it was fourth grade music class with sister anne josephine, and i was completely engaged in my most favorite activity – passing notes back and forth with my best friend, lisa.
(for those of you who are not old enough to remember, note passing was an archaic method of communication students utilized before the invention of text messaging.)
anyway, back to my story … the note had made it about 3 people back when sister turned around and caught the exchange – mid pass.
suddenly my worst nightmare came to life as sister and her big, black punishing cane came barreling down the aisle. she snatched the note from my neighbor’s hands and opened it to read. her eyes lifted above the readers that hung on her nose and then accusingly – at me.
“margaret anne, do you care to read this note out loud to the class?”
no, i most certainly did not. and so – she did. i can’t remember exactly what the note said anymore, but lets just say, it wasn’t one of my prouder moments. therefore i did what any thoughtful, rational 11 year-old girl would do – i ran out of the classroom and hid the rest of the period in a bathroom stall, my head hung over the commode in a failed attempt to purge my humiliation.
aaaah, those were the good ol’ days, before Facebook, blogs, and email … before we could so easily pen anonymous notes and comments using bogus gmail addresses and pseudonyms. back then – we hid in stalls. today, we hide behind a glowing screen and avatars, shielding us from ever feeling the shame or witnessing the hurt our words leave behind.
you see, it’s easy to be bold (read: hurtful/critical/mean) while trolling around on our one-way bully pulpit, protected from our better sensibilities that the threat of exposure – or even a little face-to-face personal contact – might have corrected.
in fourth grade, the only bully pulpit i knew of was the stool on which this 4 ft. tall nun stood to see above the podium.
still, i went home that afternoon and even as i confessed to my mom the day’s crime, i was sure she would agree, reading my note aloud was cruel and unjust. but my mom turned and drove home a lesson that i will never forget and forever observe. she said:
never, ever put something in writing that you wouldn’t sign, read aloud or speak, face-to-face.
and yet, today it happens all the time. truth is, no one is safe and no one is innocent.
but our words are powerful and when written, have a lifespan and a breadth that’s as hard to measure as it is to contain.
that means we have a greater responsibility to be discerning – because no longer are we talking about sister anne josephine reading a note aloud within the confines of a classroom. today, those walls don’t exist.
so ask yourself the next time you find yourself furiously typing that caustic comment: could you shamelessly read aloud? would you dare sign your name? and is it a conversation you’d be willing to have, face-to-face?
if the answer is no to any of the above then i have just one word for you: DELETE.
The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity. ~ Abraham Lincoln