A while ago I posted a piece I’d written about returning to a Jehovah’s Witness service. The reactions have been nothing short of fascinating.
A few people were quite hurt, and understandably so. I’m very close to some family members that are still involved with the organization. Some of them contacted me immediately to express their upset and anger, and kindly allowed me to explain my position, my intention, and my feelings about them personally. I explained that they were far from the people I described in the piece. I explained the level of love and respect I have for them, regardless of their beliefs. I also apologized for not giving them advance warning and telling them that I didn’t consider them as those kinds of people prior posting the piece. It was confronting for them. And that’s a completely fair response.
But fortunately, most people upset by the piece had the maturity to open up dialogue with me, discuss the whole thing, and ultimately resolve it.
While I apologized (and I will continue to apologize) to anyone that was hurt and upset by the post, I don’t (and won’t) apologize for the content. I had no intention of changing anyone’s mind about the religion or taking anyone away from it. I had no interest in making anybody feel uncomfortable. I simply felt like it was time for me to speak my mind on the whole thing, given I’m asked so frequently how I feel about it. And my long-overdue return to the Kingdom Hall felt like a good springboard from which to express my feelings. It wouldn’t have been fair for me to talk about my childhood memories of the religion, because memories are unreliable, especially after fifteen years of no contact. So I described exactly what I observed upon my return, without hyperbole or excess emotion.
One of the major criticisms of the post was that I’d made my feelings so public. Some felt that I was pushing my views on others, which wasn’t the case at all. I wanted to be able to direct people to something whenever they asked me how I feel about the organization now given that it was a large part of my life until my early teenage years. I left out a lot of major things in the post, because some of my past experiences were quite negative, but I know they aren’t the norm, and they all happened a long time ago. Things have changed since then. So it wouldn’t be fair to bring all that up, and that’s why I didn’t. If anything, given my history with (and knowledge of) the religion, I was quite gentle on it.
One of my assertions, and one I’ll not back down on, is my right to express my feelings on the Jehovah’s Witness organization. The fact is that Witnesses are famously encouraged to knock on the doors of people’s homes—admittedly with the noble intention of helping others—to communicate their views, views which I personally disagree with. So to tell me that I shouldn’t communicate my views in a far less obtrusive manner is, I feel, somewhat hypocritical.
While most of the people upset by my post had the open-mindedness, good sense, and maturity to contact me about my post, my only sibling sadly reacted in a much different way; I received one angry message via Facebook and then was promptly blocked. There was no attempt to request an apology from me, nor was there any attempt to discuss the post in an adult manner. Given Facebook is our only form of communication, I took this as a clear signal that he and his wife have no interest in having me involved in their lives. The most disappointing thing about this is that I’ve been exceptionally patient with them for quite some time. I’ve never let differences in our beliefs affect my relationship with them, or my love for them.
Those involved with the religion (especially those that I know and love) are wonderful, kind, intelligent people, and I would never ask them to change. I’ve never cut anyone from my life because of their personal beliefs, and yet I’ve now been subjected to that exact reaction for expressing mine for the first time in my entire life. It’s hypocritical, but more than anything, it’s sad. I’m a week away from my wedding and my only sibling has no interest in me or my life because I made public my views, views which he might disagree with. And even though there are many things that he believes that I vehemently disagree with, I still flew to another hemisphere to be there for him at his wedding. I still tried to be a good sister, stay in contact, listen to his views, hold my tongue when I disagreed with said views.
I believed that by being patient and overlooking things I didn’t disagree with, I was being a decent family member and a good person. I felt like that’s what family is supposed to do (and that’s what the rest of my family has done). Sadly, it appears that he doesn’t operate the same way.
In retrospect, I’ll admit that I should have warned those still involved with the religion about the post ahead of time. I should have reassured them that none of them are, in my mind, like the people I described. But I didn’t, and the loss of a brother is the price I paid for that particular mistake.
It’s sad that it’s happened this way, but if he felt that cutting me out of his life was an appropriate reaction, I have no right to argue with that, because they’re his feelings. And just like I will defend my feelings and observations as I described them in my post, he has every right to defend his. It’s unfortunate, but I have no regrets. It felt wonderful to finally speak my mind, and I’m lucky to have so many kind, forgiving, and communicative family members—whom I love and admire regardless of their association with the Jehovah’s Witnesses—in my life.
My relationship with (and love for) people has nothing to do with what they believe. It never has and never will. I only wish I was afforded the same patience by my only sibling. But as disappointed as I am, I won’t demand that he overlook my beliefs, just as I’ve overlooked his for as long as I can remember.
Families often divide over some very minor things sometimes. I thought our family was above that, but I guess not.