The Letter I Will Never Write

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:

“[W]e have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus 
 and of the love you have for all the saints.”
 Colossians 1:4

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.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
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:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing in your sight. O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
– Psalm 19:14
Is there someone you can send an encouraging letter to today?


12 thoughts on “The Letter I Will Never Write

  1. I so agree…I think reading things always come out differently than if the person said then to your face…because you read them in a different tone then they may have meant

  2. The thing about spoken words is that they can be forgotten over time, or re-interpreted as a Person's filter changes (hopefully maturing) and many avenues are available for future mending of conflicts and mis-spoken words. But, if you write them down, they are forever in front of the eyes of the offended, able to be read over and over (even 50 years in the future, with the possibility of drumming up that ancient conflict all over again). And negative life-stealing words have a corrosive effect the longer they sit on the heart. Don't ever do that to someone. If it's negative try not to say it at all, but a least make an oath to yourself that you will never let yourself put it in writing for another to read.

  3. Ells: It's my prayer too … that I speak words that uplift the soul. Blessings to you today.

    Beth: It's a message that is so near my heart. Thanks for your always encouraging words!

    Matthew: I couldn't agree with you more. Whatever we choose to focus on will give birth to the focus of our heart. Wise words, well spoken.

  4. The heart gives birth to our words. And, yes, those words can be such unruly children. In the beginning. But we must learn, too, that our eyes gave birth to our heart.

    Your post reminds me of how the focus of our eyes matter. We must steep them in truth. Our hearts will take on the flavor of our vision. And may they never taste of condemnation or accusation.

    Reading over Paul's words gives life to my spirit today. Thank you for pouring. They hold the taste of a good, nourishing word.

    God bless your big-hearted well. He will give you much to write. And share.

  5. Oh Denise…great post…I found myself saying yes Lord…amen…over these years the Lord has given me a prayer(it's on my journaling page)..part is speak words that make a soul stronger…healing words…
    great word for this internet world we all live in…

  6. AMEN! Criticism is too easily dished out. I work hard to not sound critical in my blog posts or point fingers at anyone. What good does it do? Thanks for addressing an important topic.

  7. I am so grateful you wrote this posting. I am always upset when I read comments people leave anonymously that are hurtful, angry or just plain ole mean. Brava to you!

  8. Well said.

    I am a writer…at least that is what I like to think. I <3 words.

    I am constantly writing love letters, texts and emails to family and friends. I truly enjoy encouraging, but…unfortunately, I have also written a letter or two when I was hurt/upset -with the intent to heal a relationship. Those letters did not work out the way I intended. I was probably to emotional and critical!!??

    …we learn as we go. That IS one lesson I have learned 🙂

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