Time to think

Andrew C. Schroer

My mom texted me the other day. For most people, this statement is neither shocking nor extraordinary. Millions of mothers text their children every day.

I, however, was shocked. Let’s just say my parents have never been at the vanguard of technology. In fact, I still remember when my father was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the world of e-mail 20 years ago.

“It allows people to respond too quickly,” he complained.

My father made a rule for himself. If he received an emotionally charged e-mail, he would write a response but not send it for 24 hours. Sometimes, after thinking about it, he would edit what he wrote. Other times, he wouldn’t even send the e-mail. His rule was not to respond for 24 hours.

“They can wait,” he told me as I rolled my eyes.

I recently read an article by Alan Jacobs, a professor at Wheaton College, about the demands of social media. In the article he referenced the old Jack Benny radio show. One of Jack Benny’s classic routines featured him being robbed by a mugger. Now, you need to understand that Jack Benny’s character was infamous for his stinginess. In the skit, the mugger pulls out a gun. “Your money or your life,” he demands. Jack Benny stands frozen in silence. “I said, ‘Your money or your life,’” the mugger growls impatiently. “I’m thinking it over,” Jack Benny whines, as the audience roars with laughter.

Jacobs equates the Internet to the mugger. But instead of demanding money, it demands our attention and reaction . . . and it wants them right now. “I’m thinking it over” is not an acceptable answer.

Our world wants, expects, and demands an instantaneous response. The responses are often unmeasured, emotional, or uninformed. I have counseled numerous couples whose problems and arguments have escalated through the heated exchange of text messages.

I recently participated in a Facebook thread in which people immediately disparaged a new church because, in the posted pictures, the sanctuary had no altar or cross. It was later discovered that the pictures were taken before the cross and altar were installed.

The problem is that once words are said, once a post is shared, once you hit send, the damage is done. A wise man once told me that words are like toothpaste. Once it’s out of the tube, you can’t put it back in.

So what’s the answer? Should we never text? Should we never tweet? Should we never post or respond on Facebook? I don’t think that’s the answer. Social media is a part of the world in which we live. It can be a wonderful tool to share and communicate.

In the end, however, my father was right. Wisdom says wait. James put it this way, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

If you are texting with someone and the conversation turns emotional or confrontational, type your response, but then wait five minutes, a half hour, or even an hour to hit send. Or better yet, wait until you can speak with the person face to face.

If you have something controversial or provocative you feel you need to share on Facebook or Twitter, make sure you have all the facts first. It won’t hurt to wait a day or two. After some time thinking about it, you may decide it’s not even worth sharing.

As we seek to speak the truth in love, wisdom says wait. It’s okay to say, “I’m thinking it over.” Measure your words. Get all the facts. Take your time.

They can wait.

Contributing editor Andrew Schroer is pastor at Redeemer, Edna, Texas.


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Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 103, Number 4
Issue: April 2016

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