Fire Isn’t Hot

Fire Isn’t Hot

Fire isn’t hot. And water isn’t wet. I know this to be a fact because someone told me.

Today I got burned quite badly. At least I think I might have. It really hurt. I think. I’m not sure. I’m so confused!! Fire isn’t supposed to hurt. That’s what I was told. But my hand hurts. I think. I don’t know what to do. Should put my hand in water, or back in the fire? I’m not sure.

I can’t make any sense of what’s happened to me. My experience tells me one thing. The voices in my head tell me something else. I’m going crazy. I think. Or am I? Maybe I’m making it all up? I don’t know. I can’t trust myself. I can’t trust my own mind. I can’t trust anyone. Is fire hot? Or wet? I don’t know. And I don’t know how to find out? Do I?

What am I supposed to do? I can’t live like this.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. Or am I? If you’ll permit me, I’ll tell you a couple of very true stories instead and let you make up your mind.

True Story #1

When I was a teenager, I told my parents, “I want a motorbike.”

They replied, “No, you don’t.”

So, did I? Or didn’t I? I wonder who can tell me so that I know for sure?

True Story #2

When I was much younger I had said, “I don’t like beans. I’m going to be sick if I eat them.” I was made to eat them anyway. And a second helping, too, because I was complaining and being obstinate.

The last time I had refused to eat them, a hand had grabbed the back of my neck and my face was shoved down into the plate and rubbed in it. I got beans up my nose, down in my windpipe, all over my face and shirt, and all through my hair. Still coughing, choking, and sputtering, I was taken to the tub and hosed down with the shower. So this time I decided I’d better just try and eat them.

And then I threw them back up. I was punished. I tried to say I was sorry. I was told, “You’re not really sorry. If you were really sorry, you wouldn’t have done it.”

These first two examples were not isolated experiences in my life. Neither were they uncommon. They were my regular, every day normal. By the time I was in my teens, I was so angry and depressed I would secretly cut myself, starve myself, refuse to allow myself to drink, tempt fate and taunt death, and fantasize about committing suicide. Ironically, I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time; probably because nobody told me. At the time, all I knew–or thought I knew–was that I couldn’t stand life anymore.

True Story #3

When I told a close friend that I hated the world and life, he said, “No, you don’t.” And when I told him I wanted to kill myself, he said, “No, you don’t. Don’t say that.”

Do you notice the theme here? Do you see what was constantly happening? Other people were constantly erasing my reality, and demanding that I deny and reject my own experience and instead adopt their version of their reality which was flimsily based upon their whims, fantasies, and opinions. Everyone wanted me to deny my own experience, and to blindly accept whatever it was they would tell me. And everyone was telling me different things. At least I think they were. Or was that all in my head, too?

I now refer to this violent manner of speaking as ‘God-speak’ because it “allows us to play God using [an] omniscient ‘Deity mode’ of speech” in which opinion is confused with fact, and this allows “even the most ignorant to transform their opinions magically into god-like pronouncements on the nature of things.” (Kellogg and Bourland, “Working With E-Prime”) Moreover, it allows us to judge and condemn others, and even justifies any mistreatment and hatred of them.

Years later, when I was told “No, you don’t want a motorbike,” I just accepted it to be true. I didn’t question what I was told. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have known how to question it even if I’d wanted to. I thought, “Apparently I’m so damaged, so confused, so evil, so pathetic and stupid, I don’t even know what I think or want. Everyone else knows more about me than I do. I certainly cannot trust my own thoughts and feelings.”

To make matters worse, my parents were members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, and so God-speak was not just common, but also highly esteemed, encouraged, mandatory. Only those with some position of status, some officially recognized job title like elder, member of the Governing Body, or parent, are licensed to have an opinion and thus authorized to use “God-speak.” Once you earn your license to use God-speak, it becomes your job to make sure that no one else is allowed to be sure of what they know, nor allowed to have or use a God-speak license of their own.

True Story #4

Fast forward a few more years. I’m now a completely dysfunctional wreck. My wife could see how badly I was hurting, and how depressed and confused I was. Once, when she asked me, “Would you like a hug?” I collapsed and started crying uncontrollably. I didn’t know what the right answer to her question was, and I didn’t know how to find out, nor who to ask. Who could know? I sure couldn’t.

True Story #5

In the Jehovah’s Witness organization, I was told that if I loved God, and if I prayed, I would get relief from all this confusion and hurting. I prayed. But I never got relief. Then I was told that if I wasn’t getting relief, it was because I didn’t really love God and therefore didn’t deserve it. But I did love God. Didn’t I? Well, I thought I did–until I was told I didn’t. Now how could I know? How could I find out? Who could I ask? I don’t know.

When I said I was totally confused, some said, “You think too much. You need to pray more,” while others said, “You need to meditate more, study more.” Still others said, “You’re too indecisive. You need to believe, and have faith.” Really? Was that what was wrong with me?

So I prayed more. At least I think I did. But what do I know? Maybe I did. Maybe I only thought I did. Who knows? Not me.

And I studied more. At least I think I did. But how would I know? Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. Who knows? Not me.

I also tried to simultaneously meditate lots more and to not meditate too much. How much is too much? Who knows? I don’t know. Or do I? Do you know? Can you tell me? And can I trust myself to hear the answer accurately?

I tried to have faith. I tried to believe. Believe in what though? I already couldn’t trust my own thoughts. And now some had started to tell me that it was probably because I had some sort of a mental illness.

I did not yet know that mental illness takes two persons: One to judge and pathologize, and the other to accept the first person’s judgment. I’ve since learned the truthfulness of that, but at the time, I simply accepted the judgments and believed that my defective thinking ability was the problem.

True Story #6

So off I went to seek professional help.

To be diagnosed with a mental illness is probably the ultimate example of suffering as a result of ‘God-speak.’ The well-intentioned therapist or pyschiatrist often tells you that you have chemical imbalance. That’s just a fancy way of gift-wrapping an opinion and selling you on a lifetime’s supply of a prescription drug. You are being told that there’s nothing wrong with the world. Instead, everything that’s wrong is inside you. Not once did any psychiatrist ever ask me, “Hey, what really happened to you.” They only looked at my depression or anger or OCD and disapproved of how I was reacting to all the crazy-making that I was living in. No one cared about what had happened to me, nor what was now being done to me. They just looked at me and wanted to make my symptoms go away. No one wanted to acknowledge their role as part of my problem.

True Story #7

I eventually came into contact with a most wonderful psychologist. For the first time in my life, someone listened to me. Someone heard me. Someone didn’t try to tell me anything I didn’t already know. Someone wasn’t trying to dictate to me what they thought my reality should be. It took many hundreds of hours of “therapy” to help me learn how to look inside myself, how to find and learn how to hear the real me.

Prior to that, everyone in my family, all my friends, all the people in the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, all the doctors (except the one who really saw me), they all saw only what they wanted to see. No one saw the real me. No one believed me.

Not even me.

And that’s the most tragic part of it all. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten how to look inside myself, and how to know if I knew something. As a baby, I instinctively knew when I was tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely, scared, or in pain. Now, I had to look to someone else to tell me. How did this happen?

Wait! Don’t tell me. I’m beginning to suspect that it’s all this telling that goes on constantly that’s a major source of the problem.

I’d like to quote a few words written by Barry Stevens in her book “Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human.”

In the beginning, I was one person, knowing nothing but my own experience.

Then I was told things, and I became two people: the little girl who said how terrible it was that the boys had a fire going in the lot next door where they were roasting apples (which was what the women said) — and the little girl who, when the boys were called by their mothers to go to the store, ran out and tended the fire and the apples because she loved doing it.

So then there were two of I.

One I always doing something that the other I disapproved of. Or other I said what I disapproved of. All this argument in me so much.

In the beginning was I, and I was good.

Then came in other I. Outside authority. This was confusing. And then other I became very confused because there were so many different outside authorities.”

So now, if I ask you whether or not you like ice cream, where will you go to find out the answer? Will you go and ask someone else?

Whatever you do, don’t ask me. I don’t know. But on second thought, please, don’t take my word for it.


For Further Reading:

  • Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human” by Carl Rogers & Barry Stevens
  • A Way of Being” by Carl Rogers
  • Client-Centered Therapy” by Carl Rogers
  • On Becoming a Person” by Carl Rogers
  • Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood” by Wayne Muller
  • Man's Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
  • Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg
  • Speak Peace in a World of Conflict” by Marshall Rosenberg
  • The Compassion Book” by Thom Bond
  • The Grand Inquisitors Manual A History of Terror in the Name of God” by Jonathan Kirsch
  • The Surprising Purpose of Anger” by Marshall Rosenberg
  • On Being Invisible in the Mental Health System” (The Tragic Story of Anna Caroline Jennings) by Anne Jennings, Phd.
  • Working With E-Prime: Some Practical Notes” by Kellogg and Bourland
  • E-Prime” (on Wikipedia)

7 Responses to Fire Isn’t Hot

  1. Henry says:

    “FIRE ISN’T HOT” WAS GREAT! While reading the article many thoughts permeated through my mind like my 36 years as a Jehovah’s Witnesses and my own abusive childhood This article was a touchstone! Hope you will be returning soon to do more writings that can be of help to many people. YOU DEFINITELY UNDERSTAND!

  2. Greg says:


    I am so glad you have expressed yourself here. Both of your comments have exquisitely expressed my experience with Watchtower, and the idea of blind adherence to human beings and their (albeit, well-intentioned) traditions and beliefs. At it’s root, fear reigns as extremely powerful in the world today. Personally, I cannot wait for the time when mankind discovers how truly light Jesus’ load is in comparison with all the burdens the Pharisees impose on others.

    Thank you so much for helping make the Watchtower connection, Governing Body’s responsibility, and Jehovah’s Witnesses influence so clear in your comments. I really appreciate you taking the time to document your experience and awareness here. I had hoped someone would help add all the things I intentionally (although reluctantly) left out, and you did! Thanks!!!

    And Jacqueline,

    Yes indeed!! All the pain of my past would indeed be a waste if I didn’t use it somehow now. By changing how I look at my painful past, I can indeed see it was an opportunity to learn something useful. Yes, I, too, was being trained. And now I want to freely share and offer, but NEVER want to try to indoctrinate others for then I’ll have crossed an important line and become just another incarnation of the monster I’m condemning.

    I kind of laughed to myself when I read your reply about my story being painful. I wrote about my childhood with almost no remaining sadness. The things I wrote seem almost benign to me anymore. These things are part of me now, have been integrated into my conscious awareness, and healed. They were, in fact, quite my normal. And I didn’t even mention some of the really painful things I’ve experienced. So when you react as you did, it helps remind me, no, these things were powerful, painful, and traumatizing. They’d have truly been most tragic if not for how I can now draw upon them to help me have compassion, empathy, and appreciation for others and their suffering. I can now say, “I’m really glad I am who I am now.” -Psalm 119:71 “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; That I may learn thy statutes.”

    Can’t wait to “see” you and Ted both on BBB tomorrow. Love and hugs ’til then.

  3. Ted R. (Bible Student) says:

    Hi Sister Jacqueline
    I agree. When Bible Students take this kind of dogmatic attitude toward Pastor Russell’s teachings doesn’t it remind you of how Jehovah’s Witnesses view the Governing Body today? I don’t disrespect Pastor Russell. He did have many good teachings from the Bible and helped us to learn many of the Bible teachings. The same can be true even of Jehovah’s Witnesses despite their many errors. But like the Scriptures say concerning the Beroeans, we must examine the Scriptures to make sure of the things being taught. The problem comes in when we put ANY man or organization on a pedestal and blindly follow their teachings. When any man or organization insists that they have the only right understanding of Scripture and you must follow them if you want the reward promised us by Christ, they delude themselves. Christ knows his sheep, and they exist in every Christian religion. I do believe that Christ gave his life as a ransom for all! That the Jewish people will be restored! That all true Christians have a hope for a grand reward serving along side Christ during his millennial reign. These things have been proven to me, not by mans word, but by reading Gods word. Anything that goes beyond clear Bible teaching is mans interpretation and conjecture. I see no clear Bible teaching that Pastor Russell was the Faithful Servant or the interpretations of the Laodocean Messenger. I understand the interpretation from Revelation regarding the letters of John and how they are interpreted as periods, but there are many other possible interpretations. This is not a clear Bible teaching! If it were we would not need a book or books to explain it to us. Since it is not a clear teaching of Scripture I see no reason to believe that our salvation depends on accepting those teachings. It is this type of dogmatic insistence on doctrine that cause divisions among those who want to follow Christ! This has been proven throughout history and is why there are so many Christian sects. Jesus even said that he would cause divisions. The Bible clearly tells us that to receive our reward we must follow in Christ’s footsteps, showing love for our neighbor, helping others to the best of our ability, and doing our best to live according to Gods righteous standards. It also tells us plainly not to put our trust in mortal man, but only in our creator and his word! The Bible is a guidebook that tells us how to live up to Gods righteous standards. As long as we live up to those standards, even if we are not perfect in doing so which none of us can be, and believe that Christ gave his life for us, and will forgive us for falling short, and do our utmost to put Christ and his example first in our lives, we will receive his grand reward. Our salvation does not necessarily depend on doctrine unless that doctrine goes against the teachings of Christ and cause our brothers and sisters undo grief. That is why Christ condemned the Pharisees, because they went beyond Scripture and put hardship on their followers! If that belief is wrong on my part so be it, I will stand before the judgment seat of God and let him decide. I refuse to be judged by any man or organization. Christ is my only King, my only law giver, my only judge. No one else matters!
    Love you dear Sister. Keep up th good service to our Lord!

    • jacqueline says:

      TedR, there should be an amen button to press as I agree wholeheartedly with you on fully accepting what the Bible clearly teaches and make allowances for differences on things not so clear. In fact, the Bible is written to inspire discussions. I enjoy our Bible only discussions
      I am so glad to have had the experience of getting one more piece of the puzzle on the development of the Jehovah witnesses organization. I can clearly see now how it formed and why the division had to happen. The worship of the created rather than the creation would cause most to part ways.
      You know this thing about putting people into second death now also goes contrary to what the Bible says about a ransom for all and death giving up it’s dead. Many now assigned to second death have never been released from the first Adamic death. So many contradictions and our minds have been opened by Holy Spirit as Christians all over are reading and understanding the Bible without all these systems and long-held beliefs that can now be understood as not in the Bible.
      I agree, I too will stand before God and be judged but I am going to stick as closely to the actual Bible now and leave all the books I have used for the past 70 years. I know he will forgive me where I have erred in my quest trying to find him and my voice to speak about him freely without fear of stepping on toes and having to walk on eggshells to keep from offended someone’s leaders. I know he forgives because the Bible says He will if I ask him in Jesus name.
      So I am going to push on, doing the work He gave me to do of lending a helping hand and not looking back on my past experiences as a waste but rather as TRAINING!
      Our purpose on this site is to lend a voice to those without one and to be able to discuss their experiences and their reasons for not accepting beliefs or why they do.
      This forum is open for those that disagree and we welcome it. There is a Catholic reader on here that called to say what things he is doing in his ministry of going to the nursing homes and praying with the older ones and reading the Bible to them. He brings to them the true things he is getting from the Bible directly without filtering them thru the Catholic teachings or his old witness teachings. We are not just sitting down we are all active using just the Bible. Free at last, free at last, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY we are free at last and not afraid of the threats of second death, by one and Armageddon by another, if we don’t conform to their manmade truths.
      Tomorrow I might be missing in action because what little family I have coming will be here. Love everybody and let us pray for each other, we have gone thru the fire.
      PS: On Saturday I have to discuss a life and death situation on the BBB. It is too delicate to put on here, but prayers are needed.

  4. Ted R. (Bible Student) says:

    In the book Crisis of Conscience, Ray Franz tells of his experience before the Governing Body who were questioning him regarding apostasy. One of the members stated to Ray,”I want to be told what to do”. This is the problem with most people today, as your story so illustrates. People want to be told what to do, what to believe! Brother Russell said it so it must be true. The Governing body said it so it must be true. After all, these people had a special relationship with God. While we never want to dismiss everything we are taught through life, we never want blindly accept the word of any man. The scriptures tell us to “make sure of ALL things”. Especially when it comes to Scripture. Jehovah’s Witnesses and most other organized religions expect members of the congregation to blindly accept their teachings, even when the Bible proves them wrong. Like you said, “fire isn’t hot.” Whenever we let others dictate our own conscience we harm ourselves psychologically! Don’t even accept a text message from your parent or child because they are disfellowshipped! How many people blindly accept that this is a command from God, because after all it comes from “Gods organization”. The result is sadness, depression, confusion, and in some cases suicide!
    It causes pain to the one shunning because deep in their hearts they know it isn’t right. their conscience screams at them, only to be ignored because after all, the Society says that “fire isn’t hot”. The one being shunned goes through pain because all they want is to have a relationship with their family. But the only way they can do this is to admit that “fire isn’t hot” and return to an organization that teaches doctrine they know in their hearts to be false! It’s sad! We have to remember that we all stand or fall before our God on our own merits! We have to make truth our own, based on our own study, not that of others. We learn to stand on our own two feet, without a crutch. The only thing we should put our trust in is Gods Word! We follow Christ’s example and footsteps, not mans! We use our own Bible trained conscience, not allow others to dictate what we should or shouldn’t do! Then we realize that YES, fire IS hot!!!!

    • jacqueline says:

      Ted, you said:
      “We have to remember that we all stand or fall before our God on our own merits! We have to make truth our own, based on our own study, not that of others. We learn to stand on our own two feet, without a crutch. The only thing we should put our trust in is Gods Word! We follow Christ’s example and footsteps, not men!”

      I was recently told that I need to continue studying the “Studies in the Scriptures” because I need someone to tell me what everything means. I explained what the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is “The Helper”. I was told no it doesn’t work with individuals. I said in addition to my personal study I connect with a few others. No, you need to also keep up your studies in the scriptures books.

      Ted I would not hope to pass a physics test today with an 18th or 19th-century book. Not because Physics has changed (ie the Bible) but what additionally we have learned about Physics NOW has changed. The steam engine and the printing press is archaic. TV, Internet, Planes, Cars changes the whole perception of how everyone could possibly see Jesus and everything he is doing in the Middle East.
      I was spending to much time in the past and not enough on the 66 books left by God. I was told Br. Russell is mentioned in the book of Revelation in the form of being the seventh Angel over the worse congregation mentioned Laodicea.
      I love my brothers dearly and respect the time I healed with them but Br. Russell or more accurately the Miller Movement has spawned the Jehovah Witnesses, The Bible Students, The Layman, The Christadelphians all of them are one or two or three men’s concept and they did what they could in the time period they lived in and may God bless them for their efforts.

      But now, I have to devote the next 70 years to the 66 books of the Bible. I can’t lean on what those men saw when we can finally now get from under this whole “Concept of Dates” and Jesus being present in the wilderness somewhere. He said don’t go out after them but I will come with striking observance. He said he has always been present with us until the time of the end, so his presence occurred in the 1st century according to the actual Bible itself. But not according to men. Yes “Fire Isn’t Hot”.
      Miller and others claimed that they are the one sent in his name to say the time is near. Do not go out after them says the Bible. Jesus knew about this movement and many others movements around the turn of the 19th century but if this is the “Laodicean period” then they are seriously lacking.

      Luke 21:7 And they asked him, saying, Teacher, when therefore shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when these things are about to come to pass? 8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not led astray: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am he; and, The time is at hand: go ye not after them. 9 And when ye shall hear of wars and tumults, be not terrified: for these things must needs come to pass first; but the end is not immediately.

      “ALL POWER” was given to him in the 1st century, we were taught he came to power in 1874 or 1914 invisible, in the wilderness away from every eye seeing him. The Bible says:

      Matthew 28: 18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you [e]always, even unto [f]the end of the world.

      Rev. 1:7 Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
      We don’t need a book to tell us that he is here he parousia in the 1st century. No, Fire is Hot! Why? Because God’s Word says it is!

  5. jacqueline says:

    Greg, I have read SOME OF YOUR STORY. I had to stop! My dear loving sweet brother, I never knew or imagined your life being like this. I am so sorry these great only worthy survivors of Armageddon did this to a child! This what Leah should have had at her disposal the real life of growing up in the so-called “Jehovah witness” organization. I sure that is not God’s true pronunciation of his name because their wearing it on their backs shows the utter contempt they have for God!
    Religious people tend to want as you said to make their reality theirs. Some are too lazy to open the Bible and try to understand it without someone explaining to them what it means, not what it may say but how they see it. Then they proceed to declare these people their Christ before Christ then on to God.
    You say no they say you don’t mean that they tell you why you should do, what they think is right for you. We only have to do what God says and our Lord Jesus.
    Your parents were doing to you what sects and cults do to them, they were passing on the warpness of men that have never had a child in their life.
    I am going to try and read the rest of your story in the morning. If this is overwhelming to me, I can’t imagine how you are coping.
    Yet on facebook I see absolutely horrible stories of growing up in the Jehovah witness organization under the governing body of Jehovah Witnesses.
    (Google must have the entire words spelled out not abbreviations like JW or GB or BS, no one would find the articles. So Jehovah excuse my using your name it is just to get it picked up by google, yahoo, and bing, I mean no disrespect.)

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