The Lost Art of Letter Writing
When was the last time you put a stamp on something other than a bill? While everyone loves to receive a handwritten card, very few actually take the time to write one. With email, texting, and Facebook, there really isn’t a need to write letters. But a letter can communicate things that an email never could. It is a form of communication that, when used strategically, can change lives and further the Gospel. Consider that a majority of the New Testament is made up of letters. Here are some reasons why you should write more letters.
Letters are personal. They contain your effort, your handwriting, and your choice of stationary. Even before the words are read, you have sent something that no one else could send. No one else has your handwriting or taste in cards. In a way, there is something vulnerable about this. You are revealing part of yourself to the recipient. And that immediately softens the heart.
Letters take effort. Sure it may sound silly to say that writing is hard work. But compared to typing or texting, it is significantly more work to find your cards, stamps, and a pen; to physically write the words you could type a lot quicker. This communicates value to the recipient—that they are worth the effort.
Letters are inexpensive. I know it’s obvious, but it really doesn’t cost much. A box of 10 cards may be $5 and a stamp $.46. Anyone can afford to write letters. Yet, the impact of a letter is sometimes bigger than sending a gift that costs $50! So why not write a letter to those you love?
Letters are portable. You can keep some small stationary in your purse, car console, or in luggage. I almost always travel with a small pack of cards because I never know when I will feel compelled to write to someone. It may be the waiter we offered to pray for who just got divorced. The maids who will clean up our hotel room when we leave. It’s so easy and makes such a big impact!
Letters can be reread. Especially if you are sending a word of encouragement or prayer, the recipient can reread what you wrote, put it on their desk, or keep it in their Bible or purse. It can be an encouragement that gets many uses.
Letters force you to speak slowly. In conversations, especially ones where emotions run high, we all too often speak quickly. Writing your words forces you to think before you speak. Sometimes, I have chosen to write a letter to someone who I am at odds with simply because I know I won’t say anything I regret. Sometimes I am writing to my husband, my sibling, or roommate. But in any case, writing a letter forces me to be prayerful and thoughtful about what I say, and that is always a good thing.
Letters give the gift of time. This may be my favorite thing about letters. Especially when I am writing to someone about a sensitive topic, I love that my letter gives the recipient the ability to hear my words without the pressure to respond immediately, or to respond at all. This is not the case with face to face conversation, emails or texting, in which response feels required.
I have written letters asking forgiveness for past sins to friends or family members. I have confronted dear friends with their sin through letters. I have written letters to those in seasons of deep and painful grief. In all of these cases, I am giving the recipients the gift of time to process my words and respond in their own time.
Letters can remind someone you are there. This may sound very simple, but sometimes sending a letter is just a way to remind someone they are on your mind, that they are on your mind, and that you care. It’s like leaving the door open. When God places someone in my life that is hesitant to open up to others, I often write letters.
This has been true of many friends or neighbors who don’t know Jesus. If I sense they are skeptical of me as a Christian, or have built a wall they don’t want anyone to cross, I send letters. Usually the letters say nothing more than, “I was thinking about you. I care about you. I would love to see you.” It’s my way to remind them: my door is open whenever you want to come in.
Letters build relationships. I don’t have a deep friendship with my grandmother. When I call her up on the phone to chat, the call doesn’t last very long. But I can send a letter in the mail! Through letters, I can communicate that I love and care about her, that she is important to me, and that I desire a relationship with her. Over time, consistent letter writing can build up a relationship that is failing or non-existent. I think it is a great solution for strained family relationships.
Letters cannot be debated. When it comes to sharing my passion for Jesus and communicating the gospel clearly to those I love, I have found letters useful. In person, sometimes sharing these things is met with argument and discussion that doesn’t allow me to finish my thoughts. If I already have a good relationship with someone, I will share the Gospel and my testimony through letters. This way, they are somewhat forced to hear me out. Or not read my letter at all. But usually, it’s hard to resist a handwritten letter. I think letter writing is a fabulous way to share your testimony with someone and invite her to likewise trust in the God we serve.
Letters can console the grieving, strengthen the weary, and soften hearts. Letters can share the Gospel, ask forgiveness, or gently confront. You can send them to family members, friends near and far, and even your “enemies.” You can leave them for your spouse or roommate. You can give them to your starbucks barista, your mail carrier, your grocery store clerk. You can send them to your pastor, or your neighbor.
Why not pick up a pack of cards and stamps today and begin asking God who needs a word of encouragement today?