In the past I've spoken about the concept of lifts. That in every interaction we have with another person it's as though we take them into our lift, and what we say and do will either take them up or down, will leave them either encouraged or discouraged. I believe that's as true in our online interactions as it is in our physical ones. Everything we text, tweet, Facebook or blog has the potential to take people up or down, to take them closer to God or further away, to make them feel more or less equipped to face the world.
On Sunday morning I spoke about this in terms of kindness. You'll have to listen to the podcast to get the full message (including the drama team doing their "real life" Facebook sketch), but the short version was that it is God's kindness which has made it possible for us to repent (Romans 2:4, Titus 3:3-7, Ephesians 2:1-10, Isaiah 54:8), and that God now intends us to show others the same kindness which we ourselves have received (1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 5:22-23, Colossians 3:12, 2 Peter 1:5-8). In fact true kindness isn't possible until we have been transformed and made new creations as a result of God's kindness coming into our lives.
So seek to be kind in all of your online interactions. Here are a some thoughts about how to do that:
- If you know someone is going through a tough time, send them a text to let them know you're thinking of them and praying for them (and make sure you actually do pray for them).
- Be open to the Holy Spirit prompting you to encourage someone with a text or an email.
- Write blogs and tweets which will take others up in their lift. If you have something negative to say to someone then have the courage to say it face to face.
- Don't use Twitter or Facebook to gossip about other people, to say what a terrible boss you have or to moan about how awful the people who work for you are!
- If someone is negative about you online then choose to forgive them, and don't retaliate online. As someone once said "unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die". Practice Matthew 18:15-20.
- If you wrongly offend someone online then sort it with them and apologise as quickly as possible.
- If you ever write an email or blog which you're not sure about, particularly if it's in response to something unpleasant someone has sent to you, then save it in your drafts folder and come back to it when you've calmed down. I can't tell you how many times this has stopped me getting into big trouble.
Someone did point out to me that the 13th November is, believe it or not, UK Kindness Day. Let's be people who don't just practice kindness one day a year, but make it a central part of our lives every day of the year, both online and in the "real" world.