“And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude (countenance, KJV) was not what it had been” (Gen. 31:2). Jacob could tell by the look on Laban’s face that he was not happy with him. The expression on our face may say more than we realize. God made us social creatures who communicate not only through words but also through subtle and unintentional outward displays. Our facial expressions, gestures, postures, and other forms of body language say something.
Our tone of voice conveys a message along with our words. “A poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly” (Prov. 18:23). A poor man asks because he is in no position to demand; a rich man is harsh with people because they are a bother to him. The older men advised Rehoboam to speak kindly to the people (1 Kings 12). The king ignored their counsel and followed the advice of the young men. He spoke harshly to the people and the nation divided. How you say a thing does matter.
Our modern devices are wonderful in some ways, but they fall short in overall human communication. You can’t hear a friend’s tone in a text message. You don’t see a loved one’s face in an e-mail. It can be easy to misunderstand or misjudge especially when the messages are short. These avenues of communication can become an excuse for not sitting down with a person to look each other in the eye and work out a problem. It’s easier to fire off a text than it is to face someone in person.
Yes, there are times when it’s wise to write before you meet with someone to work out a problem. Paul did this with the Corinthians. He had planned to return to Corinth but he decided to postpone that trip. Why? “This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh” (2 Cor. 13:10). He didn’t hide behind this letter, however. He was more than ready to face them in person.
What has happened to just plain talking with each other? There is nothing wrong with using computers to communicate, but overusing them is not good. Young people today know how to read the face of a smart phone, but they can’t read the face of people. They know how to send texts, pictures, and videos, but they don’t know how to share their feelings personally. This trend will bring more negative results. These young people are not being taught how to detect the body language of a liar. They are not learning to regard the rights and feelings of others because they are so busy looking down at their device that they rarely notice the people around them. They will have trouble communicating in a close, meaningful way in marriage. God made us as we are and we must not forget our need for that special human element in our relations to each other. Kerry Duke, West End church of Christ, Livingston, TN