In a sermon a few weeks ago, Jonathan mentioned the Bruderhof idea of “Plain Speaking.” Bruderhof are a Christian denomination related to the Hutterites and the Amish, and they live in intentional community. There are quite a few Bruderhof communities in America, and in other places as well.
The idea behind plain speaking is that we should not talk about someone behind their back at all, even in a good way. When Jonathan visited a Bruderhof community, he was disconcerted with the fact that every time he met someone new, he had to reintroduce himself because no one had talked about him! He got fed up with talking about himself, so he stood up at dinner (in a 300 person dining room) and introduced himself that way!
I think that plain speech is really difficult to do, but it is a really valuable thing when living with one another. Especially when you’re feeling a bit peeved at someone, it’s really easy to vent to anyone and everyone around you, but it’s not constructive, and it makes people feel like they need to take sides. If someone takes your side, it may make you feel good for a while, but it just perputuates the problem. It keeps issues simmering for longer than they need to, when it would be much more helpful if the people involved would just talk about their frustrations with one another.
Community life isn’t easy, it’s hard to talk about what is bothering you without hurting people sometimes. I’m trying really hard to practice plain speaking. We’ll see how it goes!