Time to celebrate!!

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Celebrations are an integral part of life.  They bring people together, provide a natural break from our routine and give us the opportunity to focus on what really matters in life.

Sadly, many of us do not currently experience the true joy of celebrating with others because our minds were poisoned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.  Even when we’re free from the cult, contemplating things like Christmas trees or decorations etc. can bring forth a myriad of doubts and uncertainty and it can seem easier sometimes to attempt to avoid the whole thing completely.  Therefore, it’s highly likely that we remain lonely and isolated, still unable to celebrate with those we love.

Celebrating is very important, but if the traditional holidays fill you with dread or hesitation, there are other options!

Why not start some new celebrations with your own friends and/or family? One thing I like to do is to celebrate “FRIENDIVERSARIES”.  All you have to do is establish an approximate date on which you met a good friend, put it in the calendar, then plan something special!  It’s a wonderful way to cherish precious friendships.

If you have children, nephews or nieces, step-children or grandchildren, why don’t you celebrate a “FAMILYVERSARY”?  There may be a special, significant date for you as a family, or you can select one at random, then start creating special memories together that you will treasure for years.

Another idea is to create a GLOBAL day of celebration for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses.  For instance, a “WAKE UP DAY” that would be a time of international festivities, celebrating our awakening from the cruel cult that dominated our lives for so long.

It could also be the perfect opportunity to reach out to friends or family members who are doubting, inactive or disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses, in order to build our relationships with them and give them a safe space to express themselves freely.

We would like to propose a symbolic date for this celebration. For example, Friday 3rd February 2017.  This will be remembered as the date on which the “Faithful and Discreet Slave” finally admitted that they are not inspired, nor infallible, and therefore was never God’s channel of communication with mankind.

On that day, ex-JWs can unite in small groups around the world, with our closest friends and family members who have supported us, to celebrate our FREEDOM!  With parties, dances, rich food and beverages and of course… CAKE!!

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It seems that nowadays, Instagram is full of annoying pictures of cakes with the jw.org logo all over them – how they make our blood boil!!

So, why not beat them at their own game?  What about an international ex-JW cake contest?!!!  Personally, I’ve been wanting to have an impressive “jwfacts.com” cake made for a while, but this is just one idea!  My husband suggested a pyramid or the Watchtower logo with a plane crashing into it 🙂 🙂 🙂 The number one rule is: Let your creativity run wild!! Let us know what you think of these ideas!

We understand that the Watchtower Victims Memorial Day on July 26th is a very important and significant day to remember and commemorate all those who tragically lost their lives to this heartless cult, but we also need a day to celebrate.

We would like to collaborate with ex-JW activists around the globe to make this day a success.  It would be great if you could share this initiative with others, and.. let’s get the ball rolling!!!

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Trump’s win or Hillary’s defeat? Which is more significant?

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What if you couldn’t care less?  What if the whole concept of politics makes you want to run a mile?  With two such unattractive candidates, this reaction is fairly understandable.

Now, the results are finally in. We can’t avoid the issues any longer.  It can be extremely difficult to be surrounded by people discussing politics if you personally have no faith in the system or its representatives.

So, what do you do?  It seems to me that yet another big challenge that faces us as we come out of a cult or high control group is the pressure to conform to “the world”.  Previously, we were pressured to adhere to the strict norms and standards within the group, and now we’re out, other people may want to bully or ridicule us into taking part in things we don’t feel comfortable with.

For example, well meaning family members, coworkers or new friends may feel that we need a bit of a “push” when it comes to certain activities that were previously forbidden, such as voting or celebrating certain holidays. However, what they don’t understand is that we’re fed up of being pushed!!! Some of us may not need their encouragement or insistence, as we just want some space and the acceptance to work out all these issues on our own.  While we really appreciate being listened to non-judgmentally as we process our thoughts and verbalize our new ideas, being told what to do may not be helpful.

When people make a conscious decision not to vote, they are not “opting out” or “burying their head in the sand”.  It’s a valid choice which should be respected by others.  Those who choose to abstain should feel free to express themselves and not be ridiculed or made to feel small by those who feel strongly about voting.   It can be very common to be reminded of all the suffragettes and other activists who struggled arduously to gain the vote. That is true, but the fact remains that people shouldn’t be emotionally blackmailed into participating in something that they feel goes against their conscience.  Likewise, it’s not acceptable for non-voters to shame or belittle those who do choose to vote.  Each of us has the right to be different.

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Smiling Depression

We would like to share this eye-opening article from Psychology Today, as it’s something that can affect many victims of cults or High-Control groups.

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By Rita Labeaune, Psy.D.

How many people do you imagine look happy but struggle with depressive thoughts on a daily basis? Typically depressed people are depicted as being bed-ridden and incapable of functioning. What may or may not be surprising is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 10% of the United States population is suffering from  depression, which is 10 times more than those suffering from bipolar disorder (1%) and  schizophrenia (1%).

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. Some might not even realize that they are depressed, especially if they seem like they’re managing their day-to-day life. It doesn’t seem possible that someone can be smiling, chipper, functioning, and at the same time, depressed.

In my practice, those the most surprised to realize they’re experiencing some form of depression are those suffering from “smiling depression.” Most people haven’t even heard of the term. The definition of smiling depression is: appearing happy to others, literally smiling, while internally suffering with depressive symptoms. Smiling depression often goes undetected. Those suffering often discount their own feelings and brush them aside. They might not even be aware of their depression, or want to acknowledge their symptoms due to a fear of being considered “weak.”

The hallmark of smiling depression is sadness. The smile and external façade is a defense mechanism, an attempt to hide their true feelings. A person could be experiencing sadness about a failed relationship, career challenges, or lacking what they view as a true purpose in life. The sadness might also manifest as a constant, overall feeling that “something just isn’t right.”

Other common symptoms of smiling depression are feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, fatigue, irritability, hopelessness, and despair. Those suffering from this and other forms of depression may also experience problems sleeping, a lack of enjoyment in pleasurable activities, and a loss of libido. Everybody’s experience is different. It’s possible to feel just one or many of these symptoms.

Another way to think about smiling depression is to see it as wearing a mask. People suffering from smiling depression may offer no hint of their problem to the outside world. They often maintain a full-time job, run a family household, participate in sports, and have a fairly active social life. With their mask on, everything looks great, even at times perfect. However, underneath the mask they are suffering from sadness, panic attacks, low self-esteem, insomnia, and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

Suicide can be a particular threat for individuals suffering with smiling depression. Typically, people suffering with classic, severe depression might have suicidal thoughts, but not the energy to act on their feelings. However, those suffering from smiling depression have the energetic ability to plan and follow through. This is why smiling depression can be more dangerous than a classic form of severe depression.

If you or anyone you know might be suffering from smiling depression, the good news is help is available. This is one of the most treatable mental health problems. Whether through counseling or psychotherapy, it is possible to successfully navigate out of this state of mind and be freed from the sadness. Your loved one or close friend whom you suspect is suffering from smiling depression may deny it and might even have a negative reaction when you first broach the subject. This is normal. Often people aren’t aware of smiling depression and the word “depression” might sound too extreme. Keep in mind they may view getting help as a sign of weakness or something only needed by the severely disturbed.

Aside from counseling or psychotherapy, those suffering can start by opening up to those around them. Choosing one close family member, friend, or confidant, and making it a practice to discuss feelings and concerns can help alleviate symptoms. It’s important not to be concerned about being a burden. Sometimes we forget that those around us are happy to support us in the same way we would for them. Opening up and sharing feelings is a key element in coping with depressive thoughts.

As long as you continue to deny or avoid what makes you feel empty, it will be near impossible to fix the problem. When depressive thoughts and feelings aren’t addressed, they typically build up and become worse. What matters most is to reach out.

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Letting go of the judgmental cult mindset

After waking up from a cult, it’s understandable that many people want to run away from it as fast as possible, closing the door and never looking back.  However, it’s very important to process what happened and discover how mind control techniques were used against us.  Otherwise, it can be incredibly difficult to truly break free from all the judgmental mindsets, phobias and attitudes.

When leaving a sect, it’s common to be consumed by guilt, regret and shame. Rather than spending time dwelling on these negative feelings, it’s easier to bury them and make an attempt to “move on”.  Nevertheless, learning about the nature of sects and mind control and sharing openly with other ex members can be very liberating and healing.  Books such Raymond Franz’ “Crisis of Conscience” and Steven Hassan’s “Combating Cult Mind Control” can help to put everything in a different perspective and end the cycle of negative thinking.

It can be a real struggle to shake off the mindset of demoralizing others or judging, according to our views and beliefs. After all, that’s what we were taught to do.

What do you think?  How can we overcome this tendency?  Let us know your thoughts.

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Legalism versus Christianity

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Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!  I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income’.  But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’  I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-17 NLT).

The Pharisees were members of a faction of Judaism that based their customs on a legalistic interpretation of the Old Testament. Their religion demanded strict and detailed practices which, according to them, would lead to holiness.  Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” because they had an “appearance” of righteousness, but their hearts were full of evil (Luke 11:43-44).  The Pharisees thought that their traditions and interpretations made them more righteous than others and that they would gain God’s favour in this way.  This did not turn out to be the case, as God allowed their religious system to be destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE.

The Pharisees had rules about extremely minimal things, such as tithing even the smallest herbs and numerous cleanliness rituals (Matthew 23:23). On one occasion, they were shocked because Jesus and his disciples didn’t wash their hands up to their elbows before eating, as was their custom (Mark 7:2-5; Matthew 15:2).

In the same way, many modern religious groups who claim to have the “truth”, despise or punish all those who do not agree with their particular rules or Biblical interpretations.  These groups give great importance to formalities and appearances, criticizing the way people dress, shave or cut their hair, and scorning everyone who does not think like them or do what they say.  Some of these groups refuse to speak to or greet those who do not follow their rules and even force family members of these “unrepentant sinners” to do the same, leading to unbearable heartache and pain.

Jesus, on the other hand, warned his followers to avoid becoming judgmental and legalistic.  He said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5) We should never forget these words if we really want to please God.

Jesus compared superficial and legalistic religion to a “rotten tree” that produces “worthless fruit”, that is to say, it makes the heart bitter and is no use to God (Matthew 7:15-23 NWT).

Jesus also reminded the legalists of his time what God had said to their forefathers: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice” because “doing righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6a, Proverbs 21:3 NKJV, Matthew 9:13; Micah 6:6-8).

“Pure and genuine religion”

“What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world” (James 1:27).  This means that genuine Biblical religion is not a denomination, and has nothing to do with rules and rituals.  In fact, it consists of carrying out certain acts of mercy and kindness towards others, particularly the most vulnerable.

Consequently, Jesus didn’t give a list of rules when he explained how to identify his true disciples.  He simply said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

“Love covers over a multitude of sins”

The reason why Jesus exalted love over rules is that he knew that God is the only one who is entitled to judge.  To avoid legalism, we must love and forgive one another rather than judging each other.  Of course, forgiveness doesn’t imply turning a blind eye and accepting sin; it is a response to repentance and recognition on the part of the sinner.  Jesus gave us guidelines to resolve disputes between Christians; saying to his disciples: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV).

Of course, it goes without saying that this procedure refers to “faults” and “sins” and not criminal offenses such as murder, rape or child abuse.

Sadly, some religious groups twist Jesus’ words according to their legalistic viewpoint and impose cruel punishments on members who “refuse to listen” to the church.  They shun “sinners” and even force family members to do the same, mistakenly assuming that 1st Century tax collectors received the same treatment. The truth is that it was impossible to avoid talking to a public official who collected taxes for the government.

Moreover, some cults and high control groups shun former members, thus preventing people from leaving the group as they risk losing contact with their closest family members and friends.

Another Bible verse that some legalistic religions often use to justify this practice is found in 1 Corinthians 5:11, which says: “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people”.

It is clear that neither this passage nor the previous one mention that we should shun the brother or sister who has “sinned”. Otherwise, how would it be possible to accomplish the Biblical purpose of discipline, which is to “admonish” and “restore” them?  Paul clarifies this in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”. In Galatians 6:1, he also writes: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently“.

How can we consider ourselves as “spiritual” if, instead of admonishing and gently restoring our brother or sister who has committed a sin or fault, we stop talking to them altogether?  It is evident that this cruel practice of shunning is not supported by the Bible in any way.

By contrast, Paul said: “It is enough that this person has been punished in this way by most of you.  Now, however, you should forgive him and encourage him, in order to keep him from becoming so sad as to give up completely. And so I beg you to let him know that you really do love him” (2 Corinthians 2:6-8 GNT).

This is the Christian way.  It is guided by the “fruit of the Spirit”, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23).  This fruit overcomes legalism, for “against such things there is no law”.

Answer these 25 questions to find out if you are in a cult or high control group

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1) Do your studies or training in the group seem to be endless?

2) Did you have to give up things that you liked doing in order to be accepted into the group? (e.g. music, places you used to go, clothes, family life, celebrations, etc.)

3) Have you been encouraged to cut off good friendships or close family ties with people from outside of the group?

4.) If you’ve belonged to the group all your life, are there things that you would have liked to have done but you couldn’t, as they were incompatible with the rules of the group?

5.) Does belonging to the group involve dressing in a certain way and using a particular terminology?

6.) Have you noticed a double moral standard in the group, where individuals pretend to be an ideal person in order to be accepted?

7.) Do you have to project or maintain an outward appearance of happiness within the group, although deep down you are sad or dissatisfied?

8) Do you have to make more and more of an effort to continue being an active member of the group or are you requested to give more and more money?

9) Is criticism within the group or listening to critics forbidden and punished harshly?

10) Can you reject any instruction or order from the group, although publicly it is phrased as a “suggestion”? 

11)  Can you question any teaching or doctrine of the group, although the criticism may be well founded and expressed respectfully?

12) Are those who reject or criticize the group or its leaders said to be rejecting God himself?

13) Are the leaders enormously relevant to the group members, and does their influence affect every aspect of the group members’ lives?

14) Are the leaders seen to be superior the rest of the members?

15) Do they claim to have divine authority or to have been appointed directly by God?

16) Do the leaders affirm that only they can communicate with God directly and receive his instructions for the group?

17) In the meetings of the group, are certain phrases or concepts reinforced periodically and topics repeated frequently?

18) Do expressions of love/brotherly affection within the group often seem fake, superficial or insincere?

19) Is it forbidden to date or marry someone who does not belong to the group?

20) As well as the communal meetings, is it obligatory to attend large conferences or other special events, and are members constantly kept very busy in activities related with the group?

21) Do you have the feeling that you’re never doing enough to reach the prize or recompense that the group promotes?

22)  Out of loyalty to the group, are there things that you must not say or secrets that you must not reveal?

23) Are the members of the group the only ones who can please God?

24) In general, do the group members feel superior to those who don’t belong to it?

25) Does the group teach that they are the only ones who will be saved, and that God will destroy or punish all those who don’t belong to it?

If the majority of your answers to these questions are “yes” (except 10 and 11) you are definitely involved in a sect/cult.  

Tell us more about your story, please share in the comments below, or if you’re not comfortable writing publicly, send us an email to faithafterdeception@gmail.com.   You are not alone.

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Versión Original en Español:

Test para saber si estás en una secta

1) ¿Tus estudios o entrenamiento con el grupo parecen no tener fin?

2) ¿Has debido dejar cosas que te gustan a fin de ser aceptado en el grupo (música, sitios donde ibas, manera de vestir, vida familiar, celebraciones, etc.)?

3) ¿Has tenido que dejar buenas amistades para pertenecer al grupo?

4) En el caso de haber pertenecido toda tu vida al grupo ¿hay cosas que hubieras querido hacer pero que no puedes por ser incompatibles con las reglas del grupo?

5) ¿Pertenecer al grupo supone seguir una manera de vestir particular y usar un vocabulario diferente?

6) ¿Se observa una doble moral en el grupo, donde los individuos fingen ser una persona ideal para ser aceptados?

7) ¿Debes proyectar y fomentar una imagen de felicidad dentro del grupo aunque internamente estés triste o disconforme?

8) ¿Tienes que dar cada vez más dinero o hacer cada vez más esfuerzo para seguir siendo miembro activo del grupo?

9) ¿La crítica dentro del grupo o el hecho de escuchar a personas con opiniones contrarias está prohibida y se castiga desproporcionadamente?

10) ¿Se puede rechazar alguna directriz u ordenanza del grupo aunque públicamente se plantee como “sugerencia”?

11) ¿Se puede cuestionar alguna enseñanza o doctrina del grupo, aunque la crítica esté fundada y se plantee en términos respetuosos?

12) ¿Se pinta a los que rechazan/critican al grupo o a su(s) líder(es) como personas que en realidad rechazan a Dios?

13) ¿El líder(es)  es (son)  enormemente relevante(s) para los miembros del grupo, su influencia abarca cada aspecto de la vida de los miembros?

14) ¿El líder(es) forma(n) parte de una clase especial, o superior al común de los miembros?

15) ¿El líder(es) ostenta(n) una autoridad o nombramiento otorgado por Dios directamente?

16) ¿El líder(es) afirma(n) que sólo él(ellos) puede(n) comunicarse con Dios directamente y recibir Sus directrices para el grupo?

17) ¿En las reuniones del grupo se repiten frases o se refuerzan conceptos periódicamente, percibes que los temas se van repitiendo?

18) ¿Las expresiones de afecto/amor fraternal al interior del grupo son a menudo fingidas?

19) ¿Están prohibidas las relaciones de pareja con personas que no pertenezcan al grupo?

20) ¿Además de las reuniones comunes, debes asistir a eventos especiales y largas conferencias, se procura mantener a los miembros muy ocupados en las actividades del grupo?

21) ¿Hay una sensación de que nunca estás haciendo lo suficiente para alcanzar el premio o recompensa que el grupo promueve?

22) Por lealtad al grupo, ¿hay cosas que no debes decir o secretos que no puedes revelar?

23) ¿Sólo los miembros del grupo pueden agradar a Dios?

24) En general, ¿los miembros del grupo se sienten superiores al resto de las personas?

25) ¿Sólo los miembros del grupo se salvarán, Dios destruirá o castigará eternamente a todo aquél que no pertenezca al grupo?

Si la mayoría de tus respuestas son “Sí” (excepto 10 y 11), sin duda estás envuelto en una secta. Cuéntanos tu historia; no estás solo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do people return to a sect after breaking free?

 

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“Why do people do this?”  I hear you say.  It seems illogical; a person wakes up to the fact that they’ve been in a damaging sect or High Control Group, “breaks free” and rejoices in that for a while, then voluntarily decides to go back. We, their friends and family, are left perplexed, confused and maybe even angry, like those who witness women (or men) going back to their abusers. We want to stop it!! We want to step in and physically prevent it – and yet we can’t. And if we push too hard we risk being cut out of their lives forever.

This issue requires great compassion, tact and above all, understanding. If we express any judgement, frustration or impatience towards our loved one and their decision we will only drive them deeper into the cult mindset that they are having trouble disentangling themselves from.

We know that many people are emotionally blackmailed into returning to a cult by cruel shunning practices that cut individuals off from their family and closest friends.  They feel they have to go back in order to be able to speak to their loved ones again, and to be treated like a human being.

Sometimes, people go back because they feel that they no longer fit in anywhere else. Although they know that the sect spreads lies and is a deeply flawed entity, they fear they need it in order to serve God.

These people have left the sect, but have not stopped believing in God.  This itself is a challenge, as they suddenly have a mountain of questions about everything they’ve ever been taught.  It can be hard to find a safe place to discuss these with open-minded, non-dogmatic people who are willing to listen and not jump in with answers.

For all these reasons and many more, a lot of people find the pull of the sect irresistible. There are huge questions involved, such as people’s beliefs and fears regarding the afterlife and their eternal destination, things that cannot be swept aside easily.

Therefore, you need to tread very carefully when speaking with a friend who expresses a desire to go back to a cult.  Do not ridicule or dismiss their fears; do not get frustrated or angry with them or overload them with “evidence” about the cult.  You need to be a compassionate, listening ear, in order to help them unpack their deepest, darkest fears and phobias, and above all, let them know that there is a better way (John 14:6).

People may go back to the cult, but we need to keep the door open to them. Because the fact is that if they go back, they will get hurt again.  Their return to the cult may reinforce their first decision to leave.  In this case, they need warm, supportive friends on the outside who they can trust; people who will not gloat or criticize or say “I told you so”.