Be careful, words really can hurt
THERE’s an old English rhyme:
The adage is believed to have been used to help children facing a bully to remain calm and not retaliate.
But we all know words are powerful, and verbal abuse does cause untold harm to those it is directed at. We have seen how the speed and reach of social media amplifies the implications of trading insults, with the names of racist trolls, in particular, ingrained in our consciousness.
Yet that doesn’t stop us from losing our cool and lashing out when we get annoyed.
This was the experience of a Pretoria woman who was so disturbed by a neighbour’s planned home extension that she confronted him in front of some associates, calling him a which translates to “rogue”. He in turn became so “enraged” and “embarrassed” by her attack, he considered hitting her. But instead, and despite her apology later, he sought financial compensation to the tune of R500 000.
But the judge hearing the case dismissed the amount, saying the matter should never have got to court, awarding him R2 000 for his hurt feelings (which is what his neighbour had offered him by means of an apology) and slapping him with costs.
We have witnessed the outing of angry people on social media, and might even rejoice when we feel they got their just deserts.
Yet, as South Africans, we seem to have an angry button which when pushed gets us so worked up that we revert to name-calling.
What we should remember, from the playground to the workplace, from behind the steering wheel to looking over the garden wall, to the virtual world of social media, is that disparaging, bullying, racist, misogynist and homophobic words do cause hurt and humiliation to others.
Perhaps this wasted court case can be a lesson to us to work to moderate our behaviour because outbursts hurt others, and they hurt us.