God forgives sins so that joy, not sadness, can flourish once again in one's heart,…
The missing emoji: Forgiveness
You know them as smiles, shrugs, waves and small brown piles of … well, you know.
Their eyes roll, their heads explode, and their brows sweat. They cry, sleep and think. They blow kisses, applaud, stick out their tongues, and have stars and hearts in their eyes.
Yes, I am talking about emoji — the emotion icons (emoticons) that have become so universal that they are regularly used in interpersonal communication, in marketing, in classrooms and pretty much everywhere else. In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries underscored the phenomenon by choosing “Face with Tears of Joy” (yes, really) as its official “word” of the year, saying that it “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015.”
And why not? For Americans under 50, thanks to smartphones, texting has become our primary form of communication. Don’t believe me? Try calling a millennial. Five will get you 10 they’ll screen it and text you back.
With an estimated 5 billion people around the world sending and receiving SMS (short message service) messages, it’s no wonder emoji for all occasions have taken off. And with billions of emoji sent around the world every day, we have grown accustomed to expressing our joys, sorrows, gratitude, anger, illnesses and activities via more than 3,000 tiny and increasingly politically correct faces and symbols.
From a psychological point of view, one could spend a long time pondering just how healthy (or not) this is. But, for purposes of this column, we are going to take it at face value. Emoji are a regular part of the lives of billions of people around the globe.
But one symbol isn’t there, and an initiative launched out of Finland this fall is trying to fill the gap. The campaign is called Forgivemoji, and it currently is crowdsourcing design concepts for an emoji that would express the phrase “I forgive you.” The winning symbol will be submitted for approval to Unicode, which manages the addition of new emoji, at the end of 2019. If you have a designer’s eye, it’s not too late to submit your suggestion at www.forgivemoji.com. You can also visit that site to vote for your favorite submission.
It shouldn’t surprise that an emoji centered upon forgiveness should have a religious foundation. The initiative got its start through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which is highlighting peace this year. The new emoji contest was rolled out just before the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.
“In our modern digital communication culture, emojis are an essential way of expressing human feelings beyond words,” said Tuomo Pesonen, communications director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. “We were surprised to realize that the official emoji selection has dozens of different cats and even two designs of zombies, but there isn’t an emoji for forgiveness. Through crowdsourcing ideas for the design of an emoji for forgiveness, this campaign also strives to promote a message of peace and mutual understanding the world over.”
The more time is spent thinking about it, the more of a lacuna it seems in our conflict-ridden world. Without forgiveness as a standard part of the daily emoji discourse that has become so routine over text messaging, are we missing an opportunity to extend it?
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus commands us to forgive our brother not seven times, but 77 times — meaning at every opportunity.
Amid thousands of emoticons, there is as of yet no emoji that can be sent to express such an act. But if Finland’s worthwhile initiative proves successful, it will only be a matter of time before our symbol-packed text messages can extend not only a hand of greeting but one of mercy, too.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.