“The pen is mightier than the sword”.

The expression may have been coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu, and it may be considered a “metonymic adage indicating that communication, or in some interpretations, administrative power, is a more effective tool than direct violence”. But can’t the written word itself be used as a weapon, not for change, but against one another?.

It’s been a long time since I received “hate mail”. In 1997, I received a letter in the mail with no return address and no signature. It was at least a year after my wedding announced was in the newspaper. The author simply wanted to express their condolences to Hubby on our marriage. They assumed I got married because I was pregnant and I will “never learn”. They concluded with an odd question – “Do I get married because I’m I love? – What’s love?”…

This time, it was an email. I suppose I could be justified in being outraged, but I am not. It may be because I know the author of the email, as opposed to a blank handwritten letter sent anonymously in the mail. (I have my suspicions as to who sent that letter but I prefer not to waste energy on casting assumptions or making aspersions). Instead, I feel sorry for the writers of these letters. I am sorry that this person feels I have wounded them so deeply. I’d like to make the relationship right, but I’m pretty sure that even if I apologized, it wouldn’t make a difference. The damage, real or imagined, has already been done.

I didn’t keep the email but I did keep the letter. Not because I want to be reminded of how horrible it made me feel, or angry that someone would assume Hubby only married me because I had somehow seduced him (now that part is hilarious!). I want the reminder that my pen, my keyboard, my mouth can all be a dangerous weapons. Our words can create noise and suffering. They can cause deep wounds and lasting scars. We need to think before we start swinging a sword.