A Little Gossip Goes a Long Way

24 01 2008

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Copyright 2008 Kelsey Hough.  All Rights Reserved.

I’d only been home for two days, but my answering machine was already cluttered with messages of “Call me back ASAP” from Jen.  Since her voice sounded more like a giggly girl at a slumber party than someone in the middle of a crisis, I wrote “Call Jen” on a sticky note and continued with my unpacking.  I’d call her after I’d run a load of whites.

Apparently, she just couldn’t wait for me to dig my smelly socks out of the blue duffle bag and track down a bottle of bleach, because before the rinse cycle was underway, the phone rang.  She asked a few pleasantries — if the airplane food was as gross as normal, whether I’d enjoyed the conference — before cutting to the chase.

“So?” said the enthusiastic voice on the other end of the line. “Tell me about him!”

I mentally flipped through files of friends and acquaintances trying to decipher who the elusive him was before finally just asking what on earth she was talking about.

“Oh, you know who I mean, Kelsey.” She obviously thought I was being coy.

I wondered if she’d confused my life with someone else’s, perhaps someone from one of those soap operas I pride myself on never watching.  Or maybe it was a side effect from a Pride and Prejudice overdose.  Who knows?

“There isn’t any guy to tell you about,” I said.

The last him of any interest whatsoever had been a fellow I’d met briefly while at the conference, who I’d never mentioned to Jen because it wasn’t worth mentioning.  After all, we hadn’t even swapped MySpaces, let alone phone numbers.

The Grapevine in Action

While I’d been gone, I’d briefly mentioned chatting with Conference Dude in a short email to a friend of mine who had happed to mention it to one of our mutual friends.  This gal then, I later discovered, told Jen I was dating someone I’d only just met.  And Jen immediately stretched the story in her own mind from dating to matrimony.  By the time I got home and was attempting to do my laundry in peace, the story had grown so much you’d have thought they’d drenched it with Miracle Grow; it wasn’t even recognizable as my life.

Jen — disappointed to discover there wasn’t going to be a summer wedding (or spring, fall or winter for that matter) — said with a sigh, “Oh, and I was looking forward to the wedding.”

It’s Not a Game

Gossip spreads like wildfire; even something as mundane as, “I talked with an interesting guy over coffee,” can easily turn into, “I’m getting married this summer to someone I only just met, and didn’t bother to tell you.”  As fast as the gossip chain I encountered moved, hurtful gossip moves at light speed in comparison.

With a single sentence a person’s entire reputation can be ripped to shreds beyond possible repair.  Because of this, the fact that the only temporary modification my own reputation underwent was that a few gossipy ladies, who didn’t have their facts straight, thought I bordered on being a bit reckless when it came to romance, it seems like I got off easy.

Thanks to the gossip chain, I almost ended up with a few extra toasters.  But usually gossip does a lot more damage than that.  Without anyone even intending any harm, gossip easily destroys lives, friendships and reputations, and at the very least, gossip confuses people and shares intimate details of other people’s lives without their permission.

“If anyone considers himself religious,” James says in his epistle, “and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)  Controlling our tongues and choosing not to gossip are not simply good manners, they’re even evidence our faith is genuine because we’re putting it into action.

Repeating gossip in any form is like messing around with a loaded gun aimed at someone else’s reputation, and it’s not something we should ever play around with.  It might tickle a child’s fancy to play with a loaded gun, but even if he never meant to hurt anyone, the simple act of playing with it can do unthinkable damage.

In the same way, if you play with gossip, someone else and their reputation will get hurt.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

21 01 2008


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s easy to be opinionated and vocal about our views when there isn’t anything at stake, and it doesn’t really matter.  But very few of us are usually willing to speak up, like Dr. Martin Luther King did, about things that are truly a matter of right and wrong.

I know for myself, it’s not only a matter of choosing not to be silent, though, it’s also a matter of learning to have the wisdom and maturity to know the difference between the things like justice, freedom and equality that are worth fighting for, even worth dying for, and my own personal pet peeves.

May we all have the maturity to pick our battles wisely, and the strength to never keep silent about things that truly matter.