The Messages You Send

Texts are great! They are faster than snail mail, email and phone calls, and a great way to pass on information and get answers to questions. But if you want to communicate like a king, you should read the book of Proverbs, a Training for Reigning guide for future kings.

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King Solomon did not send texts, Facebook messages, or Tweets and he knew nothing of Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, or even email (as far as we know). However, he clearly understood some basic principles that the social media generation should learn. These principles are true whether you are talking in person, on the phone, in a chat, or using any form of social media. Good communication is not natural - especially digital communication. Therefore, you should pass all your written messages through…

The Exam of Emotion

"I think Frank is wrong. So, I fired him a text right back and told him so!" - Bubba from Bismark

Good to be open and honest, Bubba, but how will Frank interpret your text? Perhaps, that is why there was no texting or email in Eden. God’s ideal is for people to speak face to face. Electronic communication can cause emotional damage that would never happen if we were speaking in person.

There are two problems. The first is the quickness with which we can respond. Waiting to see someone or writing a traditional letter takes time, which allows emotions to settle and mellow. It is amazing how communication is different when the person is present. Today we don’t even have to type a full email. You can send bits and pieces to someone in a chat room or by text messages. Although this is an advantage when you need a quick answer to a problem, it also can add to the damage done through digitally conveyed emotion. And once you hit "enter," there is no bringing back the missile you sent.

The King included this advice in his book, "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20). Quickness of response can impede our ability to be sensitive to the "tone" of a text message.

Secondly, we underestimate our ability to express emotion with a keyboard and to express it without looking the person in the eyes. Ask yourself, would you say the same thing in the same way if the person were staring you in the face? Therefore, when you are upset, worked up, or even justly angry, work to learn the discipline of passing your communications through The Exam of Emotion.

Remember, the wise man said, "A soft answer turns away wrath: but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

The Test of Truth

"I have never really talked to anybody who knows her, but, she seems like a committed believer." - Chuck from Chattanooga

One of the great challenges in written communication is to present ourselves accurately. Of course, believers would not intentionally want to convey that they are something that they are not. But sometimes we word a sentence, ask a question, and convey a tone that really does not represent us. There are no facial expressions (Emojis don’t count!), no body posture, and no gestures in a text or email. In both traditional and digital written communication, people can sound young when they are old, sound spiritual when they are unconverted, and sound mature when they are far from it. So, when you are texting, messaging or chatting with Christian friends, you must constantly pass your communications through The Test of Truth. How are you presenting yourself? The king gave his son this goal, "For my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips" (Proverbs 8:7).

The Filter of Friendship

"He writes to me every night. I love his sense of humor. I feel like I can tell Thomas everything." - Tanya from Toledo

There are more teens hurt by messaging and texting relationships than we probably realize. The truth is Thomas may be writing to several girls that he thinks are "just friends." Of course, he isn’t going to tell Tanya that he is writing others, because it will hinder the fun of sharing problems, ideas, complaints, and other feelings. When suddenly, Tanya hears that Thomas is "going out" with Tiffany, Tanya is devastated.

It would have been far better if Thomas and Tanya both had passed their communications through "The Filter of Friendship." Christian men must treat women as if they were their sisters, protecting their purity and their emotions (1 Timothy 5:2). A true friend respects the limits of proper communication. That includes the quantity and type of communication. Here are some simple questions to help evaluate your communications with a person of the opposite sex:

Is the person reading more into your texts or messages than you are intending? 

Perhaps the best way to evaluate it is, if suddenly one of you started dating someone else would the communication have to stop? Would one of you feel hurt, disappointed, or betrayed? The Filter of Friendship should lead you to control the level of communications in your texts and messages.

Would you be happy to be seen talking in person with this person as much as you are texting? 

If the answer is, "No way, people would think we are dating!" then you are communicating as a boyfriend and girlfriend without the commitment and exclusivity of dating. This is dangerous and hurtful.

The beauty of texting, messaging and even email is that you can get to know someone to a certain point without being "seen" as a couple in public. The danger is that you could hurt someone or be hurt by someone because of the private nature of emailing, chatting, and messaging. Far better to limit communications with the opposite sex to avoid the uploading and downloading of emotions until you are ready to begin communicating with that person solely and exclusively.

Bubba, Chuck, and Tanya are fictitious, but the points they made are real for you and all teenagers who are one of the first generations to text, message, chat, and email. Internet and social media communication is relatively new, but the good principles of God’s Word still apply. Make it your goal to be like Solomon who "sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth" (Ecclesiastes 12:10). 

So, from now on, when you fire up your phone or computer and put your hands on your keyboard, may God help you to make intentionally wise choices in the messages you send.