Confessions of a Former Gossip
“I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.” –– Benjamin Franklin
So, my name is EmilyCC, and I am a recovering gossip.
Several years ago, I realized that most of my conversations were about other people. I often felt bad at the end of a night of hanging out with friends because I had said things and heard things that I wouldn’t want certain people to know about.
At first, it was fun. It got me immediate friends (I’m still rather discouraged that I made friends so much faster at someone else’s expense rather than doggedly building a relationship built on trust and experience. Phbt…what fun is that?!). Everything that was gossiped about, I rationalized, was either general knowledge or not that bad. But, I didn’t like the way I felt, and I realized the people I most admired were people who somehow made it through entire conversations without saying a bad thing about anyone.
But, the biggest reason that I decided to stop was when I saw what rumors did to hurt my family.
Several years ago, my parents divorced. It surprised a lot of people; they’d been married 26 years. People talked, and rumors began. Most of my family was pretty oblivious to this. As the oldest of the kids, I thought I could protect my siblings and tried to make sure they didn’t hear those rumors. About a year ago, several of us discovered that we all, separately, had discovered the rumors and tried to keep them secret from the other silbings.
These rumors circulated near and far (beyond stake boundaries, across the country, even—who knew we were so popular?). And, the effects of them are still felt. Just last year, another completely innocent family member was hurt by them.
And, therein lies the rub, completely innocent people—children, parents, people who didn’t participate in the alleged incidents have been hurt.
I decided that it doesn’t matter if rumors are true or not. They’re just as damaging.
So, when I moved to a new ward, I vowed to stop.
After I made this resolution, it was easy enough to follow. I moved wards every one to two years. I can keep my big mouth shut for that long.
But, now, I’ve been in a ward that I don’t plan on leaving. I get comfortable in my friendships, and lately, I have to really force myself to remember my ongoing resolution. It’s so easy to slip up. In the moment, it feels more comfortable to dive right in: “Guess what I know!?” Such a quick conversation starter…
This has also been compounded by being in a Church presidency. As many of us have learned, when in a Primary/Relief Society/Young Women’s presidency, we sometimes have to discuss sensitive information.
My husband and I initially shared information we knew, feeling like it was helpful to have a Primary/bishopric discussion. We reasoned that we were better informed because of it. This may work for some couples, but we don’t do it anymore. For us, it didn’t feel right. And, really, why would I (or he) want to hear more sad stories? There was no pleasure in them.
The rules I’ve made for myself now are simple; I watch what I say, and I never say anything that I would be upset if the person I’m talking about heard. And, I’m certainly not always perfect, but I’m miles from where I was.
Still, this is a problem I’ve seen in the Church, firsthand. Sometimes, we have a hard time separating gossip and “necessary sensitive information” in our leadership roles. Sometimes, I think, “She’s such a good friend, I just want to mention to her…”
Yet, while the Church leaders often cautious us about gossip, I’m always a little frusterated at a lack of definition (someone sent home from a mission, another’s marital problems, what about someone’s annoying kid?) and a lack of concrete discussion about how to curb the problem.
So, what do you define as gossip? What do you do to stop it? Do you tell someone who’s life is making the rounds in certain circles (I actually haven’t been brave enough to do this, but I’m still grateful to my dear friend who did tell me about my family’s rumors when no one else would)?