taught me about Witnessing to Witnesses
In the five years or so that I’ve been in the ex-JW online community, I’ve gotten several personal communications from newbies and others asking me what I thought the best way was to get their friends and family to “wake up” and begin investigating the true nature of the Witness Weltanschauung. I’m not complaining in the least for someone asking me about what to do about this perplexing problem, I just wish I had a one-solution-fits-all answer that worked flawlessly. Hell, I would be happy with an approach that worked with odds of 5 to 1.Today, someone asked me this again and I’ve been thinking about it. I’m reminded for some strange reason of a little game I used to play when I was a kid with friendly little caterpillars who lived in my backyard.
You might know that a lot of caterpillars live in trees and walk on twigs and branches looking for those nice tasty leaves to eat. When they get to the end of a twig, they would feel around with their front feet trying to find a nearby twig to keep on walking. If that doesn’t work, they turn around and head back the same way they came to eventually find another branch to explore. Now the mean little kid I was, I liked to pick up a short twig and coax a caterpillar on it. I would let him do his little exploration run and when he got to the end of the twig he would turn around and come back, on his way back, I would pick up the twig at the other end and let him get to the end of it to see if he figured out if anything was wrong.Well caterpillars are not very gifted mentally, and the poor bug would just keep going back and forth on the twig as long as I wanted to play the game and never get any wiser until it just got too tired and would just immobilize itself somewhere on the twig. My bizarre two-ended twig isn’t something that the caterpillar was capable of dealing with, as it didn’t have enough self-awareness to deal with the new complexity it was facing.
You know what? The Witnesses are a lot like these caterpillars on the twig. We have all been on that twig (the correct path of JW thinking) and when we found ourselves in a situation where there was no longer any solid footing (meaning facing questions we couldn’t or didn’t want to answer) we would turn around and get out of there. Witnesses have great “apostate” feelers inside and when they are confronted with this problem the standard response is “flight” or “fight.”If you are lucky enough to have a JW friend or relative who is open enough to have rich, non-threatening and honest discussions you won’t have too much difficulty providing them with enough material to really get them to start thinking and investigating. If the “truth” really means something to them more than the social setting they find themselves in, they might actually start the process of exploring some new branches in reality. We all know that even knowing the “truth” isn’t the “truth” isn’t enough for a great many to leave. They have too much invested, are too fearful of loosing what they have, and won’t leave until the cost is lower. Still, you need to at least give them the opportunity to wake up and see for themselves what they managed to get themselves into, but how do you break through this insidious little protective loop they got themselves in?
My answer is similar to what happened in my own life experience. I was a hotshot regular pioneer who had all the answers. I was absolutely sure that the Witnesses were right and that everyone else was dead wrong, soon to be literally dead wrong. I thought I was pretty invulnerable to anything anybody could tell me about the “truth.” That changed one day because of a Bible Study I had with a retired schoolteacher named Mr. Rea.Mr. Rea was the ideal Bible Study. He always prepared well for his lessons. Never once failed to meet me on time. He came to the public talk, and Watchtower Study on a regular basis. And he was both a smart and funny guy. I just loved this guy, because he could always make me laugh. Everyone else thought highly of him too, and he was even a guest for dinner in our Witness home on several occasions.
But the clock was running out for Mr. Rea. Six months had gone by and even though Mr. Rea was coming to meetings something was holding him back He wouldn’t go any further, no door to door, no joining the TMS, no nothing more. Anyway, as much as I hated to do it, I told him one day that the elders told me to stop seeing him and studying with him because I was wasting my time. I asked him; just what is it that is holding you back? Well as strange as it seems, especially for a guy who had done everything he had in the last six months, he told me that he just couldn’t bring myself to believe in God because he couldn’t find any proof for his existence.Now to me, this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my entire life. In fact, I laughed when he told me this. I actually thought he was joking but he wasn’t. I told him that I would bring tons of proof with me on my next visit and that I was confident that I could prove to him that God existed.
I must have spent three days getting material together and it came time to meet him again. I laid out my proofs in a clear and understandable way, and he in the same manner showed me why my reasoning behind each example was both flawed and wrong. It turned out that Mr. Rea was a former science teacher, and I knew I had to make the grade if I was going to show him the Witnesses were right. We had more and more discussions, he shot down every proof I had in flames. He showed me that the references in the Evolution book were in fact lies, misquotations, and sometimes made up. I had to go to the local college library to look them up for myself to see that he was right. When I confronted the elders with this discovery, they told me to stop associating with him immediately.Well, needless to say, Mr. Rea planted some real doubts and also planted some self-awareness on my part that I too was running away from anything that didn’t match my conceptual reality. Things went downhill from that point forward with my own dancing on the Watchtower’s twig. I’m thankful, oh so thankful though to this kind teacher for helping me to wake up and start thinking. I don’t know if it would have been possible for me unless we were friends. I couldn’t just walk away from him; I had to try to “save him.” Can this work for you as well?
Look at things like this; offer a new pathway for your Witness caterpillar friend to travel down. Don’t make it scary and confrontational or they will head the other direction and shun you. Exploit your relationship to your advantage. Ask them to help you reason some things out. Start with small things first, little things that really bother you. Don’t download the entire contents of JWD in printed form and hand it to them! Take baby steps and keep things funny and friendly. They need a new branch that welcomes them and a guide they can trust. If they are wondering where you are getting these “horrible” ideas about the UN, child molestation, and so forth, well don’t you have a Bible Study you are conducting and this person is asking these questions of you?Maybe all this is nothing more than you offering a branch to them and they accept or reject that path,. At least though you may have planted some ideas that someday might take hold and increase their brain activity enough to see the make believe world they inhabit. It really could be as simple as that.