How Words Can HURT!


I recently watched a Danish movie called “The Hunt” starring Mads Mikkelsen (‘Casino Royale’, ‘Hannibal’). And it was absolutely devastating! 😔

No, the film wasn’t bad at all. It was actually a great film! It just was not an easy film to sit through and digest. It’s a powerful film, one that asks some really tough questions about the power of mob mentality and mass hysteria. 😱

It shows how groups of people will jump to rash conclusions about someone rather than gathering all the facts. 🤔

The film is definitely not a feel-good film. But with our current Outrage Culture where feelings and justice matter more than accuracy and facts, this film points out a problem that is still needing to be addressed. 👍

The movie tells the story about a quiet man living in a small community in rural Denmark. He’s recently become a preschool teacher, has a small set of drinking friends, and has recently found a new girlfriend. After recently separating from his wife, his life is starting to look uphill for him. 😊

But then a lewd lie is made up about him. At first, it seems absurd to the man that people actually believe the lie rather than him, a person the community has known for a very long time. But the lie takes on a life of its own. 😲

Soon the whole community has jumped to the worst conclusions about him. He is fired from his job. His new girlfriend leaves him. His best friend shuns him. He is charged by the police. But after the charges are dropped because of no evidence, the acts by the community escalate into threats and physical violence. 💥

Remember: the man is innocent, and we are given this fact as an audience member. Yet everything that happens to him in the film is based upon a lie. Even the person who tells the lie in the film eventually admits it was a lie. But she is not believed by the community! 😲

It is fascinating: the community would rather hold onto the lie than believe what they were doing was in fact harming an innocent man. 👤

It’s a devastating film, not just seeing this man’s life crumble, but also in thinking how eerily similar issues like these echo in our culture. How often have we heard someone make an impassioned accusation online or in the news and we automatically assumed it was 100% true? I have, so I’m not pointing fingers here. I’ve done it too! 👍

And don’t get me wrong, some accusations do in fact turn out to be true. We find out the details, and we confirm what was said is true. But there also others where accusations turn out to be completely false, the damage has been done, an innocent person’s reputation has been left for dead, and no repercussions are to be had for the accuser. 🤷‍♂️

In the Court of Law it is “innocent until proven guilty”. But in the Court of Public Opinion it has become “guilty until proven innocent”. 👉

It is these false cries where a person’s life can be ruined based on accusations and narratives which aren’t true. It is these false accusations which do a great disservice to the accusations which are in fact true. 🎯

That’s why I continue to emphasize it’s so important we separate the Facts from the Stories We Create Around the Facts. They are separate. You can read my post about it here:

But I’m not here to dwell on the problem. I want to provide solutions as well. There is hope! 😁

📌 Drop any cynicism for skepticism. The difference is cynicism jumps to predetermined conclusions regarding self interest. Skepticism starts from nothing. Cynicism wants the truth to be black and white. Skepticism wants the truth to be whatever the truth is.

📌 Question your emotions. Our emotions filter our decision-making. When we’re angry, we’re more likely to lash out and throw out accusations by the handful. One question you should ask yourself: Does this emotion serve me in the present moment? Be sure you are using your emotions and not letting your emotions use you. To put it another way: develop your emotional intelligence.

📌 Consider your common humanity. People make mistakes. People say things they regret. People also lie. And if you’ve never done any of those things, I’d ask if you were a human being. I don’t say that to justify at all what someone does. It’s to acknowledge your shared humanity with another person. It helps gives you a clearer focus on the situation supplemented with the Superpower of Empathy.

📌 Be wary of group mentality. There’s a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people are in groups, where they collectively become a microcosm of shared beliefs and actions. Individuality becomes lost and people conform to whatever the group does. It’s the reason a set of people in a group can start a riot, even if other members of the group never went in with the intention to.

While it’s easier to summarize a person’s entire existence based on a narrative and a few labels, you simultaneously box that person into a Filter of Perception of which everyone else is now going to be seeing that person.

The big question though: Is it really true? 👤

There’s a reason Don Miguel Ruiz had one of his Four Agreements be: Be Impeccable With Your Word. Words have the power to create as well as destroy. The problem is they’re more often today used to destroy than for any form of creation. 👍

That man in the film, no matter how many times he could say he was innocent, could no longer be seen the same way again because of the labels his community had laid upon him. 😔

But here’s the catch: No one is played in the film for a caricature. Everyone has reasons for why they do what they do. Like the characters who spread the lie genuinely believe others need to be aware because their fears say to the lie is true. Everyone plays a role in how the situation escalates. The film illustrates how it’s a group effort for these kind of things to get out of hand. 👥

That’s why developing our self-awareness is so important, so we don’t give into our irrational emotions and simply go along with the crowds. Because at times the crowd will be dead wrong. As Kierkegaard said: “The crowd is untruth.” 👍

Of course, there are people in the world who have in fact done bad things. They are people who are guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt and should be rightfully held accountable for their actions and punished. Justice should be rightfully served. 💯

But this post today was about addressing the elephant in the room. 🐘

📍 This post is not about the thirst for social justice but about the injustice that happens to the innocent because of the thirst.

📍 This post is not about accusations but about the negative consequences of a society where people loosely throw around such accusations without repercussions or personal responsibility.

It’s a society that will crumble under the very thing it continues to enable: blaming. 🤬

But again, I also have hope. And I hope you find this post one you can think a bit more on. Thank you for reading! ❤️



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