04: Results


This chapter presents the results of the data obtained from the demographic data questionnaire and the semi-structured interview questions. This chapter will discuss the demographics of the participants, the qualitative interview data, and the themes emerged from the constant comparative analysis. The themes that were gathered from the participant data included ostracism, challenges, coping skills and overcoming, and spirituality.

Presentation of Findings


During analysis of the original 15 interviews, only 11 participants met the requirements of being baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses and formally disfellowshipped or disassociated. Therefore, four of the participants were not included in the study and only the subsequent 11 interviews were analyzed. Participants in this study were assigned a letter from A through O, and were referred to by that letter throughout the study to ensure confidentiality. The demographic data gathered from the questionnaire included information on participants gender, age, education history and ethnicity (see Appendix A). Of the eleven participants, there were five male participants and six female participants. Nine participants identified as Caucasian and two participants identified as African American. Demographic data collected on participant’s educational history showed three shared having a “high school education or GED”, three had “some college and no degree”, two had “associate degrees” and finally, the remaining three responded having “bachelor’s degrees”. The ages of the participants ranged from 21 to 55 and the average age was 29. The median of the ages of participants was 36 and there was a range of 34 years. Nine of the participants were from the United States, one was from New Zealand, and one was from Austria.

A requirement for participating in this study was that all participants had to be former baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses who had either been disfellowshipped or formally disassociated. There was a total of 11 participants in which eight had been disfellowshipped and three had formerly disassociated by sending a letter to their respective congregation elders. Of the eight disfellowshipped participants, seven were disfellowshipped for premarital sex or extramarital affairs and one was disfellowshipped for being homosexual. All of the participants had participated in judicial committees with the result of either disfellowshipping or disassociation being publicly announced at a Jehovah’s Witness religious service or meeting.

The semi-structured interviews also gathered that the youngest age of baptism was 12 with the oldest age of baptism being 21. The average age of baptism for participants was 15, the median age of baptism was 14 and the ages had a range of 9. In the Jehovah’s Witness faith, members are allowed to attempt reinstatement after the disfellowshipping or disassociation. Out of the 11 participants, only four attempted reinstatement. The remaining seven never attempted, but two shared having considered it for their family but ultimately would not attempt.

Qualitative Interview Data

After participants finished answering the demographic data questionnaire, the semi-structured interview was conducted utilizing the interview guide. The interviews were anywhere from 11 minutes to 49 minutes in length and averaged about 25 minutes. Participants were asked questions on how they became a Jehovah’s Witness, the circumstances of their disfellowshipping or disassociation, their treatment from family and members of the religion, as well as challenges faced, coping skills used to overcome, and their spirituality now. Probing and follow-up questions not listed on the interview guide were used to clarify answers or gain more information to better understand participant’s answers. Themes that emerged from the participant’s answers were the ostracism they faced from family and members of the church, challenges, and adjustments to life after the disfellowshipping or disassociation, coping skills, or ways to overcome those challenges, and their spirituality now.


All 11 participants shared stories of ostracism from their still believing Jehovah’s Witness families and non-familial members of the congregation. Of these 11 participants, only one participant reported not being shunned by his congregation due to this participant already having withdrawn from religious services. The remaining 10 participants shared being affected by shunning from members of the religion and their congregations. For example, participant B shared that while disfellowshipped she experienced “just total ostracization” and had “many experiences walking by people that I grew up with and spent tremendous amount of time with where they would just walk by completely ignore me and not speak to me” (Participant B, personal interview, October 19, 2019).

In regard to treatment after her disfellowshipping from members of the congregation, participant L stated

I will never forget walking in the mall one day and I saw a sister that I used to hang out with. And I swear to you, she caught eyes with me, and she averted her eyes so quickly and walked on the other side of the food court, it was almost like I had leprosy. And that hurts so bad. That hurt so bad because I had been to her house, she had been to mine. And yeah, it really, it really hurt, it was, it really hurt.

(Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

Participant A also shared experiencing shunning from other Jehovah’s Witnesses at local bars, public places and at the grocery store (Participant A, personal interview, May 14, 2019). Participant N stated that members of her congregation “they deleted me from social media. They don’t talk to me. They act like there is something wrong with me” (Participant N, personal interview, November 24, 2019). Participant M even shared experiencing shunning behaviors at work and stated

So, I actually worked at Starbucks after I was disfellowshipped so I would see that everyone struggled to come in and they would never say anything to me. They wouldn’t look me in the eyes. That was really, really awkward serving them and them not even treating me like a normal human being.

(Participant M, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

One of the participants had attempted reinstatement into the religion after her disfellowshipping and had attended meetings regularly for months to show her repentance. Participant E shared that at one of those meetings

My ex roommate, who I had lived with prior she was there at that the memorial, she walked past me, bent down, acknowledged my daughter was like, “oh my gosh, you’re so cute, oh my goodness, you’re so cute”. People would walk by look at her [Participant’s newborn baby], but I was like, nothing, nothing at all .

(Participant E, personal interview, October 31, 2019)

Three of the participants shared that few family members remained as Jehovah’s Witnesses and had also left the religion. The remaining eight participants in this study shared that most or all of their family members continue as believing Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore, many of the participants experienced some form of ostracism from their families although it differed in respects to the intensity and was dependent upon the family member. For example, participant C shared “they hold you at arm’s length” in regards to the treatment from his adult children but that the rest of his extended family “they have nothing to do with me” (Participant C, personal interview, October 26, 2019). Participant N stated that

My parents don’t talk to me. My mom told me recently that she loves Jehovah more than me… my sister, I haven’t talked to her at all since I told her I was getting disfellowshipped. I text my mom occasionally, which she never responds.

(Participant N, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

Participant L shared

So obviously, no, no one speaks to me. It’s hard because my sister is inactive and we’re very close with our grandparents, my dad’s parents, and my grandfather is an elder. So, I actually told him before it happened. And his response was kind of that was kind of hurtful, tough anyway. But now, you know, they used to call my sister and they would ask about me, but they’ll never speak to me. So, I haven’t spoke to my grandparents in over two years.

(Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

For participant M the relationship with his family is complicated depending upon the situation but for the most part he has no contact. For example, participant M shared

So they [participant’s family] did cut me off like they the night after or like before they announced, they took me out to dinner and were like hey we are not gonna have any contact going on forward. We haven’t had any contact. You know I reach out to them once in a while. They have been there for me in like some instances, too. It’s not necessarily, it’s hard to say because it’s like they have dropped off the earth 100 percent but they’re still there in a way. Like, for instance, when I was overseas or like I got locked out of my bank account, they helped me get back into it… And my mother when I have seen her the couple of times. She’s been really, really kind. My dad is it’s really cold, like standoffish and messy.

(Participant M, personal interview, November 24, 2019)


All participants shared challenges they experienced as a result of being disfellowshipped or formally disassociated. The challenges shared included difficulties with reconstructing their identity and social lives, mental health, and finding therapists. Participant E shared

One challenge I can say, is making friends. It sounds silly but like the friends that I had when I was in the religion, were always fake friends. So, I didn’t know how to actually make friends. I had to be friends with these people because we shared something in common, this religion. But other than that, like I never really got to meet, like, have a deep friend).

(Participant E, personal interview, October 31, 2019

Participant M stated his biggest difficulty was

Just really going into normal life. Honestly, I was homeschooled for a lot of life and I don’t really feel like the religion at least prepared me in a lot of the ways for what life would really bring you, work and just making friends and really outside of the church, it’s such different from it. And everybody is such on a different mindset. And it’s just it just it’s felt really, it just becomes difficult to be a normal human being and really be able to live your life without having that conditioning built into you.

(Participant M, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

Participant L stated one of the challenges “was the realization that my entire reality was just upheaved, every, my support system, my friends, my belief system, everything that I thought was true wasn’t anymore” (Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2019). Participant N shared a similar sentiment and expressed “you lose your entire support system and your friends or family. You lose all your connections. It’s very isolating and it’s like you’re having to start your life over” (Participant N, personal interview, November 24, 2019). One participant shared the additional challenge of missing her family. Participant L shared

And just not having my family. I’m very close to my family very, very close. It’s hard not having them because now we do celebrate holidays. And you feel like we never did before, of course, but you still feel like, you know, that’s the time for family and you’re missing that .

(Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

Five participants shared experiencing challenges with their mental health after their disfellowshipping. For example, participant F shared “I was having what’s called syncopal episodes. I would have fainting spells. So, the stress would get to me and I would just be messed up because my brain said enough, done” (Participant F, personal interview, November 2, 2019). Participant C stated

It was so, it was so difficult to not only lose your family, but also to lose all of your friends in the organization, all of your family. You know, I mean, it was earth shattering. I basically went into a depression…I tried to kill, I tried to commit suicide twice. The first one was right after [the disfellowshipping] they were gonna announce and everything. And the second one was like a couple of years later.

(Participant C, personal interview, October 26, 2019)

Participant B shared having difficulties as well and stated “I definitely struggled with a lot of like anxiety and depression… my therapist said I would have been diagnosed with PTSD if I had wanted a diagnosis” (Participant B, personal interview, October 19, 2019).

Participants shared struggling with self-confidence, feelings of shame, and guilt. For example, participant E stated

I think the biggest challenge was like that self-confidence building that up again, because you’re so broken, so beat down, just your bad, bad, bad, and your disfellowshipped and you’ve got this label on you, to learning to just take off that label and do something for myself. Go to school, and get an education, pursue that pursue a dream, not living in fear that the end is coming anytime. And I think that was that was one thing that like I had to overcome was just building that confidence.

(Participant E, personal interview, October 31, 2019)

Participant J shared

It’s like, feeling guilty. The feeling of guilty or feeling of fear about the future and everything like that really, like hits me. It’s been like a truck all the time, every time… The whole self-confidence confidence is gone. And it’s just like a guilt fear trip that starts.

(Participant J, personal interview, November 23, 2019)

Participant F stated, “at the time [of disassociation] I still had a lot of shame still had that shame but it took a lot of years to overcome that shame” (Participant F, personal interview, November 2, 2019).

Another challenge shared by participants was finding therapists who understood the difficulties in leaving the Jehovah’s Witness religion. For example, participant L shared “Finding therapy is hard because not everyone understands cult backgrounds. So, you can’t just get any therapist, even a religious someone with religious experience, it’s very different. So that that’s been difficult” (Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2019).

Coping Skills and Overcoming

Eight out of the 11 participants stated using therapy as a coping skill to overcome challenges faced since leaving the Jehovah’s Witness faith. For example, Participant E stated

I saw a therapist, which was something that you’re not supposed to do in the religion… and opening up to him about it. And thank goodness, like I got a good therapist who have had previous clients who were or patients who were witnesses, and he knew the terms, the lingos so I could speak freely with him. He knew what they were, I didn’t have to explain everything to them (Participant E, personal interview, October 31, 2019).

Participant M shared

So I did see a therapist. It was sort of had been a year after I disfellowshipped. I sat there for months, really did help, actually. I stopped going, but I’m gonna start seeing one again because it could be quite helpful).

(Participant M, personal interview, November 24, 2019

Participant N shared “I found that therapy really helps a lot, like seeing a therapist because it really is a cult, so therapy really does help a lot” (Participant N, personal interview, November 24, 2019).

Other participants found rebuilding their social circles and reconnecting with non-Jehovah’s Witness family as a way to cope and overcome challenges. For example, participant N stated

I can still live my life it’s not the end and I have made new friends, I have reconnected with my brother, who was inactive and who my family actually disowned awhile back. So we’re actually rebuilding our relationship. And even though I don’t have my family, that are witnesses. I’m building new connections. And those new connections are really proving to be great.

(Participant N, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

Participant G stated

My honesty caused me to have a family of my own like, I have a sister. I have multiple sisters now and blood couldn’t make us closer. So it’s like all these people, they they see me for me. So this is like my family grew. Like I have nieces and nephews I have like, all these people who just love me. So but cutting off even even some people who were trying to still contact me and cutting it off. It helped because it was they were trying to contact me to bring me back kind of thing is like, no, like, wait a minute, I don’t want to go back.

(Participant G, personal interview, November 5, 2019)

Participant L shared “I actually found a community within the social dance environments and like Latin dancing and stuff like that… I started to develop a support system” (Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2019). Participants also shared how writing, reading, and educating themselves was a way to cope. Participant B stated, “I’m really big on like learning and researching and I guess growing my way around problems” (Participant B, personal interview, October 19, 2019).

Participants also discussed how moving on and moving forward with life was a way they that they overcame challenges. For example, participant O stated, “I just carried on with life, that’s all I really did” (Participant O, personal interview, November 28, 2019). Participant M shared

It’s really just trying to remind myself that this is the only life I have. And I think that’s a weird mindset to have, especially when you’re, when you grow up thinking you’re going to live forever. So the way I really try to cope with it and try to really grow from it and everything is just remind myself that this is the launching pad I was given so I’m going to have to make it great but this is the debt I have been given. So I’m really just trying to remind myself that you just really need to take life a day at a time. You know you be successful, you know, have goals, you find your happiness in it as well and find what you love along the way.

(Participant M, personal interview, November 24, 2019)

Two of the participants turned to activism work in their respective countries as a way to cope. For example, participant J shared

I started to write on a Facebook blog, basically, or a Facebook page… I made in German because the German, the German speaking community here EX Jehovah’s Witness German speaking community is very, very small… and I will continue with this activism for for the German speaking community.

(Participant J, personal interview, November 23, 2019)


The final theme that emerged from constant comparative data analysis was that of participants spirituality. Out of the 11 participants, ten of them were born-in Jehovah’s Witnesses, meaning they were raised from birth or a very young age in the faith. Only one of the participants shared being around the religion most of his childhood but only becoming a serious practitioner during his 20’s (Participant J, personal interview, November 23, 2019). All the participants had spent 20 years or more as believers of the Jehovah’s Witness faith ranging from doubtful but attending regularly to having leadership positions like elder or ministerial servant. The 11 participants went through a spiritual journey after their removal from the church depending upon whether they were voluntarily or involuntarily removed.

For example, one of the participants who had voluntarily written a letter of disassociation to the body of elders had a different journey than the other participants. When asked about their spirituality now, participant O stated
I don’t give two hoots about it. I will never go back to a religion ever again because of what I’ve learned, because then it’s all man made. They’re all bad as each other. But yeah, now it’s gone. I just don’t have an ounce of interest in that at all (Participant O, personal interview, November 28, 2019).

Participant J, who had also disassociated, shared

I have to tell you that Jehovah’s Witnesses because of because of what they are and what they do to you. My spirituality or my belief in in God and of Jehovah is definitely ruined… I would not say that my faith in something is gone, but I believe more much more than that in a much more broader sense of spirituality. I think, I think it’s maybe I wouldn’t call it God, maybe I would call it the universe or something like that. I think there is something out there.

(Participant J, personal interview, November 23, 2019)

Four of the participants shared a distrust in organized religion. For example, participant B shared

I have a really hard time with groups and organizations now. I just don’t really trust them. I sort of see through all of the sort of games and dynamics that go on. And I don’t really like to be involved in them anymore.

(Participant B, personal interview, October 19, 2019)

Participant G also expressed a similar sentiment and shared

I’m not a big supporter of organized religion personally, but spiritually, I recognize that there’s no way I couldn’t have been blessed as I have been without the actions and and god… I would consider myself Christian. There’s just no way the things that have opened up for me would have, like it’s just that it almost comes out of left field.

(Participant G, personal interview, November 5, 2019)

Nine out of the eleven participants shared that through their journey out of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, their belief in a God or in something spiritual never wavered. For example, participant L stated

I’m learning this difference between spirituality and religion. You know, I definitely have faith in God and Jesus still. And that’s one thing I think witnesses would like people to believe, is that when you leave the organization, you don’t you no longer love God, you no longer love Jesus. And that is a complete and utter lie… I’m trying to figure out having a relationship with my Creator without the constructs of regulation and policy and rules and trying to have that from a place of genuine motivated love.

(Participant L, personal interview, November 24, 2020)

Participant A shared

I don’t trust religion. I believe in a creator. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in angels. I believe there are demons out there. I’m comfortable with where I am about my belief system. And I’m not one who feels like I need to go and sit in the church and all that kind of stuff… My relationship with Heavenly Father is between me and him. At the end of the day, I’m the one who’s answering to him. Not a religion, not a governing body of the men who are going to say, ‘oh, you’re not good enough, you can’t do that, we’re going to disfellowship you, we’re going to do this’. No, it’s my private personal relationship.

(Participant A, personal interview, May 5, 2019)

Participant C stated

I do believe there’s a God and I’m not sure about all the beliefs that I used to be privy to in the organization. A lot of that is just a big question mark for me now because I’ve found so many other things that contradict what they were teaching. But yeah, I would consider myself still semi spiritual.

(Participant C, personal interview, October 26, 2019)

One of the participants had only been disfellowshipped for a few months and was still early into her journey stated
I honestly don’t know what I believe right now. That’s something that I’m still wondering about. Because growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness. You’re taught that other religions they’re all lies. So you’re afraid of them. So now I have to figure out what I believe and try to make sense of it all (Participant N, personal interview, November 24, 2019).


This chapter presented the results of the study that was conducted to explore the challenges faced by former Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they coped. There was a total of eleven participants in the study which included a demographic questionnaire and a semi-structured interview of 10 questions. The data from the questionnaire was presented as well as the data from the constant and comparative analysis of the interviews. Finally, this chapter also presented the themes that emerged from the data which were ostracism, challenges, coping skills and overcoming, and spirituality.

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