I don't object to Witness theology, but rather their use of social pressure & deceptive manipulations to undermine family ties and control minds. (This may seem contradictory to Witnesses, who draw no distinction between spiritual belief and organizational policy.) I do not engage in theological debate. I support persons impacted by an experience with the Witnesses and advocate early education for everyone so that they can protect themselves from cults by understanding what to watch out for. (It's not what most people think.)
(Ex-)Witnesses: I know how upsetting it is to experience doubts (or anger) about your experience. Time does not heal this wound until you first remove the splinter, which takes more time and effort than you may realize. So, unless you have already put in that time and effort, don't be surprised if you are deeply affected long after the experience. But there is good news! You're NOT an enemy of God for doubting or for failing to meet the requirements of a human organization. An organization that lies cannot be the exclusive spokesman for the God of Truth. Tell me where you're at. I'll understand. I can show you how to begin or continue your recovery and make a life for yourself worth living.
Non-Witnesses: Describe your experience with your friend/relative who is (becoming) a Witness. I can help you understand the Witness indoctrination and social dynamics that are affecting him or her. I can help you put your options into perspective. Keep in mind that people do make their own choices (even though they may sometimes do so under outside influence) and you may not be able to affect this person's choices, even though they impact on you. After all, you do not have the arsenal of tactics that a cult does (and wouldn't want to). A few people manage to save their friend/relative, but don't count on it. What you can count on is navigating the maze more successfully by becoming more informed about your own options.
I was a Witness for 30 years, and a volunteer at their headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, for a year. I have attended meetings with many Witness congregations across the United States, a thorough cross-section, carefully observing patterns of behavior. Although being a Witness was difficult, and I gradually had more and more doubts about Witness teachings--I was a true believer, so I kept trying to make it work somehow. I stopped attending meetings in 1997 only after receiving an answer to a prayer about doing so, and have since been actively involved in recovery. This includes both my own and supporting others in theirs. Recovery can include reading books, communicating with others in recovery, and participating in support groups and/or therapy. It always involves reclaiming one's own mind and discovering the other sides of the issues that you have been blinded to in the past.
My gradual awakening was socially, psychologically, and spiritually tumultuous. I lost everything from my former life. My suffering was substantial.
But I have gained everything, so it was worth it. Only after beginning my recovery did I gain social, psychological, and spiritual healing and growth, peace of mind, and self-respect. Only then did I discover who I am; and--for the first time--the meaning of real brotherly love.
For more resources on this topic, try these web sites:
Like most Cult Recovery Counselors, I am a cult survivor. I have life experience, not professional training. Also I feel no need to apologize for that. People with professional training cannot understand what it is like to survive a cult unless they have been through it themselves, which few professional therapists have. Understanding what really happened and what works in this unusual social context is as important as psychological training. Most professional therapists are not specifically trained to support cult survivors. Those who are represent a rare and precious resource.
I sometimes refer people to professional therapists regarding deep personal issues. But surviving a cult is a broad experience with other dimensions. Professional therapy can be very helpful as part of your recovery process, assuming that you choose the right therapist. When choosing a therapist, remember that you are the client and they are a service provider. You are the one who holds authority about the relationship. You get to interview the therapist and decide which one to employ.
Be sure to ask what specific training and experience they have around recovery from cult mind control. Most therapists do not have relevant training. Some carry serious misunderstandings about what cult mind control is; and therefore will misunderstand your struggle. So it pays to be selective as a consumer of professional therapy services.
The Witness organization is not like other churches. Most non-Witnesses really cannot imagine what it is like to be a Witness. The organization has unimaginably extensive rules and monitoring that affect every aspect of life, so there is no privacy and no sense of personal independence. "Independent thought" is considered their greatest "sin".
The organization insists on absolute conformity, and claims to directly represent God; so dissent is not tolerated, and authority is totalitarian. Being a Witness is more like living in China or the former Soviet Union than being a member of a religion as you know it. It was the research of Robert J. Lifton, who was studying--not religions--but totalitarian governments, who first began to illuminate the problem of religious cults around the world, which employ exactly the same tactics as totalitarian governments. His work remains a cornerstone for Cult Recovery Counselors still today. (This may be why many governments are tolerant of cults, to avoid exposing their own control tactics.)
Witnesses often experience unusually dysfunctional lives and an extensive array of personal problems stemming from broken family ties, stunted social development, inner unrest resulting from repressed doubts, inability to defend boundaries, and an extreme, persistent feeling of irrational shame. I can help people impacted by an experience with the Witnesses by revealing in detail the policies and social dynamics in the Witness organization that cause these problems.
Witnesses pretend to advocate truth and free will, but use a convoluted network of deception and manipulation to achieve total control; yet it can be overcome! I will never let anyone cloud my clarity of mind again. Let me use it to help you. You deserve truth and freedom. Every living thing deserves clarity, compassion, discovery, and wonder; not manipulation, judgment, dogma, and control.
It is a form of soul employment to help people avoid pitfalls that have impacted my life. If I can harness my experience to help someone, then it wasn't a total waste, and all that pain can ultimately have a positive result. I'm perhaps 95% complete in my own recovery (for which I feel very fortunate), and that last 5% may take the rest of my life. Helping others helps me.
Cults are not what you think they are. Even sophisticated and educated people are vulnerable. Hollywood spreads misinformation so that most people don't know what to watch out for. You can best protect yourself and your loved ones by educating yourself and them in advance on the specific nuts and bolts of cult tactics. Otherwise you will never see it coming when your moment of risk comes.
I believe in the founding principles of democracy, including freedom of religion. Organizations that use cult mind control should not enjoy legal protections afforded to freedom-loving churches. Governments would be more concerned if they were not using the same tactics themselves. Clarity and freedom of mind is threatening to those who profit from the ignorance of others.
Dear Kevin, The purpose of the aggressive recruiting of Jehovah's Witnesses is indeed to build their membership. But they believe that is what it takes to save lives, so the two are closely related
Dear Dudley, I can certainly understand why you object to lying. I share that objection. However, I don't lie about dates, nor teach anyone anything associated with the date 607 BCE. You may have
Dear Faith, Thanks for making your question public so that others can benefit from your experience. "New light" in Jehovah's Witness jargon means a new doctrine or teaching handed down to them by
Dear Patricia, Thank you for not making your question private. Others will benefit from your experience. I understand your fury completely, however, I don't think the law is on your side specifically
Dear Lesley, Giving yourself time is a good idea; but don't let that time be spent idly in terms of your recovery. You do have to work at it in order to heal from this. The one you mentioned is