One of the most essential features on our computers and phones is the Delete button. It used to be that when we received a letter or request, it would arrive by mail. Then, if we wished to respond, we might take a little time before doing so. Now, with email travelling through cyberspace in a flash, messages arrive seemingly with the expectation that there will be an immediate reply.
This can leads to regrettable consequences.
We all have made this mistake. Whether out of anger, frustration of impatience, we write things that, in retrospect, we realize we should have kept to ourselves. But it’s too late. We have already pushed the “Send” button and the message is on its way. And who can tell where it will travel next?
One of our greatest challenges in virtually all kinds of relationships is what we express to people and later regret. This is true in daily interactions; it is even more critical in this age of electronic communication.
An ancient Sufi sage set forth essential guidelines for communication that are especially applicable to our times. It is known as the three gates of the tongue. It advises if there is anything we want to communicate, test these three gates of speech; and only if it passes through all of these gates, then should we press “Send.” But if it fails even one of these gates, push “Delete”.
The first of these gates advises us to ask ourselves concerning what we are about to communicate “Is it true”? The second gate advises ask: “Is it necessary”? The third gate asks us to consider: “Is it kind”?
Even if it is true and necessary but not kind, then press “Delete.”
If we would only cross-check everything we intend to send through these three gates before we press “Send,” we will quickly realize that there are so many thoughts that we would much be better keeping to ourselves. So, go ahead and write that poison pen letter. Seethe to your heart’s content as you type every stinging thought. Get it out of your system. And then press “Delete.”
Now, for a few thoughts about when we should not delete: All of us keep useful addresses and phone numbers on our telephones. Now, we don’t have to remember anyone’s phone number. Not a bad thing considering that I sometimes have difficulty remembering my own number! But I have discovered that this feature has led to an existential problem that most of you immediately will recognize: what are we to do with the phone numbers and addresses of those who have died?
My dear friend Terry passed away a few weeks ago. Although not unexpected, Terry’s death has been devastating. His wisdom, humor and never-failing friendship blessed me in ways that mere words could never express. Terry has died but he is still there in my phone directory. This is not the first time this has happened. I am sure it happens to each of us….with increasing frequency. So, to delete or not to delete? Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to press the Delete button. So, I am going with “don’t delete” because, as with all of those dear ones and friends who have deeply touched our lives, Terry is literally indelible.
Though gone, certain rare individuals remain always as a living presence in each of our lives. So Terry, there you will always be on my speed dial list but with one addition, the date of your yahrzeit always will be in my calendar, passed away but never to be forgotten.