Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses – On having true friends

by Randy Watters

I have roommates.  Three of them!  Why do we fight so much?  I don’t treat other people like I treat my roommates.  Sometimes I do not think before I speak, I just blurt out what I feel.  I COULD do better.  I could carefully weigh what I say each time.  But I don’t.  Yet I am happy with the arrangement, and I consider them my extended family.  I wonder how many basic families are just like this?  I guess we all could do with a little more kindness.

Yet as I think back, I once used to belong to a family that did not speak what they felt.  We were careful with our words, and carefully observed one’s seniority and level of responsibility before we spoke to another person.  Some had more authority than I did, and I had authority over other members… a pecking order, you might say.  In this family, uniformity was guaranteed, and if my conduct was too offensive, I was to be booted out.  None of the other family members would talk to me again.  Ever… unless I slinked back asking forgiveness, and then I would be put on probation and shunned even more for a number of months as a sign of my true repentance.

THAT is the way we convinced others that we were the true family of God.  We lured new ones into this family, promising eternal life, then booted them out if we didn’t like them anymore.

Which is the better family?

Having lived for years in both kinds of families, I choose the first. Why? Because my membership is not subject to my everyday conduct.  (Sure, if I did something evil, I would be banned.  But I am not an evil person and that is not going to happen.)  With my roommates I can cuss and blame and yell, yet oddly they forget about it the next day.  I fight more with my roommates than with anyone else in my life, and yet they are like best friends.  When new roommates are interviewed, we all must meet them to see if we can get along.  Then we stick by it, for we are brothers in this family.  This is MY type of family.

The family arrangement I reject is that of Jehovah’s witnesses, as well as any other fundamentalist type of cult.  They possess no real virtues of a loving family, they are simply interested in the appearance of being a loving family.  Maintaining these “appearances” is the basis of their control over others.  Purely conditional and in the end, empty and unrewarding.

When you have a taste of grace and trust, you are happy.  You know that you are secure.  You know you belong.  It reminds me of Jesus’ words at John 10:14,15, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Sometimes I hear people complain about the division in the Christian churches, and how this is not a sign that God is working with them. Maybe He is at times, maybe He isn’t. Yet unless I opt for the cultic type family that makes being a member conditional on my everyday conduct, there are no other options.  I am sure this is true among Jewish congregations as well.  Family members are going to fight with each other.  Turmoil will exist.  More kindness is needed!  Yet acceptance and respect are vital to their ongoing happiness, and they know it.

My heart goes out to those of you who are lost and your family has been misplaced or rejected you.  I want you to know that you are not alone.  Hope is not lost.  Others are lonely, too.

Make yourself known and seek new friends.  Do nice things for others.  Be a friend and you will have friends!  Expect too much, and you will be alone.  Expect little yet give much, and you will have the best friends in the world.

-Randy Watters

From FreeMinds.org website, article printed in 2000

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