A selection of spiritual journey stories submitted by Freeminds readers
Randy, I’ve been reading your website with interest. I was raised a JW from birth and many members of my family are still in the organization. I’m 36 years old and have been “out” (disfellowshipped) for about 14 years. A friend of mine told me about the JW sites on the Net, so I decided to check them out. I was surprised that there are so many. I went through many of the phases that many other ex-JWs experience:
1) The fear of leaving the security of the organization (have you ever noticed the ominous, creepy tone of many of the buzz words: the organization, the society, the new order, etc.?),
2) the fear that “maybe” they are right,
3) fear of the loss of family and friends,
4) fear that I could not get along in the “real” world,
5) anger at lost opportunities, i.e. college.
I I married about three years after leaving the church and I believe that the hang-ups I hung on to regarding the church brought about the demise of my marriage. Emotionally and psychologically I could not have a mature give and take relationship with another person. I was still too raw from my lifelong experiences with the JWs. I’ve found that over the years my anger has diminished and is now gone. I made a life for myself. I went to college and I just finished my first year of law school (I really found your information on child custody cases interesting). I have a five year old son who is being raised in a healthy, normal atmosphere. Fortunately for me, my brother and sister also left the church. Therefore, I do have familial relationships. I’ve also found that, although my relationships with members of my family who are still in the church are not “normal”, over time some of the older members of my family have softened a bit and I do have some contact (although I’m not invited to family reunions, etc.) with them.
One important thing I would like to share with you is that I couldn’t move forward until my anger was gone. As long as I clung to my bitterness and anger over being born into such a wacky life I could not move on to bigger and better things.
The church simply has no power over me anymore. It controls nothing in my life. The church is just a cult that happens to have a hold on a few of my relatives. Ex witnesses who continue to be angry and dwell on their experiences are still allowing the church to control them. It is still the defining entity in their lives. I understand that people need to work through their feelings and it took me several years to do so, so I do believe that web sites and information such as yours are helpful. My only point is that if ex-JW’s dwell on the past too much, they are still not free of it. Because the witness experience was the only religious experience I had while growing up, I still do not feel a desire for religion per se. To be honest, although I certainly don’t think negatively of them for it, I find it odd that so many ex-JW’s are still so religious. I don’t consider myself an atheist, but I don’t consider myself a Christian either.
The bible is an interesting book, like many other religious writings, but I do not consider it the inspired word of God and therefore I do not align myself with any Christian religion. When considering the big questions in the universe: Is there a God? If so, what is the purpose of our existence? Is there more than one God? Were we created or did we evolve, or both?, I generally consider myself in the “I’m not sure” or the “I don’t know” camp and I feel comfortable with that. I treat others well, with courtesy and respect. I discriminate against no one. I obey the law, etc. Basically, I’m a good person and that is enough for me. I just thought I’d share my thoughts with you. Also, I was wondering if you born into the religion or did your parents join when you were a child, or did you join as an adult? Being born into it myself (and not having a choice), I have always wondered what it is about the religion that draws in adults who have a choice of whether to join or not. Brenda
Can you believe what the WTS wants its members to believe? Here we go again, another fishing expedition. When you think you have hooked a fish you need to look again. This big fish slips right through your fingers every time. Do they really think that we will buy into their explanation? This type of controlled information would have worked years ago but not today. Thanks to the information you provided me, I’ve been set free!!!
Randy, as I wrote you before, I recently had to change my religious views on many issues. I do feel the best thing to do when you’re going through unpredictable changes is to seek help from family and friends. And if help is not available then you need to look within yourself for inner strength. In other words, find your self worth and expound on it, if you can. Along with prayer, it does help. Let me share with you an excerpt that always seems to help me. “Where there is animosity, there is intelligence. ‘Where there is intelligence, there is hope.’ ‘Where there is hope, there is the possibility of change. Things can be turned around. ‘The choice is within us.’ Choose hope, choose life, choose love…it does make a difference. Change for me was a frightening thought. But now that I understand it, I can look upon change as a way for me to correct my mistakes, and hopefully evolve into a better person.
Randy, I now can freely believe that each one of us is here for a reason, not only for a chosen few. But that everyone has something to contribute that no one else can. There is something special about all of us. And that part of us is the most important because it is the element that we have the most control over. If I choose to be good and forthcoming to the people around me it can be done. But if I choose to do nothing, that will have an effect too. Just as yourself, to me, there is nothing more that is fulfilling then giving of yourself to others because the ramifications are endless.
Because of my assured relation with God, I now consider the human race a family. We are a human family, living on earth. Throughout the earth we come into contact with all different kinds of people, and cultures. I being a Christian have my own set of values and ideas that help me go about my day and hopefully, along the way I leave the people I meet with a better understanding of who I am, and perhaps a smile. But you know people who live in other parts of the world also go about their day, trying to make a living, to put food on the table for their family. They may wear different clothes than me, but it’s possible that they too are trying to make the world a better place for themselves and others.
If God has truly made each one of us unique, then we are all a bunch of unique people, each one of us special in our own way. We have multiple races, religions, cultures and personalities. The key is, to exist on earth peacefully without focusing on our differences. As much as I believe that Christianity is the way to Jesus and God, I also have to accept that others may have found other ways to God. We must begin to focus on what brings us together, not what keeps us apart. A case in point, I have dear friends who are Muslims here from Syria. How can I argue with persons who kneel down 5 times a day to pray to God? However, if I can show them that I too pray to God every day, then perhaps, through our belief in God, we can find some common ground. I know some people would tell me the only true way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah, God, etc.
Although, I, myself, believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, don’t I also have to understand that some people may disagree with me? And if they do, what is my solution? Is it to find ways to love them, or to hate them? One thing I have learned from watching JW’s is that hatred will breed hatred. But love can overcome all. I hope one day people of all different shapes and sizes, creeds and colors can sit around a table, and rejoice in what makes us similar, and different. Then we can truly understand why God made us all so unique.
Love Sister in Christ!!!! Jessica
From: Dave (here we go), Whether it is out of a sense of need, or payment for life, or mental well being, people seem to want answers on what, when, where and most important why. Why am I here, Why is everyone else here? Why am I the way I am? Why is there so many religions. Why is Bob Sagget on TV? Why, this why that? These are questions that all religions claim to answer in there own profound way. As we learned as JWs, people find a religion that seems to fit their own personal comfort level. Such as they do.
This comfort level is influenced by several different factors. By ones family heritage, one’s cultural geography, or ones feeling a need for a belief in something bigger and more in control of everything or that there has to be more to life than just living. Being able to ease ones conscious by laying one’s troubles on another source that you truely believe can help makes for a great psychological cleansing. It can clear the mind of the perceived bad and help one move forward on to the justifiable good. It is the interpretation of the definition of good and bad and also who has the right to determine what they are that is the basis for all religions. If you can look at all religions in a bit of an abstract manner in that they are a product you can begin to see the similarities and the differences.
Every religion wants you to buy their god and reap the reward of their interpretation of salvation. If your family and friends buy the same god you do then it makes you feel that maybe you have made the right purchase and your position with in your own group is excepted as normal. You become comfortable in your purchase and you use the product in the manner the directions call for. Thus resulting in acceptance and love from those you are the closest to in thought and action. In some religions such as the protestant group of fine gods you have variations of the same product, spicy, low fat, low salt, baked, fried and so on. All still the same basic product but with slight variations to fit individual tastes. While all the old world biggies seem to have the same old rules and traditions that give the sense of structure that many people need in their lives. We as Americans are cultural mutts. We are a mixture of many cultures and traditions that have been shook around and tossed on the table like dice.
Our forefathers had been kicked out of every decent country in the world and thrown into the human stew we call America. With this we were given the freedom to think more for ourselves with out the tradition and cultural ritual that would have been handed down if our distant relatives would have played nice and stayed home. This gives us the potpourri of both traditional and designer religious products to choose from. We have the freedom to choose what groups definition of good and bad best fits our psychological comfort level that spawns our own spirituality. For myself I have gone through several levels of what I consider my own search for spirituality.
Not that I felt that I needed a replacement for the religion I had left but more in the fact that I wanted a few guide lines to find my own personal balance in life. Something that I felt might help me be a better person and find the real me, not the me that I was told to be. I looked more for a reasonable balance of what I thought was right and wrong more than what was good or bad. For the first couple of years away from the Dubs spirituality was the farthest thing from my mind. I had the resources to go out and enjoy life to the fullest. Running to the far end of my lives own balancing scale I quickly learned what would define my own level of what was wrong. What I was taught that the evil worldly people did I thought I needed to do, so I did. I came to realize that the total pursuit of happiness was not trying to prove that I was a man in the macho sense of manhood but more of being just basically a good human being. I found that striving for fame and fortune did not make me happy and that it really made me feel quite uncomfortable. So were the Dubs right about worldly people?
No, their view of what they called a worldly person and the vastness of grouping all non Dubs into this category was wrong. After settling down and learning to no longer lie to myself I began to ask the question why. My biggest question came to be about my own being and what made up this person that lived and breathed within my own body that I really didn’t know. Why was I the way I was? Why did I think and do things different than my friends? Why was I a bit different than my friends in that I could think my way in and out of any given situation faster and more creatively than they could? Why did things come so easy for me in solving problems in my business life but fall completely apart in my personal life? Why did I have an art talent that even being self taught shot me up to a substantial high level among my peers? Why did I have all this. Why me. Why not everyone. Was I a reincarnation of some famous person? Was I put on earth for some grand reason? Was I special and better than other people? Or was I just lucky and becoming an arrogant jerk with illusions of granger? A few good friends and a $200 per hour psychologist all pointed to the later conclusion.
All I knew was I had something and I had used it for my own benefit and profit and I was not happy. A good friend of mine who was my same age but years ahead of me on the life balancing scale saw that I was having problems trying to figure out the question why. He told me to rent the movie The Razors Edge with Bill Murray. It was a remake of a movie made in the 40′s. The original book was written by Sumerset Maughm and it was a book about one man’s search for the answer to the question “Why.” I rented the movie and watched it five times in two days. In the story the death of a friend changes the course of a man’s life. Because of questions raised by the death he begins a search in volumes of books written on spirituality. He travels to the heights of the would searching for the answer. He found it from the books. Not what was necessarily written in them but but using them to burn as he warmed himself and saved himself from freezing.
Thus keeping himself alive, because that was his answer. Instead of continuing to ask the question of “why” he was alive he excepted the fact that he was alive. And that life was precious and not to be wasted. My mind came to be a lot more at ease and my guide lines for my life became more defined. It was a movie about a man’s search for spirituality and in the end he found it within himself. Not a church or religion or even a book. Just a simple fact that you are alive and the meaning to life is, life itself. All you can do is just try and be the best person that you possibly can and pay back in your own way what you have been given. Who and how you pay is up to you and what you choose to believe. In other words balance your own scale. Where ever you are stationed on the life scale try and keep an equal balance. Those with the the largest talents and gifts and sit at the further ends of the scale must pay back an equal amount to maintain the balance.
They also may have to endure the toughest load to maintain that balance. Those that set closer to the center point of the scale still have to balance the other end. They may not have the level of highs that thrill those with more of what life has to offer but they in return have less of a job to stay balanced. Where ever you sit, you are not any better or worse then others that sit in different places on the scale. Being balanced is the goal, it is the reward that will bring you happiness. I personally have tried to position myself a lot closer in from the edge then where I use to be. The highs are not as thrilling but the ease in the task of keeping balance is a far better compensation to me. I try to pay back for my talents by keeping my door open to any young artist that has the desire to learn what I have to teach.
My sharp mind is payed back with my humor that makes people laugh and pee their pants, even though (and none of you will believe this) I am actually in person a very quiet and reserved, quite boring most of the time in my opinion. My spirituality is in my balance of my life and how I react to and treat my fellow living creatures on this planet. Not governed by and group or religion. My relationship with any higher power is based on a “let see how I did when it’s all over basis.” If there is a heaven or hell, if there is any kind of here after I guess I will find out when I ether get there or I don’t.
If there is a judgment of bad or good I hope my being the best human I can be will be the basis for that judgment. If my refusal to choose a religious product is the deciding factor on my forever after doom than so be it. I choose to be a good person because I feel it’s the right thing to do, not because of any threat of destruction or eternal damnation. Nor is it for brownie points from some higher source. I don’t need a group of people to think or believe the way I do to think I am going in the right direction for me. I just would like them to respect my thinking as I do theirs. I have come to these conclusions in my life because it helps me be me. It helps me be a good father, and a good friend to others. It helps me keep a high level of love and trust among my small circle of friends and family. It helps me meet new friends and share laughter and a kind of brotherhood with other human beings. It helps me continue to get up every morning and deal with the massive amount of situations I have to deal with every day. It helps me keep an open mind to different thoughts and philosophies which enables me to fit a few more pieces of the puzzle together that is my life.
Everyone has to find their own answers. If it’s a religion that gives you peace and makes you a better person then go find it. If it is reaching a life long dream that makes you happy then go obtain it. If its just being the best person that you can and being happy with who you are then just do it. I hope this will give you yet another perspective on what you are looking for. Good luck. Dave
Dear Randy: I know you are a busy man, but I just wanted to send a wee note of acknowledgment for all your hard labor on behalf of those lost in cults. My husband and I were part of the WBTS for 25 years, from 1971 right out of college, until 1996. When we wrote our letter of disassociation, on matters of conscience over conflicting Bible doctrines, my husband was still serving as and elder, and I was in the full time ministry.
We read Ray Franz’s books, and were very troubled and at loss to explain to our grown children, who were born into this religion and trusted us as their parents to have led them in the right way, that we had been greatly misled. We have faith that our loving God, who had by Grace set us free, would heal our family, and direct us to a Bible believing church where we could grow in our relationship with Him. Our Lord has done all this, and more…the people He has put in our path since we left the organization have been such an encouragement to us. We are presently part of an outreach ministry to reach out to those lost in cults, as well as working with a teen group that come out on Wednesday evenings to our chapel.
I have never been happier in my life, and pray that our children will come to know Christ as their Savior very soon. They have a very hard time trusting right now, and it saddens me, however, I know they will come into a relationship with our Lord.
We also have an outreach to the the unsaved in our community once a month. We call it “Saturday Nite Alive” , and it’s been very successful in drawing those who might now feel comfortable in a regular church setting. I’m part of the praise team, and we have an interesting Bible based message and testimony and refreshment &fellowship after. At times our children attend these gatherings and have enjoyed them.
Giving our testimony at Family Bible Camp (Joy) in Bancroft Ontario, as well as at church function, has encouraged so many people to NOT GIVE UP if they have friends or family in a cult, but to witness to them with gentleness and LOVE. We attended the convention in Pennsylvania last fall, and I really loved it and met so many new friends, and heard many experiences of those who can share the pain, and freedom and you of coming out of the WBTS. I no longer feel like an island, and pray that thousands will soon be free to worship our Lord because of His Love. Thank you again for your web site, you are reaching lives. Sincerely, Linda
I will use my therapy group name and experience. Hi, my name is Amanda. “Hi Amanda,” said the group therapy. I feel devastated today, I lost all my friends, I can’t say my God’s Name in front of my mother, I lost, I lost everything. Why? It started since I was little growing up in this religion which I don’t dare to pronounce today. I accepted abuse as a way of life. Abuse was a pattern in my family so I could not tell what was abuse. Now it is difficult to stop abuse from others. I thought that I was doing the right thing, according to J-God (which I don’t refer to today because at this point in my life I still suffering a lot)
Now I don’t now what is normal, yet, but with the help of my therapist I will. I was a miniature adult. I learn not to trust, not to get too close to anyone. I grew up as an adult that demanded perfectionism. Very anxious, I tried to control everything and relationships. Too many things, sad things, but one day It happened. My husband had a little affair with one of our bible studies, It was a great disappointment for me the wife of an elder. One of the elders told me ” you have to understand that she is more beautiful than you” . But of course I was supposed to keep it quiet and forget and not feel anything.
My problem was that I didn’t forget, many, many questions, many many whys arise. Because I was so perfectionist I couldn’t forgive her. Didn’t forgive her for five years. And of course I was not supposed to express my feelings. Then my husband got tired of me and had another little affair. “But is not a great thing, he can comment”. Then he really did it, because, another one. And when he did it the congregation blamed me for his affairs, because that’s what he said. They believe the man, not the woman. He got disfellowship, and I Amanda got out. I wasn’t going to accept the blame. It’s lying! For the first time in my life I have to Love My Self to be able to survive. We got separated.
And I stated to looked for support in a support group, something that was forbidden I started to do the forbidden things like reading this web site. But I did it with a clear conscience because I resigned. I stared to be more open minded and not to be a perfectionist. I learn about Unconditional Love something that was so conditional in the Watchtower. I learn to love myself without been guilty of it something that was different to love yourself. But when ever one of those thoughts come to my mind, I respond with a clear conscience… I have to love my self to be able to survive. Now I love my self and life itself. I don’t have to wait for the new system to be happy. I do what works for me. Now I live the now, and now I’m happy for the first time and for eternity for this system, and the others systems to come.