Yesterday my daughter was involved in an incident at school. Without going into detail, she was rightfully ashamed of the part she played in it, and my whole family learned a hard lesson of how hurtful gossiping always is.
The situation surprisingly zoomed me into a headspace I haven’t occupied since I was fifteen and pregnant, and suddenly it was flashback Friday except on a Monday, and I was walking down the halls at high school with a bulging belly; hearing the whispers, pretending to ignore the sneers from people who didn’t even know me. Everyone seemed to have one inaccurate version or another of my story. Except for one true friend, I felt alone. I was never outright bullied, but I felt judged, scared and ashamed everyday for the next three years–because of what some people considered “harmless” gossip.
I know my daughter, and I know that the thought of being the person that brings pain upon anyone else is greatly upsetting to her–as it should be–and yet here we are. A word of wisdom to young girls: the cattiness never ends. I know grown women who find so much satisfaction in talking about other people’s problems. The truth is that there is no such thing as harmless gossip. What might start out as meaningless conversation about something-not-yer-business can quickly become a passionate discussion (usually filled with non-facts) which can then escalate into bullying in the blink of an eye. And yes–grownup bullies exist.
I could quote verses in the Bible that say “don’t be a jerk” or “God is displeased with petty gossip” or “y’all all better stop with talking about people behind they backs”, but instead,
Because a true friend does love at all times.
Loving someone does not involve whispering about them as they walk down the hallway, nor does it intentionally set out to make them feel horrible about themselves for any reason.
“But I’m not friends with that girl so who cares?” I’m not shocked to report that most people don’t consider gossip to be a big deal whatsoever especially when it’s about people they don’t care about. But that’s like saying “Who cares if I fire this gun as long as the bullet isn’t hitting someone I know?”
Something I’ve learned about gossip from my own experiences (from being gossiped about and from gossiping about others–shame on me) is that to participate in it, you actively devalue and dehumanize the person you’re talking about. Their feelings? Don’t matter. Their side of the story? Doesn’t matter. After a time, the actual truth doesn’t even matter. All of this is wrong considering that each of us was literally made by God in God’s image.
That 15-year-old pregnant girl who you just called a stupid whore who’s desperate to keep her boyfriend? Is a straight-A student who had sex one time with the boyfriend who she’s in a committed relationship with, and she’s holding back tears every single day on the back of the bus, and crying into her pillow after school because her own father can’t even look her in the eye anymore. And words hurt. And people are mean. And a smile from one kind person can make her terrible day just a little better.
Gossiping is always personal.
I’m embarrassed to admit how often I find myself in the middle of drama I shouldn’t be remotely involved in. It happens less and less with age and maturity, but I’m not dead yet so I will always understand the struggle.
It’s our duty to protect those who are smaller and weaker than us. It is our job to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. It is not okay to purposefully to hurt someone, physically or emotionally, or any other -ally.
You will never regret being kind, but cruelty damages your own heart as well as the hearts around you.
Girls, we belong to each other. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone messes up. Sometimes we do or say the wrong thing. Nobody is perfect. Show grace. Take care of each other. Be the friend that loves.