Breaking news today is that Wayne Treacy, Josie Lou Ratley's attacker, has come out to explain what, exactly was texted by Josie Lou that drove him over the edge. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the final straw came as Wayne received a text saying Josie wanted him to stop texting her and essentially, "go visit your dead brother." This, of course, was a reference to Wayne's brother who had committed suicide several months before.
Now, I make this point regularly and I'll make it again. We MUST begin thinking about what effect our words have on other people before we speak/write/text them. I'm not saying Wayne's actions were excusable; there's no excuse for assaulting anyone, particularly with the viciousness Wayne used against Josie Lou. But it IS understandble.
Josie Lou probably meant her comment to be a final brushoff -- say something so abrupt that Wayne dropped the conversation. But, did she consider the effect it would have on someone who not only lost a brother to suicide, but someone who actually found the brother dead? Wayne was certainly grieving, and quite frankly, Josie Lou's comment was completely out-of-bounds.
It makes you wonder if this exchange would have happened this way had the two been speaking in-person? Technology makes it so easy to pop-off with snarky comments or low blows because we don't have to see anyone's reaction. I go back to these two measures of whether or not to say something, regardless of the medium:
- If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't say it any other way.
- Ask yourself, "would I like it if someone said that to me?" If the answer isn't "yes, I'd be fine with it," then DON'T say it to or about someone else.
Regardless of how you feel about Wayne's guilt -- and he has confessed to doing it -- you can see how it could happen. We deliver cheap-shots to others without considering the effect it will have on the other person AND what consequences it might have. There is a true "cause and effect" relationship with what say and do. We are responsible for both the reaction and the outcome of our words because we have a choice whether to share them with others.
It all comes down to the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want them to treat you. Would Josie Lou have liked it if she were in Wayne's shoes and had received that message? Probably no. I know teens are notorious for not engaging their brains before opening their mouths, which is one reason I advocate for more measures to teach and reinfore positive character, values and social skills in schools. Students as young as 2 1/2 go through SocialSmarts and can recite to you the "junior" version of the Golden Rule, which is where we turn it around and ask: "Would you like it if someone did that to you?"
We HAVE to stop and think -- these are people, not "digits" that we are communicating with. If we engaged our compassion, sensibility, and consideration for others before we engage in communication we might find that these sorts of problems tend to go away.
If Josie Lou Ratley had done this before she sent the cruel message that sparked the violence, she might be getting ready to enjoy a long summer of fun and sunshine, rather than months -- or years -- of physical therapy and medical treatment. Wayne Treacy wouldn't be behind bars. And we wouldn't be mourning over a tragedy that again, shouldn't have happened, and was completely preventable.