“I am a Jehovah’s Witness teenager stuck living at home. I can’t bear this religion. What can I do?”
This question appears regularly on forums and in emails sent to sites about Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, this question led to the formation of this site, as the founders recognized there are a large number of youth in need of support through this difficult phase.
Depending on circumstances and the strictness of parents, thoughts can range from frustration, to depression and even suicide. If you are not coping, please read I Feel Suicidal for advice on where to find help.
There are many young Jehovah’s Witnesses who no longer believe. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses have the highest turnover of any major religion in America.(1) You are not alone in feeling like this. This site has been formed by people that have been through the same thing. All have lost family, some being kicked out of home, some have lost their jobs. We know what it is like to be in your shoes.
That is all fine, but it doesn’t help much when you can’t bear the thought of another day. Depending on your age, you may not have the option of leaving home for a few years, and a few years seems like forever – impossible to survive.
There is no easy way out of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 50. It is not fair that you were born one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was not your choice, but you have to bear the consequences.
On the positive side, your situation is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of people have left the religion. You too will survive and be able to move on to a happy successful life, particularly if you take the time to plan and prepare.
“Should I run away from Home?”
You may have considered this as an option, but we can adamantly say that you should not plan on running away. Firstly, parents have a legal obligation and right to care for their children. Secondly, if you have nowhere to stay and no means of support, you will face the dangerous option of homelessness.
To consider running away, things must be difficult for you and you are feeling trapped and down. Be honest in determining why you want to run away. If you want more freedom, or are arguing with your parents, it is still better to stay with them. Learning how to deal with difficult situations and people is a normal and important part of growing up. Consider discussing with your parents slowly gaining more freedom.
If you are in danger of any sort living at home, rather than run away, seek help from friends, your school counselor or the police. They are trained to see that issues you are having at home are addressed or assist you move into a safer living environment.
Make a Plan
If you are of an age you can legally move out of home, take into consideration all the factors before you make any decisions.
You have come a long way in realising Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the truth. While it’s hard to remain at home, a few simple steps will make a big difference in setting yourself up for the best possible future. If you just lose your cool and act on impulse, the consequences can remain for life.
Step 1. Don’t talk.
Knowing the truth about the truth (TTATT) will make you feel frustrated and want to tell people all the things that are wrong. You can’t. Your best friends will think they are helping you by telling your parents. Your parents will think they are saving your life by telling the elders. You won’t change their minds, all you will do is risk being disfellowshipped. Can You Convince Your Parents their Religion is Wrong? explains why.
Keeping quiet takes restraint. It will help to tell yourself that you are in charge. You have a plan, and disclosing any single doubt to anyone, may foil your entire plan. Stop, breathe, take control and most importantly: shut up.
If you need to vent, feel free to anonymously purge on a forum such as https://www.reddit.com/r/exjw/).
Step 2. Keep living a JW life as if nothing has happened
Keeping your parents off your back requires doing at least the bare minimum. If you have to go out in Field Service, then just do what you have to do. Learn to make excuses that don’t give you away, answers that don’t give away your thoughts and plan. As you will have to do this for a long time, use https://www.reddit.com/r/exjw/ for good suggestions on what you can say. Pretending you are still believe makes you one of the PIMO class – Physically In, Mentally out. Do it well gives you time to build your future while you are still in.
Step 3. Start Saving
You will have to give up a lot for this, but for everything you put away, the more options it will give you for your exit. Get a casual job. Don’t be fussy about what it is. Just start saving. Be clever about your savings, so that your cash or balance in your bank account is not discovered by anyone in the family.
Step 4. Plan to get the Best Education You Can
Whilst it is possible to be successful without going to college, statistics show college graduates average high earnings. Start planning now. Study hard to improve your grades. It will open doors, including job opportunities and scholarships. Talk to a career adviser. As most Jehovah’s Witness parents are against higher education, it may be wise to have letters relating to university, scholarships, traineeships and apprenticeships sent to the address of a nonJW friend or open a personal post box.
Life skills are also important. Your parents can teach you a lot, like cooking, maintaining a house and car, or filling out tax forms. Learn everything you can from them.
Step 5. Make Relationships Outside Jehovah’s Witnesses
This step is critical for anyone, of any age, that plans to leave. Jehovah’s Witnesses provide community, but all of them will reject you when you leave, regardless of how close you think they are. Because you have been warned against “worldly people,” you will have few other friends.
Humans are social creatures that depend on relationships. Before you leave, you need to build new friends, a support group. They could be from school, work, a sports team or some other hobby. Otherwise loneliness can lead to depression. Build nonJW friendships, but be careful not to get found out.
The Final Step
If you are over 18, have money saved up, researched living costs, found a place to live, built a new group of friends, planned for your education and have options for earning an income, then you are in a good position to leave home.
That doesn’t mean you have to leave home, but it places you in a good position if you are forced to leave home. Now you have more freedom to discuss with your parents pursuing a higher education. You can tell your parents you no longer wish to go to meetings. Some parents may be reasonable, support your choices, and allow you to stay at home. Others will not accept having a child living at home that does not attend meetings, and kick you at. At least you have set yourself up in the best position to make a new life without their love or help.
There is one further point to consider.
Don’t Get Baptized
There is a vast difference between how Jehovah’s Witnesses treat those that leave who were baptised and those that were not. Parents will shun a disfellowshipped child, but not one that was never baptized, regardless of whether they both no longer believe and engage in the same lifestyle. It is a religion based on rules more than principles or logic.
If you are not yet baptized, do not get baptized, regardless of how much pressure you are put under. When people ask you why you are not baptized, dodge the question or find some lines to use. Potential replies are:
- “I don’t feel ready yet, I need more time.”
- “I need to improve my relationship with Jehovah. I am not ready yet and it’s my personal decision between me and him.”
- “Jesus was 30 when he got baptized. I feel it is still too early for me”
It is critical to avoid getting baptized, and it will save you a lot of heartache.
Sadly, the Watchtower is pushing for ever younger baptisms, including children under 10. If you are already baptized, the best you can do for now is avoid being disfellowshipped. This can be done by not speaking against Watchtower teachings and being discreet when breaking any rules. In the long run, the goal will be to fade away without any trouble.
Worth the Effort
It may seem like a lot of planning and effort, but it is the same advice everyone receives whilst living at home. Obey your parents, study hard, and get a good job before leaving home.
Putting up with strict Witness parents, going to meetings, and having to put up with Jehovah’s Witness friends for a few more years is not as bad as alternatives such as living on the street, or needlessly causing trouble that will result in being disfellowshipped and shunned.
- “An even more extreme example of what might be called “masked churn” is the relatively tiny Jehovah’s Witnesses, with a turnover rate of about two-thirds. That means that two-thirds of the people who told Pew they were raised Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer are – yet the group attracts roughly the same number of converts.” America’s Unfaithful Faithful David Van Biema (news.yahoo.com 25 Feb 2008)