Rebuilding Your Life

A New Community

Probably the most important issue a lot of ex-JWs face is the loss of community. Whatever your experiences – most likely good and bad: Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly place a big emphasis on the community, strengthened by different types of gatherings, The Watchtower and Awake, shared rules and values. In the mean time, close friendships and relationships with those outside the religion are strongly discouraged. Whatever the true intentions of such rules and structures, the effect is the same: Witnesses are isolated as a group. Leaving this group ex-witnesses find themselves in a social vacuum, experiencing loneliness and possible mental issues as a result.

Building new community ties takes time but it can certainly be done. Your workplace as well as group hobbies are great places to meet new people. Big cities offer more possibilities than small villages and you might consider moving if your situation allows it. The internet offers yet new opportunities to make new contacts. Platforms such as reddit.com enable interest based communities where you can meet likeminded people all around the globe. In time, we’re also planning to organize online integration circles for ex-JWs and their allies through this platform. If you want to join, share your story or simply reach out for help – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Making Your Own Decisions

Are you used to have decisions made for you? Between all the rules and strong community ties it’s easy to underestimate how much of your life is dictated. But once you freed yourself up suddenly all decisions are your own to make. It’s no longer enough to simply follow others and trust in a higher power, you start creating your own reality. And while this freedom may be one of the reasons you decided to leave JW in the first place it may also feel overwhelming. Suddenly you find yourself weighed down by the feeling of responsibility. You wonder whether you’re the only one unable to cope as others seem to do this adulting thing with so much ease. Help!?

The first thing you need to know is that most people are struggling at life. You often just see the glossy outsides, not the mess that’s behind it. It’s true: life is messy. People screw up. All the time. If you find yourself paralyzed, not knowing what the best option is, don’t forget it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re in a new environment and you’re learning, you’re growing. You don’t have to be perfect. Most mistakes can be fixed and sure, it’s easier if you get things right the first time around, but don’t let the fear of failing stop you where you are. Research your options, then pick one. You’re going to be just fine.

Re-evaluating Your Values and Beliefs

If you’re doubting or leaving the JW community you most likely disagree with at least some of the values and beliefs. Ideas that shaped your identity and your definition of right and wrong unravel. You discover more and more inconsistencies. You doubt some of your old values and beliefs, fully reject others. As you do, you start wondering: if I no longer believe this, what do I believe?

Rediscovering yourself can be scary and confusing. You may find yourself trying out different ideas and changing your mind all the time. And you may wonder: “If everything I hold for true keeps changing, is there anything that is actually certain?

It’s tough to have your ideas reshaped over and over again and whatever feelings arise in the process – it’s fine. In the mean time, it may help to think of yourself as a scientist: you base your beliefs on ideas you hold true for the moment, but in light of new evidence you may have to change your view of the world. That’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you were wrong (or that you’re a bad person). It just means you’re growing. Be patient with yourself and don’t forget the enormous amount of courage it takes to take the steps you’re taking. Your courage is an accomplishment in itself and new insights are your reward.

A New Sense of Purpose

One of the main benefits of any religion is getting an answer to the big questions. Where do we come from? Is there life after death? What is the point of living anyway? If you see life as a means to get into an eternal paradise – that’s a pretty powerful motivation. So what do you do when it all falls away? Do you find yourself wondering about the sense of it all? Especially in times of adversity and mental struggles (such as a burn out or a depression) you may find yourself wondering why you have to put in so much effort. For what?

As with values, a sense of purpose is personal and deeply unique (some might even say there is none) and this page doesn’t attempt to provide you with one. Something you may want to consider is that if you no longer believe in a destination (paradise) it’s becoming all about the trip (life). Don’t let it go to waste. Take your time to discover what makes you happy and allow yourself to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. Also, if you’re struggling with serious mental health issues or self-harm – do reach out for help. Managing your mind is a battle in itself and having allies (or medication) may actually make a big difference.

A New Community

Probably the most important issue a lot of ex-JWs face is the loss of community. Whatever your experiences – most likely good and bad: Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly place a big emphasis on the community, strengthened by different types of gatherings, The Watchtower and Awake, shared rules and values. In the mean time, close friendships and relationships with those outside the religion are strongly discouraged. Whatever the true intentions of such rules and structures, the effect is the same: Witnesses are isolated as a group. Leaving this group ex-witnesses find themselves in a social vacuum, experiencing loneliness and possible mental issues as a result.

Building new community ties takes time but it can certainly be done. Your workplace as well as group hobbies are great places to meet new people. Big cities offer more possibilities than small villages and you might consider moving if your situation allows it. The internet offers yet new opportunities to make new contacts. Platforms such as reddit.com enable interest based communities where you can meet likeminded people all around the globe. In time, we’re also planning to organize online integration circles for ex-JWs and their allies through this platform. If you want to join, share your story or simply reach out for help – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Making Your Own Decisions

Are you used to have decisions made for you? Between all the rules and strong community ties it’s easy to underestimate how much of your life is dictated. But once you freed yourself up suddenly all decisions are your own to make. It’s no longer enough to simply follow others and trust in a higher power, you start creating your own reality. And while this freedom may be one of the reasons you decided to leave JW in the first place it may also feel overwhelming. Suddenly you find yourself weighed down by the feeling of responsibility. You wonder whether you’re the only one unable to cope as others seem to do this adulting thing with so much ease. Help!?

The first thing you need to know is that most people are struggling at life. You often just see the glossy outsides, not the mess that’s behind it. It’s true: life is messy. People screw up. All the time. If you find yourself paralyzed, not knowing what the best option is, don’t forget it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re in a new environment and you’re learning, you’re growing. You don’t have to be perfect. Most mistakes can be fixed and sure, it’s easier if you get things right the first time around, but don’t let the fear of failing stop you where you are. Research your options, then pick one. You’re going to be just fine.

Re-evaluating Your Values and Beliefs

If you’re doubting or leaving the JW community you most likely disagree with at least some of the values and beliefs. Ideas that shaped your identity and your definition of right and wrong unravel. You discover more and more inconsistencies. You doubt some of your old values and beliefs, fully reject others. As you do, you start wondering: if I no longer believe this, what do I believe?

Rediscovering yourself can be scary and confusing. You may find yourself trying out different ideas and changing your mind all the time. And you may wonder: “If everything I hold for true keeps changing, is there anything that is actually certain?

It’s tough to have your ideas reshaped over and over again and whatever feelings arise in the process – it’s fine. In the mean time, it may help to think of yourself as a scientist: you base your beliefs on ideas you hold true for the moment, but in light of new evidence you may have to change your view of the world. That’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you were wrong (or that you’re a bad person). It just means you’re growing. Be patient with yourself and don’t forget the enormous amount of courage it takes to take the steps you’re taking. Your courage is an accomplishment in itself and new insights are your reward.

A New Sense of Purpose

One of the main benefits of any religion is getting an answer to the big questions. Where do we come from? Is there life after death? What is the point of living anyway? If you see life as a means to get into an eternal paradise – that’s a pretty powerful motivation. So what do you do when it all falls away? Do you find yourself wondering about the sense of it all? Especially in times of adversity and mental struggles (such as a burn out or a depression) you may find yourself wondering why you have to put in so much effort. For what?

As with values, a sense of purpose is personal and deeply unique (some might even say there is none) and this page doesn’t attempt to provide you with one. Something you may want to consider is that if you no longer believe in a destination (paradise) it’s becoming all about the trip (life). Don’t let it go to waste. Take your time to discover what makes you happy and allow yourself to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. Also, if you’re struggling with serious mental health issues or self-harm – do reach out for help. Managing your mind is a battle in itself and having allies (or medication) may actually make a big difference.