One of the most damaging elements of a high control group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the persecution complex or victim mentality members are expected to have. The organization believes that everyone is against them and out to get them. They instill this fear into members as a way to keep them coming back to the cult.
How The Jehovah’s Witnesses Create A Persecution Complex
Think about door-knocking: how many times did you (or anyone you knew) actually give anyone a magazine? How many times did the homeowner simply shut the door instead of engaging? Going out and knocking on doors was never about saving souls or bringing people to Jehovah.
The real purpose of this activity is to set you up. All that rejection, all those doors shut in your face? That’s one of the ways the cult isolates you. It says “look how society rejects you” and leaves you feeling like a victim.
The same thing happens to JW kids when they’re not allowed to participate in school activities like holiday parties and birthdays. It is always about control and isolation.
The problem is that when an organization creates a persecution complex, they are telling people to see themselves as a victim. This creates a victim mentality that can be devastating in the long run. This mindset tells you that everyone is out to get you, but as we will see, that really isn’t true.
The Persecution Complex in Action
Let’s look at a perfect example of the JW persecution complex: "the bunker videos," a set of videos released in 2015-2016. These videos highlight the stark contrast between the cult’s fiction and reality. If you aren’t familiar with these videos, you can view them here.
In these videos, Witnesses are hiding in a basement during the Great Tribulation. The group shares stories and scripture as they wait for the worst to happen. As the series ends with shock troops finding the group, the fear and paranoia behind these videos is transparent.
But as we’ve seen in the real world, this isn’t what happens. When government officials come after the organization, it isn’t because of their beliefs. When the cult does illegal things, like covering up child abuse, they are prosecuted– not persecuted. There’s no better example of how the organization’s media arm creates a false victim mindset than the response to the 2023 mass shooting in Hamburg.
In this tragic incident, a former congregation member stormed in with a gun and killed seven people. Within minutes, the police and military were present to help. The same people that the bunker series portrayed as villains rushed in to do what they could to save lives. In that time of tragedy, the world opened its arms. When the armed troops came for the Witnesses, they didn’t come to hurt them. They came to help them.
When they broke the windows of the Kingdom Hall, it wasn’t to intimidate anybody. It was to save them. The cult might not want to admit it, but when faced with a real tribulation, the world didn’t turn on them.
How to Escape a Persecution Complex
As a person, you’re unlimited. You don’t have to be anybody’s victim, and when you look outside of that cult-induced persecution complex, you can really embrace who you are and lead a life of freedom and self-fulfillment.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is find connections and community based on love, not fear and control. What do you like outside of the organization? What are your hobbies, interests, and passions? Find where people are talking about your interests in your local community or online. One of the easiest ways to make friends and genuine connections with people is to build relationships around shared interests.
Another important step to escaping a victim mentality: be patient! Healing from a cult takes time, but I promise you: there is hope, life, and connection after the organization. There are beautiful things like art, music, and friendship. There’s the laughter and conversation shared between people; there is touch and interaction without fear of what some elder is going to say. There is compassion. There is love. When you step into the world, it can be terrifying– but it’s worth it to give yourself a chance.