There is much joy to have in life but as Jehovah’s Witnesses our natural joy was very often stripped away and replaced with guilt for feeling such happiness. We were instructed that the world is so awful because these are the “last days” before Armageddon, where the mass genocide of anyone who isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness will take place. We were told that no-one in the world apart from Jehovah’s Witnesses have true joy. They may have fleeting moments of happiness but it’s not real, and how could it be real: the world is such an awful, violent, evil place ruled by Satan the devil. Everyone is selfish, arrogant, violent. Joy cannot come from such a place.
The problem with this is that it’s a skewed and highly inaccurate view of the world. They present the outside world like a snapshot of the headlines from a news channel: war, poverty, crime, natural disasters. However, these are news headlines, these are things that are out of the ordinary and as such they become newsworthy because they are unusual. Prior to the advent of the telegraph, the majority of news only moved as fast as a person could. There were a few rare exceptions to this such as when fires were lit as beacons across England to warn of the impending attack by the Spanish Armada in 1588. Generally though, news could take days and sometimes months to reach different communities. With the advent of quicker methods of communication, news spread faster meaning that more people became aware of events more quickly. Today in our interconnected world of the internet, events that happen in remote areas of the globe can reach us all in a matter of seconds, so as humans we are definitely aware of more events occurring, but this is very different to more of these events actually occuring.
If you try to explain to Jehovah’s Witnesses that the world isn’t that bad and the vast majority of people are loving and kind, experiencing real joy in their lives, they will nod and smile condescendingly explaining that just “getting by” day-to-day isn’t true joy. You may try to explain that you have meaning in your life, you’re not “getting by”, you enjoy helping people and you have a large group of friends who are wonderfully generous, that your family is incredible and that the beauty of joy is a regular occurrence in your life. They will still look at you condescendingly, they will tell you how awful the world is and that true joy can only be found by worshiping God and that everything else is counterfeit. This isn’t a personal criticism of individual Jehovah’s Witnesses, this is genuinely how they view the world, this is how they view anyone who appears happy in “the world”, ie – outside of their organisation. I know because I was that person. I was convinced that what I experienced was true joy, true happiness and that the only reason my happiness was so limited was because of Satan ruling this evil world. The fact that the vast majority of people claim to not actually experience life in the way that the Watchtower describes would be something that I would dismiss as one of “Satan’s lies” he uses to keep people compliant.
Joy isn’t guaranteed for anyone, but it’s not as rare as the Watchtower organisation would like you to think. And there is plenty of joy available for those who aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses
I now know that the vast majority of joy I experienced as a Jehovah’s Witness wasn’t actually joy at all. So many things that people can get real and genuine joy from are considered wrong, taboo or downright immoral by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
All I know is that there was no joy in the form of worship followed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. No beauty, no sense of reverence for a divine being. The singing of songs always felt so depressing. No-one ever sang out with joy and gusto, for to do so would bring accusations of trying to bring praise to oneself rather than to God. Everything was so dull, and beige. When I think of Kingdom Halls I always think of brown and beige, it always seemed to be the most prevalent colour scheme as it was seen as practical.
Sadly, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, life is not a joyous event, it is a fearful. Spending too much time in joyous activities is sinful. Because then we’re not preaching, ie serving God. They drum into their adherents that preaching is a joyous activity because if the witnesses were honest with themselves they would see how spending hours upon hours every month trying to give away reading materials produced by a publishing corporation is a soulless existence.
If your activity isn’t directly related to the Watchtower organisation it is seen as a waste of time and taking you away from “true worship”. But why would a God create such a wonderful world if he didn’t want us to enjoy it? This is where the Jehovah’s Witnesses concentrate on these being the “last days” with all the bad that is happening in the world and point to that as proof that we don’t want to have anything to do with the “current system of things”, rather we can postpone enjoying life until after God has killed off everyone who isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness.
The problem with this way of thinking, is that there is far more good happening in the world that they never see. They seem to get all of their knowledge of “worldly” events from news media reports. The problem with this is that it’s not a fair and accurate representation of what is going on in everyday life. Why? Because the ordinary, joyful lives of people being good humans looking after each other and taking joy in their existence isn’t news because it’s actually commonplace, it is the default setting. Extremes are news because they are uncommon.
A good example of how experiencing genuine human joy is restricted and viewed as wrong and “Satanic” is the Watchtower organisation’s view of sex. Sex is a beautiful and joyous experience. It exists as something to be enjoyed because great pleasure can be derived from it, great happiness. It can be fun, it can be meaningful. But the very narrow view of human sexuality and the act of having sex that the Watchtower organisation teaches is extreme and damaging. It actually strips much joy from the act itself. There are so many rules as to what you can and cannot do that it is impossible to be spontaneous in enjoying your partner. In fact there are more things that you can’t do than things that you can.
You can only be heterosexual. So anyone from the LGBTQ+ community is considered “unnatural”. You can only have any sort of vaguely sexual activity if you are already married to a person. Even within marriage there are so many things that are forbidden as immoral:
“… immoral sexual relations, perversions and lewd practices such as might be carried on in a house of prostitution, including oral and anal copulation… including perversions within the marriage arrangement…” 
Yes, they really did compare oral/anal sex between two consenting and married adults as the same as visiting a brothel.  I’m not even going to get into a discussion about sex work in this particular article but I’m using this as an example of how they can take something as beautiful as an act of love and joy between two consenting adults and make it sound seedy.
Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in the 1970s, I remember occasionally seeing the book “The Joy of Sex” on the shelves of families we visited. It wasn’t prominently displayed but as a severely indoctrinated child, seeing the word “sex” on the spine of a book was very shocking. I remember discussions about how this book promotes immorality and the Witnesses would point to it as an example of how depraved the “world” was. The idea that the majority of sex acts could and should be seen as something other than shameful and dirty never entered my mind growing up.
The number one activity that all Jehovah’s Witnesses should be taking part in is preaching, followed by studying and attending all of the meetings. Secondary to this a person is allowed to find time for secular work in order to make enough money to feed, clothe and house themselves. If you find yourself with any time left over perhaps you would like to entertain yourself by watching a movie or reading a book? But the joy in those things is stripped away too. You have to not only be careful that something isn’t seen as sinful for promoting what the Watchtower considers immoral, violent, or demonic, you have to avoid anything that we are not sure about:
“So we not only avoid entertainment that we know is bad, but we also stay away from any entertainment that we suspect might not be good for us and might harm our relationship with Jehovah.” 
As a Jehovah’s Witness you spend your whole life worrying about every little thing. Your life is micro managed down to the smallest detail by the Watchtower organisation. Any joy that you might possibly have derived from life is slowly drained away. You want to spend time with your family at the cinema? Perhaps you shouldn’t go because there is that one character who vaguely resembles something supernatural like a fairy, therefore the whole film must be promoting spiritism which is displeasing to God. Good luck
trying to find entertainment for your family that doesn’t have imaginary characters. Entertainment is a minefield for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Having to censor every little thing that you do, strips the joy out of life one decision at a time. The only acceptable things that you have left are the activities such as preaching or attending meetings. These are the things that the Watchtower tells us should be bringing us joy. And by this point it’s too exhausting, guilt inducing and nerve-racking to figure out if something is acceptable that you honestly believe that they are speaking the truth, that only Watchtower approved activities do bring you joy. Perhaps the joy they bring is actually just a relief to be doing something that doesn’t make you feel guilty – and that is not what joy is.
Thank you for reading my blog.