There was the specific one I can vividly remember that embarrasses me now to think of it, the most. It involved strong opinion and strong language and strong probability of starting a friend fight. I typed it on a night I stayed up too late and after a day that unraveled me to a single thread. In my mind, the email was justified. The principles I communicated in it were right.
I showed it to my husband and after reading, he said with the cautious voice, “why don’t you sleep on that before you send it?” I raised the eyebrow, disliking the suggestion. Night eyes told me the email was perfect. Too tired to argue, I took his advice and went to sleep feeling convinced my words were on point and morning would tell me no different.
I woke up the next day fresh, and with slept on perspective. I re-read the email with new eyes and as I did, I saw the words without flesh bias. The email was a mess. The tone was wrong. The right things I was trying to express were lost in a muck of verbal throw up. Nothing was going to get accomplished by me pressing send.
So instead, I hit delete.
That experience has since been my reminder for many other emails and now social media things that have come behind: you don’t have to send/post everything you think.
In this day where Facebook statuses have become verbal throw up, blog posts have become knee-jerk rants, and we have the tendency to sound like those people we never meant to be: pious experts, projecting our belief systems (and yes, baggage-filled perspectives) onto others, I can’t help but think: we should probably hit delete more. We would save ourselves (and others) some trouble.
Before we post that, perhaps we considering checking ourself with these 5 questions.
1) Is this a good idea? Not…do I want to? Or…will this temporarily make me feel better? But is this a good idea in the sense of is this something I want associated with me long after this urgent need to share it goes away?
2) Does this make a positive difference? Now listen. We can justify anything. We can say all day long that this is beneficial to the masses and worth the risk of who it may offend. We can even get wild and call it spiritual and say it is “from God.” But we know in our heart when we are spinning it. When we write and post personal passive aggressive jabs and rants, we know it. When we post things for fun that are probably not appropriate, we get that gut sense. This is about being honest. God knows. We know. If it’s not something making a positive difference…in the way we laugh, learn, understand, relate, are inspired, encouraged or strengthened, hit delete. So we miss posting a few potential inspiring things in exchange for being discerning? Eh. I feel sure 2,589 other inspiration things will be posted that day we missed, so it’s probably ok. I’d rather err on the side of caution. (p.s. In case you’re wondering: Nope. Everything we post doesn’t need to be spiritual. And yes. We have free speech but that doesn’t mean verbal irresponsibility.)
3) Will I need to apologize? I know. You’re mad. But think beyond this very moment. Will it embarrass people you love? Does it have pain potential for someone else? Are you prepared for the fall out? Quick reactions typically create online messes. We can react or we can respond, if in a space of maturity we deem it necessary. It all comes down to how interested we are in continuing to mop up our own mess. A good rule of thumb: if we want to write a pressing blog or Twitter status (FB, etc.), let’s first sit on it for 2-3 days. People won’t go away and neither will the need to post, if in fact, it’s something worthy to post. If it’s a reaction instead of response, the pressing will typically fade. (Exception: God presses it on your heart right away to speak out about something. Also: obviously not talking about fun, light FB statuses which don’t need 2-3 days to sit on. Last: Non-perfect alert: I still miss the mark on this reaction/response thing sometimes.)
4) Will someone get a wrong impression of me from the post? If your post/status update/blog is the one and only impression people will ever have of you, is it what you would want them to know? We think we will have time to write other things. We think we should be given the grace and understanding to have a bad day and vent about it and it not be held against us. But the reality is, one status update, one blog, one post can be the determining factor of how people see us. Should we live concerned about what others think of us? In the sense that it drives our convictions and self-esteem, no. In the sense that all the good things we have to share in the future may be disregarded because of one bad status update/blog post we shared first, yes. People don’t always stick around for more. This is the reality of where we live and must be considered in the midst of our posting.
5) Does this give Jesus a bad name? I mean. Jesus followers, we have to care about this. I don’t know about you, but I shudder over the thought that I could mark my pure Father by my behavior to the point that someone who doesn’t know Him may never want to get to know Him because of me. People judge parents by our kids. It’s true. It’s not always fair (because, hello? Free will). But we do. I have been guilty of this. I see well-behaved kids and I automatically think: they must have good parents. People judge our Father by the way His kids act. Again, not always fair. But true. We Christians have a lot of opinions. Not all of them have anything to do with Jesus, even when we throw His name into the mix. There is a difference between saying things that offend non-believers because it’s Biblical and we can’t water down what Jesus says (even then, most of the time we can probably choose our words better) and saying things that offend because we are in the flesh and our character becomes at risk in the process. I don’t expect us to be perfect. I don’t buy the scapegoat phrase of you’re supposed to be a Christian to be used on us every time we make a mistake. We are in the human category, too. But where is the discernment by Jesus followers in what we post? Regretfully, often missing.
As long as there is the gift of free speech, there will always the tug of war between head and heart, helpful and not helpful, important and not important when it comes to what we share publically. People will not like everything we post, some will always see it as biased, annoying or unimportant. To a degree, that’s what makes the world with our differing flavors, differing things we like to read about, go round.
But as a whole, let’s sleep on things more. Let’s not be so quick to post. Let’s be more willing to hit delete, take the issue to God in prayer and leave the status update for another, better day.
In the end, we will be grateful we’ve checked ourselves, first.