Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 45 - W for Weighty Friends

Another piece of Quaker jargon that I feel really ambivalent about is the term 'Weighty Friend'. The Quaker Jargon Buster defines a Weighty Friend, with tongue firmly in cheek, as 'one who is influential (i.e: their opinion carries weight) within the Society (while remaining consistent with our testimony on equality, of course).' 

I think my main uneasiness with the term stems from that problem of equality. Of course I have known weighty friends, whose spiritual depth and experience gives weight to their words, and I have turned to some of them for wisdom and advice, but I do not see them as being 'better' than I am. I am more comfortable with the term 'Experienced Friends' as this is more plainly descriptive of someone who knows more and has done more than I have and whose thoughts are worth listening to for that reason.

My problem with the term comes to the fore whenever Weighty Friends are deferred to as authorities in any matter, either locally or centrally. All of us have a right to be listened to, even if the discernment of the meeting does not in the end agree with us. Deferring to the opinions of Weighty Friends is even worse when their 'weight' comes from belonging to a Quaker family, going to a Quaker school or even having been a Young Friend in the past!

For myself, I may answer to the name of Experienced Friend in some contexts but never to Weighty Friend. In fact I believe that if anyone sees themselves as a Weighty Friend (except in the context of a joking reference to avoirdupois) then they are certainly not one!

1 comment:

Paula said...

Thank you for this, which I saw via Ray Lovegrove. The term does have bad connotations in some circumstances. However, as I understand it--and recognize it in others--it refers less to knowledge and more to a heavy spiritual presence. They tend to be deep listeners, and helpful sounding boards to less experienced Friends. But to defer to such Friends in a gathering for decision-making is not consistent with Quaker process. For those Friends with "experience" in the world, their knowledge is very useful when a body is engaged in making decisions. I think a distinction between "weight" and "experience could help here.

It is definitely wrong for less experienced Friends to look on experienced OR weighty Friends as a model of what a REAL Friend should be. I've heard newer Friends state that they feel they aren't good enough to be a Quaker, and that is just nonsense.