I have studied writing in graduate school, and I teach writing in college.
I write daily. But there is one letter I will never write.
I will never write a letter or an e-mail that is meant to criticize another person or tell someone how badly I think he or she is doing something.
Words of criticism – even if meant to be “constructive” – should never be delivered in writing.
The truth is, it’s easy for senders of critical e-mails to hide behind their computers. But face-to-face conversations take maturity.
When readers cannot see facial expressions or hear vocal tones, they must decipher the writer’s true intent. Thus, misunderstandings easily arise, hurt feelings naturally ensue, and relationships inevitably divide.
Jesus offers the only real solution for handling conflict. In Matthew 18, He instructs us to go to the person we have an issue with and prayerfully discuss our concerns face to face. And if that doesn’t work, Jesus gives further instructions – none of which involve writing, only face-to-face conversations.
Over at (in)courage, Lysa TerKeurst shares about a disparaging e-mail she recently received. This kind of thing deeply saddens me. And it renews my resolve to never write this kind of letter.
It occurs to me, though, that most of the New Testament books are actually letters. And some of these letters did, in fact, offer words of correction. But notice how Paul addresses the recipients of his letters.
To the people in Colossae, he says:
and of the love you have for all the saints.”
Paul speaks of their love? And their faith? These are the same people who are worshiping angels and spreading falsehoods about Christ’s deity and humanity!
However, Paul never shies away from the truth. He goes on to share with the Colossian people one of the most powerful passages ever recorded in Scripture about Christ as our all-sufficient Savior.
What a lesson to us all.
Paul speaks the truth, but he only speaks the truth in love, with the intent to restore, not tear down. Paul’s love for people trumps everything as he models his own words in First Corinthians 13:13.
But the greatest of these is love.”
Paul teaches faith, shares hope, and shows love.
With every word I speak or write, I want to follow the words of Christ (in Matthew 18) and emulate the example of Paul (in Colossians 1). I want to offer words that encourage and heal.
My prayer forever remains:
be pleasing in your sight. O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”