Key to a plan to fade away from Jehovah’s Witnesses is a support group; friends that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is critical. If you have no one when you leave, loneliness can lead to depression, making you vulnerable to crawling back to the religion as a broken person, or being taken advantage of by people that do not have your best intentions at heart.
How do you make friends? This is not easy. The appeal of religious groups is that they provide a group of like minded people that are expected to demonstrate Godlike love by being your friend. You will meet people at school or work, where there are people to associate with, but they have no obligation to befriend you.
Jehovah’s Witnesses face the hurdle to making new friends of not having things in common with people outside the group. Your life has been filled daily with meetings, preaching and reading Watchtower publications that promote the fantasy that you will never die, whereas everyone that does not believe Watchtower teachings will soon be killed by Jehovah’s heavenly forces. That does not make for good conversation.
As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are not supposed to be involved in or have an opinion on politics. Materialism is frowned upon, and hence any strong interest in the corporate world. You should not be overly devoted to sport. Scientific achievement is viewed with scepticism due to its concepts that conflict with the Bible. In other words, you are not well versed in topics people like to discuss.
There is a solution, but it takes time. Identify what interests you. Is it music, video games, movies, sport, politics, science, or cooking? Start reading or watching youtube channels about your interests, so that you are able to engage in discussions on that topic with other people. Join a website, club, team or meet-up group. Spend more time with colleagues or school friends. Over time you will stop being the weird religious person that feels like you are from another planet, and you will fit in.
Another major topic of interest to people is gossip. As a close group, gossip forms a large part of Jehovah’s Witness conversation, and you are no doubt experienced with this. However, gossip requires knowledge of a circle of friends, and this only comes with time. Even in this area, you are on the back foot, until you have built up a new group of friends and spent a period of time with them.
If you are still living at home, engaging in new interests and making friends outside the religion will be difficult. Be cautious not to get caught spending too much time with what your parents will think are “worldly” pursuits and people. Witness parents have been known to become stricter when finding out their children are going behind their back, preventing any contact with worldly people, even removing their children from school and removing phone or internet access. If this happens to you, it is not the end of the world, but will delay how long it takes for you to be old enough to have more freedom in these areas.
Not Everyone Is Your Friend
When you are a Witness, everyone in the congregation is your friend and can be trusted, or so you are told, because that is the mark of a true Christian. You will find you have friends that you don’t really relate to, but feel an obligation to like.
You do not need to be friends with everyone. We are all different, with a range of personalities, temperaments and interests. Whilst it is good to be respectful of others, it is not necessary to form friendships with people that you do not relate to or feel comfortable with. People only have time for a few best friends, and it takes time to build these important relationships.
When you do leave Jehovah’s Witnesses, loneliness or naivety will make you susceptible to attracting people that do not have your best interests at heart. Whilst most people are trustworthy, and will reciprocate being treated well, the few that are not that way inclined can have a hugely negative impact on your life. This can include theft and taking financial advantage of you, sexually related trauma, pregnancy and disease, involvement in crime and drug addiction. There is no need to be paranoid about the intentions of others, just the exercise of caution to avoid trouble.
Should you talk about your religious background?
Many Jehovah’s Witnesses feel embarrassed to admit to belonging to the religion, out of fear of being judged or bullied. Even former Jehovah’s Witnesses often try to hide this aspect of their past. Don’t. People will respect you for being honest about who you are and your background, provided you are confident and do not act ashamed about.
Jokingly admitting to some of the crazy things you believed can warm people to you and provide good topics for conversation. Discussing that you are being shunned by family is also very powerful, and when people find out, they will often open up to you and want to help you. They will also be more understanding and forgiving of those aspects of your personality that may seem a bit strange.
People don’t want to hear you talk constantly about your religious upbringing, or be with someone that constantly brings up how bad there life is because of strict religious parents or being shunned if you have been disfellowshipped. However, revealing this part of your background will make caring people more understanding towards you, and these are the people you need as you transition out of the religion.
A key concept of cults is control. They control the people members can associate with, the information they read, and pastimes considered acceptable to engage in, all the while keeping members busy in activities related to the group. This does two things:
- limiting contact with alternative points of view reduces the chance of realising the groups teachings are wrong
- Leaving the group is difficult makes because members have no support group and struggle to integrate into normal society
Throw into the mix the threat of shunning and it can be seen how evil it is when a religious group isolates their members and then threaten to shun any that do not want to remain.
JW.support strongly promotes taking time to plan the best way to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this article highlights the reason why. Time is required to become familiar with topics of interest to people in general. Time is required to understand how your indoctrination leads you to unfairly judge the behaviour and choices of other people. Time is required to find people that love you unconditionally and will be there for you in that tragic period when the Watchtower takes everything and everyone from you.
The time taken is worth it. It is not easy, but you will make amazing friends that will be there for you throughout the rest of your life.
https://personalexcellence.co/blog/new-friends/ as of 27th Oct 2019