I received a letter this week from someone who "let me have it." This person was obviously upset by a decision I had made the week prior and wanted to express his/her displeasure with me. The letter made many false accusations and was obviously written from a perspective of ignorance. That is to say, the person did not possess all of the facts and, thus, many of his/her conclusions were...quite frankly...erroneous.
But the faulty conclusions are not the most troubling part of the letter. In fact, I would be more than happy to address this person's complaints and accompanying misunderstandings. I fashion myself as a peacemaker and problem solver. In the past, when presented with complaints such as these, I've gone to the complainant(s), worked through the issues, and, in the vast majority of cases, ended up resolving things to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Unfortunately, this case presents a fundamental barrier to reconciliation, namely, the writer did not include his/her name in the letter. It was written anonymously.
Now, I come from a blue collar, simple family. Growing up, we didn't have a lot of money, absolutely no political clout or power, and only slight notoriety generated by my locally philanthropic grandfather. We were regular people living quite regular lives. But I've come to realize over the years that my regular parents taught me a rather irregular character lesson when it comes to voicing my concerns with others. By both word and deed, my parents passed on to me an appreciation for underwriting my complaints. In other words, if I am going to lash out at someone, complain, criticize, or make mischief, I should at least have the decency and courage to identify myself (i.e., "put my name on it").
I've always endeavored to live by this principle of attribution. Most recently, I demonstrated it in my criticisms of Jerry Falwell, Jr. Whereas most would only talk to media anonymously, I spoke to them on the record and even went public on the Roys Report radio show out of Chicago. I thought it altogether cowardly to talk about Jerry "behind the veil." Even though I'm no fan of Jerry's, it would have been disrespectful and quite timorous not to identify myself to him. And who wants to live in the shadows like some creepy, Middle-Earthen, Stoor Hobbiton, Gollumesque creature anyway?
Unfortunately, many people are quite comfortable in the caves. So, letters like the one I received are far too common. Again, I have absolutely no problem with the levied complaints themselves. Indeed, I'd love to address them with the offended party. My only criticism is with the anonymous manner in which the letter was delivered. How are we, as believers, supposed to reconcile our differences if we don't face one another? How does an anonymous letter honor the Matthew 18 principle? The answers are "we can't" and "it doesn't."
So, my advice is simple: If you are going to stab someone in the back, at least do it to his/her face! Only when we are transparent and honest with one another do we have the ability to work through our problems and heal. In the case of my recent letter, the offended party and I are both wounded, and we will remain this way indefinitely...and that does nothing to build up the Body of Christ. In fact, it does just the opposite; it tears it apart from the inside.