Freedom of choice – YOU are in control!

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” –  Hans Christian Andersen

Recently I have been asking myself – in what direction do I want to take my activism?  I seem to have a lot of strands to my activism at the moment, between my blog, my YouTube channel, the Ex-JW Sister’s site, my Twitter presence, and other behind the scenes work, in addition to collaborations I’ve been working on.  My activism has become very important to me and I believe in what I’m doing very much.  If my activism only ever helped one individual to realise the damage being caused by the Watchtower organisation, that is a good enough reason to continue.  But I am acutely aware of the need to balance this in a healthy way so that I don’t “burn out”.

stress
Ex-JWs feel guilt for not doing “enough”

The irony is that I posted about a similar subject not that long ago when I discussed the subject Be Kind to Yourself.  The problem with me is that I find it very difficult to take my own advice!  I pace myself for a little while and then BAM, I feel guilty about not doing enough again and end up pushing myself too hard again.

I know exactly where this mindset comes from.  There was an issue of the Watchtower magazine that sums up the organisation’s teaching on how much individual Jehovah’s Witnesses should push themselves to “do more”.  If you are an ex-JW, I know that these next few quotes will sum up exactly how you were made to feel – that you were never doing enough:

JESUS WAS NEVER OFF DUTY

Even when he set aside time to relax, Jesus ungrudgingly abandoned his plans in order to teach others. [1]

So relaxing and taking time for yourself is a big no-no because Jesus…  Hang on, I thought they teach that he was a perfect human?  So as a Jehovah’s Witness one is expected to live up to a perfect, unattainable standard.

THEY PURSUE EVERY OPPORTUNITY

Melika lives in a high-security apartment building… She appreciates the special opportunity open to her to start spiritual discussions with tenants in the lobby and elevator. She says, “In a way, I consider it my territory.” Melika carries literature with her in several languages, and many accept tracts and magazines. She also directs their attention to our Web site, jw.org. She has started several Bible studies.[1]

can you do morecrop
As a Jehovah’s Witness every moment of our lives belongs to the Watchtower[1]
Your home life is not even your own as a Jehovah’s Witness, you should be proselytising on behalf of the Watchtower every minute of every day.  Your neighbours aren’t just your neighbours trying to live their lives, they are potential recruits for the Watchtower.  And here we see the pressure building on Jehovah’s Witnesses to be constantly in the service of the Watchtower organisation.

Sonia is also alert to witness to whomever she can. She is employed at a doctor’s clinic, and she set the goal of giving a thorough witness to each of her coworkers… She is also planning to take some of her breaks in the entrance lobby of the medical center and speak to those waiting for their appointments.[1]

Yes, even when you are being paid by someone to do a job and are contractually obliged to do so, you should put the interests of the Watchtower organisation before your employer.  An employer who actually enables you to pay the rent and feed your family. Obviously having respect for said employer to enable you to keep your job isn’t important according to the Watchtower.  And don’t you dare stop preaching whilst taking your break from working!  Use that break-time of yours to harass sick patients waiting for medical appointments!

patient doctor
“You’re in pain? Want to see the doctor?  Never mind that!  Here, let me preach to you!”

As you can see the doctrine of the Watchtower taught us that our time is not our own, that other people’s time isn’t their own, and that there should be no such thing as personal or professional boundaries.  This sets a very dangerous precedent.  We lose the ability to balance our lives in a healthy way.

We were taught to live our lives under the assumption that we should always be doing something.  That this something always had to be a certain type of something.  Something that affects others, something for others, something perceived as worthy.  This thinking doesn’t leave us when we leave the organisation.  We have a learned tendency to be pushing ourselves to always find more and more things to do that fit this criteria.  Whether it be helping others in our personal lives, or being involved in volunteer work, or ex-JW activism, we are under the illusion that we must always be pushing forward with at least one of these activities and if we’re not we’re somehow unworthy as a human being.

exit bonnieRecently, I have been reading the book “EXiting the JW Cult: A Healing Handbook: For Current & Former Jehovah’s Witnesses” by Bonnie Zieman.  I found the following quote very helpful in making me reassess my thought processes.

If you, too, find yourself thinking a lot of “should” thoughts such as:

  • ​“I should write to the Society itemizing all their abuses.”
  • “I should tell Dad about all the JW.ORG deceptions.”
  • “I should get rid of all the Watchtower literature in my home.”
  • ​“I should join in the activist work against the Watchtower.” •
  • “I should get involved with another religion right away.”
  • ​“I should listen to what my JW friends think of me now.”
  • ​“I should consider doing what is required to be reinstated.”

then here is a quick way to reframe these statements and take a little pressure off of yourself: Change the word “should” to “could” and at the end of the new sentence with the word “could”, add the phrase “and I have a choice”. [2]

We all have a choice as to what we do each day and how much we do each day.

“Did you notice when you read the “could” and “and I have a choice” sentences how much more of a free, liberated feeling you have? By making that simple adjustment in your wording, you remind yourself you have options. You can choose one way or you can choose another way. You are free.”[2]

Yes, we are free to do as we wish.  There is no imperative need for any one individual to do anythingYOU have a choice.  That choice enables us to live our lives in a healthier more balanced way.  If we choose to get involved in activism, volunteering, or any other altruistic pursuit, we need to remember that it is a choice, that we are in control, and balance keeps us healthy.  We no longer need to live up to some perfect, unattainable standard.  We can learn to live our lives in a healthy, balanced, and ultimately more perfectionismproductive way.  Doing any activity constantly to the point of mental, emotional or physical burn-out prevents the person from being productive long-term.  Learning to remember that we are free, we have a choice enables us to breathe, to be in control of our own actions, of our own life.

The upshot is that every day I’m having to learn that although there are lots of things that I want to do, lots of things that I could do, none of these things should be done by me, unless I choose to do so.  Also, my next step is teaching myself to slow down, be more balanced and stop expecting perfection.

“I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!” ― Oscar Wilde[3]

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[1] Can You Do More to Warn Others? – The Watchtower – Study Edition – October 2013
[2] EXiting the JW Cult: A Healing Handbook: For Current & Former Jehovah’s Witnesses – Bonnie Zieman
[3] Lady Windermere’s Fan – Oscar Wilde
[4] The Butterfly – Hans Christian Andersen

 

 

One thought on “Freedom of choice – YOU are in control!

  1. Thanks Evelyn for putting into words what so many of us feel. Even after 30 years out I still find myself taking on too much and have a difficult time saying no at work when asked to take on additional assignments. I always feel the need to be busy. It’s something I’m aware of-I’m still a work in progress!

    Liked by 1 person

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