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Short Shunning Experiences
Following are experiences I have received or read that shows how disfellowshipped people are treated and the effect on their lives. Reading the Watchtower's clinical prescription of the benefits of shunning is tempered by these real life examples, which number in the hundreds of thousands.
Some families start to shun even if their relatives are not disfellowshipped. As soon as a member becomes inactive from meetings the shunning can start.
The experiences are as they were written, either on forums or in emails received by JWfacts.
I have been shunned now by my mother for over 24 years and when I think/deal/process my mother, it is like 'Grieving for the living'. A difficult and painful daily process that I think is much harder then getting and staying sober. It is like walking around like one of zombies from the "Walking Dead", I have this constant mortal emotional wound, like a huge gaping hole that never closes and it never heals completely, if it was physical, I would have died from it a long time ago.
Not talking to my family is so hard. I don’t know how so many cope.
Me and my family were super close. People would always comment on how they were jealous of how close knit we were. And now I don’t have them at all. It’s been so hard. I wish it was encouraging to see that I’m not the only one going through this, but it’s actually discouraging that it’s so common. It leaves me with no hope.
I’ve tried to talk to a psychologist, but when I try to explain stuff to her she’s in such shock I don’t think she 100% believes me. Or she thinks that I just need to reach out to them. I try to explain to her that’s not an option. She just doesn’t get it.
I was baptized at 10 years and then a few years later began to have questions. I began reading many different versions of the bible and could not believe God could be so angry and kill so easily. If I am to believe in a higher power it has to be better than I am. I decided to focus my worship to God's love as the higher power of God. When I shared my beliefs I was called before the Elders and disfellowshiped. My mother did not talk to me for 35 years, she was finally given permission, I am respectful but it is too late.
It is the worst night of your life. - The night the people in your life who have always showed you benevolence will stab a knife into your back and convince you somehow that you've done it to yourself. These are the people who knew your parents as teenagers and knew you as just an infant. All you want to do is embrace the ones who are suppose to be there when you need them and sob. Your mother, your father, your brother, your sister. But every single one of them stab you with that same knife but in your heart. They will forget that you are a person as they are, that you make mistakes as they do. After tonight, they will treat you like the dirt that they walk on and as a result, each and every one of them will lose their humanity. They will lose their compassion and their ability to show all of the things they preach to be right. Love, kindness, goodness, forgiveness.
It's been seven years this spring since I've had any real contact with my family. I'd like to say it gets easier, but there is always going to be a gap in your heart. What does get easier is being able to cope.
I want to share a quote with you that I read often, "“A lesson without pain is meaningless. That's because no one can gain without sacrificing something. But by enduring that pain and overcoming it, he shall obtain a powerful, unmatched heart.” Edward Elric
I'm a mid 30's woman, been disfellowshipped since I was 15, left a family behind. Finding out there are all these other people dealing with the issues I've struggled with for years is a relief, it's not something you can talk about with many people in real life as they just don't get it! It was a very scary time and I felt alone, everyone I had ever trusted were no longer there for me, made me grow up very fast!
Dad... "you will always be my daughter, your brother will always be your brothers and your mother will always be your mother... Your life has chosen a different direction to us and for that you know where we stand..."
Daughter... "you will always be my father, my brothers will always be my brothers and my mother will always be my mother. When I leave this house I will still want to actively associate with my family but your conscience won't allow any of you to do so.. . Please don't try and put this on me dad when it doesn't affect my conscience but yours and the families... I want you and mum to be a part of my kids lives I want you both to be able to see your first lot of grandchildren... I don't wanna keep them from you... I don't want them hating me for it... And I most importantly don't want you hating me for it either"
Dad... "okay I understand" (with tears rolling down his face)...
Me... "I love you Dad... Please don't make me regret walking away from something that doesn't sit well in my heart."
I was told by my parents from the start that I would never speak to them until I returned to jehovah dog. A few months later they told people they hoped I died before the end came, then all of this culminating in them telling my inactive / fading sister that they don't consider me a child anymore and they have given me up to Satan.
I got a phone call tonight from my sister...who got a phone call from a stranger...telling her that our father passed away yesterday at 5 pm. The funeral is on Friday at a Kingdom Hall in Florida. No one called me. I haven't physically seen my father in almost 25 years (if you don't count the time he walked out of my uncle's funeral when we walked in). My father was a member of a cult called Jehovah's Witnesses. They shun those who leave the cult. He didn't take the time to get to know my three beautiful children and never met my husband. I am not sad because it's hard to miss something I didn't have for the last 30 years. I am hoping that he is in heaven with my mother and realizing for the first time that he had it all wrong.
A Loving Letter from my Grandfather links to an experience posted to Reddit 23 March 2021. The importance of this experience is that it is common for a Jehovah's Witness to invite a disfellowshipped family member back into their life, and then have a change of mind and start shunning again. This can be incredibly damaging for all involved, including innocent grandchidren. Following is the letter received after a visit.
I have been DF’d for 34 years now. Thirty-four years of guilt, loneliness, abandonment, persecution and ridicule from people I love with all my heart. People who once loved me, yet with one announcement by their body of elders were able to turn that love off in an instant. Many of my cousins have also left but they are still accepted and associated with, as they were not “baptized”, yet even they still shun me in order to stay in good graces with the family. My brother and I were both baptized therefore we received the kiss of death.
The following is part of an email from a Jehovah's Witness father to his son.
"It would be unthinkable for anyone on my side of the family (Your Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, nieces and nephews) to give consideration to either celebrate or attend your wedding or reception and their hearts mourn over the fact that this is so, as my heart mourns. We have very limited, almost non-existent, contact with non-JW relatives because they live lifestyles that are Scripturally disapproved by Jehovah and thus have made themselves "bad association".
I was a Jehovah's Witness baptized at 11. I am 33 now. Leaving was the best thing that I could have ever done for myself. Many of my family members are still Jehovah's Witnesses. Many of them are mean and play games. They like to make me feel left out. I am very good now but I still struggle to deal with the loss of not being a part of my family.
My husband and I walked away from the religion last July 2009 after approximately 38 years (*since birth) being in/around the "truth". We were subsequently disfellowshipped last December 2009 for celebrating Christmas. When we announced to family that we were leaving the organization we were met with a horrendous onslaught of berating, name calling, shouting, and shunning. The behavior they all displayed shocked and floored my husband and I because we had never known any of them to be so callous and cruel. After the announcement, my husbands side of the family has chosen to not only shun us completely, but to also shun our two small children even when they have requested to see their grandma and grandpa or cousins. They will have nothing to do with any of us. It hurts my kids a lot. My family, who started out to be the most callous towards us, ended up being the most accepting after the announcement. While they do not associate with us in a recreational way, they do still talk to us and they have also visited several times. They also make sure to spend time with our kids still as they normally would have. Both my husband and I come from families of Elders and ministerial servants and the stark contrast in the way each side treats us makes no sense.
I was born and raised a JW baptised at 11 years old ended up being disfellowshipped at 29 and it has now been nearly 10 years since I've spoken to my parents and to tell you the truth it never heals. My parents are diehard JW's, and lately I'm starting to worry as my parents are getting older that I'll never get the chance to see or speak to them again.
I was a pioneer and elder for many years , giving talks at assemblies and special days.
I decided to investigate Jehovah's Witnesses when my children started asking questions and having learnt the facts decided to come off as an elder and stopped going to meetings. I agreed with the circuit overseer not to discuss my doubts with the brothers and was never disfellowshipped or marked by the congregation and still attend many congregation social events with my wife , who continues going to the Kingdom Hall.
My family however took it upon themselves to shun me , feeling that my congregation should have dealt judicially with me. They also shun my wife , even though she is a faithful witness , because she didn't leave me. My sister emailed to to say she would ignore any contact from me whatsoever , until I "came back to Jehovah and his Faithful Slave class". Another lives locally & crosses the road when she sees me or my wife. I still send them anniversary cards (for JWs these are something of a substitute for birthday and Christmas cards as a means of keeping in touch) but they don't reciprocate.
The whole shunning experience has proved an eye-opener and a bad witness for people in the community , most of whom don't understand why Jehovah's Witnesses , whom claim to be Christians , act in this manner. My children are puzzled that their grandparents , uncles & aunts from an entire side of the family shun us and as a result , they want nothing to do with witnesses when they become of age.
To make a long story short, I am a 40 year old born in who was disfellowshipped at the age of 17 because I refused to shun my disfelloswhipped brother for being gay. When I told my committee meeting that I would never stop being his brother, they labeled me Apostate and sent me packing.
Ive wanted to do something to help take down the JWs for a very, very long time. Because of them I have been 100% an orphan for 23 years and counting. My grandparents died, and I wasn't even named on the memorial as a grandson. I have a 20 year old brother and a 23 year old sister I have never spoken to because they where born after I was shunned. No moms, no dads, no aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents....completely, 100% alone.
It wasn't until after I was disfellowshipped and left home at 18 that I began to realize the abuse I had endured in his house and that cult, all in the name of Jehovah.
5 years later I am happily married with the most beautiful free spirited daughter. I have a job I that I love doing my passion - painting. Life is heading in the right direction now more than ever for me. Despite all this, my parents still want nothing to do with me. A few months ago I called my mother after 2 years of no contact, just to ask her if she loved me. I couldn't take one more day of wondering if my Witness mother could love her apostate daughter. She responded "I love what Jehovah loves and hate what Jehovah hates. Jehovah hates what you're doing with your life and hates who you've become." And there it was. Unless I got good with Jehovah she wanted nothing to do with me. And seeing as I want nothing to do with that cult and it's lies and manipulation my mom won't have a relationship with me. Or her son. Or her first born daughter.
Today my father said his good bye's. My mother sat in the car, too heart broken to come and face me......
I was disfellowshipped 24 years ago, and my family (brother, sister and mother) will not even speak to me. I thought this was no big deal (along with other issues from being raised in a cult) for a lot of years, but I now know that it was just denial and I have been hiding feelings and real issues.
I was born "in the truth", baptized in 1992 and disfellowshipped in 1995. I tried to go back several times but to no avail. My mother doesn't speak to me, neither does one of my brothers and my sister. My sister is not baptized but she won't allow her kids to talk to me either. My mother sends my 15-year-old son snail mail but it's not to see how he's doing, it's to preach to him and send a magazine.
The process of disfellowshipping quite literally cut me off from my family. My kids were told they could no longer have association of any kind with me. My daughter called me long distance from Vancouver — I lived in Saskatoon at the time. She heard the news within a few days and called me to ask, a quiver in her voice, “Mom, is it true that you are disfellowshipped?”
I replied more calmly than I imagined I could, “Yes, it is true.”
My daughter began to sob, “Mom, you have to come back!”
“I won’t be coming back,” I heard myself say.
She hung up the phone and I knew the shunning had begun.
For the rest of this experience see whichwayisup
I was disfellowshipped at the age of 16 for drinking and "hooking up" with the elders daughter ... basically being a common teenager. My whole family turned me away - I was homeless from 16 - 18. I was able to create a great life for myself as time went on but haven't spoken with my parents since I was 16. I'm now 31 and I have no clue who they are.
I am very interested in learning about what Jehovah's Witnesses preach, believe and how the "Organization" operates. My reason is personal. I am not a Jehovah's Witness but I am going through a break-up with a girl who is a Jehovah's Witness and whom I love. In brief, we have been involved in a relationship. A Jehovah's Witness at the place where we both work found out about our relationship. She informed her father, an elder. That elder then advised this girl to speak to the elders of her congregation. A committee of three elders was formed to speak to her. She was petrified. They effectively told her that if she did not stop seeing me and leave her place of employment, she would be disfellowshipped. She told me that if she chose to leave, then ALL her Jehovah's Witness friends (without exception) would shun her.
I was morally outraged at what I saw as the abuse of the immense psychological power this "Organization" has over its members (an issue you deal with much better than I can on your website). If a government were putting immense pressure on a citizen to leave a relationship and find a different job or be shunned by the polity, that would surely constitute an infringement of that person's human rights.
I told my family that I had no intention to stay a Jehovah's Witness, due to the fact that the doctrine didn't agree with my conscience any longer. With that note, I was told from birth, that the second that we decided that we did not want to “serve Jehovah” that there was no place for us at home. When I uttered the sentence “I do not want to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses” initially, my parents tried to convince me otherwise. When they realized that they could not do so, I was then asked to leave. I no longer could stay there. I started to realize that I had just gotten rejected by my family. For the rest of this experience see Kevin - PDF
I was publicly reproved as a young teen, then DF’d at 20 and fervently returned to meetings so that I could get my social and family life back. Only after I was reinstated did I start to think, “If I’m spiritually sick… shouldn't this be the time that I get EVEN MORE help and assistance and support?” Especially considering that I was young, pregnant, getting married, moving… I needed my family more than ever and they treated me so poorly. I often cried myself to sleep. What kind of loving God would allow that to happen in his organization?
After almost 40 years of being shunned by close family members, it never gets easier. My own mother is under the spell of the "organization" and won't even write to me. For a long time I sent her things - cards, news articles of interest, jokes, etc - I finally gave up. I get an occasional note or Watchtower clipping. I realized nothing is better at opening the wound than every opened letter containing another rejection.
Many times I was unable to spend any time with, or talk on the phone with, my little sister, who has Down's Syndrome and cannot just stand up for herself to my family. My JW family is keeping us from each other.
The usual fanatical shunning comes with the explanation that it is for them a preparation for my eventual death at armageddon. My family loves to throw the shock and horror death talk tactic alongside the "everybody misses you", and "YOU know what to do" to see us all again. They make sure to always have a condescending tone, as if my life is pointless and futile, and my opinions and individuality mean zero...unless I carry the brand JW.
It takes everything in me to not react to them like a crazed woman when they come onto me with that predictable mentality! I usually end up in tears after we have any conversation.
I feel very passionately about this subject, it is absolutely an emotionally abusive tool!!!!! I have grown to Hate and Abhor the Jehovah's Witness Religion with all my broken heart. They have stolen my family, they have stolen some good friends, they have created a perfect nightmare for any honest, good-hearted person.
From a non Witness relative regarding disfellowshipping.
I've never approved of the Jehovah's Witnesses faith (for lack of a better word), and though I love my aunt and uncle, their parents, I've never been able to be close to them because, in their eyes, as they've told me (with genuine kindness), I'm an abomination before God.
While hearing that hurt, fortunately I've always been able to see them as just misled and misguided. I took it personally, but not deeply. However, seeing the way that my cousin - the disfellowshipped one - has been treated in the past year has me so angry and so hurt for her.
I have no desire to cut off relations with that side of my family even though they're behaving in a way that I think is deeply at odds with the Christianity they claim to adhere to. Even though I'm trying my damnedest not to judge them, it's impossible for me not to take sides.
I was never formally disfellowshipped because I just walked away and was inactive, but they still shun me as if I were disfellowshipped. What's weird is that I lost all contact with my family for about six years. Then they suddenly decided to associate with me again. It was really nice, and I didn't understand it, but I just went along with it because I had them back, and they were leaving me alone as far as religion goes. I thought maybe the society had come up with new guidelines for immediate family members and that maybe it was acceptable to associate with them again. Then a few years later they suddenly informed me that they would have to stop associating with me again, because their attempts to get me back into the "truth" were to no avail (even though they didn't make much of an attempt). I went through a short period of depression, but then was pretty good with it.
My wife and I have been shunned by the witnesses and witness family simply because we no longer go to the meetings. The congregation's shunning of us no doubt has something to do with the local needs talk we heard about "dishonorable ones" ie..."ones who have stopped coming to meetings and service". "Never should the congregation fool themselves into thinking that they can help someone who has quit going to meetings to come back by associating with them. The only place that association would be a good idea is at the Kingdom Hall." "If they don't go to meetings and serve shoulder to shoulder then why would you associate with them?" - That local needs was the final nail in the coffin for us.
My family has begun a businesslike approach with us over the last couple of months. The only contact we receive is when it's "necessary family matters". Then my best friend, (He doesn't go...yet he went to the convention with his wife and kids), told me how the JWs were hitting hard on remaining loyal to God's organization and that would include being ready to sever ties with family who "leave Jehovah and his organization" (I guess not going to meetings = leaving God....what a crock). Anyway, since we didn't go to the convention then, we've been viewed by family as ones who have already started turning their back on Jehovah. No more chit chat phone calls....simply facts and businesslike.
I've been "weak" for over a decade, never did get "strong" again after being disfellowshipped and later re-instated. I think it was being disfellowshipped that really opened my eyes to the control, lack of love, lack of compassion and mercy that shocked me.
Since leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses its weird. You had a whole extended family of Aunts and uncles and cousins that you chatted to regularly that you think give a stuff about what’s going with you and then you make the decision finally to leave and suddenly you are alone in the world with hardly anyone who knows or understands your background. And you see some people down the street of your town and they may not even acknowledge you or may say hello, but just because you left its like they have nothing to say to you. It is uncomfortable for me because I think they’re judging me, and uncomfortable for them because I rejected their beliefs. BUT I knew the consequences of rejecting that belief system. Doesn't make it any easier!!!
I disassociated myself about 5 months ago. My family have nothing to do with me even though one of them is disfellowshipped. The reason why I chose to disassociate myself was for myself, to be free from guilt trips and being made to feel so awful for what I had done. I do get my really down times especially when I think about how hard it must be for them to adapt to me not being in their lives any more but then I have to think they made the decision and if it wasn't for the organization it wouldn't of had to be like this. I just merely wanted to be happy and in order for that I had to leave the organization. In general I am the happiest I've ever been in my life, I'm with someone who truly makes me happy and understands what I've had to come through. It's been a battle but everyday I'm getting stronger.
Over 15 years I have been shunned, not shunned, to shunned and then not shunned. Such yo-yoing. I shake my head in disbelief that parents can do this to their children, like what has been done to my sister and me.
About 9 months ago my wife was disfellowshipped and she's handled it surprisingly well considering her entire immediate family and "friends" don’t talk to her anymore.
I was confronted by my sister and my brother and told that as long as I continued my worldly behaviour they would have nothing to do with me (I faded, was not disfellowshipped). I had confided in my sister months earlier that I had been molested by my brother, yet they confronted me together with this decision.
My Dad poked fun at another religion for shunning their son because he didn't believe their church doctrines ... then denied that his own church encourages the same behaviour, even when told that their policy is published on their own official website.
I left about six months ago from the JW's even though I had no where to go I had to get out. I was so ashamed of living a lie and most of all lying to my family. My oldest sister who for the most part raised me has been the one who I've found being shunned by hurts the most. When I left I had to stay in a shelter for a short while and since I am from a small town I pretty much had to stay at the shelter until I found means to move.
At first I lied to my sister because I wasn't sure how to tell her where I was or that I was not only leaving our fathers home but also their religion. My sister is 31, she married in 'the truth' and has three beautiful children. Her kids have been my world since the day I found out she was going to have her first son. He is almost 8 now, his younger brother is about to be 4, and their baby sister is 2. My sister, once I finally told her that I was leaving the JW's, lost it as I explained to her why I was leaving. It came down to one thing in her eyes, not all of the wrong that we had both watched go on for years within several congregations, she simply could not get over the fact that I finally came out and told her that I was gay.
She went on the typical JW rant on how wrong homosexuality is and how I should simply erase those thoughts and marry a nice brother. Since then I have only heard from her twice. I send her a text message and call about once a month trying to get word. She has only responded twice in six months! It is always short and sweet. I simply asked how they were holding up in some recent bad weather, once when we had snow in Feb. the other was a few weeks ago when I found that a tornado hit near by where she lives. She simply replied that they were fine and that they had passed the mini carnival in town and the kids asked about me (this broke my heart because it was the first she'd mentioned the kids since I left and I always took them to the carnival.) In tears I texted her back then called both her cell and home phone left her messages all evening until I cried myself to sleep.
We had always been so close and her kids were like my own. My heart is broken. Being told how horrible of a person I am, how worthless, and that I could no longer see or speak with my nephews and neice has been the biggest of all daggers in my heart. The one I looked up to my whole life now looks at me in shame, she simply turned her back and took her kids (my world) away with her.
I just got a letter from my grandmother, who raised me like her own daughter. In it, she said that she heard that I disassociated and that's the same as disfellowshipping. If that's true, it would severely change our relationship. She went on and on about grandfather looking for me and being very sad on not finding me [in the New System] when he is resurrected.
Emotional blackmail and holding families hostage for payment of servitude from wayward family members is just horrid.
I think the most sad thing is, I missed all those milestones....there's no pictures of me in the family album, heck I bet my name never even comes up...like I was never even there? Does my mom say she has 4 children or 5?
My parents adopted my brother when he was a few weeks old. Like me, he was raised as a witness. By 17 years of age he'd been disfellowshipped twice (first time was quashed by appeal). He was, for sure, lied about at the second judicial committee, with the elders doing a 'witch-hunt' against him, asking virtually everyone in the congregation if they 'knew anything about him'. My dad, who was an elder at the time, had made himself pretty unpopular for one reason or another. They couldn't get at my dad, so they got at him through my brother. My parents still gave him a roof over his head and tried their best with him after he was disfellowshipped. However, because he was no longer allowed any association with his friends, he made new friends 'in the world', got in with a bad crowd, later with a very bad crowd and before long left my parents' home.
In 15 years I've spoken to him a couple of times. We've made contact, briefly, this year after he heard I was no longer a Jehovah's Witness. His life is a bit of a mess, to be honest, and it's been so long since we had a relationship that I don't know him/him me. I feel pretty guilty about that.
So, he was rejected by his birth-parents, adopted by Jehovah's Witnesses, baptised into a religion that 'kills it's young' whenever they step out of line and effectively lost his adoptive family too.
I was not raised a JW. I have several family members that are JWs, though. I started studying with JWs at the end of 2009. The woman that I did my studies with was very pushy. I quickly became an unbaptized publisher. Then, already there was talk of baptism. Even when I voiced having doubts about being baptized, my cousins made me feel like something was wrong with me if I didn't go through with being baptized. I felt pushed into it. So July of 2010, I was baptized. Very soon after that, I was regretting my decision. That lifestyle just was not me. My study instructor already wasn't even hounding me too much anymore at this point. I guess she was just happy that one of her studies had gotten baptized. It seems that they do things for show. Not because they genuinely care about people. By September of 2010, I decided that I was going back to living my life how I wanted to, and then I was disfellowshipped. My cousins that I had always been very close to, we were like sisters, immediately stopped talking to me. I had been deleted off of their facebooks before it was announced at the hall. I am still very hurt by all of this. I just can't get over never talking to my cousins again. I have thought about getting reinstated before, just to be close with my cousins, but I can't go back to that kingdom hall just for that reason. I refuse. This is something that has really affected me negatively, and has ruined my relationship with my family members that I was very close to. I'll never get over this.