I Don’t Respond to Anonymous Letters…

…unless they have money in them

When a new eldership was ordained at Berry’s Chapel November 19, 1995, none of them had ever served before. Every issue was new. They couldn’t ask, “How have you usually handled this?” to the older elders because there weren’t any. Read: Starting from Scratch

On April 27 the following year, the elders, five members, and I received a stinging anonymous letter. This eldership had never dealt with that. One of the elders called. He asked me to meet with them and discuss the best way to respond.

We met and discussed options. After a good discussion, looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each possibility, they decided to do nothing.

[tweetthis]How can you answer an anonymous letter? To whom would you address your reply?[/tweetthis]

They followed the plan, doing nothing. Threats and prophecies in the letter never materialized.

I have a similar, but a slightly modified rule. I don’t respond to anonymous letters…unless they have money in them.

About this time, in the early 1990’s, I was driving to speak in Lewisburg, Tennessee. Gail paged me. I called. She told me about an unusual letter we received. Inside an envelope was a postal money order for $200.00. A sticky note was attached with the message, “For all you do in Him,” signed, Anon E. Mous. There was a return address on the envelope: Anon E. Mouse, with a street address in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I’d never received this type of letter. I went to the bank with the money order and asked if it were worth anything. The teller replied, “It’s a postal money order. It’s worth $200.00.” I deposited it. I wrote a thank-you note to Anon E. Mous in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A few months went by. I received a similar letter with a $200.00 money order. This time it was from East Ellijay, Georgia. I wrote a thank-you note.

After some more months had passed, I received an envelope with a $100.00 money order from California. I wrote a thank-you note.

More time passed, and I received the fourth, and final, money order for $200.00 with a return address at David Lipscomb University. I wrote a thank-you note.

Of all the anonymous letters I’ve received, those are the only ones to whom I’ve written a response.

The general rule: anonymous letters aren’t a good way to communicate. If you want to write an anonymous letter without getting caught, let somebody else write it. People usually write the way they talk. The night of the discussion about how to handle anonymous letters, every elder and I came to the same conclusion about the letter we received. It sounded just like _____ ______ .

[tweetthis]The best way to deal with an unsigned letter is to do nothing.[/tweetthis]

However, if anyone reading this post would like me to respond to an anonymous letter: write a letter, place money in the envelope, give a return address, and I’ll write a thank-you note.

How have you dealt with anonymous communication?

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11 thoughts on “I Don’t Respond to Anonymous Letters…

  1. Enjoyed the column on anonymous. I would be happy to supply my address for any of those letters with $ in them.

  2. I like to ask, “Is there anything I can learn from this anonymous communication?”. (I think I may have learned that from Jerrie Barber.) But respond to it, no.

    • Steve,

      I like to think about that.

      Is there something in me that prevents them from talking to me directly?

      Am I defensive, angry? I have been that way a time or two in my life.

      Am I arrogant? Do I think no one can add to my knowledge on any subject? I have met a person or two like that. Could I have some of that attitude keeping people from talking face to face instead of in an anonymous communication?

      I want to keep a relationship with a few people, many would be ideal, who tell me what I need to know.

      I felt good Sunday night, after delivering a workshop on criticism, that a man came and criticized me. He started with a compliment, then told me a way he thought I could improve my preaching. I asked for it. He did it. That’s what I wanted.

  3. very early in my life, my father taught me that only cowards write anonymous letters. that anyone who truly wanted to be heard “and listened to” would sign their letters. He also suggested that God doesn’t approve of those who write anonymously…and I believe he used Matt 5:33-37 as a portion of the verses he used to support this teaching. I will amend the “only cowards” to exclude your Anon Y Mous donor. I’m thinking that is someone who was serving God by serving you, and have been both recipient and donor in the same manner.

    • Joy,

      Good teaching and good observation.

      Wouldn’t it be good to have more anonymous helpers?

      But there is also the principle, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

      When do I need to “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). and when do I need to let my light shine?

      There are often competing, diverse, complimentary principles that can be applied. That’s why I need to think (Psalm 1:1, 2), and pray for wisdom (James 1:5).

  4. Jerrie, I am so thankful that Jesus would never send an anonymous letter. He always signs, seals and delivers them with His blood.

  5. Sounds like a solid, take it to the bank, solution.. I guess I’ve been fortunate, all of my anonymous letters weren’t. 🙂

  6. As for me personally I have only received one anonymous letter. It contained a strong accusation against one of our elders. I was upset. I took it to my “confidant”. The confidant was a man I respected, who did not attend the congregation where I preached, and who operated his business from a Christian perspective. His advice, ignore the letter, including the specific accusations against this elder unless I had further indication there was truth to the accusations. I followed that advice then, and now. As minister and Elder, we have advertised our availability to discuss and meet with all comers who will do so. We have also indicated we do not acknowledge anonymous communication. I must admit, my policy has only been tested that one time since I began preaching.

  7. Bro G K Wallace in a chapel talk at FHC, about 1960, said he walked to the pulpit one day and there was a sheet of paper with one word, “Fool”. He said he had received a lot of anonymous letters, but this one was signed, but they forgot to write the letter.”