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  • Sahar Abdulaziz

When Words Become Weapons


How we communicate what we want and need is an invaluable tool. From the very complicated and emotional to the seemingly benign and inconsequential, how we get across what it is we are trying to convey will always be the first giant step in mutual understanding.

Case in point:

Yesterday was a prime example. This is the month of Ramadan and so I asked my husband if on the way home from work, if he wouldn’t mind stopping off at the Halal Meat Market near his job to pick up a few extra pounds of beef and chicken since we will be having family over. Now, it is at this point in the story I think I should stress that we aren’t big meat eaters. However, because the meat market is a distance away we tend to buy a few extra pounds for the freezer.

The hubster said, “No problem, email or text me a list of what you want.”

Simple enough.

Until my day got hectic. My phone and iMessage were going berserk-o. My youngest grandchild was in surgery to have a hernia removed, while my youngest son was getting ready for his first formal driving lesson [This is a warning for those living in the Pocono Mountain Region area- young inexperienced teen now seen driving on road. Beware, take appropriate caution, and try hard not to laugh at him! ;)]

The day continued in this fashion until Ding Dong, I remembered, gotta email shopping list to husband, so I quickly jumped on and composed what I thought was a very simple list. However, because I can never judge poundage correctly, I always make my orders by what I want to spend. So I wrote:

$100- of meat: $25 worth of ground beef $ 75 chicken: boneless-$50 $25 of chickens cut up [8 pieces] or just legs- whatever you decide.

In my mind, I wanted to spend the sum total of $100 dollars, and then proceeded to break down the list into how much I wanted spent on each item. You get what I’m saying, right?

Apparently my husband didn’t. He read it differently. In his fasting, exhausted mind, what I wrote and how he read it were vastly opposite. My intention was to make it easy, but my lack of thought and execution caused confusion.

So, upon his arrival, I expected only a few small bags [meat is expensive!] but instead, he kept coming in with another bag, and another bag, and finally a BIG BOX containing 40 pounds of chicken legs!

Husband looked at my face and couldn’t understand the shock. “Isn’t this what you wanted? I got exactly what you wrote. $125 of beef, $75 of boneless chicken and $25- of chicken legs, they only had the 40 pound box.”

Needless to say, I had over 100 pounds of meat in my kitchen staring at me, and not enough freezer bags to make a dent. Off to the store I went, zooming away to buy freezer bags and plotting in my head how the heck I was going to store this ridiculous amount of meat.

But here’s the thing. This is only one of a thousand examples of how what we say through our words and writing, and how we say it can have a different impact on a person reading it. This situation, while ridiculous, didn’t hurt anybody. Nobody walked away offended, disrespected or hurt. Nobody felt belittled or worse. There was no name-calling or drama. Just a ton of chicken.

We are living in amazing, rapidly changing times where instant communication is at our very fingertips. It only takes mere seconds to send a note or a message clear across the country or around the world. It also only can take seconds before a message not properly thought out, can make a lasting impact on another, often leaving a trail of hurt and anguish in its wake.

We’ve all done it. We’ve sent that less than stellar email, text message, or PM on Facebook, only to find that what we said was not taken the way we intended at all, and the receiver is left hurt or angry. We’ve all been the unhappy recipients of those kinds of mistakes as well. Bruised feelings, lumps in the throat, damaged egos, and in the extreme, damaged friendships or family ties.

Then, more often than not, the cyber-arguments ensue. The free-for-alls, coupled with the verbal volleys and putdowns. Here’s where a simple disagreement or misunderstanding blows up into a full-blown nasty discourse. Instead of picking up the phone- or wait, having a face-to-face- to discuss the matter civilly, or WAIT- how about both sides calming down and keeping all foul comments off the table completely?

Nope. Now the protocol has changed. Having a disagreement? Why not take it to a totally different level. Get that last word in. That witty zinger! While you’re at it, make sure to dredge up that old wound and flaunt it around. Hell, why attack privately when you can publically shame a person? Really tear them a new one!

Then there are the sorts of messages that are intentionally filled with hurtful, vile hatefully spewed speech by those imitating human beings. These are the most disconcerting, the most contemptible, and the most disgraceful. These cowards hiding behind computer screens use their perceived obscurity to purposely manipulate and cause discord. They lash out with little to no regard of the angst they cause, and probably enjoy stirring the pot. Their hurtful remarks dig holes in the hearts of all who read and ingest them until the heart become so raw, so tender to the touch, that even a simple unintentional poorly written message becomes the last straw.

Yes, in fact, we live in amazing times. No doubt. But what we do with our fingertips and the words that come tumbling through them is a responsibility we have towards civility and human respect. Just because you have the legal right to say or write something doesn’t give you the moral authority or platform to act upon it. Just because you think you’re right doesn’t given you the carte blanche to surgically browbeat another into remission, and lastly just because you favor one belief over another, doesn’t give you the right to be cruel. Ever. Sorry.

Remember, there’s another human being on the other side of that screen, fighting their battles and challenges. Words hurt. Tremendously. All the counter-attacks and arguments when laced with venom as opposed to sincerity of dialog do nothing but propagate hate and bias.

Know when to shut up.

Know when to walk away.

Know when to call it quits.

Know when to say you’re sorry!

It’s more than okay to honestly disagree; matter-of-fact- it’s called healthy dialog. Let’s work collectively to keep it that way.

For all of those who I have offended without malice, I deeply apologize. For those that I love and have hurt, I will work much harder not letting my words become weapons.

"May your character preach more loudly than your words."

Good advice.


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