David Sparks (a.k.a. MacSparky) has a great post today about the perils of electronic communications. In light of the Sony hacking which put private emails into public view, he rightly cautions all of us who use electronic communications not to use them as a medium for angry, hurtful exchanges. He offers the sage advice of working anger out in person rather than over email.
In his day job MacSparky is a lawyer, so no doubt he has seen the negative side of email and texts multiple times and has important reasons for offering the admonitions he does. As a Christian, I have my own important lens through which to filter this: that of communicating in a way which brings honor to the Lord and edifies my sisters and brothers in Christ. For whatever reason, writing an email loosens our tongues and changes our internal filters. Wisdom simply requires that we think differently about both what and how we communicate electronically.
I'm by no means perfect in my implementation, but here are some personal rules that I follow when communicating electronically that I believe are wise and biblically sound:
- Never ever dispense petty criticism or anger electronically.
- When you do have to send a difficult message, read it multiple times. Don't rush to send. Read it through the eyes of the recipient.
- Never bcc (blind carbon copy) anyone. This impresses me as the digital equivalent of duplicity at best, eavesdropping or gossiping at worst. I'll even announce at the top of the message if someone is receiving a copy, and if it's not obvious why they are included I'll explain it.
- Imagine that anything you write could be all over the internet the next day, because it could.
The verse for me that governs this particularly and all communication generally is Eph 4:29: "You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear." Put that on a post-it note on your monitor: The ultimate goal of any communication should be to build up others and give grace to those who receive our words.