A horrific case of cyber-bullying apparently led to the suicide of a Lakeland, Florida girl named Rebecca Sedwick. A month ago Rebecca jumped to her death from an abandoned building. She was 12 years old.
The child had been tormented by online postings. One told her “to drink bleach and die.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested and later released two middle school students and charged them with felony aggravated stalking in connection with the death. The suspects, both girls, are 12 and 14.
There is an old adage, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But words can hurt, and deeply. They can destroy.
Unfortunately, “mean speak” is not limited to the young. Teachers, parents, spouses and colleagues can cause irreparable harm with their words. Unkind comments can sting and even scar. They may not cause an outright suicide, but they can result in the crushing of a self confidence, the death of a spirit.
Teasing is not harmless. It hurts. People who don’t fit into the conventional standards of beauty, intelligence or athletic prowess do not need someone to point out their flaws. They are all painfully aware of their condition and even if they laugh along with the razzing, they often cry on the inside.
Judaism takes words and speech very seriously. Embarrassing a person in public is a major is sin. To cause a person to blush (bringing blood to their face) is said to be equal to shedding their blood.
Lashon hara, malicious talk and gossip, is forbidden. A word can be as powerful as a bullet. It can kill a reputation. It can end an opportunity. It can cause serious harm.
Watch what you say and what you write. Consider your words. They can be deadly.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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