QUESTION: Hello, I have a question regarding prom. Why cant Jehovah Witness teens go to prom. My granddaughter just sent pics of hers, but the other granddaughter (JW) is not permitted to attend. My heart went out to her seeing all her classmates dressed to the nines and having a "once in a lifetime" experience. It broke my heart to see her so sad. I just dont understand the harm in attending. My one granddaughter goes to football games, dances, concerts, shopping, amusement parks, work, etc with her friends all the time (they are 18), the other does nothing unless it is with another witness child (which she seems to have few of) with her mother always in attendance. My granddaughter is an adult, yet she is treated like a child. I understand wanting to protect your children, but when do you allow them to be their own person? My granddaughter (jw) always seems so sad, and awkward too. She seems to lack confidence and self esteem. I worry about her. Please share your insight as to why this is behavior is necessary? IMO, it is doing her more harm than good. Thank you.
ANSWER: Greetings Elaine,
Thank you for allowing me to answer your question. I hope I can give you a satisfactory reply.
I understand how different JWs may seem to many people and it can be puzzling. First I want to say that we have no rules that forbid our young ones from going to functions such as a school prom.
When I went to school there was no such thing as an end of year “prom”. I have only experienced them by “dramatized” re-enactments on TV etc of American proms.
Here in the Australian city where I live formals (proms) are a relatively new high school “tradition” that has only become poplar since the 1980s. None of my four children wanted to go to their senior year formal (as it is called here) because of the bad reports they heard every year as to the sort of things that happened. That was their choice.
Our lives are not overshadowed by endless rules and regulations. However there are Bible principles that we try to consider in the activities that we engage in.
If one of my children had wanted to go to their end of year “formal” I would have considered some Bible principles with them.
The Bible says nothing about school proms. It does tell us that “all things are lawful”, but, with a caveat. This is found at 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24
. Please notice the caveat
“All things are lawful, but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. 24 Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person” (NWT) There are so many things that the Bible does not mention but if we want to be a follower of the Christ we are advised to consider if our auctions are advantages to ourselves as well as others.
There are some texts that might have a bearing on the sort of things that may happen at a prom.
“Envy, uncontrolled drinking and feasting, and such things: of which I give you word clearly, even as I did in the past, that they who do such things will have no part in the kingdom of God.” (Bible in basic English)
Based on the “TV” presentations that I have seen and the reports that my children heard in the five years each one spent at high school that we have here, it would seem to me that what is mentioned in that text is not an uncommon occurrence
at those events, so, I would be wondering what was the social environment like at on such occasions.
The first century Christians lived in a world where unbridled parties were a normal way of life. When they did not engage in them, their neighbors were puzzled. To be a follower of the Christ, people had to make changes in their lives. 1 Peter 4:3,4
points this out for us “3 Your past life may have been good enough for pagan purposes, though it meant sensuality, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousals and worshipping forbidden gods. 4 Indeed your former companions may think it very strange that you no longer join with them in their riotous excesses, and accordingly say all sorts of abusive things about you.” (Phillips Translation)
Another Bible principle that I would share is at 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (NWT) . .
After considering those principles it is the up to the individual to make up their own conscience as to if to go or not. Many young JWs have gone to such occasions without any problems. Also there have been those that have gone and there has been unwanted problems.
Even though by the age of 18 in most places teenagers are legally considered to be adults and of the age of consent. JWs do not engage in sexual activity out side of the marriage arrangement no matter what age we are. We do not engage in recreational “dating”. Dating, or courtship is for when one is ready to marry. It seems to be customary that on “Prom” night you take a “date” with you if you can. It is true that not everyone going to a prom has a date on their arm, and that may leave them open to another single trying to get “fresh” with them. Our young ones do not want to be the subject of unwanted attention or be placed in a compromising situation.
Those sort of things does not happen at every occasion, but the risk is there. When risk is involved we consider is the risk strong enough to warrant putting ourselves in danger.
I would well imagine that just as it is here, in America different areas have different “social types” of people in them and the social behavior of an area can vary from year to year. A young JW and their family may on the evidences provided to them at that time consider that the “prom” is well chaperoned a safe occasion for the young one to attend. Or a couple of young ones in the same grade may feel that they can look after each other and attend. I know that young JWs in my area, who attended a different high school have gone to their end of year formals.
The bottom line is as I mentioned earlier there is no rule saying a young JW can not go. They must weigh the matters carefully and decide for themselves. No doubt there are some JW parents that will dictate to an 18 y.o teenager what they can and can to do. That attitude is not something that is encouraged. There may be other aspects of the persons life that we are not aware of. The Bible tells us that each one must "keep working out your own salvation
with fear and trembling"
NWT). At some point a parent must let their offspring make up their own minds as to if they want to follow the Christ.
Now I can understand your concern about your granddaughter and the fact that, to you, she seems to be sad all the time can be a worry. You are concerned that she goes nowhere without her mother or other young JWs. If
it is that your granddaughters parents are being over protective, then I agree, that is not good. However it may just be the personality of your granddaughter that makes here quite and reserved.
We are not taught to be over protective of our children. We want them to grow into adults that will make well informed confident decisions. If
we apply the information we receive, then our life style is designed to train our young ones to be bold and out going if they can. But ever person is different.
I have two daughters. The oldest one never had any friends here own age. She is a petite and very pretty girl who looks a lot younger than she is. Here 20 y.o sister is often thought to be older. She was quite and very reserved and lacks confidence and that worried us. She is 26 and the only girls she hangs out with are from 16 – 20. That was a pattern right through her primary school life. No girl her own age would befriend her. In high school she had no friends. When she was about 17 we finally had the money (almost $1000) to have two independent tests carried out, and the result was they she falls on the upper autism scale sometimes known as aspergers.
How well do you actually know your granddaughter? If you are familiar with her as she grew up may I suggest that you look up aspergers on the internet. Aspergers very often goes unnoticed and can lead to social isolation and depression. The fact that you say she is treated like a child and in particular you said that she is sad, awkward, seems to lack confidence and self esteem are indications to me from personal experience, that she might be on the autism scale. Read as much as you can. Every one with high functioning autism (or aspergers) is quite different. If you see your granddaughters parents often, and, after reading up on aspergers you fell that there may be a connection, try in a kind way to suggest it to them read about it on the internet.
One of the things that most aspergers people have in common is some sort of social interaction dysfunction and that dysfunction will vary from person to person.
Aspergers may not be the problem for your granddaughter. It may just be her personality differences that make here act in those ways.
My younger daughter is 20. She is an organizer. She organizes her friends into going to movies, out to meals, to the mall etc. The difference between them is so big.
I hope I have been able to show you that we have no rules about going to proms but there are Bible principles that we try to consider in what we do.
I am sorry that I could not be of any real help to the problems you see in the way your granddaughter is treated by her parents as there are just to many variables to consider. While it is true, that it may be that here parents are being over protective, please consider that there may be other things involved before you consider her parents as doing wrong by here.
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QUESTION: Thank you so much for taking the time to read, and answer my question. You actually confirmed what I suspected all along...JW children are "encouraged" not to attend functions outside of an all jw event. How sad that any organization would use scripture to "guilt" a teen (or parent) into assuming that it would be a bad experience simply because it would be attended by their non jw peers. That almost suggests discrimination. Teaching a "we are better than you" mentality is wrong. Why would anyone teach if someone is not of the same faith they are deemed a "bad" association"?
Proms here in the US are a very big deal. These kids look forward to this "once in a lifetime" event all thru their high school years.They save their money for their designer gowns, tuxes, flowers and limos. Its an "all star" event with the teens being "the stars". Its a very special night, that many remember the rest of their lives. Some attend with dates (who are mostly friends), some go with groups as singles, but almost all go. It is well planned by administrators and educators who do chaperone. Many forms are filled out, and signed by the parents, no one is permitted to leave the premises once admitted. The educators realize this is a huge responsibility, and treat it very seriously. I have never once heard anything negative happening at a prom. Obviously, if it was a "risky" or "dangerous" event, schools would not hold them. Yes, there can always be "bad apple" in a group,but rarely does it affect a whole event.
I do not believe my granddaughter has any illness, but appreciate your insight. I have seen her happy at times (at least she appears that way) and I know she loved and thrived at school, until she was pulled out to be home schooled. She is bright, just very isolated. I dont think she chooses to be alone so much, but she has no choice. Her sadness is evident when she sees and hears about what other kids her age are doing. Breaks my heart.
Maybe Jw "higher ups" should rethink the discouraging of certain lifetime events in a teens life. Maybe parents should have a little faith in their kids, and trust them, and teach them that not all non jw people are "bad associations". Showing your child you have faith in them, and trust them goes along way in building their confidence and self esteem. This,in turn, helps to produce a happy, well adjusted adult. Isolating your child, and promoting association with only certain people is not healthy. Its not realty. It ends up doing more harm than good. I have seen this firsthand. Thank you for listening.
ANSWER: Hello Elaine,
Thank you for the follow up.
I appreciate what you say about the prom night in America. I am sure that educators do take a lot of care, in most cases, in the organisation of these events.
Most high-school in this city have two events during the year. They have the “formal” which I assume is the almost equivalent to the American Prom. They also have a graduation dinner. My children did not want to go to their “formals” but two did want to go to the graduation dinners. My daughter purchased a new dress for the occasion. Some of their class mates hired stretch limousines, some car pooled, other’s were taken by their parents.
My oldest son car pooled. He took my car and a few school mates. My daughter wanted me to drop here of and pick her up.
JWs can, and do, attend functions out side of JW events such as going to our Australian rules football matches (we do not play gridiron here) or soccer matches, tennis etc and events such as concerts. We have nothing against such things.
And, yes, we do try to be selective in the company we keep. Not because the “higher ups” in the organisation tells us what we can or can not do, but because of what the Bible says.
It no doubt seems strange to many people that we place so much emphasis on the Bible, that is because we honestly feel that the council, and advice, and principles contained in it, are for our own benefit. We take Gods words very seriously. At Isaiah 48:17
he says “I am the LORD your God. I teach you what is best for you
. I lead you where you should go.” (Gods Word to the Nations Version)
As people who do our best to follow the Bible, we want to take it very seriously. If we follow Gods guidelines we actually believe that we will be for our benefit and result in the best trouble free life. So in light of the texts that I shared last time, we have to decide for ourselves what we feel God will approve of. Some JWs, will go to the “prom” or “formal” others will decide not to go. It is up to each individual to decide for themselves.
We understand that people will find our way of life strange. The same thing happened to the first century Christians. Their way of life was seen as strange.
Perhaps it would help you understand, if you you asked you granddaughters parents to explain exactly what it is we believe from the Bible is the future of mankind, and why we trust the council in in Bible.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you again for taking the time to respond to my questions. Maybe the word "higher ups" was incorrect. We will go with your word instead "council". You cannot disagree that "council" does not directly forbid certain things, but they do heavily "encourage" this or that. That is known ad indirect guilt control. Its a tactic used by many people to get what they want.
I follow the Bible too ,and take Gods words to heart. His words are true, and inspiring. I noticed in both responses you refer to your beliefs as "puzzling" and "strange". I do not find Gods expectations of us to be "puzzling" or "strange" at all. Assuming others think this about your beliefs speaks volumes.
What exactly do you mean when you say "selective company"? Obviously you (any many, including myself) stay clear of people choosing excessive wrongdoing, and bad behavior. That would be a given. I think perhaps "council" may discourage its members from associating with non witnesses, thus allowing its members to view non witnesses as "bad associations". True or not?
I have no interest in asking our granddaughters parents what they believe is the future of mankind, because it has no bearing on isolating your child, and making them feel bad. I guess only time will tell to see which granddaughter has a more productive and happy life. Thank you again.
It is extremely nice to hear that you “follow the Bible too ,and take Gods words to heart. His words are true, and inspiring.
” That is exactly where we are coming from.
You are correct in that, what we “believe is the future of mankind, ... has no bearing on isolating your child, and making them feel bad.
” now. We are not isolationists nor do we encourage people to be isolated. There is a proverb that has a bearing on this “ Whoever isolates himself pursues his own selfish desires; He rejects all practical wisdom.(Proverbs 18:1 NWT) However, what the Bible teaches about the future of mankind does have a large bearing on the way we see the world around us, and the way that we interact with others. If you can understand what, and why, about that, you many have a better understanding of what may be happening with your grandchild. You may not agree with the reasoning’s given but it might help you understand.
There are so many variables as to why your grandchild seems sad and lacks confidence and self esteem. And there are so many variables that will effect what sort of life we have. People will have different ideas as to what is a productive and happy life. People measure happiness by different things. It may well be that she feels overwhelmed because JWs lives are so different. If
it is, she really needs to talk about it. For your peace of mind you may need to talk about it as well to here parents.
You made this statements
You cannot disagree that "council" does not directly forbid certain things,
You are correct “that “council” does not directly forbid certain things
”. It is up to each adult JW to decide what council or advice from Gods word they will follow. Gods laws we obey. But he gives us a measure of freedom.
We receive council (or advice) from many parties as we grow up and as adults.
Our parents council us about such things a cleaning our teeth, eating properly, dangers of the roads, smoking etc,. For example, take cleaning teeth. We are taught by such council that if we do not clean our teeth properly, we will more than likely have so much more trouble with tooth decay. A child can heed that council and brush regularly and avoid going to the dentist or they can ignore that council and end up having many fillings or loosing their teeth in later years. A very young child is often made to clean their teeth. As they get older, some may chose not to be so diligent.
Most parents and the governmental authorities will give council about the dangers of smoking. Here in Australia we had had quite smoking campaigns run on TV sponsored by the Government for many years. The dangers are spelled out for us and we are strongly advised not to smoke and we are heavily encouraged not to do it. Why do they do that? It is the same with parents and cleaning teeth. Because experience tells us that the best way to benefit our selves is to listen to the their council (advice) on such matters. They are attempting to tell us what they know from experience is the best course for us to take.
The Bible gives us council and advice on all matters of life. Now we earnestly believe that our creator actually knows what is best for us and we try to take to heart the words at Isaiah 48:17 “I, Jehovah, am your God, The One teaching you to benefit yourself, The One guiding you in the way you should walk.” (NWT) When we actually do follow what is said there, the result is a happier more fulfilling life.
We do not view any of Gods laws, commands, principles or council to be burdensome or as the KJV says grievous (1 John 5:2) Gods laws do not grieve us nor are they a burden. In our imperfect state we endeavor (but fail many times) to follow such council.
It is not any human that tells us what is right and wrong it is our creator. He created us with free will. At the same time he does set some boundaries that are firm and need to be heeded. He also gives lets us have a choice.
The principles that I have already mentioned are choices that we can make. Just as a child can choose not to clean his teeth and worry about possible consequences later, or a person can chose to smoke against the advice and worry about the consequences if they develop a lung disease.
What do I mean by our beliefs being puzzling or strange? We certainly do not think that our beliefs and practices are strange. We see them as being firmly established on the Bible. Yes most people do think that many of our beliefs are strange, especially many people that do have a faith in the Bible. They can not understand why we do not get involved in politics in any country, we do not vote, or join any of the armed forces in any country. Most Christian religions have no problem with such things and wonder why we use the Bible as our guide and say that the God expects us to be politically neutral.
Many Christian religions of no problem with their members engaging in sexual actively outside the marriage arrangement. Many people live together without being formally married and many churches see no problems. No person can be baptised as a JW if they are “living” with another person without being married. A baptised JW can be excommunicated if they engage in sexual actively with any one beside their marriage mate. In some countries the powerful Catholic Church is considering allowing “gay” marriages. We would not. Many people who belong to other Christian groups find it strange in our “enlightened” and “progressive” world that we are not seen as "keeping up with the times". Many Christian groups say we are out dated for staying so close to Bible standards. We feel that groups that allow such things are dishonouring God.
We do not celebrate Christmas or Easter as we earnestly believe that these celebrations dishonour God and Jesus. Again other Christian religions find this strange. We take to heart the true inspired words of the Bible on all these matters.
So when there are no direct laws involved or real clear direction as to what to do in a given situation we look for Bible principles that may guide our thinking. Because we have free will it is up to us to decide just how to apply the principles and council that are not direct laws or commands. That becomes a matter between us and God.
To illustrate. Imagine a line going across a page. It starts of as sky blue and very gradually changes colour until at the other end the it is emerald green. It is very easy for a person to see and distinguish the colours at both ends. Many people will actually see aqua in the middle. If asked just where does the blue finish and aqua start and where does aqua finish and green start, the response will be so different between people.
We know the difference between what is right in Gods eyes and what is wrong. In areas where there is no clear demarcation, each person must decide for them selves. Some people will choose not to venture along the line. Others will go to a given point. That is the case with things like going to a school prom.
I think perhaps "council" may discourage its members from associating with non witnesses, thus allowing its members to view non witnesses as "bad associations". True or not?
We do not look at people with suspicion. If we did we would become isolationist. We are taught that there is a need to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than impute wrong motives, to look for the good in each others. At the same keep a balance. (that can be the hard part)
Any one can be viewed as bad association depending on how we see that line of colour I mentioned. God gives us a line to chose from. Where on that line we decide to stop is up to us. At times there may be individuals that are JWs that, some in a congregation, many view as bad association, and they would not go out of they way to socialise with them. That would be because one JWs conscience may allow them to go further along that line that want another JWs conscience will allow. In such a matter everyone’s view of what is considered bad association depends on where they draw the line on conduct that goes against Gods principles. It is very easy to see people along that line with “excessive wrongdoing, and bad behavior
.” They show up quite clearly at the other end of the line. The Bibles council is “Bad associations spoil useful habits” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NWT) It is interesting how some other Bibles render that
“evil communications corrupt good manners.” (KJV)
"Evil companionships corrupt good morals." (NHEB)
“"Bad company ruins good morals." (RSV)
You mention that it seems to be a form of manipulation by perhaps guilting people into a certain direct. Every one to a certain extent uses guilt to help persuade others. We may not even be aware that we are doing so. Guilt becomes a problem if we obsess over our own guilt, and let it consume us. However guilt is useful in formulating our own beliefs and conduct. There is an interesting discussion on guilt that you can read on line or download. It is at https://www.academia.edu/1845940/How_Guilt_and_Pride_Shape_Subsequent_Self-Control
Your granddaughter's will have to make up here own mind as to what sort of a life she wants to follow. In the mean time her parents have been doing what they believe is the best for her, just as you did with your own children.