Wednesday, December 22, 2004

E-Mail and the Fear of Man

I have a serious problem...

Yesterday I sat down to write an e-mail that should have taken me just a few moments to compose, and it took me nearly an hour to finish.

You may be thinking that it must have been a very long e-mail, which grew as I wrote, one idea piling on top of the next. I have written those e-mails before... This was not one.

It was NINE lines long.

My wife would say that the reason it took so long is because I have the attention span of a dying gnat, but unfortunately I know better. It took me an hour to write an otherwise 1 minute e-mail because I am so afraid of saying the wrong thing.
Some might attribute this to my over exposure to a politically correct world where offending someone is the highest anathema known to mankind. But anyone who knows me would tell you that there are times when I go out of my way to offend those who I know are easily offended by Politically Incorrect nonsense.

I use the word "chick"... But only if I know the lip of whoever is near me will curl when it leaves my lips.
-- my thinking on that has always been, "if you are offended by the word 'chick' - then you are one." That includes men, by the way.

Anyway, the point here is that when writing to certain people over e-mail, I am cryptically fearful of how my typed words are going to be received.
One explanation of this could be the many examples of times my e-mails or Instant messages have been taken the wrong way and the recipient has stopped talking to me for a given period of time. You know, the lack of supersegmentals (tone of voice, facial expressions) in e-mail makes true communication difficult at times... Sarcasm is very difficult to translate if you don't really know the person. But again, I am getting distracted...
The reason I know this is not the case is, I think, mostly because of who I am writing to when this happens. It is usually when writing to a clergy person... One of my mentors, or even some of my soon to be (Lord willing) colleagues.
I can sit there with something almost meaningless to type and it will take me forever because I am writing and rewriting until I can't even remember why I am sending the e-mail to begin with.

Bottom line is I have a serious Fear of Man issue...

Fear of man is when our fellow man becomes bigger in our hearts and minds than God. We begin to fear those who can kill the body (or reputation, or chances at good jobs, etc..) instead of the one who can kill the body and then throw both body and soul into hell.

I always knew I had this problem to a certain extent, but I don't ever think I realized the depths of it, and maybe it is not as bad as I think... But If my experience is any indicator, it's usually worse than I think it is.

Thing is, it doesn't seem to effect me in the important things, like sharing faith, or speaking the truth without compromise. But it finds its way to creep into the most seemingly meaningless minutiae of life, like silly e-mails. I know this is not the only place where I have seen this, but it is a place to start. A little leaven, leavens the whole lump.

There is something to be said for being thoughtful, being fearful of men is foolishness.

Book to read: When People are Big and God is Small -- Ed Welch

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