It used to be that if I wanted to say something stupid in public, I had to wait until I found a crowd; and if I wanted to send something angry to someone, I had to write it out and put it in the mail, and then I still had three days to try to call the person and beg them not to open whatever I had sent.
But now, I have the incredible power to send random thoughts into the universe that I can never take back. Wow, this is great! I can tell people about a great pizza place or rail about politics or complain about people I know, and it only takes a second to get these thoughts from my head into the world!
Some people say that social media is the problem, but social media has only called attention to a problem that was always there: unfiltered thoughts can be dangerous, and anonymity can protect horrible words that people (we hope) would never say in public, even though they think them. Here’s what James writes about the tongue: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5b-6, New International Version). And that was before Facebook, Twitter and texting!
This is why James also says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19, NIV). On Sunday, I focused on the third part; today, I’d like to focus on the second. Slow to speak also means slow to text, slow to tweet and slow to post.
Here’s another thing the NFL gets right (with some exceptions). The broadcasts are on a 2-second delay, so it’s someone’s job to listen for bad words and bleep them out if necessary. Wouldn’t it be great to have a muzzle on our own words like that ~ someone who would stop our worst thoughts from being heard until we had more time to think about them? If you were to ask me to make a list of the Top Ten Things I Wish I Had Never Said, I’m sure I would have no problem compiling that list.
Social media, cellphones, computers and apps have been godsends during the pandemic, allowing us to keep in touch in ways our ancestors only imagined. Technology is neutral, only as good or bad as we make it. The old adages are still true: “Intelligent people think before they speak” (Proverbs 16:23, Good News Bible); “You are the master of what you say until you utter it; once you deliver it, you are its captive” (from Islam); “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” (from my mom).
May this be a year of attentive listening, that we might hear each other, and if we are so blessed, that we might hear the still, small voice of God. Amen.