Anonymous and the Honesty Box
a.k.a. Come out, come out wherever you are!
Someone comes to me and says, "Pastor Deanna, "Somebody" feels this way but they didn't want to come to you." (Matthew 18 basically shows you should ignore this unless they handle things properly, just disregard this completely until they follow biblical order.)
Someone else says, "A lot of people" are upset about such and such..." Then you ask, "who?" Usually people will not give names. Why? It's rarely more than three or four people who want it to seem like an army. Anonymity gives them the illusion of power. (And it is an illusion, make no mistake. Usually such people have an incredibly over-estimated view of their importance and impact.)
I've gotten an anonymous note on an offering envelope or a fax (unless it says, "Love you, PD!" or something like that, this is what the church office shredder exists for.)
Signing or doing anything anonymous is for cowards, plain and simple. If you are so right, and you are so passionate about what you believe -- own it! IMHO if you have to hide it or whisper over it, it's probably of the devil.
Recently Facebook added something to their features called an "honesty box." With this feature, if you enable it friends can come to your page and write anything they want to, good or bad, anonymously. Some people seem to be filled with glee over the honesty box. I completely disagree with it. I honestly believe it teaches people to be dishonest. Because hiding who you are is dishonest. If you aren't man or woman enough to own up to your words, you shouldn't say them. "But," I have heard protested, "the honesty box enables people to tell people things they are too afraid to tell them otherwise." Then the fact is, the person writing in the honesty box has issues in their character that they need to work on. If they are not strong or courageous enough to tell the other person face to face or in a signed letter how they feel, their thoughts are not worthy of being heard. Notice I did not say the person is not worthy of being heard. It is simply that they are not able to own up to their words yet and be mature enough to communicate them directly, therefore the words are not yet worthy of being heard and should not be brought forward until they come to that point. To do anything else is to coddle immaturity and make it easy for people to continue in it.
Just in case anybody is wondering...no, I didn't receive an unsigned letter this week! In fact I haven't gotten one in a really long time! (Knock on wood...) But going on... it is unfair for a person to face an unsigned writer. How would you even make a wrong right with someone who writes in your honesty box when you don't even know who they are? And the truth of the matter is...you may not even have the problem that somebody wrote in the honesty box about. It may be their problem that they need to work through, not yours. But they just dropped a boat load of verbal garbage on you that you don't need. Why subject yourself to that?
Let me give you an example. My kids are all on line and participate in these type of forums. Let's say my honesty box is enabled. One night one of my kids misses curfew by 40 minutes. After such they come in completely unapologetic about it and think I'm the crazy one to even expect them to have a curfew. We get in a tiff about it. Their mouth gets out of control and they end up being grounded for a few days. Fast forward to later that week when I get an unsigned comment in my honesty box from my kid that says, "you don't realize it,, but you're really mean. I think you need to pray about it." Obviously it wouldn't be me that had the issue, it would be them. There wouldn't even be anything for me to pray about in the above mentioned circumstance - I would just be not only exercising my God-given right as a parent, but actually following His command to correct my children. However, what if I didn't know the "anonymous note" came from my son or daughter and I gave it a moment's worry? That would be so wrong and needless. Which brings me to my next point.
There is such a thing as earning the right to be heard. I for one don't allow just anybody to speak into my life or dump things on me. I believe every person in this world earns the right to be heard. How do you earn the right to be heard?
1) Identify yourself.
2) Have some relationship with those you are speaking to. (For instance, it always amazes me when a visitor will tell you everything that needs to change about your church. It happens rarely but a few times I've had visitors talk to me about the fact that we need to change our stance on speaking in tongues, or what not. I think to myself, "first of all, these are the foundations of our faith in this church and it's not changing. Second, who are you to tell me this? I've known you for all of five minutes."
3) The level of what I say to a person or what is said to me depends on the depth of relationship. For instance, if asked I would tell my best friend, "that dress does make you look heavier than your other one..." but there is no way in the world I would tell that to just any woman in my church even if we had known each other several years. Only close friends can and should tell each other some things and then only with the gentlest of spirit.
4) The level of what I say or what is said to me depends on the my current level of involvement in whatever I am speaking about. Years ago I served on a ministry committee and while in those meetings spoke freely (being given permission to do so) on issues surrounding the ministry. I would give my advice, ask questions, give an honest critique when invited. However for me to speak to anything at all at this point would be completely inappropriate. Why? I have no level of involvement. I no longer earn the right to be heard there despite all the years I served there. At this point, others have taken on that mantle.
So dear readers, let me, Deanna D. Shrodes, go on record as saying that I do not believe anonymity is right. If you have something to say do the right thing and come out into the light. If you can't do that, then be quiet and let others who have developed the character trait of courage do the talking.