Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: Before You Hit Send

Introduction

I was first introduced to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' work about a decade ago when my wife and I were at the local Christian bookstore, and one of his books about communication in marriage was on sale. I picked it up and found that it was on target with what Scripture taught about male and female communication and what my wife and I had experienced in our own marriage. After reading his flagship book "Love and Respect: The Love She Desires Most; The Respect He Desperately Needs" and listening to the podcast he produced for a couple years, I (along with many others) realized that the communication principles he drew from Scripture rang true in all relationships, not just marriage.

When I found out that he wrote a book on general communication in all relationships and focused on communication in the age of social media, I was ecstatic! As a defender of the Christian worldview, I am constantly engaging skeptics and presenting the evidence for the truth of what I believe. The common passage of scripture that is quoted to support this aspect of evangelism is 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, and do so with gentleness and respect." This passage emphasizes not merely the content of our defense but also the delivery of the content: "with gentleness and respect." Learning to be wise communicators is necessary for anyone who wishes to obey Peter's command in full. That is why I chose to review "Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache" on Faithful Thinkers. As with my other reviews, this one will be a chapter-by-chapter summary. Eggerichs describes eighty (yes, 80) unique pitfalls in communication, and while I will not attempt to describe each one, I have added bold type to emphasize their particular applicability to those defending the faith. Before I get to the review, here is a short interview with Dr. Eggerichs about the content of the book:



Chapter 1: Is It True?

Eggerichs begins his discussion by focusing on true communication. Unless our communication is true, it does not matter if it is kind or clear, and it certainly is not necessary. This chapter is the foundation of the rest of the book, and it must be read and reflected upon carefully. There exist numerous ways in which and for which false communication can take place. Everything from the innocent mistake to the nefarious deception, though, all have the same consequence: the guilty party is seen as untrustworthy. This has many implications not only in our personal lives and in society but also in our spiritual lives. God does not lie, and we, as Christians, are called to imitate Christ, so even the "innocent" falsehood is problematic. Eggerichs lists and describes twenty different ways in which our communication can be untrue. Excuses and reasons, subtleties and blatancies, and even culturally "gray" areas are all discussed. He calls them "rational lies" and breaks them down like this:
  • The Fearful
  • The Selfish
  • The Evasive
  • The Prideful
  • The Expedient
  • The Emotional
  • The Inattentive
  • The Flatterer
  • The Self-Deluded
  • The Chameleon
  • The Entrapped
  • The Protector
  • The Chronic
  • The Copycat
  • The Perpetuator
  • The Ashamed
  • The Oath-Maker
  • The Brainy
  • The Wordsmith
  • The Self-Amuser
As he discusses each in detail, Eggerichs emphasizes the importance of making the personal decision to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. With the wide range of possible ways that exist and rationalizations that people give to bend the truth or flat-out lie, there will be at least one of the twenty that will apply to every reader and to others whom the reader may have in mind. Not only does Eggerichs lovingly and respectfully address the reader's possible struggles with telling the truth, but he also advises how the reader may address others who struggle as well.

Quote from "Before You Hit Send" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs- "" #Truth #Communication #SocialMedia


As I mentioned in the introduction, I placed several of the "rational lies" in the above list in bold type. These are ones that I have seen (or am personally guilty of) that are great temptations or exhibited more often than should be considered "honest mistakes" (even in myself) in those who are involved in defending the truth of Christianity (the main purpose of this blog). For any Christian who discusses the reasons Christianity is true, we should take extra care in self-reflecting as we read through these specific sections. These are important, not only right before we "hit send" but also long before, in our studies and reflections on the content of our defense. Even if our intention is as noble as "defending the truth," we can still fall victim to one or more of the many ways to communicate falsehood. We must be committed and constantly make the conscious choice to check our communication for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before we hit send so that skeptics cannot use our untrustworthiness as an excuse to reject the Creator and Savior.

Chapter 2: Is It Kind?

Many people believe that speaking the truth is all that is required of them in their communication. Unfortunately, many communications of the truth are done in ways that are unkind and hateful. This kind of presentation takes the focus off the content of the communication and places it on the attitude of the communicator, and it makes the truth being spoken undesirable, at best. Eggerichs presents the biblical case for "speak[ing] the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) using numerous passages from both the Old and New Testaments. As with struggles to speak the truth, there are also many struggles to speak kindly. Many people try to justify their unkind speech, and others are simply unaware of their harshness. Eggerichs has twenty categories here that warrant close self-examination:
  • The Bully
  • The Retaliator
  • The Blunt
  • The Unempathetic
  • The Impatient
  • The Vangquisher
  • The Resenter
  • The Conditional
  • The Defeated
  • The Envious
  • The Intolerant
  • The Unmindful 
  • The Unintentional
  • The Rebel
  • The Du Jour
  • The Anti-Social
  • The Deaf
  • The Offspringer
  • The Abuser
  • The Self-Hater
Eggerichs explains the behavioral characteristics of each of these type of people and why those characteristics in their communication are unkind. He gently addresses rationalizations for the behaviors and how to avoid them. As with the previous chapter, Eggerichs also provides advice to the person who is either on the accepting end of such a communication or has witnessed the unkind behavior. 

Quote from "Before You Hit Send" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs- "Kindness eases others, which enables them to hear the substance of our concern. Kindness demonstrates and builds trust. Kindness affects the emotions, which is key when seeking to inform or persuade. Kindness maintains a relationship, and relationship determines response. My communication kindly demonstrates who God is." #Truth #Communication #SocialMedia


As with the previous list, I have placed some in bold type that I see, experience, and perpetrate in the defense of the Christian worldview to skeptics and in theological discussions with fellow Christians. Even though we are communicating the truth, in general or in the details, if we do not present the truth "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15), our arguments are not likely to be accepted or even considered. As the Body of Christ, we serve as His representatives on earth; and if we communicate unkindly, the world will see that unkindness as a reflection of Christ. If we inaccurately reflect Christ, it is actually an unwittingly false communication. Communicating kindly is as important as communicating the truth because it serves as a witness of who God is. 

Chapter 3: Is It Necessary?

Now, just because something we want to say is true and the way we wish to say it is kind does not mean that we should say it. Some things, though true and kind, are simply not necessary. Eggerichs builds his biblical case for ensuring that our communication is necessary on, among many others, Matthew 12:26-27:
"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Many different reasons exist for how people rationalize their communication of unnecessary information. Many of them are innocent enough in intention but can have undesired ramifications, and others are more sinister and have appropriate consequences in relationships. The people who communicate unnecessarily tend to be described as:

  • The TMI Person
  • The Volcano
  • The Coarse
  • The Untimely
  • The Gossip
  • The Prying
  • The Loose Cannon
  • The Non-Listener
  • The Rehasher
  • The Pity-Partier
  • The Spy
  • The Mother
  • The Chatterbox
  • The Exaggerator
  • The Interrupter
  • The Grumbler
  • The Distractor
  • The Limelighter
  • The Pile-on-er
  • The Unprayerful
Eggerichs describes how each person rationalizes their unnecessary communication in unique ways and how those rationalizations fail. He explains how others tend to react to these different unnecessary communications which makes the case for why the reader should make the effort to avoid them before hitting send. 

Quote from "Before You Hit Send" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs- "You should talk to God about others before you talk to others about God. Ask Him for discernment about whether what you want to say is necessary." #Truth #Communication #SocialMedia


Once again, I have placed several in bold type that I have mastered (not in the good way) and have witnessed as people defend the truth of Christianity and engage in theological discussions. Unfortunately, even though we present the truth kindly, we may present it in an unnecessary context or in an unnecessary way, which makes our message less "seasoned with salt," and our intended audience may not even be receptive in the particular context we choose to communicate. This has the effect of making our message seem out of place, overwhelming, or undesirable altogether. Eggerichs emphasizes that we all need to be prayerful about the right timing and level of our communication to ensure that a rejection of the message is not due to our unwise choice of communicating unnecessarily. 

Chapter 4: Is It Clear?

Of course, our communication can be truthful, kind, and necessary yet be unclear. This fourth component is vital. If we are not making sense with our words, our point will not be understood, and it will be discarded; and if this happens often, a person's willingness to listen to us will be diminished greatly. 1 Corinthians 14:9 is the first verse that Eggerichs offers in his biblical case for the necessity clear communication:
"So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air."
Being unclear in our communication is often unintentional, but if it goes unaddressed it will render our words useless to our audience. As with the other three necessary components of communication being unclear comes in many different forms. Eggerichs describes them as follows:
  • The Unaware
  • The Mystical
  • The Spiderwebber
  • The Misconstrued
  • The Incomplete
  • The Willfully Ignorant
  • The Disorganized
  • The Snob
  • The Jokester
  • The Unedited
  • The Hasty
  • The Fence Sitter
  • The Provoked
  • The Indecisive
  • The Relativist
  • The Humble
  • The Overly Sensitive
  • The Intoner
  • The Weary
  • The Panicking
  • The Hypocrite
Clear communication is necessary to every part of our lives, and in the age of online communication where character space is limited and many people feel the pressure to respond quickly, unclear communication has become a habit of our culture. While there are many contributors to unclear communication, the common solution is to put ourselves in the place of the person on the other end and ask if we would understand the statement properly in their context.

Quote from "Before You Hit Send" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs- "When our hearts aren't in it, we do not ponder or self-instruct. We lack a heart of diligence to be organized, specific, precise, articulate, and coherent. On the other hand, when it is in our hearts to communicate what is true, kind, and necessary, it will be in our hearts to communicate these clearly." #Truth #Communication #SocialMedia


Again, I have highlighted the types of unclear communication that I see (and do, myself) in the context of defending the truth of the Christian worldview on the internet. As we articulate the case for Christianity, we know that clear communication is necessary and many of us are very careful to ensure that that is done. We value honest feedback on our attempts to formulate and communicate our arguments. In his descriptions and advice regarding causes of and manifestations of unclear communication, Eggerichs offers feedback that every Christian case-maker needs to hear. 

Epilogue- After We Hit Send

Careful communication is the responsibility of every person who wishes to communicate in any context. It is not possible to be perfect in our communication at all time; every reader has their faults and even after recognition, mistakes will be made. In this final chapter Eggerichs offers advice on how to move forward if (when) we find ourselves guilty of untruthful, unkind, unnecessary, and unclear communication: First, we must admit our fault and seek forgiveness of the person our communication has hurt; in addition to that, we also need to make the conscious choice to not do the same thing again. Second, we must always be in prayer as we communicate so that we will communicate wisely to others so that they will understand and be receptive to the truth that is necessary for them to hear.

Quote from "Before You Hit Send" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs- "When we don't stop to think before we speak, we increase the odds that we will misrepresent our best selves, which could result in people misinterpreting us. We leave them wondering if we have goodwill or good sense, or neither." #Truth #Communication #SocialMedia

Reviewer's Thoughts

"Before You Hit Send" is an incredible read. Because of the fact that I have dedicated my life to defending the truth of the Christian worldview, which has eternal consequences for my audience, along with being in constant prayer, I am always looking for ways to ensure that I am communicating my case as persuasively as possible. As we defend the truth of Christianity, we may be removing intellectual stumbling blocks, but we may be introducing emotional ones. Kind, necessary, and clear communication are equally as necessary as true communication. In so thoroughly covering the possible pitfalls in all four aspects of our communication, Dr. Eggerichs has provided an indispensable resource.

The principles discussed, of course, apply to all of our communicative relationships on all topics, whether at home, at work, at church, at the coffee shop, or on social media. We must remember that every time that we communicate with another person, as Christians, we are giving them an impression of Christ, so we must guard that impression to ensure that we accurately reflect Him. Whether we are actively looking for the opportunity to evangelize and defend or not, at some point, we will be called upon to give a reason for the hope that we have to those we have communicated with, and we do not want our past failures to taint the answer that we provide. I highly recommend "Before You Hit Send." Every Christian needs to read this book thoughtfully and prayerfully.


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