Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On being a Weighty Friend

It finally happened. Just last week, in fact. In an elders meeting, someone referred to me as a weighty Friend, and everyone there solemnly agreed. No one even snickered.
So I guess I’ve arrived. But the question is—where?
“Weighty Friend” is one of those delightful Quaker terms that’s fun to say, but whose meaning slips and slides around a bit. Is this remnant from early Quakerism still meaningful? Helpful? And what does it mean in reference to me?
My first reaction was shock (unexpressed in typical quakerly fashion). My second reaction was laughter (silent, of course). I thought of “Fat Quaker” as a likely synonym, but my need to diet is not extreme. If the pudgy-cheeked man on the oatmeal box were only frowning, he would be the perfect model.
My third reaction has been a week of pondering and, now, journaling.
I love the old terms, even the archaic ones. Some of them carry an ambience of holiness, order, and, yes, Quaker culture. Some of them still manage to be useful, even after all these years. Maybe “weighty Friend” is one of these.
As I understand the term, it refers to long-time Quakers whose words and lives have made them worth listening to. These people have earned a reputation for wisdom. In my own setting in the Northwest, people like Arthur Roberts, Ralph Beebe, Paul Anderson, and Howard Macy (who will chuckle if he reads this) come to mind. (Actually, Howard might just be too funny to be a weighty Friend, at least in the solemn sense of the term.)
How am I to hold this term in reference to myself? To be honest, I don’t feel ready to adopt this as part of my identity. Perhaps this is part of my admitted resistance to growing older. Do I also have to grow more solemn, stern, and stereotypically Quaker? I certainly don’t always feel wise.
The following words come to mind: “By the grace given me, I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). And, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). (If the Apostle Paul had had the foresight to have become a Quaker, he would have indeed been a weighty one.)
This gives me perspective. I think “weighty Friend” is a helpful concept, as long as I apply it to other people. But I will not wonder whether I am or am not. It’s not for me to say. And if anyone ever calls me that again, I’ll chuckle out loud or keep it silent, depending on the sensibilities of the person addressing me.
Having worked that through, I feel so much lighter.


  1. One beloved member of my Meeting used to like to say"I am not a weighty Friend. I am a fat Friend." Then she would say something wise andweighty.

    1. Thank you for your interpretation of the term. It can be laughable and, I guess, it shows an ego.... That awful quality that Friends are so quick to judge in others. I use it... Because it is an old term, and as you explained... It refers to long-time Quakers whose words and lives have made them worth listening to. These people have earned a reputation for wisdom. This comes through experience... Nothing about pride in it. It is a term that in Quaker speak, sheds light and understanding of a person's study, relationship with the inner Light, and finally personal experience relating to their own ministry. I am happy you are polite and offer understanding when a person uses that that term. I guess I weigh more than I should. I am moderately overweight. But to judge... and ridicule someone because they are lead to use the term.... That is a problem. You see, many of us, Quakers come from religious communities that judged us harshly enough that we were lead to leave that community. Many of us have faced challenges as members of minority classes...

      Do we really want go there.... and judge individuals on their use of language and understanding. Authorship starts with sender... has a medium and then authorship continues with the receiver.

      I appreciate you sharing your ideas as a receiver but I would be interested in this discussion to hear the sender's point of view. Perhaps, we as a society, should just give up these old terms that many of us hold on to and say what we mean. It would be easier on the seekers and attenders ... Oh, excuse me... new comers. They would understand what we are talking about and we wouldn't seperate ourselves and not sound so scary.