Taming the Twitter Tongue
Ever since I was little, God has been teaching me the same lesson over and over again. My growth has been slow and nearly imperceptible at times, but God has not flagged in his insistence that I learn to tame my tongue.
The process has been painful, to say the least. I have a mortifying memory of smart-mouthing a high school teacher and a number of cringe-worthy interactions with famous people. I have grossly miscommunicated myself through e-mail, offended friends and family with too much honesty, and generally embarrassed myself by over-sharing. Over time I recognized this pattern as a real problem, so I launched a spiritual offensive against it. Drawing on Scripture for help, my prayers were shaped by verses such as Proverbs 17:28: "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues."
Thankfully, God was faithful to answer my prayers and I have witnessed growth in this area of my life. Nevertheless, my tongue has remained an Achilles heel that I have continued to monitor closely. It is also the reason why, thus far, I have not joined Twitter.
Now I am not opposed to the tool itself, which has tremendous power to encourage believers and build up the church. The reason for my hesitancy has less to do with Twitter and more to do with human nature. The instantaneous broadcasting of spontaneous thoughts presents even the most diligent Christians with risk. Several months ago John Piper posted the tweet heard round the world, bidding farewell to Rob Bell and launching a flood of controversy. More recently, a minor Twitter kerfuffle developed between two prominent Christian authors that drew responses from their Twitter followers, including Her.meneutics. Our own re-tweeting drew subsequent criticism via tweets.
The combination of human brokenness with this particular form of social media lends itself to miscommunication. The ability to tweet at all times to hundreds of people is a dangerous power, one that Scripture actually warns about. In addition to the verse I already mentioned, Proverbs 10:19, 13:3, 18:6 and 21:23 all teach that the path of wisdom is to be found in the way of silence. The more we talk, the more likely we are to say the wrong thing.
In his work Of the Imitation of Christ, medieval monk Thomas À Kempis echoes these scriptural warnings:
"Some one has said: 'As often as I have been in company, I have returned a less man than I went.' We often find this when we allow ourselves to mix freely in society, and give our tongues the rein. It is much easier to be silent altogether, than to use moderation in speech … No one is safe in speech, who is not happy in silence."
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