How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower
"Rescue" from a Religion? |
Don't Delay--Act Today! |
Overall Strategy |
Techniques that Work |
Tools to Use |
Step by Step |
God's "Prophet" |
A Changing "Channel" |
Doctoring Medical Doctrines |
Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name |
"God's Visible Organization" |
Providing an Alternative |
Can This Marriage Be Saved? |
When Children Are Involved |
Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own |
Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation |
Appendix: Resources & Support Groups
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Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation
With so much
effort directed toward freeing your loved one from bondage, once that goal is
reached, there may be a tendency to breathe a sigh of relief and to say, “Whew!
I’m glad that’s over and done with.” But your work is not finished yet. The one
you helped escape will also need help to return to a normal life.
Some people exit a cult like a tightly coiled spring
sprung loose from a restraint. The spring bounces all over the place and
finally falls to the floor, vibrating all over; likewise, the ex-cultist
bounces from group to group, until finally collapsing a nervous wreck. Some set
out on a search for another organization to replace the one proved false.
Others become bitter toward God, religion, and anything else that reminds them
of the past. A few even turn to alcohol or drugs to escape the complexities of
the real world.
Many ex-Witnesses appear to be living a normal life but
actually suffer from haunting memories, nagging doubts, unsettled questions,
and suppressed fears. They instinctively feel that no one but another former JW
would understand, so they keep these troubling thoughts to themselves,
continuing to be troubled by them.
Seldom does anyone exit a cult without emotional wounds,
spiritual scars, and a sense of disorientation. And the longer the person has
spent in the group, the longer the healing and renormalization process can be
expected to take. This is especially true of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were
slowly taught to think like JWs before they were baptized into the
organization, and once they are brought out of the organization they must
slowly learn to think normally again.
“Time heals all wounds,” someone may quote the popular
saying. “Just give her time, and she’ll be back to her old self again.” There
is some truth to that, of course. Watchtower leaders themselves know that
constant indoctrination is needed to maintain a strong hold on their followers.
Missing meetings is a sin, and staying away from Kingdom Hall for an extended
vacation is tantamount to apostasy—because the message constantly repeated at
the meetings begins to fade from the brain as soon as the foot hits the street.
That is why Witnesses are expected to attend meetings Tuesday and Thursday
evenings and Sunday mornings; go from house to house with the group on Saturday
mornings, Sunday afternoons, and at other opportunities during the week; spend
Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings preparing lessons for upcoming
meetings, and use other available time to conduct studies with family members
and prospective converts. Any departure from this schedule allows room for
independent thinking to develop. And abandoning the program altogether, even
for a short period of time, almost always results in leaving the organization.
So after a person has formally quit the sect, each
passing day does provide fresh food for thought, pushing the old memories
further back in the mind. But time alone is not a cure-all. Like knots in a
rope, each tangled reasoning or troubled thought must be dealt with
Someone may have rejected the organization but may still
think it wrong to accept a blood transfusion, or may feel guilty eating a rare
steak with juices on the plate. Another ex-JW may feel uncomfortable around an
American flag. I have seen terror on the face of a former Witness entering a
church building for the first time. Many hesitate to vote in an election. Some
worry constantly about questions relating to God, the afterlife, and the nature
of true Christianity.
An observer who has never been immersed in a cult may be
able to brush such matters aside, telling the ex-JW, “Oh! That’s just a lot of
silly nonsense. Come on! You don’t have to believe that anymore; you’re out of
the Watchtower now. Just forget all that stuff!”
The former Witness may manage to smile and respond,
“Okay! You’re right!” He or she may even go ahead and do the act in question,
such as standing for the national anthem, but the problem actually remains and
in fact gets worse, because now it is suppressed and is compounded by a guilty
conscience. Unless the twisted reasoning is patiently untwisted, point by
point, real healing does not occur. It is like a splinter that is not removed
but instead is treated with painkiller, disinfectant, and a Band-Aid. It may
seem to be cured, but the pain will recur until the splinter is actually
Time and again I have encountered men and women who had
left the Watchtower years earlier, but who were still being troubled by
problems common to those who are just now coming out. Why? Because the root of
their problems had never yet been fully addressed; or because the persons who
tried to help them were not really qualified and did not get the job done.
Except for rare individuals who have received special
training or who have unique insight, it usually takes another ex-JW to help a
former Witness. Most of those who were troubled for years after leaving the
Watchtower did not find relief until they finally encountered an ex-JW support
group, made friends with another ex-Witness, or read literature written by
someone who had gone through the same ordeal.
The reason for this is that the indoctrination formerly
received on a continual basis, although now rejected, has still left behind a
residue of peculiar ideas and thought patterns. As a result, ex-Witnesses start
off with different assumptions than ordinary folk. For example, a roomful of
people may listen to a minister preach the gospel. Quite a few of those who
hear the message may accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and “come
forward” when invited. But the ex-JW in the audience remains unmoved, or even
confused, because what he heard did not make sense to him. In his mind, Jesus
is an angel—Michael the Archangel, to be exact—because
this particular aspect of Watchtower teaching had never been cleared up for
him. So the words the minister spoke were sufficient to convince others in the
audience, because they shared certain common assumptions. But the ex-Witness
had something altogether different in his mind, and the minister’s message
failed to deal with it.
A few people manage to deprogram themselves upon leaving
the organization; such individuals are usually readers who spend a lot of time
alone with the Bible and with other books that help them gain a new world view.
Some married couples deprogram each other by discussing what they used to
believe and what to believe now, while each one receives fresh insight through
reading and through contact with workmates or neighbors. They share these new
thoughts together, gradually stripping themselves of their former belief
structure. But all ex-Witnesses need some form of outside help to successfully
shed the mental baggage they have been saddled with by their former mentors.
If you are engaged in helping someone in this position,
then you should be prepared to assist this thought transformation. Transporting
a person physically out of a Kingdom Hall and into a church is a major
accomplishment. But the changes taking place inside the person are what
really count. And those changes take place gradually over a long period of
time. A lot of patient assistance is needed, both before and after the break
with the sect.
You will be able to initiate some of the discussion
required to help a former Witness rethink his or her beliefs. But many other
points will have to be addressed when they happen to come up in the
individual’s mind; you will need to make yourself available to be called upon
at such times.
You can also provide supplementary assistance by putting
the ex-JW in touch with others who have gone through a similar experience. In
some localities there are support groups for former cultists, some specifically
for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. In recent years ex-JWs have been regularly holding
annual conventions in California,
Florida, and Pennsylvania,
besides occasional gatherings in large cities elsewhere.
But caution must be exercised in selecting such
association, since in some cases, persons who are only half out of the
Watchtower get together to perpetuate their shared beliefs. A few
individuals who are all just leaving the sect at the same time may find each
other and get together for mutual support; they all need help, but there is no
one among them competent to give help. The blind end up leading the blind. They
share the same problem, but none of them has yet found the solution. The result
is that the group stagnates, functioning as an entity separate from the
Watchtower, but retaining many of the strange notions that its members still
share in common. Such a group will not be able to help your friend.
So before putting your friend in touch with a support
group, or before passing on a book or tape, you would do well first to assure
yourself that the group, author, or speaker is truly free.
For those in areas distant from wholesome ex-JW
association, there are newsletters and fellowships formed through the mail and
over the internet. And there are books of testimonies and admonition written by
For assistance in finding valid support groups and
resources, see the Appendix.