Lately, AT&T has been encouraging people to wait.
The phone giant has released ad campaign called “It Can Wait,” which exhorts people to pledge that they will refrain from sending or checking text messages while they are on the road. The impulse for the campaign is both noble and necessary: texting while driving can impair reaction times six times as much as driving while legally intoxicated. Thousands of people are killed on U.S. roads every year because they or other drivers were texting. Naturally, the rationale for the campaign is quite simple: there is no need for me to respond to a text message as soon as I receive it. I can wait until I’ve arrived safely at my destination. Whatever I am being contacted about, in other words, it can wait.
Our failure to recognize that “it can wait” extends far beyond our insistence on immediate responses to text messages. There is a general lack of patience, a corporate failure to wait that has become part of our culture over the past several decades. In some ways, this is related to my previous comments about the fact that we need to remember the importance of Sabbath. But this failure to wait also has a significant impact on our relationships with other people and with ourselves. We tend to prize the quick response or witty retort in conversations, but we often forget to consider how what we say can impact the people around us. This seems particularly true in Internet comment sections. People are so concerned with responding to another comment with a pithy and sometimes acerbic retort that they forget there is another person behind the comment they just lampooned. Moreover, people are so concerned with not taking themselves too seriously that their first inclination is to make a joke of everything that happens to them or that they participate in, thus robbing these experiences of any further significance.
Imagine how different our interactions with other people and our understanding of ourselves can be if we simply wait before we respond. What if we waited before we provided a knee jerk reaction to a comment that makes our blood boil? What if we took a moment and tried to make sense of an experience before we turned it into a joke? What if our first response to other people was to wait and remember that they are created by God before we make fun of them for their beliefs? I suspect that even these brief pauses allow us to begin seeing the world through God’s eyes. Waiting allows us to recognize that we are all equal in the eyes of God. So the next time you come up with exactly the right way to verbally harpoon someone who disagrees with you, remember that it can wait.