Several years ago Carly Simon recorded a CD titled “Letters Never Sent.” The songs reflect a collection of letters she wrote over the years but never sent to the intended recipients. In an interview, Simon said that she keeps a shoebox on a closet shelf to hold these letters. She finds writing them therapeutic, a way to keep frustrations from bottling up inside her. Yet she has also discovered that while these letters are important to write, they are better left unsent.
Even letters sent in the most righteous spirit of indignation can do more harm than good. We know, from our experiences of speaking in anger or frustration, that we sometimes wish we could retract the words as soon as they are out of our mouths. Letters give us an opportunity to cool down and think through what is better left unsaid. Writing a letter without sending it allows us to “say” what we want or need to say and “get it out of our system” without communicating it to the other.