“A gossip betrays a confidence but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13
There I was – the new kid on the scene – young, naïve and a little scared.
I lay in my bunk, clutching my yellow bunny tight, hoping beyond all hope that everything would be okay.
The door slammed and bounced back – just enough for me to see the girls run in the opposite direction to where they’d loudly pronounced they were heading. But I knew, I just knew.
So I too pulled back my covers and crept down the hall, following in the direction I knew they’d really gone. I opened the door and surprised them in their girly giggles…they stopped short, their chatter and laughter carrying cruel and nasty undertones that girls the world over seem so capable of engaging in.
Unfortunately it set a bit of a tone. Boarding school created many wonderful and long cherished memories – but the gossip, oh the gossip. A bunch of young school girls trying to make their way – trying to fit in and trying hard not to be the odd one out. Gossip that cradled us in a false sense of superiority, a blanket of warmth that felt safe and secure…
In reality it was insidious. It wasn’t till I went away that I truly saw it for what it was. I saw the holes in that blanket of warmth, and the filth and stench that it carried as it inflicted pain on others. I realised I no longer wanted any part in its false sense of security and the nastiness and bitterness that was slowly gnawing away at my personal integrity and trustworthiness.
I wish I could say that since then I’ve never partaken in the world of gossip, but that wouldn’t be truthful. It is one of those things that rears its ugly head without us having to think too deeply about it.
What is it about picking at the faults of others? Is it a self-satisfying smugness that makes us feel big and powerful and sure? Perhaps it helps to deflect our own insecurities as it gives us a sense of one-upmanship? Perhaps we feel entitled to bitch about the teacher, the shop attendant, the boss, the neighbour, or even the little digs behind our partner’s back? And there is no doubt that it can be exhilarating to be the one ‘in the know’ or the deliverer of the ‘juicy’ story.
But as Kelly Chisholm wisely reflected:
“Trust is a word that sits right at the heart of relationships that matter…”
Gossip – in all of its forms – betrays, betrays, betrays.
It eats at our personal integrity and creates bitterness in our core, while also reducing other’s confidence in us. It undermines our connectedness – particularly if the chatter is about a partner or close friend. Even if it feels justified, it spreads rumours that perhaps could have been dealt with more constructively. It steals another’s thunder when it was actually their story to tell.
Sometimes I look back at those times in boarding school and realise that, at the heart of it, we aren’t all that different you and I. Here we are just trying to make our way and fit in. We have diverse backgrounds and experiences and, although we may be proud of our uniqueness, mostly we don’t want to be the odd one out. Certainly none of us want to be the object of ridicule or scorn.
We all have a story to tell and if we will only take a look around in interest, compassion and kindness we are often deeply rewarded.
Let’s hold on to these words from Proverbs 12:18:
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”