October 8, 2011

what's in a tweet?

"words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." albus dumbledore

a few nights ago i received an excited call from one of my best guy friends. he told me the following story and gave me permission to share it with all of you.

my dear friend has an incredible singing voice. he is known for his perfect pitch and claims that the tone of his shower is an e flat. he is frequently asked to lead singing in chapel here at school, and he was leading singing when an unthinkable and completely modern situation presented itself.

with the invention of the twitter and the hashtag came the invention of the #chapeltweet. a #chapeltweet is meant for students to comment on the chapel presentation that they are experiencing. someone will make a comment on twitter and end the sentence with #chapeltweet, and twitter will keep a running inventory of the discussion at hand. some tend to be very positive and encouraging and comment on how uplifting the presentation or worship is, but sadly on this day that my friend was leading singing, a horrible tweet was shared with the world.

in a moment of thoughtlessness and poor judgment, another young man, who professes on both his facebook page and his twitter account to love GOD with all of his heart and for his life to be all about HIM, wrote a terrible tweet about my friend who was leading singing. he suggested that my friend's "secret sin" was becoming obvious and evident to everyone while he was leading singing by the way that he acted and conducted himself.

at this point during his story, i could not figure out why my friend was excited. by logging into twitter he had uncovered this apparent and awful judgment call yet didn't seem distraught or broken by it. and that's when he told me how he had decided to handle it.

instead of ignoring it or brushing it off. instead of taking it to a counselor. instead of sharing it with 100 of his friends and talking badly about the guy in return, my friend took the matthew 18 approach and found out the guy's name. he then looked up his room number on campus and marched right up to it and knocked on the door. and the guy answered.

i won't sugarcoat the story, my friend told the guy like it was. he confronted him in a spirit of love but told him how much the ignorant and thoughtless tweet had hurt him. he shared with him that it was comments like that that had made him decide to drop out of high school and get his GED. he shared his life story of abuse and foster care that made him the man that he is today. he told him that the term "secret sin" was inappropriate as his struggles were secrets to no one and that he shares his burdens freely. and then he talked with the guy about the guy's own struggles and suggested that we all need encouragement and words that lift us up.

by the time that my friend finished, the guy was weeping like a baby. he opened up about his own struggles and the image of perfection that he tries to create. he apologized for his thoughtlessness and ignorance and couldn't believe what he had done. he told my friend that he was the most encouraging person he had ever met, and they exchanged contact information. and a week later my friend received a text that said, "we had a time of quiet prayer in our bible class today, and i spent it praying for you."

this story brought me to tears and truly impacted my life as i thought of the countless words that i say all of the time without tasting them or giving them thought. just like my friend dumbledore said, words either have the power to inflict injury or remedy it, but we tend to inflict injury carelessly and needlessly without giving thought to the power that we have.

i thought about every word that i speak out of anger. out of selfishness. out of pride. out of thoughtlessness. out of ignorance. out of judgment. out of jealousy. out of sheer stupidity that has the power to injure and destroy, and i asked myself what life would be like if every word in turn was said only to remedy and heal.

to tweet or not to tweet? that is the question. what if every blog post. every facebook status. every little tweet. every conversation. every sentence. every word. every whisper. every secret was only meant to build up and encourage and truly reflected the "about me" section of our lives? how would people respond to compliments and encouragement? to acknowledgment and uplifting? to praise and edification?

it's stories like these that make me realize that we can only begin to change ourselves, each other, and the world when we realize and embrace the power of a tweet.

"if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. if he listens to you, you have gained your brother." matthew 18:15