The other day, I posted about a former Jehovah’s Witness whose extended family was going through a difficult time. Her mother-in-law was dying of cancer and wanted to speak to her daughter… but the daughter was still a practicing JW who refused to associate with people who had left the faith. Just an awful situation.
The same person who told that story recently got this text message from someone she was close to, showing that the fallout was affecting her as well:
The only thing surprising about that for me was the method of delivery. I’ve heard of breaking up with someone via text, but cutting them out of your life forever? Even when they’re family? Isn’t that a conversation you should really have in person?
More importantly: Was this a fluke or something that happened often?
I posed that question on the ex-JW subreddit and asked if anyone would be willing to share similar stories. The responses were upsetting, to say the least, in part because this situation apparently happens all the time.
I’m posting a few of the responses below. Obviously, I can’t verify them all, but any one of them being true would be a black mark on the entire religion. I’ve edited them a bit for the sake of clarity:
Had a cousin who was DF’d [Disfellowshipped]. When he was DF’d I still txt’d and talked to him. Seemed like he was on the edge of waking up, he was the one I’d talk to about how insane and dumb so much of it all was as I was exiting.
Fast forward a year and I’m 100% mentally out, DF’d, and done, and he’s reinstated. But when I txt him he simply replied with the ol’ “I can’t talk to you unless you get reinstated”.
… we got a text from a close friend of over 20 years telling us that “we were on a different path now” and wishing us well.
A Facebook conversation between me and my childhood best friend. I hadn’t talked to her since I left and I like to let people know I still exist every now and then.
ME: Hay girlie. I just wanted to say hi and miss you. ❤
HER: Hey —-, miss you too! Just wanted to say tho we don’t see each other, I do really care about you. I was watching the November broadcast on tv.jw.org tonight, don’t know if you’ve seen this new site but it’s got some amazing videos on it, anyway it made me think of you so much. I wanted to mention it because I think you may enjoy watching it too. I hope all is well with you!
ME: So I watched the broadcast. And I have to say, I was quite offended by this statement: “The question is not – Why you are inactive or how long have you been inactive. The real question is – Are you ready to come home?”
The question IS “Why am I inactive?” Those reasons matter. And this broadcast and the recent brochure aimed at inactive/disfellowshipped/disassociated people only look at us as having emotional problems. Not problems rooted in actual research. The language in the brochure is “overwhelmed… struggling with negative feelings… depressed… drained… harboring resentment… embarrassed…”
My decisions have not been emotional ones. If they were, do you think that not seeing you in years and not having my family at my wedding would be at the top of my list? Of course not. But my issues are bigger than my emotions. And if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here. Or if you don’t want to talk about it and just be friends again, I’m here. My friendship is not conditional on whether you agree with me or not.
Love, Your friend always – —-
HER: Ok, I appreciate that you watched it and thanks for sharing your feelings with me about it. I just want to mention that I felt that wasn’t meant to demean anyone’s reasons but was directed towards those who felt they wanted to return but had feelings that prevented them from doing so. Your feelings seem to show that, at this time, you have no desire to return to the congregation and so these emotions of regret are not what you are feeling. But since Jehovah tries to reach the heart of people, it does tend to be an emotional decision that goes hand in hand with their logic and reason. But I hear you; you have your reasons. I miss you more than you know and just have been avoiding this conversation because, for me, us disagreeing on this is a condition on which all my friendships hang. I will always love you and hope that you change your mind but unless you come back to Jehovah, I can’t say that we are friends. Love you —-,I hope you do change your mind some day and hope that you decide to take a second look at the conclusions you have come to.
My family didn’t even have the decency to text. They just outright ignored all my calls and texts until I gave up. Then months later they text an “I love you, I hope you come back to Jehovah.” To which I replied “Shove it up your ass.”
No texts, but a couple of emails to the tune of how much they love me but they can no longer talk to me. My father shunned me in a Facebook comment and then when I later posted something showing support for the lbgt community in Orlando, my dad unfriended me. We’ve been estranged for years so I was more amused/annoyed than hurt.
I’ve received 3 texts over 2 years ending contact via text message. The previous times I didn’t reply because I had no interest in getting into it, but my mother reached out again, asking to assess our relationship. When I said we didn’t have much left to say, I finally was brutally honest and said I despise her religion and what they teach.
So I receive this: “I’m sorry to hear that you feel this way still. I love you $&@&$ and I always will. It saddens me to think our life together has come to this but no one, not even you, can take away what I hold dear to my heart. You have definitely taken a strong position against Jehovah and now me. So sorry for you. This will be the end of our contact”
After a few text messages I sent she blocked my number.
[One reader, who came out as gay and “agnostic-atheist” in 2013, said that his brother sent him the following message.]
“i once considered you my best friend.
And even though you called me two weeks ago with your decision, I still felt that maybe, just maybe Jehovah was still in your heart and you were willing to accept his love, and we could still remain friends.
But then I found out how you felt about my friend, Jehovah god. How you felt about our parents. Our family. Our father — who from all accounts you have shown nothing but disrespect and a seeming hatred for — even though he has done nothing to warrant. Yeah, I’m calling you out on it. It’s what a friend does… and a brother does, and I remember a few times you calling me out on the many times I was stupid.
And it is for these actions, that we can no longer be friends.
You have decided to embark on a journey in a world that you feel you know all about. But I have a feeling you are in for quite the shock… it’s a struggle for everyone, harder without family. Do you know how much we would have been willing to do for you? I was willing to walk away from my lease in my apartment, give up all of my travel, and have you move in with me In Pittsburgh. I love you so much I would be willing to give up anything and everything to make you happy. But I see now that I what you want, I simply cannot give. What we have as a family, you have rejected, clearly, and publicly.
Over the last few years, there have been many nights that I have commiserated and fretted over your situation-are you happy, are you feeling ok, who’s hurting your feelings. I’ve always felt that I should be able to protect you as your big brother.
I will no longer do that.
And it causes me great pain.
This is a pain like no other. Worse than the spinal tap. Worse than the day i found out i had ms. Worse than when I was so down I wanted to end my life. Knowing that you no longer want to remain in Jehovah’s love with the rest of the family and friends is a pain that cuts to my very core.
But because of the love from Jehovah, the friends, the congregation, and our family, I will be ok. We all will. And all we can do now is pray for you to come back to Jehovah.
No more will I send you random text messages about jokes that we’ve shared for years. No more will I request the latest music so I’m not listening to the same songs from 10 years ago. No more will I call you about movies, pop culture, or television. Don’t think that I won’t want to, a piece of me will always be yearning for this bond I shared with you. But I cannot because I love jehovah too much and I love you too much to do that- I know that the only way for you to get right is to follow this arrangement and cease all contact.
I think I can speak for the rest of the family, and all our friends in Pittsburgh and akron — we are taking this stand together. I love you little brother — but I don’t you love you more than jehovah.
Hopefully you’ll make the right choice.”
If you can’t imagine your parents or children ever cutting you out of their lives for good over something as silly as a religious disagreement, then congratulations. You’re definitely not a Jehovah’s Witness.