I used to get periodic texts from my mom with an article to read from the Watchtower or Daily Text (a scripture-of-the-day with an accompanying paragraph from a Watchtower article) because it’s something she thought applied to me. It usually had something to do with not letting discouragement get to you and encouraging “weak” ones to come back to “Jehovah’s Organization”. Every time she did it, I was reminded all over again that the extent of her love for me is conditional. We can’t just have this wonderful mother/daughter bond without that cult being in between us and dictating her love towards me. If you think this stuff is all in my head, I can tell you with proof that it isn’t. She wrote me a letter one time telling me that once I decide to “return to Jehovah”, her happiness with me will increase exponentially. And she’s outright told me in conversation that if I’m living an “immoral” life (having premarital sex with my long term partner) that she’s going to dump me like a sack of bricks (my phrasing, not hers).
After a couple of years of either not acknowledging those text messages or making some general comment, I had to end up telling her directly to stop sending me that stuff because every time she did, it sent me into this downward spiral. I told her that it made me feel like I, as her daughter, am not enough. That I’m not enough for her and can’t she just love me for me and not for whether of not I’m active in the religion? That I know she means well, but it is definitely not helping. That in fact, it’s doing the opposite. Since telling her this (had to have a couple separate conversations for it to take), she’s been a lot better about it. And I haven’t gotten any article or anything for….. over a year now at least. I appreciate her respecting my feelings and dialing it back.
Still, I know she feels hurt by my inactivity in the organization. I haven’t even told her yet that I don’t hold the same beliefs as she does in regards her religion. That’s one thing I’m not looking forward to because I know how it’ll break her heart.
So this is something I’m currently working through. Codependency. I’m trying to work out that whatever she feels about my decision to not be in the cult anymore is not my responsibility. It’s on her. That’s my challenge at the moment. It’s taking a lot of deprogramming (this stuff was so deeply engrained) to try to be okay with her feelings.
I hadn’t considered it until recently when I was reading this post about Codependency and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but Ryan is spot on with his point about JWs being trained by Watchtower to be codependent. I had realized a few years ago that I’m codependent and then started working on it, but I hadn’t thought to dig for the root cause.
Within the organization, you have to be careful about what you wear, what kind of entertainment you enjoy, whether or not you keep a beard on your face, get a tattoo, get certain piercings, if you decide to accept certain blood fractions, how you style your hair, if you color your hair “an unnatural color”, and what you decide to drink at a gathering. Why? Because these things could “stumble your brother”. While there’s nothing explicitly “wrong” with these things and they are left for you to decide as a “conscience matter”, other people in the congregation may observe you doing one or a few of these things and it could get their panties in a twist. You have to think about how you present yourself and try not to weaken the faith of the others within the congregation. That’s right. Their faith rests in your hands. So while you may conscientiously have no qualms about watching that rated R movie or having that stylish, well-kept Van Dyke, you need to think twice about it and how others will perceive it. Because if they get upset about it and leave the religion, it’s going to be your fault.