Before You Press “Send”
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Proverbs 17:28
It was a mean email. The woman had fussed at me up and down, made untrue accusations, 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 a second email from the woman, apologizing; she had been having a bad day.
Oh, how I love the “delete” button.
Social media is rife with unkind comments, vicious venting and vengeful vindictiveness. Fiery tweets spawn heated replies; opinionated posts provoke resentful retaliation. I’m convinced people type 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).
“Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 29:20).
“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 archer bending the bow. I’ve known many who’ve 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?”
If it’s retaliation, don’t do it.
If it’s to make the person feel as bad as he/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, NIV). Paul didn’t 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). When you feel the burning urge to wound with words, take a deep breath.
Calm down before you respond, if you respond at all.
Count to ten or one hundred.
Leave the screen to add space to process.
Go for a walk.
Ask yourself what about the situation made you so angry. Are you filtering present words through past experience?
Pray about your response.
Read what you wrote aloud before you press the “send” button.
Wait at least a day before sending your reply.
I’m not suggesting we become stuffers who never address issues that stir up anger. I am suggesting 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.
But remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). In Christ, we have all the power we need to respond with grace and truth … or to not respond at all.
Dear Jesus, thank You for giving me Your Holy Spirit who tells me when to keep silent and helps me grow in discernment. Before I respond to anyone, please help me to view them like You view them. Make me quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. May my answers be soft and full of grace so You are glorified when I speak. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Proverbs 29:11, “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”
Make a plan right now for how you’ll respond the next time you see or hear something that angers you. What is one thing you can do to help yourself cool down and gain perspective on the situation?