Think before you send.
In a few minutes I will be pressing SEND – and that’s it, no going back. It’s a tragedy that Tiziana Cantone, from Naples, didn’t realise this when last spring she emailed an video showing her having sex. It seemed that she wanted to make an ex jealous. In no time it went viral. According to the BBC “more than a million people watched it, and she became the subject of jokes and abuse.” Humiliated and deeply ashamed she sought to hide herself, without success. So on Tuesday she killed herself. Once you press SEND you surrender control, totally. Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, is also realising this sad truth. A thoughtful and restrained man, he shared unguarded opinions of former colleagues in various emails. He’s been hacked. So we now know that he views Hillary Clinton as having “a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.” Any endorsement he makes of Mrs. Clinton will now have limited credibility. There is a clear warning here. Be prepared for any words you send into cyberspace to be shown on the video displays at Piccadilly Circus, for all the world to see, forever. For me one blog in particular comes to mind. Following a conference in November 2012 I wrote about being inspired by – of all things – a church administrator. I only gave his first name. In my blog I was altogether affirming about John who had freely offered his ministry – and here I quote – of “sorting things out” and “tidying things up.” Over there in Argentina Andrew Leake read my blog within minutes of my sending it. (“Good morning, Andrew – this will wake you up!”). He enjoyed reading it and so forwarded to his friend Felicity, in St Albans. She realized that the John I was writing about was, in fact, her friend John Truscott. And so she forwarded my blog to him. All within the hour of my pressing SEND. Later John emailed me. “Thank you for your more than generous words on your blog. . . Felicity was amused that a message like that went, in no time at all, from Ormskirk to South America and then back to her, when she sees me most weeks in person!” It just goes to show that when you press SEND your words take on a life their own. They live on forever: they can never be recalled or deleted. As Jesus himself says: “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:3) This insight is derived from the Hebrew scriptures. The writers of the Old Testament understood that once a word is spoken that word takes a life of its own. The spoken word becomes detached from the speaker and yet still expresses him or her. So when God speaks his word is always creative. After all he spoke creation into being. So Isaiah declares 55: As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10f) From this insight comes the understanding of Jesus as the Word of God. So John begins his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is both one with God and yet distinct, separate from him. And it is this Jesus who warns us that not only do our words have a life of their own but we have a direct responsibility before God no less for what we say. “I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36f) For as we all know once you speak a word it cannot be unspoken. So it’s as well to follow the apostle Paul’s advice: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6). For once we open our mouth it’s even more significant than pressing SEND.