Remember when we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me!” That’s a lie.
We said that because it was like a magic incantation that would take away the sting of the words that were thrown at us. We pretended like we believed it. The truth is, we didn’t really believe it. Those words hurt as much and maybe more than the sticks and stones would have.
So, a week or so ago, my son came home with a paragraph that he had to write five times for some misbehavior. As a former Communication Arts teacher, the use of writing as a punishment is the ultimate sin. It didn't help matters that the paragraph had numerous grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors in it.
I fell into a state of righteous indignation. There were mitigating factors that led to this state, but the bottom line is, I fell right into it.
Shamefully, my response was to post the paragraph to my Facebook page and ask for input. I received over 30 comments; all in favor of me "getting" this teacher for daring to assign writing as a punishment and for her errors. They, too, disagreed with writing as a punishment. They, too, felt sympathy toward my son.
I would like to say that they, too, felt a bit superior to the teacher who'd committed this sin. I don't know that they felt that way, but I did. It's not something I'm proud of and it's not something I would ever want to make a habit.
I did all the wrong things in handling this. Yes, I'm still 100% certain that using writing as a punishment is harmful. Yes, I'm still in favor of good grammar, spelling and punctuation. Yes, I still have feelings of sympathy toward my son. Still, my handling of the situation was wrong and did not change a thing. As a matter of fact, the only thing it did was cause me more guilt and possibly cause some humiliation for that teacher.
It seems that I'd forgotten what it was like to be publicly vilified. I used to become enraged when people would write their anonymous comments about me in SpeakOut. Even though the vast majority of those comments didn't contain a shred of truth to them, I felt shame and embarrassment. I was convinced that everyone in town was looking at me and judging me.
I imagine that's how I made this teacher feel. I did to her the very thing I hated most. And, I regret it.
I posted a simple apology on my Facebook page and I’ve emailed the teacher, the principal and a few others as a first step in atonement. This is the next step in the act of contrition that I feel compelled to perform.
If at all possible, I will learn from this experience. I know better than to use public humiliation as a response. I simply let my ego get in the way of my rational self. I hope others will read this and learn from it too.
Sticks and stones can be thrown aside and destroyed. Words linger and are not so
easily removed. The sting of them comes back days, months and even years after they’ve been said and they come back from out of the blue.
I truly hope those whom I’ve offended in word and deed can find it in their hearts to forgive me.