“Il faut laver son linge sale en famille”


The title of this thought is an old French proverb. It was one that Napoleon quoted when he returned to France from his exile in Elba in the year 1815. It was a phrase that was first used in England in 1867 by Anthony Trollope in “The Last Chronicle of Barset.” It’s a phrase that my mother taught me, not in French, but paraphrased in English terms.  Loosely interpreted with some altering, it carries the warning, “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” I’ll get to the more literal meaning later.

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

Michael Landon as a fourteen-year-old was still a bed-wetter. As punishment, his mother would hang his sheets out the bedroom window for the entire world to see. His story comes to life in the 1976 movie, “The Loneliest Runner.” It’s an autobiography of Landon’s dysfunctional family and how he would run home as soon as school let out to pull in the sheet before his friends passed by to see his dirty laundry hanging for the world to see.

There are a lot of things in our lives that are private and should remain that way. To air family issues publically can be harmful to the individual and healing of the family. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Enter, Social Media! Social media can be great. I have a Facebook account and a blog. In addition, I have about six email accounts and am on some site called “LinkedIn.” I’m not sure what it’s for exactly, but I’m a member. At present, I have 557 friends on Facebook. I’m kind of picky and don’t accept everyone as a friend. My friends are mostly church friends, family, friends from other places I’ve lived and high school friends. They are in all walks of life. Some live lifestyles with which I disagree, but they are still friends. Not all are “church people.”

As I view their Social Media pages, I’m sometimes surprised by the things they post for the public to see, airing what I consider dirty laundry. I’ve seen scores of pictures of friends in bars, some not very attractive. I’ve seen a few couples use the pages to complain about their spouse, with the arguments going back and forth. The language and sharing of “off color” stories and jokes have caused me to “unfollow” some friends. They are still my friends; I just chose not to look at everything they post. I’ve seen church members air out their grievances about the church and elders.

It’s that last one that bothers me the most. I hate seeing church members air out their complaints about the church, ministers, fellow members, or elders in Social Media. It would be one thing if it were being aired within the church family. However, these complaints and unhappiness are going out for everyone on our list to see and maybe more, so many of those who read the complaints about the church are not followers.

In a world where we are trying to bring people to Christ and get them to join in the fellowship for them to see us being critical of the church only turns them away. Every congregation has dirty laundry. No congregation is perfect, and there are always things that someone doesn’t like. However, these things should always be handled within the family. “Il faut laver son linge sale en famille.” The literal translation of the phrase is something like, “You need to wash your dirty laundry in the family.” Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the like are not the place to air differences with the church. After all, why would anyone want to join a group who are complaining about one another and what is being done?

Leaders should handle their differences within their group. Church members should learn to take their concerns to the leaders and not air their dislikes for the world to see. The picture of the church to the world is that we love and care for each other enough that we can handle things one on one and not air our dirty laundry for everyone to see.

Dirty laundry smells. Dirty laundry looks dingy. Dirty laundry is wrinkled and unfit to wear. When company comes, the first thing we get out of the way is dirty laundry; it has no place when our company is around. Church and church member criticisms have no place on Social Media; they should always be worked out in the family. That’s what God expects us to do.


If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?–1 Corinthians 6:1

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ


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