|Becoming Human |
by Jean Vanier
I also felt lonely when I heard I had been disfellowshipped from the family religion. My family and friends instantly begin to shun me after one brief announcement from the Kingdom Hall platform, that the tribunal of elders decided to disfellowship me. The brief disclosure was a big shock to me because it was like these people could flip a switch — and their relationship with me was over. I tried to find that switch in my own heart, but alas, I proved unsuccessful. I missed my family and friends immensely. I felt extremely isolated and lonely, being torn away from those who I loved deeply. If it weren't for my newly-created dance community, I might not have survived their rejection and my feeling of utter isolation. I'm truly thankful I was able to open up to a few close dance friends and let them know what was going on with me and my estranged family. I found these kind folks to be very understanding and sympathetic. Unlike what I had been taught about so-called "worldly" people, these folks rallied around me and I felt truly grateful for their support as I think back now. I still feel gratitude all these years later. People need a support system when making massive life changes. My family and past friends were instructed to treat me as a dead woman.
My belief and experiences have shown me that one of the roots of human conflict is the way groups use religion to dominate one another. But, let me hasten to add here that if it were not religion used as a stick to beat others, it would just be something else.
But, not to dwell on the past — the reality is that it was time for me to move on and open myself up to all of humanity, not stay cloistered in a small group turned in on itself in sameness.
It is true I cannot be dancing all the time. In fact, I often find myself alone now. Not in loneliness, though, but in solitude. I began to create music. I also write, dabble with my art, and go for walks. For Christmas this year, I received classical music books, so I'm spending more time with my piano. I don't feel that same heavy loneliness and pervasive isolation anymore. For one thing, eighteen years have passed since leaving the family religion. I never did ask the elders for an appeal on their decision. In fact, I quite agreed with them that it was time for me to move on. And indeed, it is true that time is a wonderful healer. My second husband is much more understanding, communicative, and loving with me than the first one. I don't miss my children in that same agonizing way I used to when the shunning first happened. I suppose if it were a physical gaping wound, I would have grown a scab and then eventually be left with a scar where the gash used to be.
Undoubtedly, I do have an emotional scarring of sorts. Human beings are essentially the same in that we all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. We all need to feel loved, appreciated, accepted, and understood. I suppose we judge others according to our own fears and prejudices. In my case the "marker" is religion.
But, what if there were no religion "marker" to tell others what they were "supposed" to feel toward me?
What if there were no "marker"?
Could the "wall" be broken down?
What if there was no one telling my family to shun me? Would they still demonize, scorn, and reject me?
What if I knew nothing about the announcement of my being "disfellowshipped"? How would I respond differently towards my family?
For me, the "marker" is more like an anchor which keeps me in present time and shows me how much I've grown after leaving the family religion.
One of the fundamental issues of separation is for people to examine how to break down the walls that separate us from one another — how to open up to one another — how to create trust — how to open up the potential for dialogue.
Is the potential for dialogue at all possible under the strict rules of the "disfellowshipping order"? Or is obedience to religious rules more important than love for family members?
In the meantime, I remind myself that people are where they are on their soul's journey. It is what it is. It's got to be their personal choice, or else I might be accused of imposing rules on others. I will leave the matter at that.
As always, your comments are welcome.
Read more about Shunning:
Tribunal of Religious Elders (My personal story of judgment and condemnation)
Shunning Ex-Members is a Religious Requirement (Jehovah's Witnesses harsh religious rule about shunning ex-members is not a choice, members are obligated to shun)
Outgrowing Religion (How folks move on from old beliefs)
Kindness of a Stranger (Self-reflection about the "Disfellowshipping Order")
Obedience or Free Will (Well, which will it be?)
Initiation into a Cult (Two ways of finding oneself in a cult)
Kill the Apostates! (Religion using the scriptures to beat folks into submission — or else!)
Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2012 - 2017. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.