Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Bad news sucks and it will generally irritate and upset the people who receive it.  Bad news can be difficult to hear, but unfortunately it is part of life.  You shouldn’t get angry at or lash out and try to punish a person who is simply delivering a message, even if it is bad or undesirable news, as they are most likely not responsible for writing the message.  The messenger should not be blamed for bringing bad news or distressful information, instead you should blame the person who is responsible for causing this dreadful situation.  The bearer of bad news is just doing their job and it is not always easy having to bring bad tidings to others.  You should not punish someone for delivering bad or undesirable news, as they can’t be held accountable for the contents of the message.

Before the electronic age, many messages were hand delivered.  Normally the messenger was not harmed for delivering the message that they carried, however sometimes the message was so disturbing to the recipient that the messenger was blamed for the bad news and then executed.  If someone tells you something that you really don’t want to hear, something that is unpleasant, there’s an almost automatic reaction to want to reject it, even if it is true.

Killing the messenger was expressed by Sophocles and if you saw the movie 300, you might remember that in the beginning these Persian messengers arrive in Sparta and they ask for Water and Earth as a sign of humility and submission.  King Leonidas is not afraid of dying and he is not into being humbled, so the Spartans kill all the messengers by throwing them down a well.  In the movie Gladiator, General Maximus Decimus Meridius sends a soldier to the camp of the Germanic barbarians to request that they surrender, but he returns on his horse decapitated, proving that being an emissary is a shit job.

King David killed the messenger who brought him the news of the death of King Saul.  This phrase is touched upon by Shakespeare in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, when Cleopatra gets the bad news that Antony has married Octavia, she becomes angry, and she actually strikes and then threatens to treat the messenger’s eyes as balls, who then explains, “Gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match.”  In Titus Andronicus a clown is asked to deliver a message and after he does, the king orders him to be hanged and the contents of this message is never discussed.  This would be odd in a different play, but in the bloody play of Titus Andronicus murder is basically a normal thing.

Written for Linda G. Hill Life in progress One-Liner Wednesday – July 25 prompt.

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