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Unfriending Your Family

When you start studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses at first it’s all paradise in a New World, resurrection of dead loved ones, perfect health, and end of wickedness.  You’re pumped.  Wow, why hasn’t the rest of the world found out about this?  I have to share this with my family members!

So, positively vibrating with excitement, you pounce on any relative unfortunate enough to be living near you and perform a data dump of all your new beliefs.  While the poor relative is still spluttering in horror you tell them how wonderful all of the love bombing is and what nice people JWs are.

Finally pausing to take a breath, you wonder why your grandma isn’t jumping up and down clapping her hands at the joyous news.  In fact, her eyebrows are doing that thing where a deep  vertical crease forms over the bridge of her nose.  This reaction does not compute.  Instead of the program happily running, you’re getting the equivalent of the blue screen of death.

Recovering her grandma composure she says, “Well, dear, that’s wonderful for you.  Would you like a cookie?” and shuffles out to the kitchen.

Okay, well, that’s grandma.  Maybe she missed her meds this morning.  You try the same tactic with your brother who asks if you’re going to be moving into a compound somewhere in Montana with all the other loonies in your group and warns against accepting any Kool-Aid.

It’s the same all around the family circle.  Nobody believes any of the hoo-hah you’re preaching at them, and some even warn you against joining because they heard that JWs break up families.  You cheerfully brush that comment off by saying that JWs are very family oriented and actually strengthen familial bonds.

Even your best friend isn’t having any of it, especially since you turn every single conversation into a witnessing session.  She longs for the days when you could talk about muffin recipes, cellulite, and what in the world was Betty Jo thinking when she wore that low-cut blouse to your son’s birthday party?  Pretty soon you find that your BFF is hanging around with Betty Jo instead of you.

But it’s worse in your own household.  Not only does your spouse not want to listen to your constant babbling, but he also complains that you’re out at meetings and field service all the time and are neglecting him and the kids.  Then he lays the big one on you – he doesn’t want his children going to those damned meetings.  One of them is on a school night and he has to employ high explosives to separate the kids from their beds the next morning.

You run to the JW who is studying with you (we’ll call her Mary) and tell the dismal tale of family opposition.   Mary pats you on the arm and reassures you that this happens all the time and is a test of your loyalty to Jehovah.  Satan is using your relatives to discourage you from pursuing true worship.  Whom will you choose in the war for universal sovereignty – Satan or Jehovah?  Well, duh.

Your newly minted faith is strong, and your new support system, the love bombers, offer hugs and stories of others who have survived similar storms of opposition.  They pepper you with scriptures showing that Jesus himself warned his followers that they would encounter opposition from family members.  The good news is that even if your family members pull away you will find substitute mothers and fathers and children among Jehovah’s people.

You steel yourself to stand firmly on Jehovah’s side.  The issue of universal sovereignty is bigger than family or so-called “friends.”  And, really – Betty Jo?  Hrmph.

None of your former associates can stand to spend 5 minutes in your presence, no matter how much they love you.  It’s like you bathed in Eau de Skunk bubble bath.  So, you throw yourself into the congregation and theocratic activities with the love bombers who think you smell like a rose.

Then comes the first family holiday.  You can’t go because you no longer celebrate it.  Grandma’s 90th birthday – no can do.  Your niece’s wedding, which will be held in a church with the reception in the basement.  That’s interfaith, so you can’t attend.   After an angry phone call from your highly offended sister you are now the pariah of the family.

And that’s how it happens.  You’ve lost your family and friends.  Your formerly happy marriage is on the rocks, and you have no one to turn to but the JWs in the congregation.  Welcome to your new life.