Friday, September 27, 2013

Religious Judgment and Comparison Generates Fear

One of my readers wrote a letter explaining a rather odd behavior in her family.

While her side of the family is not JW, her husband's side was raised in the religion, but hubby was never active. She is very comfortable and relaxed with the immediate side of her own family and they freely express and interact with one another lovingly. On the other hand, when her hubby's family members sporadically come around, she senses a very different feeling. She describes it as a stiffness, an artificiality, a feeling that she must watch herself. Why is that?

I have a theory. Her own family members don't judge one another. They love each other freely and unreservedly. On the other hand, hubby's family members are "psychically split" into the believers, the non-believers and even a shunned family member. The believers don't necessarily preach to the non-believers, yet there is a sense of being watched.

Watched for what? Watched for signs of "repentance"? Watched for a "softening" toward the JW message?


Thinking back to my bible-thumping days, I heard many a talk about "winning unbelievers without a word." So even though the reader's in-laws don't speak openly about an agenda, sensitive souls are able to discern an ulterior motive — it's that uncomfortable feeling of being watched which presents itself whenever the in-laws are around. The believers judge the non-believers, the doubters, and the apostate. The believers believe the unbelievers aren't "measuring up" in some biblical way. Of course, the unbelievers can sense the rift — the air of superiority over the unbelievers. The apostate, well, that's a whole other story. They are "already dead" in the believer's eyes. I know, I used to be a believer.

Actually, it goes even further than that. The believers are encouraged to compare and judge another believer! I heard a talk once in which the congregation was compared to a wheel. The wheel consisted of a hub, the spokes, and the rim. The hub was the Watchtower corporation's global head office, and the spokes were the measuring rod of religious activity. If a member was close to the hub, they were considered very active and busily engrossed in their reading of Watchtower publications, involved in door-to-door preaching activity, and attending/participating in five meetings per week — faithfully. Heaven forbid members would choose to live on the wheel rim. Why, those folks were at risk of being "lured away" from the safe confines of the religious order!

But the talk went even further by suggesting that members on the spokes "should" focus intently on moving ever-closer toward the hub. They were counseled to consider not even associating with another member further out on a spoke from them, because those ones may be "less spiritual" — so beware!

Such judgment and comparison generated much fear among members. The inner hub was encouraged to "report" on outer-hub members about any activity they considered "less spiritual." Fear was palpable, like in George Orwell's book 1984. It was truly a frightful existence. I am one who knows from experience.

Outsiders — people who never experienced that type of treatment could not comprehend how dreadful the spying might feel, as they likely have no such frame of reference. It may sound quite incredible to some.

I figure the reader who wrote about her experiences is sensitive to the fluctuations in feelings of unconditional love, caring, and inclusion versus the energy of fear, judgment, and comparison going on between her hubby's family members. It's not necessarily a conscious sensation, but it is very real, none-the-less.

"Reading your book helped me to put all of those sensations into words, so as to validate my feelings," she told me later, sighing deeply.

I believe her intuition is correct. She has every right to trust her feelings, since that's clearly her inner guidance at work. She is fortunate to come from a loving family because she knows how to identify the feelings of love. Furthermore, her sensitivity has enabled her to continue showing love and understanding toward the in-laws. She is in a unique situation of being able to love what some consider to be the "unlovable." What a wonderful privilege, because love is the only thing that is able offset judgment, comparison, and fear. "Perfect love throws fear outside," says a scripture.

Comments like hers make me glad I wrote the book, since it seems to be creating awareness around a little-discussed family dynamic. I found the ensuing dialogue very insightful! Thanks for the great feedback! Well done, dear reader!

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  1. Congratulations, Esther. It's great when readers can resonate with what we've written. It makes it all worthwhile.

    1. Thanks Doreen!
      This kind of feedback is truly beneficial. It assures me that readers beyond those who leave the religion can be helped to understand what kind of behaviors emerge in dysfunctional religions. These comments are especially useful because the ex-members are associated with many kinds of people, including those who have no knowledge of the religion. Non-members surely would want to understand what it is like for believers as well as others who have left affiliation voluntarily or by disfellowshipping. Everyone would like to feel understood and validated, I'm sure.
      It became clear to me that the reader began communication in a new way with her spouse's family as a result of reading my book. And the way I see it, open communication is the key to healing the family rift. :)


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