Reader Question: How can I live the Amish or at least close enough to it without actually becoming Amish?
I think this is a very valid question and that there are likely many other readers who are interested in this as well. I offered to answer the question and hopefully I can be some encouragement to those of you who would like to emulate the Amish lifestyle without actually converting. I try hard to keep my posts short and to the point … but this one might be a little longer. I didn’t want to short-change you, the reader, but provide some perspective.
My parents were raised Amish and even though they left when I was a young child, they continued to provide us with a life that gave us the same stability and community without actually being Amish. And we were always with our Amish relatives, it was just a normal part of my life.
I’m not going to suggest wearing a covering or learn to speak a different language—but there were 5 areas that stuck out to me that, in my opinion, and can provide a similar security and peace in your life that some of the Amish you observe practice. I hope they encourage you.
The Amish are well known for their community. They are devoted to their church, neighbors, and local businesses. This is something that we can do and absolutely should do!
I grew up in a small townn but as a wife and mother, I have typically lived in cities. It seems that community should be easier when you have more people, right? Wrong. It is often more difficult to have a sense of community when there are crowds around you. For this reason the Amish create districts based on location and balance … so that local districts are relatively the same size.
Where do you start? My parents started with church. They had to start from scratch after they left the fold of their Amish district. It can be done but it takes a lot of intentionality. Another way is to get to know your neighbors. I have a friend who throws a neighborhood party every year.
Key 1: Keep it local! Your family’s community is not cyber. Cyber friends are awesome … I have them, too … but those are not the friends that you can surround your family and live life with in the same way as you do someone you can actually meet for coffee or have over for dinner.
Key 2: A community with like-mindedness for me is important. These are the friends you can let your hair down with and that you trust your children watching and participating in life with. You don’t have to agree on everything but sharing some common ground is very important in building a community.
Key 3: Be prepared to give and take. This shouldn’t be a one-way friendship. You cannot expect to get if you’re not ready to give. And, should you expect to “get” anyway? Many of the Amish are very generous and are prepared to make a space for you … without expecting anything in return. When they are on the receiving end, they are appreciative and accept with love.
Key 4: Hospitality. This is a really difficult part for me, to be honest. But I am working on it and finding what hospitality is for me. Find what works for you. Maybe it’s a once-a-week (every other week? monthly?) invitation to a family on Sunday afternoon. Find what works. Maybe it’s a game night or a Bible Study. For some it’s that their door is always open for any company. Find what works for your family.
Key 5: This does NOT mean that you don’t have family boundaries. Community is great … but it should not take priority over your family. And, on the flip side, don’t become a clique. Do not NOT be friends with those who aren’t part of your “inner-circle”—always be on the look out to share yourself with those around you. Be a light. Your entire community needs to know how important this is.
A community is not a cult. You don’t need a special handshake or a motto. No verbal or written contract or tattooing necessary. It’s the community of people that you “do life” with. Make sure you’re folded into the right one.
Usually this is one of the first things people know about the Amish. They are religious. They practice their faith. This is absolutely KEY if you want to live an Amish-type lifestyle. My parents chose a faith outside of the Amish—but it was not any less important in our family.
Of course, as a Christian, I am going to recommend a faith in Jesus Christ. Belief in His Goodness is a beautiful gift to give your family. Jesus’ influence upon families and goodness is littered throughout the New Testament. Joy in obedience for children. Honor for a husband who truly loves his wife. Beauty for a wife who is empowered to be strong enough to respect her husband. The glory of a master who cares for his servants. The list could go on and on.
Not to mention, Jesus’ sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
Here are several articles you can read about the importance of believing, living by that belief, and giving the gift of belief to your family:
You must also live out your faith. I’ve heard more than once when people talk about the Amish some have mentioned to me that they know an Amish man who beats his horse or an Amish neighbor’s son who is doing drugs and an Amish person with this sin and that sin … Okay, I get it. They aren’t perfect—we shouldn’t expect them to be! But more often than not we see them live out their beliefs unapologetically. This is so important.
Are your children becoming the branches on the vine that produce fruit or will your family faith wither and die away? Your children WILL believe in something … I’m not going to leave that up to chance but I’m going to teach my daughters the truths of the Bible and live it out in His strength.
Above I mentioned a word that I want to expound upon in this section. The word is UNAPOLOGETICALLY.
We apologize for far too many things in society these days. You can’t let your daughter sleep over night and you apologize for having other plans or a rule about this. You are unable to attend an event because it’s on a Sunday morning and you are going to church—you apologize. You don’t feel comfortable with a movie or an activity for your child and, again, you apologize. Or even when there’s a door-to-door salesperson and you apologize for not buying their product.
I’ve caught myself doing this without realizing it. Why am I apologizing for being secure with a decision I made for my family? Don’t get me wrong, there are times where apologies are really needed … when you have wronged someone. Use your God-given instincts, obviously. But, readers, stop apologizing for living the life you BELIEVE IN.
Amish people, in my opinion, live unapologetically. Consider how they drive their buggies down a road with cars. Do they apologize at every passing car for being slower than they are? What about that they’ve chosen for their children to only go to the 8th grade—do they apologize for their decision to every person who doesn’t agree?
I think we often use those two-little words “I’m sorry” because we believe it’s kindness. Do not confuse an apology for kindness. Decline gracefully and move on. Be secure with your decisions and lifestyle. This also means within your family. If your child wants to stay up later, don’t apologize that they can’t. If the answer is no … it’s no.
This also goes for the community you are a part of from #1. Even among Amish districts not every parent will choose the same as every family. My parents were in the same Amish district growing up but my dad’s family was much stricter about the colors the girls wore. My mom’s family allowed brighter colors that perhaps bordered on what was “allowed” in their district. You will find this also in your community. Music choices. Education choices. Bedtime. Diets. Vacations.
Own your decision and stop apologizing for them. You do not need to explain everything to everyone. Your family culture is between your family and God.
Come back next Thursday for Part 2 and enter to win Elizabeth’s new release, Promise to Keep, below!
Elizabeth Byler Younts is a bestselling author and a 2014 Double RITA Finalist for her debut novel Promise to Return. Her latest title, Promise to Keep released October 13th. She is an Air Force Officer’s Wife and a homeschooling mom with two young daughters, living in Pennsylvania. Elizabeth was Amish as a child, and after her parents left the church, she still grew up among her Amish family and continues to speak Pennsylvania Dutch.