How To Tell Loved Ones You’re Leaving The Watchtower

The following is a question from a reader:

“My question to you is… how can I approach my parents to let them know that I want to stop attending meetings?”

argueI’m gearing my answer to this question to those who are of age and not to someone who is a minor and has to attend the meetings because they are simply too young to make up their own minds in the eyes of the law.

Firstly I will advise you to know your desired outcome. Do you merely wish to stop attending the meetings or do you wish to leave the organization completely? Some people do better taking this in stages rather than doing the whole thing at once. However if you wish to cut it off clean with no ties to the religion any longer than be my guest. It is painful but the agony of hanging on for years to something you know is a lie is also quite painful as I can personally attest.

Make this about you and not your relationship with anyone else. If your loved one thinks that this is a direct result of your involvement with someone else then all of their anger and rage is going to be focused toward that person. That simply isn’t fair and you need to take the reaction of your loved ones squarely on the chin and not try to mitigate it by blaming anyone else for your decision.

They need to understand that this is your prayerful and painful decision made only after a long and thorough examination of your own feelings and beliefs.

My opinion is that this needs to take the form of an intervention except in reverse. We’ve all seen the intervention shows on television and how they work. With this you need to tell everyone who will be directly affected by your decision that you need to talk to them about something very important and set a day and time to do this. That way you get to tell everyone at the same time how you feel. This will prevent a lot of “hearsay” as to what you actually said versus what they heard you say.

You need to establish ground rules up front with your family that you want to say your piece without interruption or outburst. That way you will have the opportunity to get it all out before they start with the confrontations and emotional reactions that you know are going to come.

You may be tempted to justify your decision in some way by quoting me, a friend, another online source or even a book that you read.

Don’t do it.

Your goal here is to get this off of your chest. Tell them that you no longer wish to be a Jehovah’s Witness and tell them your reasons why. They deserve to know your true reason why you have chosen this path and if you don’t give it to them then they will no doubt speculate on any number of incorrect assumptions as to your real motives for leaving the organization.

I recommend that you write down what it is that you have to say and that you read from it. That way you get everything you want to say out and in the open to all in attendance.

I also recommend that you point out to them that everyone has the right to freedom of choice with regard to their beliefs or lack thereof.

When dealing with parents who raised you in the organization you would do well to let them know that they had a choice of how to live and what to believe. They made their decision freely and now that you are of age you are exercising your right to do the same. You may wish to say that you’ve felt this way for a very long time but didn’t have the strength until now to tell them. Rather than living a lie you would much rather come clean and tell them the truth about how you feel.

I strongly recommend throughout this “intervention” that you tell them many times how much you love them and that your decision to leave the organization has nothing to do with your relationship with them (unless of course it does!).

They need to know that your rejection of the Jehovah’s Witnesses isn’t a rejection of them. Let them know that you still want and need them in your life and that your love for them is unconditional.

When you are done reading your “confession” to them simply shut up and let them react. My advice is just to stay silent as they rant and rave about your decision.  There may be extreme anger and rage on the part of those you tell this to. There may be tears. Don’t allow these reactions to your decision sway you one bit. If you do relent to their pleas to come back to the organization you’d be doing it for the wrong reasons anyway. You’d just end up hating yourself. You know it and I know it.

I advise you to have a “back up” plan just in case things get really ugly. Depending on your relationship with your parents they may tell you to pack your bags and leave then and there. Be prepared to do so. Have a safe place to go, either to a relative who isn’t in the organization, or to the home of a friend (not a JW friend).

You may wish to plan for a trip somewhere after you drop this bomb on your family. This gives you time to get away from their intensity and it gives them time to calm down and to “grieve” about your decision.  This is as traumatic as a death in a Jehovah’s Witness family. Allow them time to get past it.

Here is a checklist for your “intervention”:

  • Have some money saved. The more the better. Make sure it is where your family, mate or loved one can’t get to it.
  • Be prepared to leave then and there. If things get rough and they start playing “the heavy” you need to let them know you’re prepared for the worst.
  • Let a trusted relative or friend know of your decision (non JW only!) and make arrangements to possibly stay with them if your parents pull the “pack your bags” trigger.
  • Have a game plan for how you would be able to get on if your parents did kick you out and wouldn’t allow you back in their home.
  • Know your outcome! Do you wish to leave the organization completely or do you merely wish to become “inactive”.
  • Have a job or some means of employment. Being dependent on your parents financially isn’t going to bode well for you if they react badly to your decision. It will also give them a strong sense of power in this battle of wills and if you have to depend on them for support be prepared to have that taken away.
  • Have a trusted confidant that you can talk to about your feelings during all of this. Your family members aren’t the only ones hurting during this time. You will be going through some significant changes and you need to have someone to talk to.
  • Get a copy of “Combating Cult Mind Control” and read it before you take the final step.

This entire process is very difficult. It is demanding in all sorts of ways.  Know that the local elders will be notified of your decision and they may wish to speak with you about your decision. The elders may try to goad you into saying something incriminating that will give them the right to disfellowship you.

Again, know your desired outcome. If you want to be disfellowshipped then that is your choice. However if you don’t then don’t provide them with the means to do so. The elders will ask you all sorts of interesting questions and will repeatedly try to imply that you’ve engaged in some sort of wrongdoing or apostasy. Don’t fall for their ploy. If they feel that they can’t “readjust” you they will opt to disfellowship you if you give them enough rope.

If you have to sit in on an elder’s meeting I strongly recommend that you tape the meeting using a mini-recorder in your pocket. That way you can prove what was said by them and by you!

Your friends will call you wanting to know if you’ve lost your mind. Know that anything you say can and will be used against you in the Watchtower organization. One trap that is used frequently at the behest of the elders is to have a friend call you on the phone. The elders will be listening in on the other line and the person will try to get you to say things that will incriminate you. When you’ve said enough to incriminate yourself the elders will move to disfellowship you right then and there.

Yes those darned Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned to use the telephone to their advantage!

This is your decision and you ultimately must pay the price for that decision. Losing your family and friends is tough. I’ve been there. It isn’t easy. However the personal freedom that you will enjoy as a result of leaving the organization will be well worth it.

I personally wouldn’t have it any other way!

Yours in Christ,

Doug Shields is an activist against religious oppression, control and manipulation. He has many years of experience dealing with this issue because he was an active Jehovah’s Witness himself for over twenty-three years. Doug has been privileged to help elders, ministerial servants, full time pioneers and even a circuit overseer to find the strength and determination to finally face the real truth and leave the organization.