Anecdote for Friends to Take Note
Once upon a time, there was a man named Fred. Decades long, an active member of the Mormon Church. In his later years, his faith transitioned. It was a 2 year process, gut-wrenching and excruciating. Relationships with wife and family were strained. Eventually, Fred found a way forward. He placed his faith in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ within the church which bears His name.
A Bishop’s Warning
Fred selected a path in the church which did not coincide with the consensus. A long discussion was had with the head of his congregation. The wise bishop issued a perceptive warning. “Be prepared for push-back from the members. They won’t understand what you are doing.” Fred felt strongly that his path was one of love, both for the church and for the souls he saw at its margins. To him, being of service to the “least” in the church was worth hazarding whatever gossip might arise. However, there was a consequence coming that Fred had overlooked.
The Love of Fred’s Life
Fred’s wife had witnessed his transition from beginning to end. She had been frightened, insecure and confused as she watched the pain, anger and confusion experienced by her husband. Finally, his ire subsided. A clear path was chosen. With the passage of many more months, the wife gained confidence that her husband was the very same man she had married. She came to understand ‘the what’ and ‘the why’ of her husband’s course. She began to see a path filled with integrity and charity. She became supportive.
Then, the full meaning of the bishop’s warning burst upon the scene. The love of Fred’s life stopped going to church. Why? The ward members were gossiping about her husband. That provided enough discomfort that she didn’t want to face the congregation. Fred kept going to church. His completely believing spouse did not. What an ironic turn of events. It literally took 6 months before she was willing to brave a ward family full of whispering gossip behind her husband’s back.
Unfortunately, tale bearing is all too common. When we engage in it, we are usually oblivious to collateral damage. Fred’s wife has many good and deep friendships in her congregation. The gossip didn’t harm Fred. It harmed his innocent wife. And none of her friends had a clue. I hope this post clues them in.
I happen to have a lot in common with Brother Fred. Many people have told me that lots of gossip is going on about my church activities. Here’s my request: If you are interested in me, don’t talk behind my back. Talk to my face. Behind the back is rude, unChristlike and fraught with collateral damage. That damage may be to your own family members who have questions in their own minds. I have spoken with many, many people who don’t trust their families enough to openly discuss their concerns. That is so sad. Our current church culture does not foster an atmosphere of safety, honesty and authenticity.
There is nothing positive that comes out of gossip. Instead, talk about me….with me. Gossip is easy and takes no guts. Speaking face to face does take courage. I won’t bite. I promise. I love the church. I love its leaders. It saddens me that so many members are fleeing our ranks. If you want to know where I stand, ask me, send an e-mail, or let me take you to lunch.
To the handful of brave friends who have reached out to me. THANK YOU!