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Don’t shoot the messenger

Posted: June 18, 2013 12:20 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I’ve always heard the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” throughout my life. I somewhat understood what it meant -- don’t take your anger out on someone who is simply relaying unwanted information. It wasn’t until I started my career as a reporter that I developed a deeper and more meaningful relationship with this quote. Being a journalist means that not only do I get to be the bearer of good news involving our community, but sometimes it also involves me being the bearer of bad news. In an ideal and perfect world the only news available to report on would be good news. But, sadly, this isn’t the world that I, nor anyone else lives in which means that sometimes I have to be in the not so lucky position of informing the community of things going on that could result in some less than happy campers.

This isn’t something that occurs just in the journalism business. I’ve become more aware of it in other aspects of my life as well. For example, when my car needs repairs that cost a hefty sum out of my wallet, the first person I am unhappy with is the mechanic for telling me the price. It’s not their fault, though. If blame were to be placed on anyone it should be placed on my car for falling apart in the first place … or me, for not taking care of it as well as I could. The only person who isn’t actually responsible for the not so desirable situation is the messenger. So why do we find ourselves constantly blaming the messenger rather than addressing the actual issue and who is actually responsible for it?

Sometimes situations are unavoidable. I could be taking care of my car perfectly -- changing the oil as soon as it needs to be changed, sticking to roads that won’t result in any sort of bruising to the vehicle and so on and so on. Eventually, however, no matter how careful or pristine you are in your care, things do happen. There’s no way to keep something in perfect condition forever no matter how routine you are on keeping things in check.

I think that’s why it’s important, no matter the situation, to not only accept that change is unavoidable, but also to really think about who is actually to blame and how to fix it. More than likely the person responsible is not the guy telling you that your card was declined at the gas station or the waitress who brought out your steak that wasn’t medium rare as you requested but was instead medium well.

This notion of shooting the messenger is one that has been prevalent in society all the way back to the time of Shakespeare and even Sophocles. “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news” Sophocles wrote in Antigone. While this unfortunately seems to be truer than I would care to admit, blaming the messenger doesn’t improve a situation. Shooting the messenger takes away from the real issue at hand and what should be done to solve it. It also goes back to the whole idea of ignorance being bliss. I think that depending on the situation, sometimes it’s better to be in the dark for awhile about something, but the only problem with that is once you’re out of the dark what’s hiding tends to shine through a lot harder than it would have if it had been addressed earlier. Think about it … would you rather blindly write a check for something just so you wouldn’t know the actual cost? Probably not. I’d hope everyone would want to know the exact amount they’re paying even if it is a difficult pill to swallow.

So before you take your rage out on the messenger, think about who is actually responsible for your anger. Plus, if you shoot the messenger too soon, you might be killing him (or her) off before you find out that there was good news attached to the end.


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