I was in real hot water with a dear friend, and it wasn’t my mouth this time — well, not exactly. She sent me a photo of herself vacationing on the French Riviera. The photo showed her holding up a glass of wine, as if toasting the universe.
She wrote: “Wonderful trip! All I had to worry about was choosing the best wine to go with my gourmet meals.”
Me: “Glad you had a great time, you look fatter.”
I was tired and dictated the aforementioned text.
Fast-forward to the next morning.
Friend: “Fatter? Nothing like speaking your mind, Ceil!”
My friend was really ticked off. She had gone on a diet prior to her trip and lost 10 pounds. Geez! Bad timing.
Me: “No! No! Meant you look ***fantastic. Damn auto correct.”
Maybe Ms. Auto Correct is a tad hard of hearing, I mean really, how did she get “fatter” from “fantastic”? Perhaps my phone hates me, because there have been other “miscommunications.”
Kudos to the administrative assistant at our church, who has a knack for deciphering my somewhat erratic texts. There is a self-lesson here: Whether I type or dictate messages, I should get in the habit of reading them back and, if necessary, correct Ms. Auto Correct’s corrections!
Speaking of habits and lessons, we humans have a tendency to speak before we think. This tendency can get us into a mess of trouble. It can be an innocent remark gone bad (this is where human auto correct would come in handy). We apologize and it should be over and forgotten, but is it? Mom, who called me “sharp-tongued,” drilled this phrase into my brain: “The tongue is a lethal weapon.”
Most of us have been stricken by careless words; whether the remarks caused a surface or deep wound or, in my case, a miscommunication, it smarts! No one is immune to these barbs. Conversely, I have inadvertently cut others with my “sharp tongue.” However, some folks habitually insult, dehumanize and bully without any afterthought.
We all know folks who thrive on volleying sarcastic remarks. They revel in their “sarcastic” persona. Sometimes they use thinly veiled sarcasm and pass it off as a joke. But we know better, right? Perhaps they are angry or insecure; however, no one should be subject to abuse.
We may think of abuse as purely a physical act. Not so! Insults, bullying and unkind remarks, put-downs and name-calling are abuse in my book. These repeated attacks can cause wounds that become infected — and these “infections” are reaching epidemic proportions.
I see it on social media, hear it from folks in town and witness everyday offenses. This kind of “speak” is also coming from the “bully pulpit” of the highest office in our land. Name-calling is commonplace. Some folks love it; they feel it demonstrates power. Really? The majority of folks are shocked. Politics aside, where are we heading? This kind of lack of restraint is weakening the fabric of society.
I was taught at an early age by my parents to be kind and tolerant (sharp tongue and all). Dad, who was considered a forward thinker, taught us to respect the dignity of every human being, regardless of race, sexual orientation or political affiliation. (Imagine that consciousness back in the ’50s?) Like many others, I feel I’m being put to the test.
If we must react, then we should do so in a productive manner. Author Henry James, considered among the greatest novelists in English literature, said this: “There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
James could have written a dissertation on the subject, yet he chose three simple statements. Kindness is a language that even the deaf (metaphorically speaking) can hear.
Maybe this is a good place to start.
Ms. Marszal-Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.