Anonymous complaints in churches can be a common source of conflict. They leave the recipient, minister or staff, unable to follow-up with the dissatisfied party and collaborate within relationship. This story is meant to illustrate some of those pitfalls.
And it came to pass that Zebulon the Elder passed by a table of wares of Micah the Baker. Zebulon, having no small hunger, resolved to buy a small loaf.
“Kinfriend Micah,” he inquired, “how much do you charge for a smaller one of these leavened loaves?”
“Zebulon, my kinfriend,” Micah replied, “how good it is to see you this day! Small loaves are three copper coins each.”
And so, Zebulon fished around in his pocket and came up with three copper coins. Micah handed him the loaf and they parted ways.
Zebulon stopped to buy a flask of camel’s milk and then took his snacks to sit near the town square in the shade. When Zebulon bit into the loaf of bread, he had a strange crunchy feeling in his mouth. He spat the bite into his hand. There, woven into the dough, were a weevil and a half. Ew. He’d swallowed the other half of a bug.
Zebulon was disgusted, but also hungry. He started to pull apart each bite before he ate it. His friend Tarik came up to say hello and they chatted a bit.
“Zebulon, my kinfriend. Tell me how you’ve been!” Tarik was excited to see him.
But Zebulon was kind of distracted, pulling apart his bread before he ate it. “I’ve been pretty okay,” he answered slowly.
“What are you doing?” Tarik asked.
“Micah the Baker sold me this weevily bread, and I am trying to eat this bread without eating any extra protein.”
Tarik frowned. “Why don’t you take it back to him and ask for a different loaf?”
“Well, I’m not really comfortable doing that. I don’t want to make him mad or hurt his feelings.”
The two friends shook their heads sadly.
“I know!” Zebulon said. “Why don’t you tell him that people are saying his bread is weevily?”
“Really?” asked Tarik. “Do you think that would help?”
“Yes! I’m sure of it,” Zebulon said.
Tarik crossed the square. When the line at the bread stand died down, Tarik took Micah aside.
“Kinfriend Micah, I have something to share with you. People are saying that your bread is weevily…”
Micah’s eyebrows shot up. “Weevils? Oh no! I must make this right. I have fresh loaves just out of the oven that are perfect. Please tell me to whom it is that I owe one.”
Tarik held up one hand. “Sorry, Kinfriend Micah. I agreed to keep this person anonymous. They do not want to upset you.”
Then, Micah became sad. He had a friend whom he could offer perfect bread and to whom he could make amends, but they would not accept his love and loyalty and preferred instead to critique him from a distance.
Micah was sad for three days and three nights. Then, he heard that the Teacher was in the village. She would know what to do.
The Teacher was seated on a stone, healing the sick and arguing with religious leaders.
“Do you, gracious Teacher, have time to hear my problem?” Micah asked nervously.
“Kinfriend, I already know your problem, but tell it here, that all may know the wisdom at the heart of everything.”
Micah told her about the weevily loaf, the indirect feedback, the anonymity, how sad he was not to have the opportunity to rebuild relationship. The Teacher listened and smiled.
Then She spoke:
“Oh, Micah, hard-working baker, blessed are those who are straight talkers, who collect their courage and take their problems directly to the people with whom problems are had.
Blessed are those who stop their ears to the problems of Soul And and Soul B and instead C their way out of it.
Where they could plant honesty and accountability, some plant triangles. Blessed are those who uproot triangles and leave behind only direct and open lines of communication.
On these direct lines of communication, I will build my Beloved Community.
Zebulon the Elder, being in the crowd, heard these words and determined to uproot the triangle he created with Tarik and Micah. Micah received him well and their relationship was restored.
(Information about triangles here; scroll down to the section, Emotional Triangles.)