PCUSA Book of Order F-3.0105: “… we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which people of good characters and principles may differ. And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.”
Sometime between the early and mid 1990’s, email became a widespread communication tool. Businesses, schools, churches, and individuals all quickly embraced this wonderful technology, and email became the major method for business and personal communication.
At the same time, email users quickly learned some lessons the hard way:
- Once an email is sent, it is VERY difficult to get it back if you change your mind about its content, tone, or destination.
- Email can be extremely embarrassing if it is forwarded to recipients that you never intended to read it.
- Unless the email is sent from your home computer, any email sent by a church, business or school is property of that entity. Just because you work there doesn’t mean you own the emails you send.
- A mistake in an email can have unintended consequences, especially with the invention of “auto-correct” additions to email software.
- What is written on an email can be used as grounds for legal action, personnel decisions, and even admission to colleges!
Before the advent of electronic communication – email – human beings communicated by letter, phone, or face-to-face. Each was an efficient form of communication that usually forced a rational participant to slow down and think about what was being said or what was being heard.
Email changed all the rules!
Electronic communication is so fast that often the sender does not take the time to review the message and think about what is being said. It is easier than ever to “hide behind the technology” and not really deal with the other person who is receiving it. New email users were often cautioned to “be careful and thoughtful” about the emails they sent; this warning was often ignored or quickly forgotten.
Hard lessons have been learned by scores of people who had negative email experiences. Hurt feelings have been caused which could have also been avoided – or at least softened – if the two people had met and talked face-to-face.
Personally, I have received hateful and hurtful emails from other Christians who thought email was the perfect form to use; I have often wondered if those conversations would have been the same if they had occurred face-to-face or in a phone conversation. Hiding behind the technology is a poor way for Christians to act!!
A good rule of thumb for email users – whether they are Christians or not – is to remember that old Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
And perhaps remember that our Book of Order reminds us to practice “mutual forbearance” toward one another; in other words, be kind.
Write and send emails as if Jesus is looking over your shoulder as you type.