Sherri Turkle’s TED talk about the disconnect through technology (“Connected but Alone”), really picked at some social norms that are poisoning us. Right after that, a friend came over to have a “face to face” conversation because “My emails tend to make things worse,” she confessed. She just wanted to “see how her words landed.”
It was no big deal, no major issue to resolve. Well — except that it was heart thing. She had noticed her heart and my heart bouncing off each other and she wanted to clarify and comfort me. Hmm, maybe it was a big deal.
Then Salem wrote a paper on the risk of relationships through technology; she challenged that we are tempted to pretend to be human while never actually experiencing true human connection. Somewhere in here God gave me the phrase, “careless words.” It triggered a scripture that has always scared me. “You will be held accountable for every careless word you utter.” Can you see that the Lord is talking a lot about this? In our on-going conversation the Lord is teaching, “What does it mean to use our words with wisdom?”
The icing on the cake was when I saw a message in writing that would never have been delivered in person. Whether text, Facebook, or tweet, if the person delivering that message had to stand there and watch the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of those words, I don’t think that person would have had the guts to say it. Bravado from a distance is a deception.
So I wonder — are we creating a Culture of Cowardice?
Our so-called freedom of expression has, perhaps, unleashed a Jekyll and Hyde personality where we say unfiltered in text, Facebook and tweets, what we would never have the gall to speak face to face. What makes us human is our gift of emotions, our ability to respond, to experience. And yet we shield ourselves from this experience by throwing verbal bombs via technology.
I love the exchange of ideas. I am, in fact, right now, communicating via technology. But as it comes to one on one relationships, human to human, heart to heart, are we taking thought of how our words hurt or heal? Does our smart phone make us emotionally stupid ? or reckless? Or worse, braver than we actually are?
Believe me, human interactions are dangerous. I accidentally hurt a friend recently. I watched her face cloud over, her body tense up and I heard her bitter, angry response. I was so shell-shocked all I could I could say was, “That was not my heart.” But the beauty of that moment was the humanity of it. It was real, ugly, and even scary. We may think it is better to hide behind our devices to avoid some of the relational fallout. But here is the God factor.
Seeing her, experiencing her caused me to look at me, to look to God. If all that happened via text, I probably wouldn’t have blinked an emotional eye. Instead, I have examined myself, gone before the Lord and I have prayed for my friend. Her hurt was a wake up call. I am desperately reminded of how frail we are despite our tough personas. I am immediately grateful that the Holy Spirit is here to comfort and to heal us both. Again and again, I am reminded how much we need to hear that we are Well Loved children of God.
Perhaps, this is our starting point in all communications, even the hard ones. Am I speaking like a Well Loved Child of God? Is the other person being treated like a Well Loved Child?
How can we possibly do this? Only by the true and present Grace of God. He is teaching us to love. “Words are powerful; take them seriously.”
34-37 “ It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Matthew 12 The Message