Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Well Intentioned Email


What a convenient, informative, misrepresentative tool that begins and ends conversations, and friendships, with a period in the form of a question mark. The receiver sits and wonders, what did that mean? She sounds angry. I wonder if I did something wrong. I don’t think I like her literary tone. If one has hit the send button, then one understands the well intended email.

This is a cautionary tale. Email is a blessing and a curse. Texting…I can’t even begin to talk about that. If you are in a rush, then your email separates itself from common niceties to fit within commercial breaks. If you have a weekend to spare, your friends scroll down in hopes that your monologue has an end. Either way, it is missing the most important element of communication, a face.

Isn’t it interesting that body language is said to be between 80% - 95% of your communication skill. So, when we climb in our inbox, we are only running at 5%-20% of our total ability. Anything running at 5% is basically flat lined.

Still we persist. It is a way to drop quick notes, and intertwine lives. What did our grandparents do? How exhausting to make social dates or have people drop by for dinner when they could have just followed Facebook status.

In reading the Johns, 1, 2, and 3, I have noticed all sorts of useful information. See yesterday’s, Three Steps to Conflict Resolution. John gives indication that he is savvy to the well intentioned email problem, and there was no email. If you think about it, snail mail (and this would be really snail-like) was the email of the day.

2 John 12, NRSV, tells me that communication involves choice,

“Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

3 John 13 & 14 reiterates this idea,

“I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; 14 instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.”

Sometimes there is a lot to say and, sometimes, it is important, as the content of the Johns demonstrates. Like John, we have to know when to wait and save it.

I have poured real emotion into an email before and it just did not translate on the other end. Sound familiar? I have been accused of arrogance when that was the last thing on my mind. I have sent out a note while rolling my eyes, which means it was destined to communicate my inability to control my emotional state. Unfortunately, I have, at times, come across as one who should not be trusted with the privilege of email’s immediate gratification.

In these two verses, I see that John demonstrates his concern for the recipient of these letters. The goal is complete joy within relationship, amongst believers. This reflects so much more than just communication. It demonstrates character, expressing the genuine nature of his intentions. Sometimes, we just need to wait.

Here is the challenge that I see from this. Whenever you are poised over the “send” key, think of John and ask yourself, if I hit send will our joy be complete?

Do you think this is a reasonable course of action?

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