It’s happened to all of us. We get an email that’s so infuriating, or so brutishly stupid, that we respond almost reflexively. We rip off a nasty-gram intended solely for our inner circle, our confidantes, our BFFs, or those poor souls unfortunate enough to be as sarcastic as we are … only to discover — a nanosecond too late, of course — that we’ve hit the dreaded Reply All button. Ugh.
That first wave of terror — you know, the one that shoots from your brain to your toes like a bolt of lightning, then roils back up into the pit of your stomach and camps out there — morphs into a morbid, haunting depression. What’s worse is you know that depression will never go away until someone invents the Email Eraser and the unintended recipients get amnesia.
Can anything be done? Well, yes. And while it should have been done before you fired off the nasty-gram, it may actually provide some solace post-gaffe.
Fittingly, it comes from a book called, The Zen Path Through Depression. Its pertinent advice is this:
What may be crucial … is, first, to do nothing. This practice can be difficult because it seems to go against all we believe. Yet to do nothing — to “sit down and shut up” as Katagiri Roshi would say — is the essential practice of Buddhism … Sometimes, when our back is against the wall, the best thing we can do is to sit down and be quiet.
What we believe, of course, is that we should respond to infuriation and stupidity with a scathing riposte intended to intimidate the offending parties back to the intolerable ignorance whence they came. And we’re in no way inclined to say such responses are inappropriate. But since we are, after all, professionals, slightly higher levels of decorum and restraint are typically in fashion.
So, before you let loose the linguistic hellhounds to wreak their savage vengeance on the detestable and the dimwitted — however deserving they may be — take the proverbial deep breath. Step away from the keyboard. Do nothing. Or have a drink. Make it a double, if you will. But give it some time. And if you choose to send the screed anyway, make sure you won’t need the bridge you’re about to burn to get back across the River Styx.
The depression you save may be your own.