But Tough Love Isn’t The Same Thing As Abuse!
I realize that some readers will never be convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses are mistreating former members, even ones who behave just as I have described. Many who believe the Watchtower Society is the one and only “True Religion” will accuse ex-Witnesses of being overly sensitive or insist that the actions of so-called “abusive” Witnesses are both selfless and justified. I’ll agree that we sometimes need to push loved ones into doing what’s best for them – even if that something is painful at first. This is what’s called “tough love.” I have little doubt that this is how some Jehovah’s Witnesses see their attempts to pressure former believers into compliance with the Society’s teachings. But like the subtitle says, there are differences between tough love and plain old abuse. It’s tough love if we try to push someone into doing something that’s painful when we know the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. However, we should always leave tough choices to the individual when the benefits are in doubt. We also need to realize that we might be the ones who are wrong instead of assigning ourselves the role of moral superiority. This is a mistake that many Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to make.
But Aren’t These “Abusive” Witnesses Simply Trying To Correct Wayward Members?
When Jehovah’s Witnesses in good standing approach former believers about a loss of faith in “The Truth,” they often start out with a friendly, conversational tone. But things tend to get out of control when the Witness starts building a case to win over the inactive one. The conversation can become adversarial as the Witness switches to a tone of righteous indignation, then gets openly insulting as they accuse the ex-Witness of being weak, petty, or even spiteful in their refusal to conform. (See Signs Of Abusive Behavior From Witnesses) It seems that nothing will satisfy the Witness until the former believer is completely demoralized.
Before I give anyone the wrong impression, I want to acknowledge that not all Jehovah’s Witnesses are openly abusive toward former members. Still, ex-Witnesses are generally frowned upon by believers who see them as “bad associates” to be avoided. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they have the one and only “True Religion,” rejection of that religion is one of the worst sins their members can possibly commit. Even ex-Witnesses who keep to themselves and avoid criticizing the Society are often seen as little better than apostates. When combined, these attitudes can lead to tense situations where people can say and do some really stupid things. Especially to people they love.
Why Do So Many Witnesses Mistreat Former Witnesses?
Many ex-Witnesses have to deal with Witness relatives or friends who go all preachy on them from time to time. The evangelist may not notice it, but these little “conversations” (their word) tend to get ugly and abusive pretty quickly. They always seem to deteriorate from, “I want to convince you to come back to us,” into something more like, “I hope you feel ashamed of yourself for making me and Jesus cry!” I’ve never been able to figure out if the Witnesses pulling this kind of stuff are simply unaware of how much personal anger they’re dumping on people or if they actually think it’s justified. I suspect it’s a combination of both.