Hello all. After reading Ava’s experience and being encouraged, I thought I would do the same, in the hope that someone reading my experience may at least see some commonality. I am sure there are many out there who have asked themselves the question. “How could I have been so stupid? As the saying goes, “A trouble shared is a trouble halved.” 1 Peter 5:9 says, “But take your stand against him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by the entire association of brothers in the world.”
My part of the world is here in Australia; a land girt by sea. Before I give a brief summary of my experience as one being born into “The Truth”, I would like to share something I learnt when I was an elder that helped me better understand the nature of the hard-hitting impact you experience when you realise that you have been deceived for years, possibly for decades as is in my case. This is the point when illusion meets up with reality.
When I was an elder, I purposed to become thoroughly informed about mental illnesses, as there seemed to be a large and steadily increasing number of brothers and sisters complaining of various mental conditions. Not wanting to be judgemental nor to act in ignorance, and to be better able to empathise with those affected, I read a few books on the subject from the self-help book shelf.
In one book, I read about a man who suffered from a mental condition known as Bi-Polar Disorder. He related how those who suffer from this condition are often very creative and sensitive people, like musicians, artists and writers. He described how these people are often most creative when they are on the fringes of reality. The feelings they also experience when in this state are very intense feelings of euphoria. This state of being is very seductive. They often feel they are in control, and so do not take their medicine as prescribed. This frequently results in delusional behaviour, to the point where they must be restrained and forcibly medicated. However, the medication dulls their senses and makes them feel like zombies, able to function physically, but not in the creative way that makes them feel the way they want to.
On one occasion, this man related an experience when he was experiencing delusional thoughts brought about by his Bi-Polar Disorder. On that day, he was found running through the streets completely naked, yelling out to everybody that the earth was being invaded by hostile aliens. He said the air crackled and felt charged with electricity, and that he also felt like an invincible superhero saving planet Earth from the invading aliens. Inevitably, he was restrained and given proper medication.
He also remembers the massive comedown he felt when reality returned. Nevertheless, this man said that he can still clearly remember those intense feelings of euphoria, recalling them at will. That was how real they were to him at the time. He said that those feelings, though delusional, are seductive, and he recalls them often because of how much better they make him feel.
Years later now, I recall this story with horror, as I can relate it to myself, having now awakened from years of being deceived by false teachings. It is a massive comedown from feeling so special all the time. I was one of a tiny number of people specially chosen to represent Jehovah and to warn the wicked from door to door of the impending doom. I was serving as a privileged elder with Jehovah’s Organisation on Earth; the only true religion. I had a heightened, albeit falsely induced, sense of self-respect and high esteem for those around me in the Organization. I felt immune from the problems and uncertainties of the world, going through life like some type of superhero. This is how we are made to feel in the Organiztion.
For me at least, my “awakening” felt like being kicked in the guts by a mule! I was like a person suffering from delusions who was now resisting needed medication. Spiritually and mentally, I kicked and screamed and fought ferociously. But reality was stronger than the illusion that finally evaporated like mist. In the end, I was left standing there thinking, “What now?”
Unlike the man in the experience I related above, I at least still had my physical clothes on. But equally, when I came to my full senses, there were many things I could think back on with shame, guilt and other negative feelings due to having been deceived. I also can look back and relish the intense euphoric feelings of the “good times”, albeit very few of them. Looking back at why things happened in the way that they did, I came to realise the true scope and depth of Satan’s deception in a way I could never before appreciate.
“Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelievers”, said Paul to the Corinthians. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yes no matter how smart we humans think we are, we have a wrestling with super human creatures; spirit creatures that are far superior to us in many ways. I could now see the very real truth expressed to the Ephesians:
“Stand firm, therefore, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, wearing the breastplate of righteousness,” (Ephesians 6:14)
When I came awake, I found myself to be a JW with my “belt of truth” unfastened, and my “spiritual pants” around my ankles. Very embarrassing and humiliating!
Trying to make sense of my experience and not to feel like a complete idiot, I began to think of the many different ways in which mankind is deceived en masse by Satan. During the Second World War, many Japanese fighters were willing to sacrifice their lives for the Emperor, who they were taught to believe was a god. I remember reading an experience in The Watchtower of such a person who became a JW and remembers hearing the Emperor denounce his godship over the radio as a condition of Japan’s surrender to the Allies. He said his feelings of disappointment could not be described; that’s how deflated he felt. Especially considering what he had done, and was prepared to do because for this belief! He went into training as a Kamikaze bomber pilot, willing to commit suicide for his cause. Even those who reject belief in God are not freed from self-deception. For example, millions believe in the theory of Evolution. Others who were taught that to fight for God and State are honourable things, fought in horrible and unnecessary wars, losing many dear loved ones. So, I try to be somewhat philosophical about things so as not to feel specially victimised just for having been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
By the way, I am still officially one, so I hope you don’t mind me? I suppose there are many similar awakenings that occur on an every-day basis. In a number of cases, the unbelieving mate does not wake up to the truth about the Organization, but instead thinks it is a sign of loyalty to turn their back on the believer to the extent of abandoning one they claim to love at their most vulnerable.
There is so much of this unhappiness occurring that it would not be wise to obsess over it.
But yes, the comedown is huge, among the worst; there is no question about that! And negative experiences wherever they come from need to be discussed and dealt with, with the view, if possible, of making lemonade from bitter lemons. (Bitter rotten lemons…bitter rotten lemons with thick tough peels…Bitter rotten lemons, thick peels, no juice and worms.) Yeah, I am still peeved, alright!
Having said all that there are many things I can be thankful for from being a JW, such as developing a love for the Bible and having a relationship with God and Jesus, something that probably would not have happened, if I had not been a witness. In the philosophical vein still, as a result of “awakening “, I have also come to appreciate Bible truths now in a way I could never have done before. For example, Jesus’ words at Matthew 7:7 where he said, “Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and it will be opened to you.”
In the past, like many others, I thought this consisted of studying the Truth book and a couple more of the publications, and trying not to fall asleep during the meetings. Now, I have come to realise this knocking and asking must be a lifelong, vigorous endeavour!
Also, as a JW, the section of scripture found at Proverbs 2:4—”Keep seeking for wisdom as for hidden treasure”—is explained in a practical sense, as making the effort to quickly look up the JW library on your computer desk top! If that is all the effort one needs to find life giving wisdom then the biblical analogy of searching for physical treasure should result in spending similar amounts of time and effort to find a mountain of gold making anyone easily a zillionaire! We all know though how much effort is required to find real treasure. I have learned there is considerably more effort required to unearth real spiritual treasures too. Also with regard to spiritual scholarship, JWs stand proud of their perceived knowledge of truth. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you soon realise after “awakening” that you have been “closely supervised like an infant swimming in a tiny blow up swimming pool in Mom’s backyard with spiritual floatation bags on”. The reality is that you are really incapable of swimming strongly alone in the deep waters of truth. Many are loathe to have to do this all over again, to unlearn falsehood and learn real truth. I did feel this loathing in the beginning too. It made me sick to the stomach, but it must be done. To feel free of the past one must, as Jesus said, have the truth that will set you free. (John 8:32) That includes freedom from the anger, resentment, and bitterness one feels due to past experiences of having spent so much time and effort in fruitless endeavours.
Well, having established my mental fragility in a number of ways, I will now tell my story of how I woke up together with my wife and two adult kids.
Growing up in Australia in the late fifties and sixties as a JW youth at school had its challenges. World War II was still fresh in the minds of everybody and many had lost loved ones in the conflict. It seemed nearly everyone had someone in the family who was badly affected. Back then, corporal punishment was permitted in schools, such as the cane, strap, and the common slap around the ears. The expression, “politically correct” had not been invented yet. You just had to be correct! Being a JW was incorrect. This it would appear could be corrected by corporal punishment.
Every Monday morning at school assembly everyone would be assembled and the national Anthem would be played, and everyone would salute the flag. Of course, a number of us—around 5 or 6 who were JWs, much like the 3 Hebrews, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego—would not. Predictably, the headmaster would scream at us, denounce us as traitors to our country, cowards and make us stand aside, in front of the whole school. Then continue the tirade of abuse and then order us to his office for a strapping! Our prayers were answered to the extent that after a while, we only had to do lines or sum lists as punishment. There were the usual birthdays, holiday celebration issues that are still experienced by witness youth at school today. It seems funny now, but when you are only 5 to 10 years old, it was quite hard to endure.
Meetings at the time were very boring; the content was obsessively preoccupied with types and anti-types. Questions abounded about what that this type or that anti-type represented, the sum total benefit to anyone’s life being zero! The Watchtower study was supposed to be an hour long. It was preceded by an hour-long Public Talk, with a 15-minute intermission between the two, so that some could go out and have a smoke. Yes, smoking was still permitted then.
Timing was not an issue in those days and so regularly the speakers and conductors easily went 10-20 minutes overtime! So the meeting would span about 3 hours at least on average. Between the ages of 10 and 15, being of a very inquisitive nature, my favourite activity during the meetings was to sneak out of the hall into the back room library during the program and pour over all the past and present “Questions from Readers”. For some reason, I found these fascinating. Being a young boy, my interest also included looking up such subjects as was available and listed in the Watchtower volume index, as intercourse, sex, fornication, homosexuality masturbation and the like. From this “study” I came across disturbing information that could not be reconciled by me until at least another 40 years later. Even though I was very young, it struck me that the policies on such important topics changed relatively rapidly, with what would have been for many individuals, life devastating consequences. I remember reading about oral sex within the marriage arrangement. (At the time I wasn’t completely sure what that really meant) The Watchtower said sisters who had worldly husbands who insisted on the practice could in good conscience divorce their husbands on the grounds of fornication as the Watchtower Society defined it at the time. In the not-to-distant future, I was reading again information that this was now repealed and this was not a valid basis for a divorce. The sisters who divorced their husband were told that if they acted in good conscience then they should not feel guilty of any wrongdoing! What really outraged me at the time was the expression “some erroneously thought” before proceeding to amend the official policy. I still remember the time and the place, and how stunned I was when I read this for the first time! Yet, I was to see this apparent lack of care for the consequences they caused in people’s lives; this failure to take any ownership or responsibility for major errors, flip flops; this lack of an apology of any kind; repeated time and time again, in many areas in the life of a JW.
Moving forward to the 70s, I became determined “to make the truth my own” by thoroughly studying the Truth book. I got baptised on October 10th 1975. I remember sitting in the audience of baptism candidates and thinking how underwhelmed I felt. I was hoping for this joyous rush that the speaker was describing, but I was just content and relieved that the end had not yet come, before I was baptised and saved! I was now ready for billions of people to die so we could rebuild planet earth and transform it into a “Kingdom Planet”. At the time everything was kingdom, including the famous “Kingdom smile” from which you could tell a JW from afar or out of a crowd. I really do believe in the past, JWs were a much happier and loving people. (You had to be there.) They really did smile more, something you do not see today. Anyway having lived through the 1975 world debacle, I can testify that there really was much said about the end being in 1975. Many sold up and pioneered, many dropped out of university, and others put building their lives on hold because there was so much emphasis from the platform and at the assemblies on the end coming in 1975. Anyone who says otherwise did not live through those times or is flat out lying. I was not affected too much by this as I was only 18 at the time. But I have to tell you, forget about the end coming soon, 40 odd years ago the end was closer then than it has ever been! That’s when the end was really coming! I jest of course.
Moving on to the 80s, I was around 20 something and I married a fine sister and we moved from Melbourne to Sydney and applied ourselves to the truth. We did splendidly. My wife pioneered full time and I was a ministerial servant at around 25 years of age. The 80s were a heady time for the Witnesses as the expansion program was in full swing and the narrative was on “the little one becoming a thousand”. So we were all bracing for a storm of activity that possibly could not be contained. We did not have children for 10 years, because we did not want to have children growing up in the wicked system of things that imminently was going to end in a conflagration. In the early 80s there was an assembly on responsible child bearing. The program discussed Noahs’ children and the Bible as not recording them as having children due to the urgent commission of Ark building. This we were told was by design and the Scriptures were telling us something we needed to factor into our life decisions. After about 10 years though, we felt we were so close to the end of the system that we could have kids, because they would not grow up in the system anyway as it would soon end. It was imminent. The end was just around the corner! My two children are now living in this wicked system for 27 and 24 years respectively.
Now we moving into the 90s and then the 21st Century.
As a ministerial servant, and later as an elder, I was in close contact with the COs, elders and other servants. I was keen on serving Jehovah and my brothers and sisters with zeal and with all of my heart and mind and soul. But what used to make me stop and question was the rather obvious anomalous hypocrisy of many of the supposed pillars of the congregation. I started to see such petty behaviours that I found hard to justify. I seemed that I continually had to rationalise and justify things to be at any peace. There was serious jealousy; arrogance, pride, bad manners and a host of serious spiritual flaws that I thought should not be present in elders or servants. I started to see that to make it in the Organisation, it was not so much spirituality, but personality that was appreciated. Meaning, if you were not perceived to be a threat to the elders and you appeared to easily conform to organisational policies, and asked no questions or went along with everything like a good old company man and hailed the other elders’ every action as they do with the President in North Korea, then you were going to go places. It seemed to me very much a “boys’ club”.
My experience as an elder and my findings across all of the different congregations was that, in any elder body of roughly around 10 elders, there always seemed to be one or two dominant elders whose opinion invariably held sway. About 6 obvious “yes men” to the dominant elder(s)—explaining away their compliant attitude as guided by humility and a need for unity! Finally, there were one or two sensitive elders who nevertheless acted cowardly rather than have confrontations. I only came across a handful of elders who had real integrity in all of the time I was an serving as one.
I remember on one occasion discussing important matters with such a cowardly elder, and I asked why he would not vote in favour of what he knew, and agreed privately, was the right thing to do. His reply was a flat out, unabashed, “You know if I do that I could soon be out of a job!” His concern was obviously not truth and justice. His position as an elder to him was more important than the needs of the brothers in the congregation who he was supposed to be shepherding!
To give another example of this, on another occasion there was extensive discussion amongst the elder body about one elder who, because of his very poor Christian conduct, was being considered for removal. Things were confirmed. Everyone agreed that in the best interests of the congregation, the recommendation should be made to the CO during his upcoming visit. On the night for this discussion, there appeared to be ripples amongst some of the elders instigated by the dominant ones of the elder body before the meeting with the CO that we should not make the recommendation. In the meeting with the CO when this issue came up each elder was asked by the CO what he thought. I was sitting closest to the CO that night and there were 8 other elders present at the time. One by one they extoled the virtues of the elder in question and indicated that he should retain his position as an elder. I sat there numbed by the back-flip, where there was no evidence or reason for it. There was no careful and considered consultation or prayer. All was arrived at informally and in a hurried and coercive manner, in the hallway as everyone was filing into the meeting room. Anyway, one by one, I listened to each elder express themselves in a way I knew contradicted what they really believed, and what was in fact the truth of the matter. As it came around to my turn I felt a huge amount of pressure to conform as all eyes were on me. Nevertheless I explained matters as I saw them. The CO was confused at the difference in my view from what the rest were saying. So, in view of my comments and those of the CO, he asked to go around the room a second time. This time, in only a matter of one or two minutes, one by one each elder gave a completely different account of the matter and concluded differently! I was stunned beyond belief! I saw these guys turn on a dime! Who are these guys I thought? Where is the justice? Big trees of righteousness? Shelter from the storm and the wind for the flock! Wise and discerning? Spiritual and mature? And even worse everyone seemed unfazed. No one seemed to think anything of it! Including the CO!
Unfortunately, this was my experience over and over—elders meetings exhibiting human thinking and displaying more of self-interest that any real unselfish interest in the flock. I saw this behaviour across a large number of congregations over the years. It was not, what some may have concluded, an isolated incident. Politics, personalities, a numbers game—but not spirituality—seemed to be the guiding force in these meetings. At one elders meeting to discuss the changes in meeting times, the T.V. screening time of Dr Who was considered so as not to clash with the meetings! True story!!
This really struck me, because the official narrative is that we can trust the elders and the decisions that they make; that they are guided by Holy Spirit and if there appears to be any anomalies, we should not to be concerned, but just trust the arrangements. The idea put forward is that the congregations are “firmly in the right hand of Jesus”, as Revelation says. Any display of concern, any desire to complain or to improve things, is considered as a lack of faith in Jesus’ authority and his ability to control his Christian Congregation! I was seriously left wondering as to what I was seeing and what was really happening.
As it turned out, through the 90s and 2000s, because of work we often moved our place of residence which meant we found ourselves in many different congregations. This gave me the opportunity to have a unique perspective and to be able to analyse the elder bodies, and the members in all these congregations. I soon came to the conclusion that the makeup of the elder bodies, and the members in each of the congregations was amazingly similar. This no doubt is the result of the Organisation’s push for “unity “as they put it, but I was also looking at the net result of the “Feeding Program” and the resultant supposed “Spiritual Paradisiac” conditions that should have resulted. I compared this against the narrative of what apparently everyone supposedly was enjoying. We were continually being reminded that we were the happiest people on Earth; we were cleanest religion; we were not hypocrites; we had justice; we had the elders; we were the foundation for God’s Kingdom on earth; we were the only ones who demonstrate true love; we had the truth; we had happy family life; we had a purposeful, meaningful existence.
What really bothered me was that it appeared that like a computer, there seemed to be two competing programs running at the same time. The positive official narrative did not match reality, by a long shot!
Often, I would stand at the back of the hall during the meeting or when I was doing “priestly duties” such as handling the microphones, and I would look down the aisles and across the rows and consider the lives of each individual and family unit, where there was one, against the scriptures and against what is generally considered as a reasonably happy person. My findings were that equally—or often more so, to what is found generally in the world—I saw divorce, unhappy marriages, broken families, poor parenting, youth delinquency, depression, mental illnesses, self-induced physical illnesses, psychological illnesses from stress and anxiety, such as acute allergies, food intolerances, ignorance of scripture, academics, and life in general. I saw people with no personal interests, hobbies or otherwise healthy activities. I saw an almost complete lack of hospitality, no meaningful interaction as a community of believers outside prescribed activities such as the meetings and field service. Spiritually, other than responding in an automatic way to anything around Organisational requirements, there seemed to be a very shallow perception and display of Christian Love and the other Fruits of the Spirit that constituted a spiritual person. The only thing that seemed to matter was witnessing from door to door. This was the gauge by which one could define oneself and others as a true Christian, and those who exerted themselves in this activity were regarded as being balanced and well-adjusted and having all of the Christian qualities regardless of the true facts. From all of the above I could see the very poor spiritual feeding program was at the heart of the matter and the real cause of my fellow brothers’ predicament.
Taking on board all of my experiences in the truth, I found that I had come to some very unusual conclusions in an effort to justify and rationalise what was actually happening in the Organisation to me personally and my family, and to have a reasonable reply to others who would complain to me about the same things. I was actually starting to be embarrassed to call myself a Jehovah’s Witness. I would often think, how in the world could anyone be convinced to become part of this community and think they could benefit themselves or their family, from what could be readily seen?
So as to not lose my mind and to rationalise things with regard to the identifying mark of true Christianity which is love, and due to the obvious lack of it in general, I formulated my own new definition to fit the circumstances I found myself in. That is, love is a principled thing that is manifested mostly in truthful teachings that result ultimately in everlasting life. I reasoned that in the New World, all of the imperfections and the occasional lack of love being displayed would be sorted out. The believed that only place this true Christian love could be found is among Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Organisation is not a social club for those looking for a loving community; rather it is a place where one needs to come to show this love to others, but not necessarily to expect it from others. The onus being on the individual to show this quality to others unselfishly like Jesus, whose efforts were not always appreciated.
Eventually after seeing so much, I had need to revise my definition of what Jesus described as Christion love, to: you can come to the meeting, sit down and enjoy the program and not worry about getting a knife stuck in your back! Like in some war-torn Arab or African nation! After being physically assaulted in an elders meeting by another elder in front of others, I had cause for revising this conclusion too.
The point being, spiritually I was running on empty, I had run out of excuses and justifications for the prevailing culture, teachings, and many of the practices and policies in the Organisation, that seemed to be quickly spiralling downwards at an ever increasing rate. I was at my wit’s end, and I was looking for answers, but did not know where to find them or even if they could be found. My prayers to Jehovah were in earnest like the disciples who were praying for Peter’s welfare when he was imprisoned. (Acts 12:5) So Peter was being kept in prison, but the congregation was intensely praying to God for him. Both my wife and I including our two fine children would constantly ask, “Is it us or is it them? Is it us or is it them?” We finally concluded it was us, which was in some ways unfortunate because we did not fit in any more but had nowhere to turn to. We felt lonely and isolated.
Then here in Australia a big ticket news item came on across all of the media. The Australian Royal Commission into institutional child abuse. This was the kicker that resulted in things coalescing and brought about the rapid change in my understanding of things, and I was able to find clarity and make sense of everything that was bothering me.
Before I was aware personally of the Royal Commission, an elder on the platform closed the meeting asking God and everyone in the audience to help and give their support to the Governing Body and the elders who were being persecuted by the Royal Commission. I questioned the elder about what this meant, and he gave me a brief comment about how viciously the Royal Commission was persecuting the brothers with falsehoods and inappropriate questions. I thought nothing of it until soon after I saw something on the T.V about it. I turned on You Tube to watch some of the recent recorded JW interviews. And oh boy! To see brother Jackson, some of the branch heads, and all of the elders involved in the past atrocious committee meetings, squirm and lie through their teeth; to see them deflect, act dumb; refuse to answer or co-operate; and worst of all not to apologize or admit the harm caused by inappropriate policies and procedures was too much! What an eye opener to say the least! In the list of other material to watch on the side was Ray Franz former Governing Body member of JWs and the rest is history. I read Crisis of Conscience at least 3 times; In Search of Christian Freedom 3 times; Captives of a Concept about 3 times; Combating Cult Mind Control; Carls books: The Signs of the Times and The Gentile Times Reconsidered; watched all of Frank Trueks and Ravi Zacarias YouTube videos; devoured the material on Restitutio.org and a lot from http://21stcr.org/ and JWFacts.com
As you might suspect, I spent hundreds if not thousands of hours devouring all of the information above which is extensive. The more I dug the more I would give myself an upper-cut each time another dumb JW teaching hit the trash basket.
In addition, I trolled the many ex-JW web sites that crushed and depressed me as I saw the devastation caused to many whose personal lives and faith had been shipwrecked because of JW.ORG. I was a man on a mission to get to the truth. After visiting many a web site I have come across this one that gives me much encouragement. It is encouraging to see others who despite having suffered greatly still have enough love for God and Jesus to want to try and keep their lamp shining on a mountain, so to speak. So, can I thank everyone here for supporting this resting place, because it has helped me greatly. It is one site I can heartily recommend for believers, ex-JW and otherwise who need support and Christian encouragement to continue in the Christian journey. And I just want all of you to know how much I appreciate all of your encouraging and positive comments. That’s not to say we don’t still have lots to work through after escaping to the “Mountains of Pella” wondering about the future. But I am trusting in Jehovah and our master Jesus to come through for us on these matters.
Warm Christian love to all, Alithia.