I could never control who or what I am — a woman unfortunate enough to be born into a mostly visibly male body. There is, however, one thing over which it seems I have always had some measure of choice: the terms of my confinement. Today, I have essentially traded one sort of imprisonment — having locked my genuine self away for many years in favor of presenting the “male” face that society, from my earliest years, showed me that it “expected” of me — for another type of sentence. Now that the person I have always been on the inside is finally free to be herself, she is cut off from any contact with many of her closest and dearest long-time friends and associates, the majority of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The question arises, why have I made this choice? Some who have expressed questions along these lines to me, appear inclined to view my decision as a “selfish” one. I could go on about the growing cumulative negative impact of my former course on my own life, and my psychological and emotional well-being, along with the impact that had on those around me. Those of a different opinion sometimes go on about all the apparent “positive” impact I was able to have, perhaps on them, or my family, or others with whom I was associated (and can no longer be), all the while that I was managing to present myself in a way that met their expectations. The fact is, weighing the choice cannot be all about me, nor is it all about them. It’s also about what is right, and what is wrong — which course is most honest and true, and which a matter of pretense — and which has the greatest potential to help or harm, not just myself, but other fellow humans.
In this last regard, I know full well that my fellow Christian brothers and sisters are inclined to automatically conclude that any course recommended by the “faithful and descreet slave”, the governing body of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, can only ever be helpful, and so any choice that appears to go against such a recommendation (such as mine) can only ever be harmful. I will be the first to agree that the brothers serving in this capacity are (1) faithful, and (2) genuinely motivated to keep their decisions in line with Jehovah’s thinking, as expressed in the scriptures. However, I also believe they would be first to admit that despite their best efforts, they remain, as the rest of humanity, imperfect. And while brothers and sisters by and large recognize this in theory, the tendency exists, in the name of “unity,” to overlook this small, but significant fact.
No human being can live his or her life to any extent without eventually causing some harm. We all do it, hopefully most often unintentionally. It is part of being the imperfect creatures that we are. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that when such harm comes, we can at least say that the actions leading up to it were well-motivated. It is in many ways remarkable that Jehovah has used humans throughout the centuries to carry out his will – he dignifies us by giving us the privilege of serving him in our imperfect state – and he has enabled both the individuals and nations that have had his blessing to accomplish many great things. He has also refined both individuals and nations who have proven faithful so that they can better accomplish his will. None of this means that we have ever been able to expect perfection of humans, not even those whom Jehovah so clearly seems to be blessing.
If this is true of us as individuals, it is surely no less true of us in groups. There can be no such thing as a perfect human organization – not prior to the end of this system of things and Jehovah’s setting straight of inherited sin once and for all – if such perfection were possible, that would contradict the whole theme of scripture itself! Even with Jehovah’s blessing, the ancient nation of Israel could not prove to be perfect in its day, and neither can the spirit-directed organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses today.
Often, in the name of peace, love and unity, any perceived mistakes, especially ones that are clearly not ill-motivated, can be overlooked. Things can be smoothed over. It is a testament to the genuine Christian love practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole that this tends to be the order of the day, in dealings between individuals, as well as any minor questions that might arise about some direction coming from those taking the lead in the Christian congregation.
Sometimes, however, the consequences are more serious, the issue a deeper one of integrity and conscience. My situation, for me, has been such a case. Understanding why is at the core of understanding my choices. I’ll go into more detail in my next post.