They Can Wait


(This article was also recently published in the April 2016 edition of the Forward in Christ magazine.)

My mom texted me the other day. For most people in our world today, such a 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 twenty years ago.

“It allows people to respond too quickly,” was his complaint.

My father made a rule for himself. If he received an emotionally charged e-mail, he would write a response, but then 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, however, was to not 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 our 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.

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

Our world wants, expects and demands an instantaneous response. If someone texts you and you take too long to respond, you get an immediate “Are you still there?” Facebook posts, Instagram pics and Twitter tweets expect and receive instant commentary.

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 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. Jesus’ half-brother, 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 an hour or even an hour to hit send. Or even 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.


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