and they have to cross a river full of crocodiles to go to a meeting – so I have to be really miserable and won’t survive Armageddon. As a result, I did not acquire a gram of self-confidence, and since the age of 13, I have struggled with suicidal thoughts. After all, if I’m so hopeless, it’s better to kill myself.
As a result of Watchtower propaganda, I abandoned the idea of higher education because education is not well seen in this community. I got married soon after graduation – this is not even about the fact that extramarital sex is something you will be punished in the form of disfellowship (all witnesses, even your family, and friends will stop contacting you and literally you will be for them as if you died). Young people cannot date. If you meet a person of the opposite sex, then you have to think about marriage. And although I consider my marriage to be successful, I often wake up in the middle of the night wondering what would happen if I waited a year or two …
I believed all this so much, ready to die for it literally because in the hospital I refused a blood transfusion. Did I mention that I just became a mother? The incident happened just after giving birth to my firstborn. The level of my hemoglobin dropped to 5 units, the norm is 11.5-13.5 in polish hospitals. They give you blood when the level is 9 units. Fortunately, I was not in mortal danger, but the ruts in my head carried a clear message: you must never agree to a transfusion, even at the cost of your own life. What’s more, if any of my daughters would require a transfusion, I would also refuse, even though I could lose them.
I was convinced that I would not live more than 25 years. After all, from early childhood, I heard that the end is just right. That „it’s so near that this is probably the last memorial”. Continuous life in fear, as well as isolation from people outside this religion, certainly did not favor my emotional health.
The big breakthrough was the Australian Royal Commision from just over two years ago. It came to light that witnesses protected pedophile data, while doing nothing to help the victims. I remember one story that shocked me a lot: raped teenager was being questioned by two men witnesses and one of them asked: but tell me honestly, did you like it? Because, you know, if she liked it, she should be disfellowshipped for immoral behavior. Was screaming loud enough? Do you think that although people accused of this type of crime have been punished? Whence! In this religion, the policy of „two witnesses” is applied. How does it work? If I came with tears in my eyes to the elders in the church (overseers) saying that my husband raped me, in return I would hear that I needed someone who would confirm my words. Nobody will suggest going to authorities, or even providing specialists with help. Officially, no one can forbid me visit, for example, a psychotherapist or report such a situation to the police. However, I read about many situations and heard stories from people who were persecuted by overseers for wanting to settle matters outside the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I mentioned the principle of two witnesses. If the child complained about molesting and would not have anyone who confirmed his words, and I doubt that the pedophile would be so willing to go to confession and confirm everything, the abuser will continue to be in the congregation. Moreover, no one in the community will have knowledge of his inclinations, thus giving him the freedom to further hurt children. Even if they get him out of the congregation, they will not report the matter to the police, thus exposing people outside the organization to irreparable harm.
As a result of various events and memories returned to me, which I had hid deeply. Although the case took place a long time ago, I was taken for questioning whether I was definitely being molested by one of the witnesses. Although I was the victim, I felt enormous remorse and guilt. The men who talked to me did not have any education or experience in conversations with people who experienced harassment. After this conversation, I could not recover for several weeks. It was time when I spent my sleepless nights browsing the phone and planning suicide.
I also realized that there are many bad things happening with witnesses that nobody does anything about. The norm is emotional violence towards a spouse, violence against children („a rod of discipline”), as well as alcoholism. It is full of people on anti-depressants, some even end up in hospitals, but still smiling they offer you newspapers on a Saturday morning instead of spending time with their family. At the same time, none of them can count on the help of a specialist, because, for example, marital therapies are not considered a good solution. And an alcoholic can drink peacefully until people from outside this cult start talking about him. This is the most important thing: we put problems under the carpet so that everyone would think that Jehovah’s witnesses are a role models. And what happens behind closed doors does not matter anymore … One of the worst things for a Jehovah’s Witness is to present, even unconsciously, their organization in a bad light. Even if you see that your friend is beating his child (which is the norm in this religion, spanking in the corridor, because a three-year-old does not want to sit politely in the meeting.), You will not report it anywhere, because you do not want to spoil the image of the ideal religion. Or another situation: if a witness fools another witness with money, then the other can not go to court. All matters and disputes are dealt with by the elders. Although I may be wrong in using the phrase that witnesses cannot do something. They can. Only the whole propaganda is that you do not want to do it because you are so obedient.
Depressed at the moment, I stopped going to the meetings rapidly. Still, I believed in their interpretations of the Bible. Quite quickly, however, I was struck socially. Only a few people spoke to me, and not too often. Some people were shaking and avoiding eye contact when they entered my work. Another one barely could passed through his mouth „good morning”. They were people I had known from my childhood and at least I considered as mates, if not friends.
So I decided to seek and challenge my faith. Shivering in fear, I thought that if this is the truth that I believe so much in, then it will defend itself. For the very first time, I reached for materials not published by Watchtower. You must know that members of this community are not only discouraged from viewing materials that have not been written in their main office, but are immediately threatened with their exclusion. It does not matter whether it will be a reportage in a respected newspaper or a YouTube video. They should not get acquainted with it, and even if someone writes something wrong about witnesses, it is Satan’s manipulation and deception.
It took only a little time to discover that they deny themselves, fake quotes, and those at the top are living in luxuries manipulating the rest. In short, the religion for which I was ready to die, the foundations of all my being, turned out to be a simple sectoral corporation. Witnesses boast of their translation of the Holy Scriptures, but nowhere say that their translation is largely based on the occult translation of Greber. If you lived as a Witness 100 years ago, you would have to consider that a centrifuge to separate cream is a sign of the coming of Christ – I even didn’t knew there was such a thing. The fundamentals of the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses change every now and then. During my lifetime it happened several times. Each time you disagree with the current state of affairs, you are considered an apostate and dumped from this religion. The funniest thing was in the 60’s and 70’s, when the authorities of the organization could not decide whether the marriages of witnesses could have oral sex or not. Over a dozen or so years, it was once allowed, once prohibited and several times. Now, it can make me laugh, but in those days it was extremely difficult for some couples. Once they were threatened with exclusion from the community and shunning, then again.
How should I live now, what to do? My conscience did not allow me to participate in this lie. But did I have the strength to leave officially?
After all, my family, who is in this cult, will stop talking to me, even the closest … There will be no family dinners. There will be no calls on the phone. If I published this post earlier, and then went to a family wedding, everyone would leave. Literally. I will be dead for my relatives. Friends will forget about me and immediately break their contacts. Seriously, the mother is not to answer the phone from her child, do not reply to text messages. Children treat their parents in the same way if they are excluded. Families are torn to shreds. Grandparents will never meet grandchildren. Witnesses believe that not maintaining contact with the disfellowshipped person is a proof of love. Get it? You slept with your boyfriend and you became pregnant, for example, they disfellowshipped you so the rest of the young ones in congregation wolud behave in a good way. You stay alone, probably without a boyfriend, without parents and friends. And you have no one to count on outside of this cult, because you have not established any relationships or friendships. And this is the proof of love? I think I understand love a little differently.
Those who have made mistakes are not the worst because they can go back. The worst sort is someone like me. Those who saw the mistakes of the organization. JW are told to to stay away from apostates. At the meetings, we are compared to decaying corpses that spread a deadly disease, to a dog that eats vomit (seriously, the Watchtower magazines are full of such a great, joyful content). Everyone is told that a lack of contact is an expression of love, but the truth is that witnesses are so afraid of being exposed that they prohibit maintaining relationships with people like me. Because maybe I will say something and I will break someone’s faith, and someone will lose eternal life and die in Armageddon. And now I’m going down to earth, because in reality it’s not about Holy Scripture and lofty deliberations, it’s about listening to eight older guys in the States. The guys who wear expensive Rolex andalways fly first class. Meanwhile, all witnesses are being encouraged to simplify their life, to give up many goods and to regularly throw money into the mailbox.
You may not believe me, but this is how things really works there. I was alone and it was only recently that I met some people from my family who were disfellowshipped. See, you have your aunt or uncle out there somewhere, but you have never seen him, even though you live in the same city. That’s how it is. Today you are celebrating (because I’m publishing this article during Easter). I can see from your Instagram accounts that some people approach this holiday very religiously. There are also those who consider themselves atheists. And yet, despite these differences in worldviews, you meet today, spend a pleasant time together. The Witnesses would not have it.
told myself that freedom is a state of mind that I can pretend to
adapt. However, no. As I once believed in God, when many friends led a
double life (partyingand sex on Saturday with strangers, and on Sunday
go politely on a meeting), so now I was not able to just pretend.
Especially that I was not free. I was afraid that someone in the marke
would see that I was buying, for example, Christmas tree ornaments. I
turned back from the store if I saw that the some of the JW was there. I
was afraid that they would ask why I did not go to meetings, and I did
not want to lie … Although I could see that they had judged me for a
long time and they look at me with contempt. I kept looking into the
materials published by Watchtower. It has come to the discouragement of
close relationships with people who are not active enough, that is, they
do not attend meetings and do not speak regularly. Cult, paranoia with
Therefore, with a great heartache and after really long thoughts, I publish this article. If you are a witness and have read this to the end, remember that I am not crossing you and you can always speak to me. If you are not a witness, I hope that I can count on your support and a good word, because from today I will be very lonely.
15 months later I often thought I should have translated this article but never really could go through that story again. I did this with the help of my husband because of our interview with Lloyd Evans.
The first few months were the hardest. It hurt that our friends unfriended us on Facebook, that they won’t talk to us. It hurt that some of our customers stopped working with us because they were JWs. We missed our family members. And then things started to clear out. Most of the family chose us over that cult. We haven’t got back old friends but gained new ones. Some of them are ex Jehovah’s Witnesses like us, some are just regular, you know „worldly” people. My mournig period ended in April and believe: those 3 months are the best, the most amazing in my entire life so far. So there is a happy end after all.