How We Use Our Words: Weapons, Opinions, and Bullying
10/3/2012 12:03:00 PM
So it’s National Bullying Prevention Month, right? Although it is targeted at youth, some adults deal with workplace bullies – particularly in a public job. Example? Jennifer Livingston, an anchor on Wisconsin’s WKBT news. She received an email from a “concerned” male viewer. The email read:
“It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Now, we all have opinions but I question the motive and issues of the heart that make some people so readily express theirs - especially via e-mail. If you would not say it to someone's face, it is very cowardly to hide behind a computer. (Sidebar: and depending on how you step to someone, doing it face-to-face can cause another issue!) Yet still. Taking time out of your day to insult someone? I understand speaking against wrong – racism, sexism, oppression of the poor – and I applaud that. But the whole “let-me-tell-you-why-I-think-you-look a mess”...not needed! I have heard anchors get nasty e-mails about their hair, lipstick, outfits…and so on. I have been the culprit of attacks – from a woman who questioned my education (two degrees, thanks sis!); to another who was “embarrassed her white co-workers listened to someone like me” (and what is “someone like me”?); I had on real angry woman e-mail and tell me I shouldn’t talk about my husband (get one and maybe you’ll love him enough to talk about him, too); some wishing I’d get fired (if you dig a grave for someone else dig two – cuz what goes around comes around); one who said I shouldn’t put have a “blessed day” on my e-mail (it’s mine – now what?)
And the list goes on.
And do I respond? Oh yeah. I pray first and sometimes I have actually gotten an apology based off my response. I don’t respond to change someone's mind or get an apology but to shed light on who I am and even more so, get to the motive of a person’s attack. While I never thought of it as bullying, however, this anchor did. Here is what she said on-air in response to the male viewer:
Bravo, Jennifer. Though some say it was not appropriate to respond, I say if you are bold enough to write it, get ready for a response! Yes, we all have opinions and thoughts. But we need to think, “Why am I expressing this? Will it do more hurt and harm to the recipient? How would I feel if I heard this? Do I want to reap a harvest from these words?” The bible says out of the heart the mouth speaks. So if you have a nasty heart, it comes out in your words. While freedom of speech is available to all, sometimes we need to use our freedom to speak life and goodness. We can use our words wisely to protect, support, and yes even discipline a wrong.
And sometimes, we must use our freedom to keep our thoughts to ourselves. While this man has a right to feel how he does, telling her in the manner that he did may have done more harm than good. Words can be wise or weapons - the choice is ours.