Words On A Screen: The Pain And The Power Behind What You Say

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They were words on a screen. But they were so much more.

“You have to just do it. You have everything you need. There is no way you can fail. Tonight is the night. It’s now or never.”

Pretty inspirational, huh?

Couldn’t we all use a friend to tell us something like that every day when we’re tempted to skip a workout or call in sick for work?

Michelle Carter allegedly sent those inspiring words to her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. But there’s a problem with what Carter was trying to inspire her boyfriend to do. When she told him to, “Just do it,” she wasn’t trying to get him pumped up for a job interview. She was trying to convince him to kill himself.

So Conrad Roy loaded up the cab of his truck with a gas generator and drove to K-Mart. With the text messages from his girlfriend stuck in his head, he was planning on just doing it. He was going to actually go through with killing himself.

When he reached the K-Mart parking lot he started to have second thoughts. He climbed out of his truck. Fresh air started to fill his lungs. He used his phone to text his girlfriend. He was having second thoughts about killing himself.

Her response was only three words.

“Get back in.”

18-year-old Conrad Roy III died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Michelle Carter, who is also 18, is facing 20 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

Words matter. Even when they’re written instead of spoken.

We become different people behind a screen. We say things we would never say in person. Somehow, we forget that a real person is on the other end and that words, whether written or spoken, have a lot of power.

They carry with them the power to lift someone’s spirits.

But they also have the power to kill.

I just scrolled through the old text messages on my phone. Some are from friends who are talking about current events and the state of the world. Some are from church members with various questions, prayer requests and words of support. One is from a friend who is also a pastor. He sends me a text message every Sunday morning to remind me that he’s praying for me. I love those text messages. I wish that Conrad Roy had the same kind of people in his life that I have in mine. Maybe then he would have gotten to have a face to face conversation with someone who loves him instead of text messages from someone who killed him.

I don’t know what was going through Michelle Carter’s mind. Is she really evil enough to talk someone into committing suicide or was she just foolish, thinking that her words didn’t really matter? I don’t know. I’ve got my guess but I don’t know.

What I do know is that her words were powerful. And so are yours. Think about that the next time you write a mean comment on someone’s Facebook status. Consider the power of words before you leave your house, drop your kids off or finish texting. For the rest of her life, Michelle Carter will have to live with the fact that her last words to her boyfriend were spent trying to convince him to kill himself. What if your last words to a loved one, or anyone for that matter, were about how they’ve gotten fat or how they probably don’t deserve to have kids anyway? Could you live with that?

As they were texting each other, Michelle Carter told Conrad Roy that, “Everyone will be sad,” if he were to kill himself. She continued, saying that, “They will get over it and move on.”

I don’t believe that.

You don’t just get over the suicide of a son, brother, or friend.

And, no matter how hard your heart is, you don’t just get over being the one who talked him into it.

Sticks and stones hurt.

Words do too.

The difference is that injuries from sticks and stones heal much quicker than the injuries that come from words.

Words can stick with someone for life.

And they can even cut a life short.

So be careful what you say, even if it is just words on a screen.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:6-8 (ESV)

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