Written in 1925, five years after the founding of the Bruderhof, this rule has remained central. For, as Arnold writes, without openness and honesty there can be no loyalty, and thus no real community.
There is no law but that of love. Love means having joy in others. Then what does being annoyed with them mean?
Words of love convey the joy we have in the presence of others. By the same token, it is out of the question to speak about another person in a spirit of irritation or vexation. There must never be talk, either in open remarks or by insinuation, against others, against their individual characteristics – under no circumstances behind a person’s back. Talking in one’s own family is no exception.
Without this rule of silence there can be no loyalty, no community. Direct address is the only way possible; it is the spontaneous service of love we owe anyone whose weaknesses cause a negative reaction in us. An open word spoken directly to the other person deepens friendship and is not resented.
Only when two people do not come to agreement quickly in this direct manner is it necessary to talk it over with a third person who can be trusted to help solve the difficulty and bring about a uniting on the highest and deepest levels (Matt. 18:15–20). Each member of the community should hang this reminder up where he or she works and can see it all the time.
Adapted from Called to Community (Walden, NY: Plough, 2016). View the original, "The First Law in Sannerz," 1925, in our digitial archive.