Has your mouth ever gotten you in a tangled-up mess?
Or have you ever been deeply wounded because of the words of others?
I’d have to say yes to both of these.
But thank goodness I’m not alone – my friend, Karen Ehman, just wrote a fantastic book that tackles the hard subjects of gossip, speaking the truth in love, and the power of our words from a biblical standpoint. She’s guest posting today to give us some tips on how to control our tongue (and fingertips) online and through social media. Take it away, Karen…
I still remember the day I got a Facebook page back in 2007. I am pretty much a foreigner in the land of all things techie, but my kids insisted one day that I just could not be a cool mom unless I had a Facebook page.
At first, Facebook was fun. But then one day as I walked past the den, I heard my daughter hollering at the computer screen. “What? Are you kidding me right now? That’s a lie!”
I popped my head into the room to inquire about what had upset my daughter so much. She invited me to look at her friend’s Facebook page. They were both members of a sports team, and a third girl, also a member, was on her friend’s page complaining about the team’s coach. The comments back and forth became sharper and more concerning. Pretty soon they were in an all-out Facebook fight. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It just strikes me as strange that friends can argue online or complete strangers can engage in a hearty debate right there on my blinking screen for all the world to see.
Although the Bible was written long before the computer age, I am convinced the truths of Scripture that address how we use our words in speech applies equally to how we use our words online and on social media. In fact, sometimes it’s the online words that give us the most trouble. Unsolicited opinion-slinging. Snark. Or even worse.
There is just something empowering about saying what you really think while hiding behind a computer screen.
Maybe we feel courageous because the person we’re addressing isn’t physically present. Or perhaps going along with the crowd makes it easy to speak harshly. Whatever it is, I have witnessed many people say things in cyberspace I doubt they would ever say in person. Sometimes the keyboard really does bring out the horrible in us.
So, if we want to honor God with what we say in cyberspace, what are the guidelines we should follow? Here are 5 things to consider before posting online:
1. Pray Before You Post
If we spend time ingesting God’s Truth each day before we switch on the computer, we might not write things that are unkind or hurtful. At the very least, we should whisper a prayer before we post, asking the Holy Spirit to tap on our hearts if we are tempted to post anything online that would not glorify Him.
2. Imagine the Recipient Sitting Next to You
The Internet is so impersonal. But if a flesh-and-blood person were sitting next to us with eyes we could look into, perhaps we would be more careful. Before you post, ask yourself if you would say things differently if the person to whom you’re writing were actually sitting next to you.
3. Remember: When You’re Online, You’re Also on Stage
Unless we send a private message, our online words are available for others to see. If I say something in person to a friend and am later convicted I was wrong, I can go back to my friend and apologize. However, if I post something on social media or comment on a blog and later want to retract it, I have no way to chase down all of the people who might have seen the original comment. Just this fact alone should cause us to really weigh our words before we type them out.
4. Ask Yourself If You’ve Earned the Right to Address the Subject at Hand
If friends on Facebook are hashing through a hot-button issue of the day, do you have any expertise in the area, or are you only slinging an underinformed opinion? We can’t always be an expert on every topic at hand, so when we aren’t, we might do well to refrain from commenting at all.
5. When You Speak, Let Your Speech Be Laced with Grace
Our words must glorify God and not just exalt our own opinions. Here is a great guideline from Scripture: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5–6).
Jot down these questions on a sticky note and post it near the computer as a reminder to ask:
• Is this comment wise?
• Will writing this comment help me display God’s love to outsiders?
• Is this comment full of grace?
• Have I asked God if this is the best response?
If you’ve ever said, typed, texted, or posted words that were permanently painful because you were temporarily ticked off, I understand. That’s why I wrote my new book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing At All. Click here to purchase your copy and get a 10-day devotional as a FREE gift!
Today I’m giving away 5 signed copies of Keep It Shut! To be entered to win, leave a comment below with one of the 5 rules that you’re going to implement this week as you post online.