I received an email from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) that talked about how it can be difficult for former members of controlling religions to make friends. It explained that when your in such a group the other members are automatically your friends and you don’t have to work on relationships. This made me think.
When your one of Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re only allowed to be friends with other members. This makes for a very narrow pool of potential friends. To complicate things it further you are required to spend a massive amount of time dedicated to congregation activities. This narrows your pool of potential good friends down to your congregation. These are the people that you’re forced to work within the preaching and at the Kingdom Hall.
These people might very distasteful to you but you’re still required to be friends with them. You are supposed to put any and all personal differences aside. You don’t have to share interests because you all have a singular interest… that of serving the organization.
Now I had never thought of the implications of all this when you leave. I was aware that many of the people I was “friends” within the Witnesses weren’t real friends. They weren’t even friendly in a casual sense. After reading the material sent to me by the ICSA it occurred to me… what does working on relationships look like?
Similarly recently on the News Alexandra Pelosi was encouraging the new members of Congress to make friends. She was saying, ‘remember how in school they told you that you need to make friends?’ and I thought to myself no… no, I don’t remember that. This again made me think about the idea of working on making friends.
Historically I’ve been very passive about making friends. I guess I just thought that people who I happened to engage with on a daily basis were my friends. What does working on making friends look like? What does making Non-Jehovah’s Witness friends look like? Gosh. I feel like I’m in kindergarten.
I recently have been examining how people I interact with regularly are radically different than me. They aren’t inquisitive. They don’t seem to be interested in thinking about things deeply. They aren’t interested in the same topics as me. They may also have radically different perspectives on politics and other ideological things.
Thinking about this is often upsetting. But I think its upsetting because I’m operating under the Witness assumption that I am required to be friends with them. I’m not. I need to work on developing friends with people whom I want to be friends with. Friends who are going to help me be a better person.
Without a doubt, I will be posting more about this in the future.