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You Can Go Back – But It’ll Cost You


Continuing from last week’s post, “Here Come Da Judge.”


So, basically, your entire world has just crashed into shards at your feet.  None of your friends at the kingdom hall can talk to you, not even your family members.  You are considered to be a wicked person, a danger to the faithful.  How you wish you could run into your mom’s arms and be comforted, but your mom is a woman of strong faith in the organization.  She believes that by isolating you she is performing a great act of love.  She hopes that you will feel enough pain that you will do whatever is necessary to be reinstated.  Well, it’s working.

Sitting at home that weekend you realize you have a long haul ahead of you.  Even the most repentant sinners can expect at least six months of cold shoulders before they can apply for reinstatement.   You decide you’ll just pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.

Still, it niggles in the back of your mind.  How can three men sit in judgment on you and then separate you from your own mother and your best friend?  You’re not a wicked person, just an idiot who had too much to drink one night and made a mistake.

In order to be reinstated, you will have to acknowledge the gravity of your sin, display works befitting repentance (read: grovel), show up at all of the meetings (however, be the last one there and the first to leave) and sit quietly in the back of the hall.  And the elders will assign a “spiritually mature” sister to study with one or two of the Watchtower Society’s publications.  Ultimately, you will have to meet with the same three elders who kicked you out in the first place to ask for forgiveness.

This will be difficult.  Brother Rigid has always had it out for you.  He doesn’t like any display of individuality, like the time you tried a temporary hair color.  It was just auburn, for pity’s sake – well, maybe a tad redder than the usual auburn.  He threatened your father with the loss of his congregation privileges if he allowed it to continue.  Even Dad thought that Brother Rigid was being overbearing.   You spent a long afternoon washing your hair over and over to remove the color and spent the next year boring angry holes into the back of his head during the meetings.  Every time that man looked at you he frowned.  Your clothes were immodest.  Your pocketbook was too trendy.  You caught hell for buying a tiny two-door car that is not suitable for field service.  Groveling to that [expletive deleted] is going to be painful.

Every meeting is painful because you see your family sitting there but you can’t approach them.  So, you plug away for six months, keeping your head down at the meetings, wearing only the most modest clothes, playing the part of a repentant sinner, and enduring weekly study sessions with Sister Smug.  She insists you come to her house, so there’s that weekly encounter with Brother Smug and the Smugettes, who whisper and titter before scuttling away like you’re the Devil himself.

At the meetings, anyone who has to get up to use the rest room walks past you.  All of them avert their eyes, but there are a few spiteful sisters who make a show of it, snapping their heads around.  Then there are the inevitable encounters at the grocery store.  Sister Wasp and her two young children round the end of an aisle, nearly crashing into you.  The children cower behind their mother’s coat and she looks annoyed by the encounter.  How dare you bring your sinful self to the same store she patronizes?  Oh, and the excruciating gas station encounter with Brother Bombast!  You were filling up your tank, and he pulled up to the pump directly across from you.  The man’s face turned bright red.  You stopped short of a full tank and drove off as quickly as you could.

Finally, after six months of torture you approach the elders and request reinstatement.   A date is set for them to meet with you and discuss it.  At the meeting they interrogate you about your lifestyle.  Have you been frequenting bars?  Do you have a boyfriend?  A sexual partner?  You answer every prying little question in a respectful voice with a little weeping thrown in for effect.  They tell you that Sister Smug reports that you have done well on your study.  They see that you haven’t missed a meeting, even coming when you had the flu.  They dismiss you so that they can talk it over.

Again you wait alone in the cavernous kingdom hall while three men decide your fate.  You can’t take another six months of this.  Please, please, let them vote for reinstatement.

Finally, they call you back in.  They tell you they have decided that you qualify for reinstatement, and it will be announced at the Thursday meeting.

Thursday evening rolls around.  As usual, you take your seat of shame in the back.  About halfway through the meeting Brother Elder #2 gets up on the platform and reads a brief announcement saying that you have been reinstated.  Ten heads turn to look at you, a couple of them smiling.

The meeting ends and you’re swamped.  First, you mother weeps all over you, then your little sister.  Dad gives you a hug and his loving smile.  Then it’s your BFF’s turn.  After that, Sister Smug squeezes out a few decorous tears and hugs you.  Then, Sister Wasp gushes, “Oh, how I’ve missed you!”

Eh?   You decide you’ll wait until you get home to roll your eyes.

Meanwhile, there are handshakes and hugs and a few more tears.  You’re back.




11 responses »

  1. Avidly Reading

    As a Black Eyes Pea song goes “Where is ye love?”
    Reading this has made me angry at the injustice of how extreme the reactions are to one individual’s error. The elders seem to have a dangerous level of authority but at the end of the day what are they but also flaw ridden men who have been elevated up the level of Gods. And what about concern for the individual by the others? Surely a better response would be to support the individual through the error of their ways – unless they fear this is just a way to enable further sinful doings.

  2. Beautifully written. Makes me want to cry for all the years we both wasted trying to beat out every scrap of individuality!

  3. makes me so mad, I want to shake some sense into those elderx, and the congregations!

  4. All this in the name of Jesus who, when he saw a woman about to be stoned for adultery, said, Whoever is without sin should be the one to cast the first stone. Then he told the woman she was forgiven.
    I sometimes think the WT sees itself as a congregation of people entitled to cast the first stone. I don’t think Jesus would see them that way.

  5. I am very moved by this post. I am 30, born and raised JW, and have been inactive for about 5 years. It is only in the past month or so, since starting therapy, that I have started to deal with the scars of being disfellowshipped. I was sexually assaulted by a JW boy when I was a teenager, and started acting out sexually. I was never “caught” but my conscience bothered me so I confessed. I thought I was repentant, but I guess I wasn’t. In my judicial committee meetings I either cried to much and was faking or cried to little and was unrepentant. It was humiliating to have to give detailed, in-depth descriptions of my sexual activities to a room of men who had known me since I was born. Even more humiliating to have to do it with my father sitting there. Everyone was so angry with me for trying to “blame” my “sick behavior” on that JW boy’s actions, despite the fact that I was not the first girl to report him. Apparently, he was repentant because (1) he never did anything in front of two witnesses and (2) he never raped anyone, quote “with his penis.” Even after that, I did my time, head hung low, in shame for a year (at 6 months I was told by elder who felt badly “I know you’re repentant, but the congregation has let too many kids back in quickly, just to disfellowship them again in 3 months. It makes the congregation look bad. We have to fix that. You understand right?”). I pretty much gave up on any questions or feelings, got reinstated, and never trusted anyone’s happy smiles and “Welcome backs.” I moved out of state and in my new congregation thought I could start over. I did, but it is AMAZING what people will say when they don’t know you were disfellowshipped in the past. The lack of love was so shocking to me, and I felt like I was in bizarro-land. Is that what everyone who said “welcome back” had thought of me the entire time until I was reinstated? So, I made one attempt to reach out to the elders for help, only to have them forget the shepherding call appointment they had made. I was devastated. Today in therapy was the first time I acknowledged that I won’t be going back. This is my first time looking at a site like yours (because, as you know, “that’s how the devil gets in”), and I was really startled to see someone had written my exact story. I’m sorry to have bombarded your post with such a long reply, but I’m not really sure where I go from here, and reading your post made me think that maybe there are people who understand me, and maybe I’ll be ok. Thanks.

    • Oh, honey, I’m so moved by your comment! I am so sorry for the way you were treated, but know that you are not alone. Many others have received the same insensitive and judgmental treatment from their “shepherds.” I’m glad to be a part of your recovery. Please hang in there. I promise it gets better!

      • I dont know of anyone dissfellowshipt without just cause do you?

      • It’s been almost a year since I posted this response to this blog article, and I have finally reached a place of happiness and peace. I am closer to my family, both those that are still active JW’s and those that are not. Things are changing in this organization (did you hear about the new Bible? and college? and beards?) and in some places there are apologies and finally a recognition of mistakes. But, perhaps Bill is from an area where everything was perfect and humans never made mistakes, and they were given briefings about the things going on in every single congregation. Perhaps in that area they have been given permission to make judgements and forget about Christ’s message of love and compassion first. That would explain why Bill feels bold enough to even be reading blogs like this; he has seen all, knows all, and is without sin. That’s a beautiful thing for you Bill, and I would never want to take that away from anyone. But, then again, if that is what I had experienced, I certainly wouldn’t need to seek out blogs such as this one and try to defend my beliefs. I would simply be confident in what I know to be true…if I honestly were that confident. I have found that path for myself, and I am confident in what I know and believe now. I hope you reach that place in your own way, someday, Bill.

  6. In the course of 20 yrs, I seen a case of one DF sis who got reinstated after 6 mths. Prior to that, she was avoided like plagues. After the announcement, Pple goes up to her with handshake n congrats. I didn’t, becos it seems so hypocritical. I will still talk to anyone who DA or DF because they still our brother or Sis. Context of the scripture of ” not say a greeting” is for idolatrous behavior. Thinking back I think we are badly brainwashed.


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