How what you write can hurt more than pain

How what you write can hurt more than painHave you ever found that someone you trusted and valued was just, in the end, using you? Have you ever felt that you have been taken for a very bumpy ride purely because you were useful to the ride-initiators at the time?

Often, there comes a time when you decide to share your hurt and anger with that person or persons, either via email, snail-mail letter, social media post, on paper, or even (if you realize it’s hopeless to try to communicate your hurt directly) on paper which you then set alight and watch burn. And hope that this procedure will act as an exorcism of your feelings.

But does it work? I wonder.

Biting the hand that fed them…

Recently I had the experience of sheltering a young couple from continental Europe who had come over to the UK where the young man (being half British) had family, but had managed to fall out with the family member in the UK with whom he and his girlfriend were staying and – having been kicked out, I assume – turned up at my house in the middle of one night in January 2014.

The intervening period contains a very long story of me helping them to find work, get (free NHS) healthcare, drive them to job interviews, numerous doctor’s and hospital appointments, etc. etc. I told them they could stay for free until they got jobs, after which they would pay a reasonable contribution (for our area in the UK) towards household expenses, utilities and the food etc. that I provided. They really should have been paying double that, as previous sharing guests had, but because the girlfriend wasn’t working many hours I didn’t ask for more. Essentially, I partially supported them for the nine months they stayed with us.

But when they decided to move on? They agreed that there was the last month’s share contribution outstanding, but when my son insisted that they pay it before taking the remainder of their belongings out of our home, all hell broke loose. A smokescreen, we assumed, to let them off the hook for the last payment that he had agreed to.

A kick in the guts from across the Atlantic

On the day concerned I received a vitriolic phone call from the young man while I was in Canada, slinging the most outrageous insults at me and my son purely because he felt that – despite being very glad of the refuge initially – the standard of accommodation was inferior to what he expected and in effect I should be grateful that they were willing to pay their share of household costs at all. Yadda, yadda, yadda … essentially a deluge of abuse that, I realized, was his way of trying to wriggle out of paying the modest sum he had agreed that he owed.

Needless to say this little snake of a young man unfriended me on Facebook – even after having agreed with my son in a message exchange on there, and me on the phone in Canada (which thank Heavens was recorded) that he owed the money and would transfer it to my bank account … although he never bothered to ask me for my bank details!

Beyond that he got his parents to email me with further insults and veiled allegations of dishonesty on the part of my son, which is laughable considering the realities. Needless to say I fired back with an email that used words to express my hurt, anger and disgust.

What a terrible, terrible mess.

Could good writing have helped?

How what you write can hurt more than painI wonder. People often say, with some justification, that words on paper or screen do not share the benefit of voice tone and body language which can alter their meaning, which makes the written word more easily misinterpreted. However in this instance bearing in mind the sentiments flying around, I suspect voice tone and body language would have escalated my end of the dialogue, and my son’s, to even more angry heights.

Due to the rather insulting and patronizing email I got from, purportedly, the young lad’s father (whose English, although good, isn’t perfect so I imagine it was actually written by the British mother who supposedly was a friend of mine) … I realized that all my good intentions, help, generosity, transportation, etc. etc. had all been a complete waste of time.

All that mattered was the young couple’s exit to pastures new and to hell with those of us (and it wasn’t only me) who helped them while they were staying with us. The thought of  writing a letter or email (other than the brief email that eventually found me, saying they were leaving and oh, by the way, thanks) to say how our hospitality and help, however modest, had made a difference to them … well, who needs to write courteously to someone you don’t need any more? And if they didn’t receive the short little email, who cares?

The pen IS mightier than the sword, after all…

I’m sure the parents of this poisonous young lad will be thinking that, had he been intelligent enough to make sure I had received his very curt email saying they were leaving … given that I wasn’t picking up all emails while abroad in the “wilds” of Canada! – none of this awful pain would have been incurred.

But then, of course, there was the small – and to many, a very small – matter of the money this silly little guy owed us.

Although no amount of good writing could have persuaded me and my son to somehow agree that the outstanding small amount of money was just a figment of our imaginations … some sincere, thoughtful, grateful and mature writing on the part of this little snake and his parents would have gone a long way towards resolving the whole issue amicably. The right words would have been that powerful.

As it stands now, this family will never darken our doors again: much as I like to help people when I can, once I have been spat upon, they don’t ever get another chance.

Shame. But that’s what happens when you write the wrong things. (And of course so far, the owed money has not been payed…)

Please share your thoughts…I would love to know if this kind of sad, cynical use of kindness has happened to you.

photo credit: Briography via photopin cc
photo credit: nicksarebi via photopin cc




  1. Good grief Suzan – I am so sorry that happended to you.You so don’t deserve it. I just had one incident with a neighbour across the way from us – who stormed over to our house and just about banged down our frontdoor to shout at my husband to move his car. She has never introduced herself – heck he didn’t even know who she was. He had only been living with me for about 6 months at that point. He was mortified and moved his car. (Which wasn’t in the way…by the way).

    When he told me – I was absolutely furious. He is such a polite man…he didn’t have a come back for her behaviour. I wrote a long letter to tell her in polite, even toned terms what I thought of her behaviour….I then got a neighbour who knew her better to read it first…and asked if I was right to send it.

    She said…while I had written a well thought out letter – she didn’t think the woman in question had the peace of mind to take any of it on board and would rather have lashed out more.While I was FUMING…for months and months afterwards….I didn’t send the letter. 🙁

    I ignored her purposely for years.

    Sometimes we also have to think about the perception of the person who we are writing to….and whether they will be mature enough hey?

    • That neighbour of yours was well out of order, and for you to avoid sending the letter was very restrained of you. People who have hysterics like that are actually bullies, because you are afraid to put them back in their place in case they harass you even more. In the case of this little snake in my article, I suspect he will eventually get what he deserves. He has, in my view a serious attitude problem and as someone else said on Facebook, one day he will upset the wrong person – who is in a position to damage him severely, and will do so.