If there’s one saying used among Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) that I truly dislike, it is this: “He’s not doing anything about the Truth right now.” This is used to indicate that someone isn’t active but there’s still hope they might return. What I don’t like about this is that it makes it sound like the individual is not interested in “truth” as a concept. Yet, that’s usually what makes a person stop associating with the organization.
People are leaving the organization because they are interested in “truth” – the truth behind the policies regarding child sexual abuse, the truth about the dangers of shunning family, the truth about financial cover-ups, etc. A person may also leave to pursue a “higher truth” of spirituality, instead of the unsatisfying doctrine proposed by JWs. If anything, when one leaves the organization it’s because they ARE “doing something about the truth.”
Using this terse phrase to sum up a person’s current condition is an example of how using “loaded language” short circuits the ability to think objectively about a situation. Slapping labels and phrases on people makes it unnecessary for members to actually consider why a person has chosen a particular course. Instead of hearing the reasons why a person might have left, they hear that the individual is in a category – “apostate,” “inactive,” “worldly.” There’s no need for them to think beyond that label.
The reverse can also be true though. For those of us that have left, we often use labels and names to describe those still in. Whether we realize it or not, using these monikers to describe current members can stop us from thinking that there are reasons why people can’t seem to leave. They may be older and don’t want to think about the possibility that they’ve wasted their life. They may be younger and can’t imagine life without their current family and friends. They may simply be unaware of the problems within the organization. There are a host of reasons people stay in the imagined safety of the group. This doesn’t mean that they are all innocent. It simply means that we can’t lump them into a convenient category like they do to us.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to use simplistic phrases to describe the entire life of a person when I don’t know all of the facts. I remember that I too would have fit into the category of a “sheep,” “borg,” “lemming,” etc., just a few years ago. If anything, I feel hope and compassion for those still in, knowing it is one of the most uncomfortable ways to live.
Contributed by Michael Paddock
July 31, 2018