Words are powerful. They are often divine and filled with love and depth. Your eyes become soft as they are delivered from the lips of a friend, a lover, your child or they’re printed on pages you can’t stop turning while your heart soars, what’s next? There are other times, however, when the sentences have been restrung and these simple syllables have become laced with a far darker intent. There are times when words cut you like glass and the shards sometimes remain.
I often wonder why people ask about my personal life. Are they interested because they want to know me better, love me harder, or are they asking out of curiosity? Should I get over guardedness to open up to those walking beside me or are they asking so that one night when they’ve had a drink too many my foibles and insecurities may be shared over a sticky table with those that want to be entertained?
When it has happened that I’ve become the subject of someone’s conversation I have typically ignored the eventuality of it. I don’t set a record straight or wonder why, I simply allow my silence to answer the questions that are outstanding. Not everyone has this luxury because sometimes the gossip is damaging. While things said about me have hurt my feelings deeply I also know who I am and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lovely group of supportive friends. They remind me that on most days I’m pretty awesome.
But, I’m also the mother of a little girl who is growing up in a time when gossip is pop culture. It is Twitter, Facebook, every magazine on every shelf and we all know that gossip is the meanest when we’re in school. It causes girls to cut themselves, develop eating disorders and worse – take their own lives before they have even begun. I may know that a friend who talks about me is not my friend, my life is long and people will come and go, thank you for showing me yourself, bless, but when a girl is learning who she is in a bubble her bubble is her entire world. To lose a friend that she has to see at school every day where we rove in packs and take sides is catastrophic.
We lead our girls by our example so I would like to invite everyone that trips upon this post to join me on a 30 day No Gossip Diet and encourage the girls in your life to do the same. Just think of all the good we could collectively put out in the world if we only said words to uplift for an entire month.
Talk about it. Talk about what gossip looks like and how it can hurt. Talk about it as if it is a trans fat.
I’ve done a little research and while we all get caught up in our friendships and such, the true determinate of gossip’s harm is intent. Is the intent to lift another up or to privately share a concern with someone close so that you may help a friend together? I have had friends going through crises where these conversations were necessary and held so close it was as if we’d be indicted for sharing secrets that were not ours. There are times when talking about another is only because you are coming together to support them. Your intent is to show them love.
There are times when the intent is to solve for jealousy, insecurity or pure entertainment value. You know the difference. You feel it in your gut when the words slip from your mouth or as they are delivered to you on a plate. People lean in, grab another drink, settling in to a conversation that is exploiting the stories wrapped around someone that is not present.
Are your words wrapped in love? Or does the person receiving the information look like a viper snacking on your words, delicious? When someone tells you something do you recognize that this is not yours? When someone opens up and tells you something personal do you thank them for trusting you? Do you honor that trust? Their vulnerability was a gift. Carry it as such and understand the words attached are not yours. The secret attached is not yours.
Well, unless they’re like a criminal or a killer or something. Then Godspeed and bless, because your life just got complicated for a minute.
Let’s not just talk to our own daughters, but her group of friends as well. Ask them to trust that feeling they have in their stomach, learn what it is. Girls fear their friends will think they’re not cool if they don’t participate in the group, but what I’ve found is that by not engaging she is setting herself up for deeper, more meaningful friendships. The first girl to have her own crisis will seek the one that did not talk.
After all, while they may be sitting around getting drunk on other’s problems they also know their own failings make the rounds when they aren’t present. There is a tiny voice they ignore, “what do they say about me when I’m not here?” The act of gossip is the surest way to diminish trust in a group setting. People are complicated, their lives delicate. Who are any of us to speculate as to how or why?
Let your words be light.