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.
I have and will continue when hurt or want to respond to look to God for the correct way. He is there I know from past experience to trust His leading and be quiet before Him.
I will consider that person who is trying to hurt me as blind (doesn’t know God). So if a blind person stamps my feet I will feel pity and forgive, don’t take it to heart.
Thank you Sharon for truth that I need to be reminded of.
How do you handle it when you fail…..? :-((
Often times I type and email response without the recipient’s name in the “to” space just so I can vent. I reread the email response out loud and then hit delete. I feel if I can voice my opinion I can feel “better” and it allows me time to processes and then let it go. As you said, if the words are out of retaliation, intimidation, to put them in their place or to shame them, do not send. A response will gain you nothing but more anger, grief and sin.
I don’t do social media, But I often wound my husband with words. Like my mother before me I take it out on the one that matters most. Anyway I am learning the more I pray the less I fuss. Praise God.
Thanks for your article’s.
Pause. Delete. Repeat!
I have sent my thoughts to myself so I can look at the at a later time, reflect and pray a bit removed from the initial emotion that stirred the need to respond.
Thank you for sharing your message. I needed to be reminded of this it is better to be still and talk to God about the situation rather than telling that person how wrong they are. I enjoy reading your email messages. Thank you again and please keep sharing your messages.
Thank you. Needed to be reminded of this all the time. Made a lot of mistakes and lots of regrets. With God’s help, I’m going to work harder at it.
Thank you for the reminder of watching our responses. I am working hard on watching what words come out of my mouth. I have even asked Jesus to please shut my mouth if I am about to say something that won’t bring him glory or will hurt someone. I think this is one of the biggest things that I have to work on hard as a Christian is to season my words with love.
I did this recently. I was hurt, but I never responded in a negative way. I wanted to. But I took a day or two to think about it and moved on. I did respond but I did so in a manner as if nothing had happened. I’m glad I didn’t respond from my hurt.
Good mornin all. Way back before there was email and personal computers 💻 for me…..way back in the 80’s. I was laid off from a job I truly loved and by the one person I admired and thought was my mentor and friend. I was devastated. Looking back i used that job to avoid my home life that was not good. After the lay off I told my 👩 I was going to write ✍ a letter to this person and tell her how she hurt me. My dear mother’s ❤ advice was ” Barbara I have found that you write the letter but not mail it” I did and just the writing of it helped me. Thank you all for listening.
I will say to myself and maybe out loud, I am going to be slow to speak, to remind myself that I need to search my thoughts for a better outcome for everyone involved.
Thank you its a very good advise ,its always good to read before sending .praise be to God .
God bless you .
God always has a perfect timing to hear, see and speakfrom his word. Thank you for sharing because this cancer at a perfect time ❤
P-R-E-A-C-H! In todays world, filled with tweets, updates and stories sometimes I think that there are those who think the world is waiting to hear their views/opinions on everything from politics to potty training! What happened to grace? Patience? Mercy? Thanks for the reminder to “be still” and reflect on our own hearts desire to be right or be the thought police of cyberspace 😉
Over the years I have come to realise that it is always better to ignore a whole lot of things than to respond in anger. I have also realised that the older one gets the wiser and more silent one becomes.
I at times, not as often as I should, I type the message with my name in the “to” box and the person I want to vent to in the subject line, this way, If I push send, the message comes to me! Amazing the reaction I have when I read my own messages! Most times, “Wow! So glad that did not go to them!”
I was offended by a coworker and I responded in anger. I ended up loosing my job due to me responding with hurtful words. I did the old eye for an eye and ended up loosing. I learned my lesson but now I am having to pay a very heavy price because I will now have to start over in my profession if I can gain the strength and confidence to start over again. Please hold your anger and let God fight your battles.
Great article. This very subject is one the Lord taught me many years ago. How angry words are like darts that pierce the heart of the listener. Yes, after piercing that heart, the darts can be pulled out and an apology given…..but the pain from the resulting holes are still there and take a long while to heal. It is far better to keep the words from flying out rather than practice damage control afterwards. ❤️
May I share your message on my FB page? Lately, there have been several occurrences on FB that I know are hurting to others, but I dare not get involved.
Dear Sharon & Sisters in Christ. I am ashame of my ugly tongue that spits out things to her defiled drug addict/gambling 43yr old son who makes my life miserable, angry and depressive… I could write a book of the things he has done 2 me, himself, his children, plus others from yrs of addiction at an early age. I try NOT 2 say awful things 2 him but I do verbally 2 him or text him. Nothing phases him 2 stop. I’m just exhausted and sometimes I feel No Hope 4 him or Y God won’t intervene with a miracle. I just want my son back as I once knew him as an ordinary normal son with such potential & abilities he once had. He is a good young man but is so lost. He prefers the earthly evil ways/friends. I hate myself after saying those ungodly remarks 2 him & God hearing me speak like that. I really feel worse, I tell Jesus I’m sorry and please 4give me + help me stop saying bad things 2 my son. I really want 2 stop nagging & control my nasty mouth. I need lots of prayers. Ty
Oh friend. Adult children can be difficult. That’s one reason I included the chapter on talking to adult children in my book on Words. It’s complicated!
I, over the years, have learned to not be so responsive. Now, if something is said, I will talk to myself even if angry, and decide how I should approach my response to get my point across to that person. It usually is not at that moment but if I feel the words were meant as they were expressed to me; then it does require a response but not from the me I could be, but from the me God want’s me to be. Therefore, that requires a simmer down approach. (something I wasn’t so sure to use in the past). thank you so much for this writing.
I have learned (after many years of sifting through hurt and damaged emotions) that it is best not to speak immediately. My (usual) practice is to do nothing for 24 hours. After that period of time, if I still feel a need to respond or say something, I can do without the fresh wound or shock that was present 24 hours before when the situation first occurred. I find that typically I just wanted to have a knee jerk reaction but, after rest and other life, if isn’t that important anymore. This is my plan but I don’t always follow it – but I am much better than I was 2 years ago ❤️ Thanks for the wise words!!