Is it my imagination, or do most Jehovah’s Witnesses seem determined to bring ex-Witnesses back to the Kingdom Hall by shaming us to death? A lot of their standard “attacks” are mostly emotional, and one that I’ve heard from a lot of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses is the lovable old chestnut you see in the title. Here it is worded another way: “Hey, Jehovah’s organization has gotten us this far. How can you turn your back on it after all the Watchtower Society has done for you?” I suppose they could have added something like, “You dirty, rotten traitor!” to really make your eyes water. But that would be too obvious. It’s hardly necessary since that’s pretty much what they’re implying any way.
This one reminds me of “How Could You Leave Jehovah God After All He’s Done For You?!?” Let’s deconstruct this one and look at some of the assumptions being made.
1. The Society Has Gotten Us This Far (Or Through The Tough Times, Etc.)…
Chances are that the Society received a stack of cash from you over the years in the way of donations. Not to mention a lot of free labor to boot. Now what did you get from them? Okay, okay. What positive things did you get? The only things most Jehovah’s Witnesses could name here are debatable at best. They’d probably go with “The Truth,” except you probably don’t think they have The Truth. That one doesn’t count for much if you aren’t buying into it. “Well,” they might try next, “how about a good, clean, moral lifestyle?” So you couldn’t get that from a source that is less controlling?
Why not ask them about happiness or freedom? “But that’s apostate thinking!” they’d stutter.
That might be a good time to ask them about the value of having an open mind.
The bottom line is that I’m not clear on how the Society “got” any of us “this far.” It’s not as if the Society is handing out hundred dollar bills at the meetings or paying high wages for our labor. In fact, it would seem that we’re the ones who supported the Society during our Watchtower years and not the other way around. Jehovah’s Witnesses in good standing are still supporting it to this very day. But I don’t see a lot happening in the reverse even for them. That pretty much nails this one, don’t you think?
2. …So You Owe It To Them To Stay Loyal!
As I already mentioned, I think it’s more likely they who owe you, if anything. But I don’t care for this loyalty business they like to throw around. Shouldn’t you be loyal to yourself? Don’t you owe it to your own consience to do what you feel is right? Maybe what they’re really feeling is that you’ve betrayed them in some way and want you to feel bad about it. But that would make this about them, not about you.
So How Should Ex-Witnesses Deal With The Emotions This Accusation Raises?
If you know someone who likes to hit you with this one, then you could try making a couple of lists. First, write down all the things you received from the Society and all the things they received from you, then see which number is bigger. Did you give them more than they gave you? Some examples of things you gave them include:
- Free labor. That includes the door-to-door ministry, any time you may have spent at Bethel, time you spent creating presentations for public talks, etc.
- Money you raised by way of outside donations or donations you gave from your own pocket.
- New converts you may have recruited through the preaching work.
Secondly, you could compare the positives to the negatives. What were the real, objective advantages of life in the Watchtower Society? When counting the negatives, don’t forget things like:
- Good job opportunities you passed over because you had to make five meetings a week, every week.
- The education that you, like many Witnesses, avoided because the Society warned you against it.
- Friends and other relationships you missed out on because you only had close associations with other Jehovah’s Witnesses.
So How Should You Respond?
They say this: “But the Society has gotten us this far! We owe it to them to stick it out to the end!” You might say something like:
But I disagree. The Society has taken my donations and years of my labor on their behalf. I don’t feel I owe them anything. There’s nothing more to say about it and I would appreciate it if you accepted that. I can’t be your friend any more unless you agree to lay off about the Society completely. That means no more accusations, no more guilt, no more shame. No more anything having to do with Jehovah or the Society. Can you do that so we can still be friends?
Stare them in the eyes when you say this one. You can look at their nose or their forehead if you have to (they won’t be able to tell the difference). You can even cross your arms. Just make sure they take you seriously.
They may tell you that they have no choice because Jesus commands them to convert others. If they use this lame excuse, you might remind them that all they’ve done is push you even further from their religion than you already were. That can make them see their efforts in a new light and might encourage them to at least try to lay off. If they won’t let go of this one, you might note the hypocrisy behind this excuse. They are literally shifting the blame for their actions to Jesus! Should Jehovah’s people really use such a tactic? To me, the “Jesus excuse” is just a cop out.
One other thing. The last line of the recommended response – “I can’t be your friend any more unless you agree to lay off about the Society completely” – may leave some feeling a bit squeamish about the ultimatum. You can always leave it out, but I suggest you use it. It doesn’t matter if it’s your mother or someone who used to be your best friend. Their obsessive evangelizing will surely ruin your relationship, if it hasn’t already, so this is really an attempt to fix that situation.
Whatever you do, try the other exercises I mentioned to keep things in perspective. This can help ex-Witnesses with low self esteem feel better about themselves.
-the Atheist Geek-