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Rules of Etiquette, Lesson Five

This one does not come from a Victorian essay or etiquette book. And it may not actually be a lesson in etiquette per se, but rather a lesson in paying attention to what you say and type.

Let’s just shorten this to “Own what you say.”

I think after the recent deluge of misquoting Martin Luther King Jr, it’s safe to say that folks are more likely to pull the “Retweet” or “Copy/Paste/Share” trigger than they are to checking to see if it’s a true quote before posting to their social media site of choice.

In case you are one of the lucky few to not know what I’m referencing, allow me to explain. Almost immediately after the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s murder late Sunday night, the internet went crazy with opinions, thoughts and quotes. One of two (both now proven to be fake) quotes that was copied over and over and over and over in FB was:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” ~Martin Luther King Jr.”
~Copied from my sister’s FB page on Monday

We now know that only the ending was an actual quote from Dr. King:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Very powerful stuff, although not distilled and specific enough to have likely gotten all the attention that it received. But I think it points to a more powerful issue. It’s so easy to podcast, Tweet and post on Facebook or on a blog, that I think words are starting to lose their power. How many times has someone said, “I remember what you (said/tweeted/posted) about (Issue XYZ),” and you have no recollection of it? I think people have a thought, instantly shout it into the abyss of the internet, and in many cases forget about it. As someone with over 33k tweets, I can assure you I doubt I can remember even 1% of what I’ve tweeted, retweeted and linked to.

And I don’t know that I think there’s anything particularly wrong about that. I’m deciding as I type this to contemplate that on another day, possibly in another blog. I just think we have to ensure that we OWN every statement we make, whether in meat space, Twitter, the blogosphere or anywhere else we express ourselves. Too often, people hide behind veils to give opinions, whether positive, invented, embellished or libelous.

Why not check a quote before retweeting it or copying it into your FB page? You’re on the internet already, the answer is just a few clicks away. I can’t even remember if I was one of those that retweeted it, but I can tell you that I take no joy in any man’s death, regardless of his crimes, so it is possible. If I did, I own that I shared without thought and I apologize. I, like many, need to think before I Tweet.

And as I read through various Dr. King quotes this morning, I came upon one that I really needed reminding of. Although I actively continue to embrace forgiveness* of those that have or continue to wrong me with lies and/or hurtful actions (intentional or unintentional), I also choose not to hate.

If that means I have to avoid current events to dodge the toxicity, so be it. There are more than enough people to rage in support or opposition to every issue, so I will bow out of conflict every chance I get. And no, you can’t make me argue that decision. 😛

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

*Forgiveness is something I give constantly, although many of those I forgive will never hear me utter those words. The toxic nature of some people impact me too intensely. Besides, my words hold no value to them beyond twisting them to use as ammunition against me at a later time. Whether the hurt occurred a week ago or twenty years ago, there is typically no value of forgiveness for the transgressor, but it’s invaluable to the one that forgives.