I had an unfortunate email encounter this past week. It all started with a face-to-face conversation over a week ago in which my feelings were hurt. Then the other person said something via email that made me mad, and I responded via email and then the other person responded to my response and it escalated.
Now, I am not a person who backs down easily, especially if I think I am right. When I am pushed, I shove. However, in this instance, I shoved a bit too hard and ended up creating hard feelings on the other person's part. They were all: "Fine!" and I was all: "Ha! I won!". Then when I was aggreivedly relating my tale of woe to someone who is much younger and wiser then myself, I was told in no uncertain terms that I had probably hurt the feelings of the other person. "But, they hurt MY feelings!" I retorted indignantly. And then I stopped and thought. And thought, and then I got a little weepy when I realized that I had probably made the other person feel as bad, or worse, than they had made me feel.
So I sent another email to the person and asked if they could meet me for coffee yesterday because I felt bad about they way things had played out, which we did, and we talked and when I told the person that my feelings were hurt by the original conversation, they told me that they didn't mean what I thought they meant and what they meant was something else entirely. And they told me what their intentions were, which I had assumed were the opposite of what they were, and then I got a little more weepy, and we came to an agreement and now all is well (I hope). I especially hope that all is well because it was a fairly public disagreement in which there were innocent bystanders that were hit by the shrapnel of my harsh judgments and not-so-righteous indignation, some of whom responded by saying that they loved us both and how heartbreaking the whole thing was.
So, the lesson here is this: Even if you think your point of view is the correct one, that doesn't give you the right to be uncharitable. And always assume good will on the other person's part, even if they appear to be demonstrating bad will, selfishness, etc. And, stop for at least 48 hours and think about the effect your words are going to have one another person, a relationship, or a community. And for the love of God and all that is holy, don't enter in to a debate via email, where it is impossible to interpret tone and intention.
In other words, don't be a jerk.