Now, this will be a juicy story, if you ever heard one! ;)
As I focus for awhile on sharing some personal stories with you, I thought that this one would especially hit home with many of us who may find ourselves getting caught up in the gossip trains from time to time.
I’ve written this particular story as mostly fiction. But the lessons are very real lessons that I’ve learned over time.
Why I Gave Up Gossip
Once upon a time, I was good friends with a young woman named Ashley. Ashley and I had gotten to know each other through a mutual group we were both a part of. We went out for dinner one night a few weeks after meeting, and we found that we shared a lot of common interests and really hit it off. After that, we shared a lot of our lives with each other.
Ashley was great. She was such a bright light. Her long, curly hair stretched past her shoulders, and she loved to wear it down. Like me, most days she had a very casual style, but she loved to dress up when the times were appropriate. For special occasions, she could look stunning in a matter of minutes.
I loved being around Ashley. She had the same kind of incessant curiosity as I did, and she loved to hear about my latest adventures. The feeling was mutual. We constantly supported each other’s growth, and we really grew close quickly. For me, it was fantastic. After all those years when I’d wanted another close girlfriend in my life, I’d finally found one.
That’s why, when Ashley suddenly seemed to change, I couldn’t really understand what was going on.
All of a sudden, this bright soul turned very quiet. She stopped calling me. When we saw each other, she wouldn’t look at me. When I tried to speak with her, she wouldn’t speak with me.
Was it something I did, I wondered?
I really started to become worried for Ashley. I wanted to be there for her and support her through whatever this was.
I figured she just needed time to process whatever it was and that we’d be back to hanging out again in no time. I had faith that she’d come to me with whatever it was when she was ready. Ashley was always honest like that—it was one of the traits I valued most about her. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Time went on, and nothing at all from Ashley. So then, out of my worry, I made a very costly mistake.
I mentioned to a mutual friend that I was worried about Ashley.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Ashley learned of my inquiry, of course.
That’s how so many of us women have learned to operate in this world. When we share a confidence with each other, even if we mean well and are worried about someone, how often does it come back to us, because that one person only told one other person, who only told...?
This time, the mistake was mine. I was so fearful for the state of our friendship that I put Ashley’s trust in me on the line because of it.
Things were never the same with Ashley and me after that. Our friendship just wasn’t meant to survive. And yet, I learned such important lessons from the mistake I made that fateful day.
I learned that even if we are worried about another’s well-being, trying to share our concerns with others can have some very harsh consequences.
In my act of gossip to a mutual friend that day, what I was silently speaking to Ashley was that I didn’t trust her enough to figure out her own life. I thought I had to step in and “rescue” her from whatever was troubling her. In my desperate attempt to know what was going on with her, I was communicating to her that I didn’t trust her own agency and capability as a human being on this earth, to learn her own lessons and get through her own experiences in her own time.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was unconsciously more motivated to help her through her hard time probably for two reasons, first so that she would still think of me as a virtuous person, and second, because I was worried about the state of our friendship. But I really believe that everyone is here to grow and change, and my gossip silently communicated to Ashley that I didn’t trust her to be able to do so for herself, even if it meant that she stopped communicating with me for awhile, or even forever.
I think we women over time have learned that gossip is acceptable because it’s modeled so often to us as young girls and we just think it’s normal. We want to fit in with others and do what they’re doing, so we learn to gossip too, just as they may be doing because they were taught to do so.
I learned to understand later how Ashley may have felt at the time, because during other times in my life, I learned that others had been talking about me behind my back without my knowing. They meant well and were concerned about my well-being too. But it still hurt. Why couldn’t they just come to me and talk to me about things? What were they so afraid of? Were they maybe afraid that somehow my potential change and growth might affect my friendship with them too? If so, I can understand that very well. And I can find great compassion and forgiveness for them.
Sometimes I think that we women, and some men also, allow ourselves to excuse gossip, again, because it’s so normalized in our culture. Many of us have caretaking tendencies and care about the well-being of everyone around us. And many of us are often very verbal with others in our communication.
Yet, we don’t realize the damage this seemingly innocent and sometimes well-meaning talk can have on those who we speak about. We all start to wonder who we can really trust when things come back to us. And since trust is the basis for any healthy relationship, it doesn’t help that many of us are likely walking around with a lot of anxiety about who to trust with our deepest lessons or experiences.
And still, we participate in this kind of behavior often without thinking, maybe because we want to be accepted by our peers, maybe because a part of us deep down wants to feel a bit superior by being the one to pass on “the scoop” to others, or maybe simply because we do care so much about the state of well-being of others around us.
Even so, whatever the reason, I’ve learned that it’s wise to put such deep trust in others around us that they will get through their lives and learn and grow all in perfect timing for them, even if that timing may not seem to fit our own, and even if it means our relationships may change in the process.
These days, if I find myself gossiped to, I aim to consciously choose not to prolong that conversation and not talk about a third party. Instead, I try to turn the conversation to myself or change the subject altogether. I so believe that there are so many more interesting conversations that can be had when gossip is taken completely out of the equation. Discussions about new advances in health, science, technology, or any field, for that matter. Discussions about travel and about what it may or is like to see other parts of the world. Discussions about food, about creativity, about arts and music and theater, and so much more. Even respectful discussions about current events. People just have to be willing to have them.
Again, living with this new commitment not to gossip has cost me, including feeling very alone during those rare times anymore when I am surrounded by a group of people who gossip about others they know. I don’t participate. Sometimes I will try to change the subject, but often it inevitably returns to other people who others know. If that happens, I sense that the situation is out of my hands, and I don’t add any fuel to the fire.
An important lesson to remember for all of us is that if someone gossips with us, they are very likely to gossip about us. That’s why I think it’s so important to commit to giving up the gossip cycles altogether, really examine how much we trust each other to handle our own lessons and growth, and commit to “keeping our noses in our own troughs,” as my father used to say. Unfortunately, I learned these lessons the hard way. Yet I share them here as a reminder and an encouragement of a way we can all commit to, if we so choose.
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Thank you for letting me share more of myself and my stories with you. I’ve learned some hard lessons along the way, but as I’ve taken time to reflect on them and grow from them, I’ve really been able to put some great principles into practice. I'm not perfect, of course, and I still make mistakes just like everyone else. But practicing principles like these has helped my life in so many great ways.
That’s really why I’ve created my first book, All About Me, just for you. It’s a place for you to feel free to do more of your own reflecting. Who knows what you might gain from the process at this particular time in your life?
If you’d love to learn more about All About Me, please do check it out here.
No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,