this is another post about chain letters (you may remember one a few weeks ago about a petition type chain letter). i’d like to explain what i find disturbing about another type – the prayer chain letter.
chain letters are a form of emotional extortion, mixing very positive sentiments with threats or at least manipulation.
let me use this one as an example. it was sent by a very dear friend.
i feel uncomfortable and sad that i am taking such a well-meaning missive and criticizing it. however, i think this is precisely one of the reasons why such chain letters are perpetuated: we appreciate the good thoughts of our friends and want to show our gratitude by doing what we are asked to do in the letter.
the letter starts like this:
“Hi – I am picking 12 people (who have touched my life) and whom I think would want to participate. I hope I chose the right twelve.”
right away i feel special – but not 100%. maybe i am not the right one? maybe i will disappoint him?
“Please send this back to me (You’ll see why).”
okay, i’m hooked again. i’ll see why … how curious! i wonder what he means!
“In case anyone is not aware, Saint Theresa is known as the Saint of the Little Ways. Meaning she believed in doing the little things in life well and with great love. She is also the patron Saint of flower growers and florists. She is represented by roses. May everyone who receives this message be blessed. Theresa’s Prayer cannot be deleted.”
how lovely! a saint with love and thought for little things. a saint who loves flowers. and as a recipient of this message i am blessed!
the prayer cannot be deleted. that sounds ominous. what happens if i do delete it? what happens if i don’t like the prayer, or find it boring, what if i’m muslim or atheist or pagan and delete the prayer because it does not fit my religious beliefs? what happens if i delete it accidentally? will i still be among the special circle of people that my friend has chosen? what does “cannot” mean? is it physically impossible to delete the message, or, more likely, will something dreadful happen if i do?
“REMEMBER to make a wish before you read the prayer. That’s all you have to do. There is nothing attached. Just send this to eleven people and let me know what happens on the fourth day.”
i must make a wish before i read the prayer. which apparently i have little choice but to read because the prayer “cannot” be deleted.
there is nothing attached. except a) i cannot delete the message, b) i must make a wish, c) send it to eleven people and d) let the sender know what happens on the fourth day.
“Sorry you have to forward the message, but try not to break this, please. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive.”
so i have to forward the message, try not to break it, otherwise i’ll be refusing a precious free gift. and you know what, even though i always break these chains, every time i do it there is a part of me that feels bad about it. i believe in blessings, i believe in prayers. every time i break one of these chains, there is this little obedient girl in me who feels bad for breaking a beautiful thing like a prayer.
“Did you make a wish yet? If you don’t make a wish, it won’t come true. This is your last chance to make a wish.”
this is my last chance. again, a hidden thread, a warning, a raised finger.
then follows st. theresa’s prayer:
“St. Theresa’s Prayer:
May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.. May you be content knowing you are a child of God…. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
positive sentiments. i am a child of god … but am i still a child of god if i don’t follow all the directions, like the one that follows?
“Now, send this to 11 people within the next 5 minutes. And remember to send this back. I count as 1. You’ll see why.”
in summary what happened here was that i get to feel special, will be blessed (by a saint?), i will have someone wish peace, trust and contentment on me – as long as i don’t delete the message, as long as i make a wish, read the (uninvited) message, send the message to eleven people, report to the sender and believe that there are no strings attached to this procedure.
that’s why i cannot help but break this chain letter. break the chain. these are chains that bind to blind, superstitious obedience, and if i pass this letter on, i am yet another link in binding others to it.
if i want to wish good luck on someone, i can just do it, without any strings attached. if i want to increase the power of the good-luck-wishing by having others participate, i can invite them – again, without any strings attached. steve pavlina does a nice job of that.
my job is to help people become free of their chains. so i can’t send on any chain letters.
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