“I never say anything negative about anyone, but …”
“People need to know that …”
“You know what I heard about …”
“I have a friend who had a bad experience with …”
“He’s a predator …”
“She’s a fraud … “
“He’s a creeper …”
It’s not gossiping if you are just trying to help, right? It’s not gossiping if you are just telling the truth, right?
After all, your good friend had a bad experience. A really bad one. You held their hand while listening to every detail; you’ve read the incriminating texts. You have the full picture. You’re certain of it.
How easily we justify.
See that star? The tiny dim one toward the right? That’s your vision, your knowledge, your understanding. The rest of the universe: that’s God’s. He knows every minute detail from every angle, from every side, from every perspective, from perspectives we don’t even know exist, our relative comprehension is so tiny, so minuscule. He knows the full measure of each of our hearts and minds. He knows our struggles, our challenges, our strengths, our triumphs. He knows.
Still convinced you have the full picture? Still convinced you can judge a man or woman’s character based on your limited scope? Still convinced the picture you paint of someone else in one broad brushstroke lives up to their 4-dimensional image?
And yet, remember that time you fretted you were misjudged?
The time someone took something out of context and painted your whole image around it? The time you made a bad judgement and that became all someone saw you as? Remember how all your goodness, all your kindness, all your strengths seemed to disappear to those whispering behind cupped hands. It feels terribly unfair, doesn’t it?
It’s a good thing every one of us is perfect. It’s a good thing we are so infallible and omniscient, we can scrutinize others from our high places in the name of “protecting” one another.
Obviously, none of us are. We were sent to Earth not as angels, but as people. As babies: physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. We are still not full grown. We are far from it. Fortunately, we have an eternity to get there. We are only a few decades into an eternity. We slip; we fall; we make mistakes; we get up again; we climb mountains; we fall into riverbeds. That’s what we’re here for.
And we’re here together.
It’s not by mistake that God has put us all into one big bunch and organized little bunches. We are here to serve and lift one another through our eternal progression; not to bash each other’s heads in when we screw up, or when a little social awkwardness leads to misunderstandings and social missteps.
And yet, there we are, doing what we say we stand against, what we ourselves have been victim of. Don’t congratulate yourself for being one of the few not guilty. Look closer. Zoom far into that universe picture, all the way into your own mind and heart. You’re a good person, a great person. But you, too, have been guilty of gossip. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. And what damage has it caused? And it always does. Always.
I’m not invalidating people’s bad experiences.
I haven’t lived the same experiences as you or you. But I do know that our past experiences, our personalities, our limited scope does influence how we perceive an experience we have, and how we react to it, and in some cases even bring it on.
If I tell you about a bad experience with someone I had, you might drink in every word I say, despite the fact that I might be somewhat culpable, or I may have overreacted, or I may have misjudged his attentions. And let’s face it, how many people do you know have been falsely accused? How many people do you know love playing the victim card because of the validation it brings? How many people do you know seem to find themselves in dramas time and time again? And often, they are the ones behind cupped hands. We all love a good drama. And let’s be honest. How many of us love playing the damsel in distress? How many of us love playing the hero? If you don’t think it fits, look closer.
Those toxic words are spread to others, to those who aren’t usually in the middle of drama, to those who we trust as good friends and level-headed people. And those are the ones who look out for our best interests, who warn us against that man over there, because he has a friend who’s had a really bad experience. It may be true. It might not be true. It may have roots in truth but have been spun to appear as something else.
I don’t know how many friends i have who have been victims of gossip.
Not ten years ago, not a year ago. Right now. I have been warned of too many people. People who are “creepers,” people who are “frauds,” people who are “predators.” I haven’t had the same experiences that others have had, but I can tell you that some of these people are good friends of mine, are great supports, are kind people. They are often the ones I call when I am crumpled on my floor. Because they are solid, steadfast people. But they might be seen as socially awkward, they might have made mistakes that have then defined them socially, they might have poor communication skills, they might be trying to sort things out after a traumatizing past.
In one case, I was the one hurt. And yet, others not personally involved have taken on the mantle of “protecting” me and others, long after I’d untangled the situation, forgiven and moved on. Ironically, it is these “protectors” whose insensitivity, overblown indignation and inability to let it go who have hurt me, not to mention the one they have demonized, far more than the situation warranted. Who gets to be the social police? Who gets to fan that flame of indignation long after the person has repented? Who makes that call? Who gets to put themselves into the middle of a situation they were never in to begin with.
We condemn people who are trying just as hard as we are; who are as infinitely fallible as we are; who need our love, compassion, patience and understanding just as much as we need others.
This is my earnest prayer as we enter 2016.
That the gossip and bullying STOP HERE. That we leave NOBODY behind in our striving. That we put down our tinsel halos of false altruism and our plastic swords of imagined justice, and embrace one another, friend and foe, with real embraces. If you see a fellow human being struggle, lend them a hand and a kind word. Please stop pushing them down further, and inviting your friends to do the same.
ABOVE ALL: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.