Help -- I sent out a snarky email and thought I was only sending it to a friend. Unfortunately it went to everyone on the list and the bishop. It was not to flattering to the bishop - although true.
Lost in cyberspace
Matriarch Jacque replies:
Whew! All I can say is that this is a reminder of how VERY careful we have to be with the use of e-mail in ministry. The issue extends to confidentiality concerns regarding parishioners, etc. There are many things that I simply do not put into print in emails.
Jan agrees and sends some ways to regroup and points out that there are healthier ways to communicate difficulties:
All you can do is say:
1) "It's been a rough week. You lost your mind and you are sorry."
2) "Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."
3) "This was a good lesson in sharing the truth in love in a healthy way, like directly to those with whom we are frustrated. And, I'm so sorry Bishop." Then take him/her out to lunch.
We've all done something sort of like this. You have probably spared many of us comparable humiliation in that we will be more careful ourselves. Thank you (and I'm so sorry.)
Ouch! But you are not the first, nor will you be the last to have been
brutally honest in the wrong context.
I would first call the bishop, apologize in that call, and make an appointment to sit down with him/her to ask forgiveness face-to-face and to speak with her/him about the comments you made. You clearly have some thoughts/feelings about some aspect of this person or his/her ministry.
Perhaps a frank discussion will pave the way to a deeper understanding, or reconciliation, or at least an agreement to disagree. Were I a person referenced in such a way in an e-mail, my respect in the writer would be restored and deepened by this kind of conversation.
Second, after the appointment with your bishop has been set, I would e-mail all those who received the first e-mail and apologize for it, and indicate that you will be sitting down with your bishop to address the comments you made.
Wise layperson offers advice for the future and some resources from the Gothic Charm School:
Send a private apology to the bishop.
Go read the following columns on internet manners (good tips for those of us who like to snark) here, here, and here.
The main point being that email is perhaps not the best place to snark or gossip-- anything written down, and particularly anything sent over the internet can be widely copied and spread around. This can happen by accident (as the correspondent has experienced) or on purpose by someone who does not have your best interests at heart.
So next time, think twice about sending that snarky email. Getting together in person or over the phone is a better, in my opinion. A conversation generally leaves no record and when you are speaking directly to a person you have a better chance to ensure that they are understanding what you are saying.
My rule is-- if you don't want everyone to see it don't put it on the internet (via email, blog, forum, what-have-you). The internet is much more like writing graffiti on a wall than writing a note and putting it in the postal mail.
Rector in Hawai’i agrees about writing a note or speaking privately to the bishop:
Apologize for the error (it happens to all of us) and send another apology to the bishop alone. Ask him/her if you can come in and talk about your not-too-flattering comments. It'll be hard but at least you don't have to wait for the bishop to call you in and you won't have to be incredibly uncomfortable the next time you're in the bishop's presence.
Personally I am of the mind to look at how serious the offense is and then decide whether to let it go or to go to the bishop. If you have an on-going relationship and it is not a big embarrassing remark or betrayal of a confidence then I would let it go. Sometimes bringing it up just embeds it in the other's consciousness. Next time you see her or him - you might say something about being sorry. But then maybe you are not really sorry as it was something you needed to say but as Jan says did not use a healthy means of communication.
PS from ATM: Keep those questions coming - there are only a couple left in the queue.