Saturday, January 16, 2010

Guilt Trips and False Promises

It was an innocent-looking e-mail forwarded by a friend. I opened it and began reading. Hmmm, nice message about relating to God, I thought as I read it—UNTIL I read the last part. “Oh, boy! It’s one of THOSE e-mails!” I know my friend sent this message to encourage me. She had no intention of irritating me—and yet I was irritated by the closing comments of the message. I get many of these forwarded messages in my inbox. The senders intend them to uplift and enrich my life. They include beautiful thoughts about God—some even contain prayers—or supportive messages about our military. But, they all seem to have a similar closing part: a “guilt trip” if you dare not forward them on or a promise of wonderful things if you do forward them. Here are samples of such closing statements: 1. “If you need God to open some doors for you, send this to ten people including me, and if you don't need God to open some doors for you, just delete it.” (Can I manipulate God?) 2. “Send this message to ten people in the next ten minutes and something good to happen to you tomorrow by 11:00 AM.” (Another attempt to manipulate God?) 3. “Forward this to at least seven people and see what happens on your screen. You will laugh your head off! “(A ruse to waste my time as nothing actually happens if I do forward it to seven people.) 4. “In 7 seconds share this message with 7 people and you will receive a miracle tomorrow. I hope that you don't ignore. God bless.” (Is this magic?) You probably have such messages in your inbox right now. They sit there waiting for you to read them and pass them along to your friends. Perhaps you don’t even notice the closing comments, but most of them have one. Or maybe such statements don’t irritate you. Well, they annoy me! They use guilt and fear to try to get people to act in a certain way. They appeal to one’s sense of superstitions, which isn’t biblical. “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” 1Timothy 4:7 NIV Often I wonder if the only reason I got a message from the sender is that she needs another name to forward the message to so she can gain some promised result. It seems many people only send forwards; they rarely, if ever, send me a personal note—even two or three sentences. So I wonder if they really want to uplift me or are just trying to access the magic promised in the message. For some time now, those closing statements have vexed me and made me do some thinking. Many of these closing statements refer to God, as does my first sample above. Those are the ones that concern me most. I wonder if the people who compose these messages believe what they put into them. Do the people who pass these messages along really believe that their decision to forward or not to forward a message causes God to act or fail to act? If they believe this, they are certainly misguided. My Bible does not teach such thinking. Such ideas are only man-made superstition. God acts because he is a loving Father who has our best interests at heart. No mere mortal has the power to cause God to act. We can RESPOND to his kindness, but we cannot MAKE him act by passing along an e-mail. I realize some people forward these e-mails without giving any thought to the closing statements. They like the main message and think it would be uplifting or informative to people they know. Some people don’t want to take the time to edit them before sending them along to friends. Perhaps they don’t know how to edit them. Perhaps they feel they are too busy to bother with editing. Whatever the reason, I challenge you to THINK CAREFULLY before you click the “forward” button and pass along a message. Will those who receive the message think that you agree with that closing statement that seems to say we can manipulate God? Is that really the message you want to pass along? If the main message is a beautiful thought you want to share with your special friends, take time to edit out that closing “guilt trip” statement. If you don’t have two minutes to edit it before you forward it, just hold it until you do have a few minutes available to edit it. There’s really no urgency to compel you to forward it immediately—unless you buy into the superstition. If you don’t know how to edit out the unwanted parts, ask someone who is more computer-savvy than you to teach you how to edit a message before you forward it. (It’s actually quite simple once you know what to do.) When I forward e-mail messages, I want to be sure they accurately reflect what I believe is true. I don’t want to misrepresent myself to others. I suspect you feel the same way.


Ridgetatter said...

I agree wholeheartedly! I love getting notes from friends in e-mails. They don't have to be long; just a "hi" will suffice.

Magical thinking is an insult to the God and I don't care to perpetuate the insult.

Thank you, I bet there are a lot of folks out there that agree with you.

God Bless

Edna said...

I agree completely, I have stopped even reading most forwarded emails for that reason. I am sure that I am missing some nice thoughts in the email itself, but I do not like nor have the time read junk.

When I want something special or magical from God all I need to do is pray, that is the way we were taught here in Kenly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Carolyn for putting into words what has always bothered me. I lack your skill to put those thoughts into logical prose.

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