#SaysTheEditor: Words as Weapons


There’s real unrest in our world these days. We all turn on the news and see it: earthquakes, terrorists, riots, injustice.

We feel protected from it. It’s happening over there, on other people’s Facebook feeds, on Twitter, on the news. It’s not happening here.

Except, you know what? The suspicion these situations breeds manages to worm its way into our consciousness anyway. It may be happening there, but what if it’s going to happen here? When does the hammer fall, when it is my turn to face evil or hardship? When do the zombies bang on my door and try to eat me?

When I went to bed last night, I wouldn’t have believed that people have grown so suspicious so fast. Rude, yes, like the jerk who turns exercise bikes into his own personal charging station at the Hoity Toity Health Club.

But so damn suspicious of each other?

It’s sad.

And it’s powered by words. By Tweets, by status updates, by conversation we have with each other.

Words have power. Anyone who’s ever listened to a caring adult whisper, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Go on, say it. You’ll feel better” knows the mantra simply isn’t true. Words hurt.

Like Seether says, Words as Weapons.

Into this new environment comes one other element you may not have expected. I sure didn’t: the loss of the ability to joke.

Case in point: One of the small businesses who works for West of Mars made a post on Facebook that he was trying to squeeze more work into the end of the month. I made a comment about him learning to stretch time. Turn on your TV. Super hero shows are full of characters stretching time. We are big Flash fans around here, and time is very much an element in that show. Go to the movies. Hello, Matrix? And that’s an old one.

An innocent comment. A compliment, really. If anyone could figure out how to make time stretch out so he could pack more into a day, it’s him.

I admire this guy. I like him. I respect him. And most of all, I trust him and the work he does. That’s why I employ him.

But… apparently, not everyone holds him in such high esteem. Accusations began to fly about him padding his billable hours.

Umm… what? Seriously?

First off, if you don’t trust the guy, why do you interact with him? Or is it that this new culture we’re in doesn’t allow for that sort of rational thought? Are we all are being brainwashed into not trusting the cops, teenage girls who may beat you up after the movie you’ve shushed their chatter during, people who’ve pulled their hoods up over their heads, your own friends… it’s sad. What happened to community? To the simple idea of trust?

Second, why so negative? You’ve just jumped to a conclusion that has zero basis in fact, and, in fact, has been disproven time and again concerning this particular man. It worries me that you are willing to read something so unethical into one of the most upright people I know.

The problem, folks, lies with you, who misinterpreted the compliment.

Yeah, okay, I was wrong to have underestimated the culture of fear and suspicion we’re now living in. I was wrong to have not realized it’s sitting in my backyard, even after someone I haven’t spoken to since 1991 used a Facebook friendship to wound a bunch of people I love.

When I paid the compliment, it never entered my mind that anyone would consider the worst about this man. It … I still can’t get my brain around it. I just can’t. James, pad his hours? JAMES????

What sort of crack are these people smoking? I mean, really.

Sticks and stones may break bones. No argument there. But the rest of that mantra is simply wrong. Words can and do harm us. Sometimes, words can wound deeper and harder than a stick, a stone, a bullet, a sword ever could. Because we survive those wounds, seemingly intact, and yet we carry the pain with us.

Those so-called friends of my service provider have done more damage than they expected. They didn’t just hurt one man and possibly his business. They’ve hurt me, too, beyond belief. And while they don’t give a damn about me — like I’d even want them to, watching how they treat our mutual friend — it’s too bad that they don’t give enough of a damn about this guy to see a compliment as a compliment, and to trust his good word and the actions that back him up as being above the deplorable behavior they’re so quick to accuse him of engaging in.

James, I’m sorry. As I’ve said, I meant to pay you the highest of compliments. I can only control the words I write, the words I say. I can’t control how others interpret them.

As a wordsmith, I know this. I work with clients daily to make sure their intent is crystal clear. I had thought my intent concerning you was every bit as clear. In my eyes, you’re a superman. And as we all know from super hero TV shows and movies, supermen accomplish the impossible.

Supermen accomplish the impossible.

Except, I guess, this time.


1 Comment

  1. Dana Griffin

    May 4, 2015 2:35 pm

    I think part of the problem with society today is our culture of living in front of our computers, or with our head bowed to our hand held devices and believing what we read. We don’t see the writer’s body language, smirk, bright eyes, or pulled in corners of their mouth to realize they were paying a compliment. It is also easy to throw out an insult without seeing the effect it had on the receiver and realize we had harmed them. After all, it’s just words, right.

    I also feel with all the unrest out there many want to push back and not be a victim. Their only tool are words. After all their vindictive diatribe won’t hurt anyone but it will feel so good to express their feelings. No one will hunt them down and assault them for speaking their mind on social media, right.

    If media anchors can exaggerate their stories to pump up their ratings even if it harms others, why can’t we the little people do the same. Won’t the slander I create on social media get me more followers? Or best of all, go viral?

    I too have said things on social media that were taken wrong that I regret.

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