A few years ago I received an email from a leader in the church where I was serving. As I read through it, I was floored. All the bold-faced, CAPITALIZED letters, screaming off the page at me like a finger in my face. I was almost devastated. I printed it out, took it in to our pastor and said, "What do you make of this?" He glanced over it and looked up at me and said, "Wow!" We knew - at least we were pretty sure we knew - that the person who wrote it never intended for it to come across (or sound) like it read. And after one phone call we found our suspicions to be correct. And this is just ONE reason why email could possibly be one of the most misused tools in history. Allow me to continue.
When you're hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, wounded, or particularly on the verge of what we'll call "going on a rampage", email is NOT the communication tool you should be selecting. Email doesn't allow someone to see your hurt, frustration, or wounds with their own two eyes. It hides the inflections in your voice and the pause you might make when the words aren't flowing out of your mouth as easily as they seem to be on the electronic storyboard. And I know a lot of us will argue, "It's easier for me to compose my thoughts if I write them down". Fine. Write them down, then go and read them to the person. I realize that takes courage, but I'm pretty sure the Holy Spirit supplies all of that we need.
It's also become pretty commonplace that the Reply to All button has become a willing catalyst for gossip. Someone sends out an email, someone reads it, someone has 75% of the facts, someone gets upset, someone hits Reply to All and the "venting" begins. This is like walking up to a small campfire with a bucket full of diesel fuel and letting it fly - like throwing a match in a dynamite shack. Just wait...the explosion's coming! I'm fairly certain that this is not what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 5 or in Matthew 18 as He gave us instructions as to how to confront one another and seek restoration. Email is NOT bad. It's not from the devil! But we are totally screwing up the Body of Christ and wrecking the unity of the church when we choose to communicate this way. Email's not the problem - WE are!
A few days ago I had a young woman from our church who called me, wanting to express some concerns she had about some very hard decisions we've had to make lately concerning our children. She shared her thoughts with me, but then she made his statement: "When I first heard about this, I spent some time praying about it. Then after awhile, not feeling settled about it, I knew I needed to talk to you. I'm so glad I did. I feel so much better about all of this now!" My response to her was pretty simple: "First of all, thank you for praying before you did anything else. And you don't know how much I appreciate and respect that you took the time and had the courage to simply call me and share this with me. Thanks for listening to what I had to say." This young lady was apprehensive about calling me, saying she didn't want to "discourage me". I told her with no reservations that her phone call was the most encouraging highlight of my day! (And I thanked her for not emailing it to me!)
Email is one of the greatest inventions of our time! It has simplified so many aspects of life and communications. But like so many other "good" things, if we use it the wrong way it can make a mess of life and tear things down that were in need of being built up. WE are in need of being built up!
Proverbs 18:17, 20
Matthew 5:23-24, 18:15-20