There was a time, not oh-so long ago that I didn’t know what gossip really was. I was taught that gossip meant talking about something that wasn’t true. Just talking about people was a part of my family of origin’s every interaction. That wasn’t gossip, that’s just what you do. This is what we were taught.
There is a dangerous aspect to talking about people because it creates a (false) bond between the people who participate.
There is a culture of gossip in the family I grew up in, particularly on the maternal side. It is simply the main part of their interactions with each other to discuss the other people in the family, usually with a feeling of displeasure and judgement. Even without the ugly side, gossip is idle talk about another. This truly is gossip as is mentioned in God’s word. He also warns us against slander, which is where we use false or DAMAGING statements in our talk about another. This pattern of interaction in my family is most times all there is; talking about each other. (Proverbs 11:13/16:28/18:8/26:20, 2 Cor. 12:20, Titus 3:2, 1 Tim 5:14, Romans 1:30, 1 Cor 6:10)
As these activities became more and more accepted and more and more the main stay of gatherings of any number, external things became more chaotic. I received texts ABOUT me that were intended for others from people who were “discussing” me in slanderous and gossiping ways. I also had people who repeated statements back to me, made about me and others in a way that left me wondering how they handled the moment- did they defend me or the accused or just go along with the slanderer?
Of course, when someone in the family was confronted for actions such as these, they called their slander “concern” for the people. Things that are said like this “She should hang her wedding picture on the fridge so she will remember not to eat so much.” “You have beautiful hair and yet you wear it like this.” “Perhaps she should go to work and he should stay home, she is such a failure as a mom.” “She never cleans her house. She lives in the middle of all that junk.” “She should never have had kids, she doesn’t spend any time with them.” This does not sound like concern to me. Does it sound like it to you?
I’ve watched as the longer this behavior was permitted, the further and deeper it has gone until outright lies were said as though they should be believed. “You can’t listen to anything she says….Didn’t you know she said she was going to drive off a cliff a few years ago? With the kids in the car!” “They keep their curtains closed all the time because they are probably cooking meth in there.” “They never have enough food to feed their kids anyway.” “She is too messed up, she will never marry.” “They will never make it. They don’t know how to love anyone but themselves.” “He never works, he is so lazy.” I could go on and on, folks, because some of these things have been said about me but some have also been said TO me, about my siblings, and cousins, other family members and mutual friends.These are not statements of concern. They are statements of accusation. Of serious slander. Of crimes and fabricated conclusions.
I have years of ugly statements like this stored in my brain.
I felt I could ignore them, control them in my mind.
But they still come up unexpectedly at times when I see the person in question. This is the worst part of it all, in my opinon. That statements like this take root in your heart and mind. About others. About yourself even. Is that true of them? Could that be true of me? Am I what they say I am or am I who I think I am? Is that person who he seems to be or is he a stranger in my brothers face?
This gossip has created an entire community of people who cannot trust each other.
It has created an entire community of people who can be controlled by a few who have heard everything you’ve ever said. Have added to it, taken from it, will quote what they said as though you said it and will certainly quote you in your moments of participation in order to destroy any relationship you have outside of their control.
Gossip does not make you a safe person. In fact, a person who makes statements like this is an emotionally dangerous person. And anyone around them who allows them to do this is also to be considered unsafe. Like wearing armor, I no longer spend time with any of them. Respectfully, I also say, if you are one who does this, just don’t be my friend at all.
I have never been a part of a culture of gossip outside of my family and I regret to say in my youth, I often tried to create them in other circles. I knew how to bond this way, with other women, by talking about other people. I am suceptible to fall into it at times. I know this and it terrifies me.
I am thankful to God Almighty for the several friends who sat me down at different times and said “I don’t want to do this with you”….”This isn’t how friends treat each other”….”I won’t talk about so-and-so with you.” It’s even been in the last few years that I’ve watched myself get sucked back into that culture inside my family, that some of these talks have resurfaced in my heart: OH, THATS WHAT SHE MEANT. Thank heaven for understanding. Thank heaven for this armor and protection of good friends, good people, good leaders to follow. Thank heaven for circles in which the culture of interaction is to uplift in acceptance. To all those old friends who had the hard talks with me, I truly thank you. I often thanked you then (Sometimes I fought you. Defending myself.) and only now do I know I’ve reached full understanding of what you were doing for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What amazing people you are!
It is enlightening to understand that truly, though this may be a regular culture to some people, there are many where it simply is not the reality. In other words: this isn’t NORMAL. Especially in respect to mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and the like. It also isn’t necessary.
I am watching from a distance as some of you try to interact with people from my past, people in my family and people who are simply like those from my past…watching you try to find your footing when the rug is always knocked beneath you, watching you fumble your way on whether this person is right or did that sound quite right, wondering if they’ll do the same exact thing to you (they have and they do and they are) and your uncertainty shows me you’re standing where I’ve stood before. Baffled. But longing to be in that fold. Not knowing why, really. But the bond is pulling. Run from it. That’s my only advice: Run.
I am thankful for a recent study I was a part of on Titus 2. It was so hard to hear and to particpate in in my broken state. But I came away with so much understanding. Here it is in part only. Titus 2, “3 Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to love what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands. 9 Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that have nothing to do with him.” This, too, is why I tell you: RUN.
I am slowly but surely recovering from some of this. I’ve asked God to cleanse my mind and my heart of that which is NOT TRUE. Reveal to me what of these statements are real about myself so I can be better and so I can deal with my sins and flaws. But the rest, be forgotten. Not even a distant memory but forgotten. I want to believe once more that I am who Christ says I am and nothing else. He is faithful and I believe the years the locusts have eaten will be repaid. Renewing my mind, day by day.
I’ve also asked Him to cleanse me completely of the statements made about others; it isn’t mine to know or ponder. I don’t want to see someone and wonder if what I was told was true or untrue- I want to forget it. I want to know them on my own, see them for who they are, not someone else’s false or partially true or convoluted conclusion. Renewing my mind, day by day.
I want to always interact with others without any tendency to control or manipulate but to bond over real life, in this way other friends have taught me. In my experience, those have always turned out to be the best of friendships anyway.
Thank heaven He makes even me new.