Tuesday, December 27, 2005

When e-mail comes back to bite you

This past Friday, two co-workers and I talked a little about how some guys approach women very badly (vulgar, annoying, and/or just plain stupid lines). To illustrate that there are still some nice guys in the world, I later e-mailed both a little story about how I approached someone some years ago. She was my first love, and I remember that morning like yesterday.

However, I'm not the one after whom I titled this entry. One recipient had already become a good friend; she is trustworthy. The other, well, was not becoming a friend like I thought. I was wrong. The title refers to how my e-mail, or rather what she did with it, came back to bite her. She forwarded the e-mail to three others (who I know a little), adding a few comments that were not only completely unkind (literally every word) but wholly untrue. She apparently has difficulty comprehending the English language, judging by her erroneous conception of what I said. Or is it so hard to believe that someone can be a perfect gentleman when introducing himself to someone he has seen a couple of times before and would like to get to know?

I found out this morning that she forwarded the e-mail, because one of her recipients then accidentally forwarded it to me. My job often involves extremely time-critical e-mails, so I check out new messages as soon as I hear Outlook's notification beep. I reflexively opened this new message almost instantly after it arrived, and not two seconds later, before I even knew what was happening, Outlook started beeping many times. My inbox was starting to fill up with notices that he was attempting to recall that forwarded message. The accidental forwarder had realized his mistake and tried to cover it up, but not quickly enough! I couldn't help but laugh as the notifications kept pouring in. After 20 or so, a final notification informed me of a failure to recall it. I also laughed at the futility of his attempt, which I must confess is a little schadenfreud in itself. Even if he had successfully recalled it, I would have known: I'd have seen that he had initially forwarded me an e-mail with a unique but very familiar title.

My revenge consisted in teasing him about his inability to recall it, cc'ing the others (including the gossip). I concluded, "The story is true and you all may take it as you will." There's no reason to debase myself by justifying something that needs no justification. Moreover, the only remedy needed is throwing a spotlight on the sin, so that those involved can see their own wrongdoing and judge themselves.

It has saddened me to discover that I misjudged this person as better than she actually is. Oh, I'm hardly angry, far from it, that she spread my story around. It's hardly so personal that I'd tell only a few people. Even though her editorializing revealed her as a real twit, I can't even say I was hurt in any way. I'm just disappointed. This is someone who seemed a genuinely nice person, who seemed enough of a Christian that we talked a little about God on a few occasions. I had even shared Bible verses with her, so perhaps in the near future I should forward her a few verses about gossips. My friend Charlie suggested a great one, 1 Peter 4:15, which is striking because of how severely it categorizes gossips:
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
When I was getting lunch in the building cafeteria, she and one of her other recipients saw me but didn't dare look me in the eye. The best revenge is what Proverbs 25:21-22 challenges:
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:

For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.
I have never been the best about this, but continuing to be nice, and doing good to those who do evil to you, really does work. It confounds them, conquers them in the end, and testifies to the glory of God.


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