Sometimes when people come out of the Watchtower, their fear is that they will be expected by others to discredit ALL of it. But that’s not honest nor honoring of their decision at the time they accepted a free home Bible study from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I can honestly say I have some very good memories of my time spent as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and know I am a better person for it. Even though from this side of things I can call it a toxic cult, in reference to their own conversion to the Watchtower, I understand why some former members cling to it in their confusion claiming “the truth saved my life.”
They are describing themselves as rescued from things MORE troubling at the time they began that study. For example, a failing marriage was saved by applying the principles set forth in the “Family Happiness” book that a Witness left at their door.
A life once devoted to drinking and endless parties came to a halt when a searching soul began to look forward instead to a paradise devoid of the stresses of this world. Or the insecurity of not knowing where to find answers in our own Bibles got replaced with confidence as we aligned our lives with the education program provided by weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall.
These are just a few things a former Jehovah’s Witness may describe when saying their involvement with the Watchtower saved their life. But what about now? Is it still saving their life? Or has it become toxic? This is a question I’ve learned to ask when I talk with someone fading from the organization. They know they don’t really want to go back, but they reminisce about the positive changes that occurred in them or the valuable lessons learned there. And I make sure to honor that. What was good, was good. But what about now?
When I began to doubt the Watchtower and was uncertain whether I’d continue to go to meetings or walk away, I was affected by a lesson from an inspirational speaker that I still use today when talking with others in that uncomfortable spot known as “fading.”
Do you remember the Timex commercials, “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking?” True stories were presented in the commercials about people who survived horrific accidents and the wristwatch continued to work. This inspirational speaker shared the story of a skydiver who had trouble with her parachute.
Somehow she was able to direct her path of descent and had two landing options below: the hard pavement or an open cesspool. Which do you suppose she chose? Obviously, her chance of survival was greater by landing in the proverbial creek without a paddle. Landing in an open cesspool saved her life! However, she’s not there today swimming around in it repeating the mantra “this saved my life!” In fact, had she stayed too long, the toxic fumes would’ve killed her! The speaker made a point by asking the audience about our relationships,
“What are you hanging on to that is killing you at present but you stay because “it saved your life?”
I have used this story many times when talking with former Jehovah’s Witnesses who feel conflicted about whether to go back or not. Instead of tearing down their experience and ranting against every fault of the religion they once trusted, I assure them that the “free home Bible study” they accepted may have saved their life from something worse at the time.
Maybe it was just the thing that helped their marriage, opened their eyes to bad habits, or gave them opportunity to explore their neglected Bible. We may not see T-shirts or bumper stickers that say “Cesspools Save,” but it is a truthful statement for one woman who’s Timex kept on ticking. If someone says their time spent with Jehovah’s Witnesses saved their life, please honor their experience.
Can’t we all point to things on life’s journey that were necessary at the time? Breast milk saved me from starvation, but I no longer drink it. Grade school saved me from illiteracy, but I didn’t stay there. Jehovah’s Witnesses helped me discover the treasures hidden in my Bible, set priorities in my time for spiritual things, and appreciate the value of blood. So I didn’t stay there. I accepted that free home Bible study because I was searching for truth. And the truth took a licking, but it kept on ticking!
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie