"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our mind" - Bob Marley
At Bob Marley, cancer was diagnosed in his foot. Bob was a rastafari. Rastafarians believe in a 'whole body'. For him this was a reason to refuse the amputation of his toe. Four years later he died at the age of 36. "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery- free yourself from mental slavery. Bob wrote this sentence a year before his death, while the cancer spread to other parts of his body.
From the moment I chose to reveal my experience of sexual abuse within the community of Jehovah's Witnesses, to share my personal story with the whole world, I felt liberated. This was on 23 July 2017 - my 'liberation day'. Freedom is the most important value in my life and I want everyone, especially children, to experience this value in their lives. In closed communities, to which Jehovah's Witnesses also belong, this is unfortunately not yet self-evident. My urge to fight for safe growing up of children resulted in the experience of positive freedom. That also means that there is negative freedom.
Negative freedom is the freedom from external obstacles or limitations. A person is free if he is not physically impeded in his actions. Many peers of experience who are excluded from the community of Jehovah's Witnesses, or who decide to quit, experience freedom. You are free from the obligations of the system. But are you really free everything? No Unfortunately not. There are processes that you must first go through. It is essential to choose that you go through these processes of self-reflection, learning personal leadership and becoming aware of old beliefs, behaviors, judgments and ways of thinking. This way you experience what positive freedom is.
Positive freedom means that you are free from inner limitations. You are as it were master of yourself. You achieve positive freedom by taking charge of your own mind, by getting rid of it irrational fears and beliefs, of addictions, superstitions and all other forms of self-coercion. It means that you can look at yourself with love, but also at people who have hurt you or have done something to you. You can look lovingly at your old life within the community of Jehovah's Witnesses. This way you prevent frustration from happening to someone or a group of people. You are able to look at the essence, the underlying problem. The beliefs and (unconscious) ways of thinking that you have always had no reason to be angry anymore. Bob Marley aptly said that only you can free your mind.
Perhaps negative freedom is a first step to positive freedom. The awareness to look at the world in a different way and the desire to make the world a little more beautiful can lead to the second step: positive freedom. Can you imagine that you say that your "former enemy" is no longer an enemy, that you do not direct anger at Jehovah's Witnesses, and that you find that Jehovah's Witnesses also deserve a place in our world, even if you disagree with the beliefs and doctrine of faith?
It gives peace if you experience positive freedom. For years I mapped out what was wrong with the community of Jehovah's Witnesses, as if I could justify my decision to cut my ties with the community by naming every reproach, insult, abuse, and neglect. I was convinced that if I had done all this, I would be free from my guilt and could focus on my future life. Nothing could be further from the truth! This so-called justification had no influence whatsoever. I was angry with elders, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the perpetrator of my abuse. Now that I experience positive freedom in my life, I have learned how much anger you focus on another, you cannot suppress, because guilt is never about another. Feelings of guilt arise from your own fear. They have nothing to do with others. I could shake off my guilt when I accepted the situation with love for what it was, without constantly focusing on past abuses. I accept my decision to cut my ties with Jehovah's Witnesses for myself because I needed it, not because the community deserves it. This is the only way I can look at this community and the people within it with love, without resentment. I am convinced that this way of life leads to change within the community of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Fighting against this closed community is useless - respectful dialogue is most likely to break through, with the aim of raising awareness and change.
I hope that for all those who are experiencing abuse, all those who break their ties with a closed community, or who are broken by the community, positive freedom lies ahead. The choice is yours. You have to do it yourself, but you don't have to do it alone! I wish you all the wisdom in your learning path!
In my process of positive freedom, I owed a lot to my wife, Raisilyn and my doctor, Jan Ellenbroek, and friends Raymond Hintjes, Aswin Suierveld and Jan Schut. My thanks go out to them.