I’m writing over at Proverbs 31 Ministries today and I wanted to share it with you too. Here’s a question: have you ever pressed “send” and then wanted to climb back in the computer and get it back? (I see you shaking your head “yes.”) Grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk about it…the beauty of that delete button!
It was a mean email. The woman had fussed at me up and down, made accusations that were not true, questioned my spirituality, and then threw a little Jesus on it. So, what did I do? I typed an email response that fussed at her fussing at me, defended myself left and right, and threw a little Jesus on it. Then…I deleted what I had written and never sent a reply. A few days later, I received another email from the same woman apologizing…saying she was sorry; she had been having a bad day.
Oh, how I love that delete button.
Social media is writhe with unkind comments, vicious venting, and vengeful vindictiveness. Fiery tweets spawn heated replies; opinionated post provoke resentful retaliation. I’m convinced that people type with their fingers what they would never say face-to-face. How many times have I clicked send then wanted to climb into my computer and get the words back? How many times have you?
You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube, and you can’t take back words once spoken or sent.
The Bible also tells us:
- Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3 NIV
- Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them. Proverbs 29:20 NIV
- My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
Words spoken in anger can be daggers to the heart of the receiver. I’ve felt the sharp arrow of angry words pierce my heart and I’ve also been the arching the bow. I’ve known many who have regretted words spoken or typed in anger, but I’ve never known anyone who regretted withholding them. A great question to ask ourselves before we respond in the heat of the moment is, what is my hoped-for outcome from the words I’m about to say?” Click & Tweet!
- If it’s retaliation, don’t do it.
- If it’s to make the person feel as bad as she made you feel, don’t do it.
- If it’s to shame, don’t do it.
- If it’s to put the person in his/her place, don’t do it.
- If it’s to intimidate, don’t do it.
Jesus never did.
Paul wrote, “In your anger, do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26). Paul did not say, “Don’t get angry.” God created us with a stew of emotions and anger is one of the ingredients. Even Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5). Paul did say don’t let your anger cause you to sin.
When you see something on social media that raises your hackles or receive an email that needles your nerves…wait…don’t respond right away…if at all. The writer of Proverbs said, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (Proverbs 17:28 NIV). When you feel the burning urge to wound with words, take a deep breath.
- Count to ten or a hundred.
- Go for a walk.
- Leave the screen to add space to process.
- Ask yourself what about the situation made you so angry. Are you filtering present words through past experience?
- Pray about your response.
- Calm down before you respond, if you respond at all.
- Read what you wrote aloud before you press the send button.
- Wait at least a day before you press the send button.
I’m not suggesting we become stuffers who never address issues that stir up anger. I am suggesting that we calm down first, think about what we need to say, and discuss the issue in a productive manner. I know…that’s not easy. I’ve done a lot of walking.
Remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 ESV). And honestly, some hurtful comments don’t need a response at all. I’ve seen time and time again that when I’m hit with an angry comment and then let it hang in the air for a bit, the harshness often slaps the one who said it back in the face. However, if I give an angry comeback, the anger escalates and poof…you’ve got a formula for sin.
Leave a comment and tell me one way that you’re going to pause before you press send.
Did you know that your words are shaping other people’s lives? Every day you can speak life into others’ souls or suck the life right out of them. To become a woman who uses her words wisely, see my updated re-release of The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words You Speak Shape the Lives of Others. It also has a companion Bible Study Guide that is perfect for women’s groups.
Want to learn more about how to tame your tongue and control your words? Check out my free 5-Day Taming the Tongue Challenge.