Saturday, 5 September 2009


I have so many good friends....people who are good to me and people who are good for me. As it says in the Book of Ecclesiasticus ch 6, "A good friend is the elixir of life" and "A kindly turn of speech attracts new friends, and a courteous tongue invites many a friendly response." Such people bring joy, love, kindness and merriment into my life, as well as inspiration and consolation. Good friends in the deeply religious sense are exceptionally godly people.

But I find many of them bewilder me. I don't take offence because I know they mean no harm. Let me explain.
Several times a week I receive an email from one or other of such friends...something that quite literally is going the rounds...circling the globe many times over. Often it is something of exquisite beauty -a picture, a poem, a real-life story...something that moves me to compassion and prayer, something that inspires and edifies me, or gives me some much needed advice. I am deeply grateful to them for taking the trouble to send me this spiritual nourishment. Frequently I forward these messages to people I think might appreciate them.

However, it so happens that there's a point when I begin to choke with resentment. I feel like a fish that gleefully snaps up a tasty morsel, only to find that a concealed hook has become embedded in its throat. This is when these delicious messages from delightful friends are rounded off with a promise and a threat...menacing messages. This punch line catches me in my gullet. It goes like this:
"If you forward this message to a minimum given number of people within a certain time -it could be within ten minutes or perhaps by tomorrow -you'll be handsomely rewarded!" But then the flip-side to the promise..the menace. "If you don't meet these requirements you're in for a lot of trouble."

I ask myself, "What kind of person addresses a friend like that...with promises and threats?" Don't they trust me to use my judgement as to whether the message is worth sending to someone else? Have they themselves been threatened into sending these messages to me, so that if there had been no menace, generating fear, they wouldn't have bothered?

I am prepared to allow that they simply had not thought out the implications of what they were doing in sending me this material, wrapped in a package of promise and threat. I even credit them with believing they were doing me a favour and never intended to give offence.

My conclusion is that the whole process of mass distribution of the Good News through emails is being depersonalised, stripped of the basic courtesy that might incline people to welcome what is being sent and even pass it on.

As for me, if I think the message is worth forwarding I shall delete the promise and threat. No way will I use promises or threats, carrots or sticks to pressurise anyone to be an email evangeliser! Let me know what you think of myway of spreading the Good News.

Do you think it's godsway of getting it done?

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will reflect on Mr. Cellophane.

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