Once you have a suspicion something isn’t right, there will be questions you want answers to. This need to question what you have been told all your life, and wondering how much is untrue, can be unsettling and trigger an overwhelming feeling of being lost. Whilst it is a relief to learn that many of the teachings are wrong, such knowledge can also lead to great loss.
If what you were taught as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the truth, it means your life is based on lies. Much of what you did up to this point has been a waste of time, including all those hours at meetings and in field service. You gave up many things, forgoing school friendship, sporting achievements, possibly a higher education or career, and precious time with loved ones you were told to shun.
Losing your belief system leaves a void that covers a vast range of topics, not just religious beliefs, but also morals. Before your view of drugs, smoking, alcohol, sex, politics, education and celebrations were dictated by what Watchtower claimed Jehovah wants. Now you need to find a new way to determine morality. It may feel like you are entirely on your own and aren’t able to make decisions.
Most overwhelming is the potential you will lose family and friends. It cannot be overstated how difficult this is to cope with. There are few things more heinous than a religion that forces its followers to reject their own family. You will feel lost, scared, depressed, even suicidal. Don’t feel ashamed, or that you are weak for feeling this way. There are many former Jehovah’s Witnesses that have experienced these feelings when faced with losing their family.
It is unfair that you were born into a religion that imposes such inhumane treatment as familial shunning on those that leave. There will be difficult times ahead, but you can successfully leave. This site has been created specifically to assist you and the thousands of others going through this right now. It draws on the experiences of those that have left in the past. Some of these experiences will show you what to avoid, others will teach you positive ways forward. By learning from them, you can avoid unnecessary hardship and plan how to build a successful future.
You probably feel terrified of leaving, having been raised to believe “worldly people” cannot be trusted. You may feel that without the paradise hope you won’t have anything to live for. Nightmares of dying at Armageddon may haunt you. It is common for those that have left to admit these fears stopped them leaving for years. Yet after they have left, they build rich friendships with “worldly people” that stand by them through thick and thin. Rather than find life has no meaning, each day becomes even more precious. Once you build upon your understanding that many of the teachings are false and cruel, designed to frighten you into staying, the fear of dying at Armageddon will also dissipate. Transition is not easy, but it is worth it in the long run.
If you are struggling to cope, please reach out immediately for help. Speak with a school counsellor or local doctor. Suicide helpline provides links to free support lines around the world that you can call when feeling lost, depressed or suicidal. You can join an online community, such as jehovahs-witness.com or reddit.com/r/exjw/ for guidance and support. I Think I’m Going Crazy will also help you understand your feelings.
You will get through this stage, and as a stronger person for it.
Anyone raised as a Jehovah’s witness can expect limited association with family and friends if they do not remain active members, being classified as bad association. However, those baptised are treated far worse if subsequently disfellowshipped, as they then become subject to strict rules around shunning. Two children may engage in the same practices forbidden by Watchtower, and both not believe the teachings, but their parents will usually continue to associate with the one that is not disfellowshipped but not with the one that is. For this reason, if you are not baptised and having any doubts about the religion, it is imperative that you don’t get baptised regardless of pressure from your family and the elders.