5 Subtle Ways Amish Avoid Seeking Attention

Sometimes people stand out by making noise. Other times, the quieter ones set themselves apart. One thing that I’ve always appreciated about the Amish, is that they’re not attention seekers. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact they automatically get a lot of attention due to being so visually, and culturally different.

Image: Jim Halverson

But there are also aspects of Amish culture that leads them to shy away from the attention that is the currency of American society. This really makes them stand out in a world of Instagram posts and front yard values statement signs.

Below are five ways Amish people, broadly speaking, stand out in American society in 2023…not so much by what they do and say – but by what they don’t do.

And remember, there are always exceptions. I can think of individual Amish people who “break” just about every one of these norms. Some of those I’ll note below. But the following applies for Amish culture and public behavior in general.

Five Ways Amish Culture Avoids Seeking Attention

1. They don’t put their children on a pedestal

Amish parents love their children but do not glorify them. They’re not a vehicle for attention on social media, or a pathway to vicarious glory at, say, weekend football games.

Rather, Amish instill a sense of humility in their children – not only by what they’re verbally taught – but by what’s modeled to them. Every person is a child of God and is important, but equal in God’s eyes. Community takes precedence. This also extends prior to the child’s birth, when they avoid excessive talking about pregnancy, throwing gender-reveal parties, and the like.

2. They don’t do loud patriotism (or politics)

This is one way, if you’re in a rural area, to tell which homes are not the Amish ones. If you see an American flag or a political sign displayed…then you can be 99.9% certain that’s not an Amish home. There is no pledge of Allegiance to the flag in Amish schools, either.

Some criticize the Amish for this, especially the reluctance to show outward signs of patriotism (buggy bumper stickers?), interpreting that as a lack of gratitude for the freedoms and opportunities provided by this country. And it certainly contrasts with patriotic displays commonly seen in the rural areas Amish typically inhabit. But the Amish are guided by a “Two Kingdoms” belief system which places the Heavenly Kingdom above that of Man.

Now, some Amish do vote, and Amish voters have been famously pursued in recent and more distant elections. But the Amish do not hold political office (for one thing, trumpeting how great you are in a campaign would conflict with Amish views on pride), and just a relative handful quietly vote. Praying for politicians is more comfortable for most Amish, rather than voting for them. Or as one Amishman from Ohio put it: “We just pray to God that he puts the right man in office for our own good. We can only try to put up with His president.”

3. The way they speak

The Amish tend to have a lower-key manner of speaking. Silence is not necessarily a bad thing. Speech is not about drawing attention to oneself. I’d also say Amish speak in fewer bombastic superlatives (“this is the GREATEST ever shoo-fly pie!”) and with a less emotional tone.

Image: Don Burke

Some can interpret this as rudeness. To me, it’s refreshingly calm and grounded. Now, that said, Amish society has its “talkers” as well 🙂

4. They don’t “lead” with their religion

The Amish are obviously religious, but hardly leap to actively promote it. Sure, they will discuss religious topics, or Scripture, when drawn into it in conversation. But the Amish for the most part do not proselytize and aren’t looking to convert you to the Amish way of life (or general Christianity for that matter).

They’re not putting their religion-slash-way-of-life out there as the model for others to follow. That doesn’t mean you won’t hear critical words when religious discussion happens. But the Amish mode contrasts starkly with the distinctly American mode of public preaching, saving souls, and gaining converts in a competitive religious marketplace. On the contrary, Amish witness is more subtle and indirect.

5. They don’t self-promote

This can be seen in behaviors like refusing to pose for photos, omitting the word “Amish” from their business names and literature, and also in the ways they speak about themselves. This doesn’t mean they don’t promote their businesses and so on. But praise or credit for business, or personal, success is often deflected, redirected, or credited to God.

Image: Don Burke

So those are five ways which, in my view, Amish culture is starkly lower-profile and less attention-seeking than that of non-Amish America.

Now some of you might be saying, “ONLY five ways?” Well, there are certainly more than five. Feel free to add any others, and let me know what you think of these, below.

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    11 Comments

    1. Amen

      Erik, thank you for your post.
      In a deeply divided world, the Amish could be role models to the rest of the country–if people would be inclined to listen rather than argue and fight.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Glad you liked it Jim – and Amen back to your comment.

    2. Central Virginian

      Biblical Basis

      One can see how these aspects of Amish culture are based on Biblical principles. For examples:
      2. Praying for elected officials, based on 1 Timothy 2:2
      4. Witnessing by example, based on Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12, John 6:44.
      5.Giving God the credit for one’s accomplishments, based on Deuteronomy 8:18, many Biblical examples, both OT & NT.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Thank you for adding these.

    3. Walter Boomsma

      And it's no wonder...

      These are the very things that drive the “calmness” so many feel when around the Amish. I once described it as while we may be concerned that we have the latest smartphone, they would question whether or there’s a good reason to use a phone at all. (And, yes, I know some do. But most use them deliberately.) Imagine consciously living a life that encourages “stress reduction.” The fact that they don’t put their kids on a pedestal likely contributes to the high retention of their way of life. So many parents live their lives vicariously through their children, putting pressure on both their children and themselves. We tend to focus on the visual differences–they use buggies. Thanks for an article that allows us to focus on the more subtle (and more important) things that make them “different.”

      1. Erik Wesner

        Well said Walter and interesting thought about contributing to high retention. It hadn’t occurred to me but I can see how there might be a connection. One reason might be that when you put someone on a pedestal they are apt to lose respect for you.

    4. Bradford Heil

      Living in an Attention-Seeking World

      What an excellent article, Erik. Thank you. “… leads them to shy away from the attention that is the currency of American society.” What a insightful phrase. Bradford

      1. Erik Wesner

        Glad you liked it Bradford, and I probably can’t claim that phrase as original, I’m pretty sure it’s been described similarly elsewhere. I should also add, as I don’t think I really stressed this in the post, that things like patriotism, celebrating one’s children, even self-promotion, are of course not inherently “bad”. They can be warped and taken to extremes though, which is what this was about.

    5. Jannis Rae Storey

      I totally agree, especially with #1. I work with Amish children and have yet to see one with narcissistic behavior. By contrast, English parents often overpraise, overindulge, and overschedule their children and are following the recipe to produce a full-fledged adult narcissist. Of course, the number of children in the family dictates how much attention is given to each individual child. I have not had the opportunity to work with an Amish family with with an only child. It would be interesting to see if an only Amish child is parented any differently. I’m guessing not.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Another good insight…with less parental attention to go around in these large families, there’s simply not the space to overdo it with children, even if you wanted to. Those only child Amish families are pretty rare but I suspect there is not a big difference. But am interested to hear your insights as someone in your line of work.

    6. THE Amish

      The 5 things listed are what makes the Amish some of the best examples of the human race. My wife and I are always treated as family by our Amish friends, whether we’re at our house or theirs. There’s a mutual respect and love amongst us which ties us together almost as close as blood relatives. We are proud and privileged to be accepted by our Amish friends.