The tricky thing about gossip is that it’s hard to define.
When does genuine caring and concern turn into gossip? What about venting? We all need to get things off our chest, right?
Because it is so amorphous, gossip is an easy crime to commit. I know I have. In fact, it’s my biggest vice, or it used to be.
I grew up in gossip central.
Nobody does gossip like rural folks, except urban people in an office or apartment complex, which really is just a small town packed into one building. And don’t even get me started on rural office building gossip. Just… wow.
This is going to sound insane, but somewhere along the journey that was my insecure childhood, I got the impression that mastering gossip was an important life skill. (I know, barf.)
And I was really terrible at it. I was constantly getting caught by teachers or the targeted person. I was constantly failing.
The land of in-between
I tried really hard to be a good gossip; to be a good mean girl. (Although I didn’t know the term “mean girl” back then.) I was the nerdy girl trying to be the mean girl for the majority of my childhood. Yikes.
When I went off to college I rebelled by embracing my nerdiness. But I’d spent so many years trying to be the mean girl that now I was in this weird world of in-between. It was a very lonely place to be.
I fumbled around for many years, vacillating between stoic self-righteousness in the face of all gossip and terrible relapses that left me feeling dirty and ugly, shaming myself for participating in something I so reviled.
I’ve finally reached an equilibrium.
I can give myself grace about the past. Grace towards myself lead to grace towards others, and my self-righteousness slipped away.
I’m left with peace to allow myself and others to be where they are at. I don’t take gossip personally, whether it is directed at me or someone else. Gossip says a lot more about the people doing it than it does about its target.
It might be the company you keep
Since Redefining Love, I’ve learned to surround myself with positive people who build others up rather than break them down. If someone is struggling, they express genuine concern rather than joy at their struggle. They are solutions oriented people.
Where once I spent hours dissecting the personal lives of other people, I now spend my time with friends discussing ideas, solutions, digging deep, setting goals, and being accountable.
I didn’t even know this was a thing!
Turns out, there’s a great big world of people out there who actually live their whole lives this way! When I slip into gossip, they become uncomfortable, or look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. The subject changes, and we move on.
I used to feel self-conscious about this, maybe a little bit judged, a little bit offended. Now I realize it’s not about me. They simply didn’t know how or didn’t want to participate.
(It’s so rarely about you, people! We’ve got to stop thinking everything is about us!)
It’s not that all my friends were gossips before I redefined love. I just didn’t pay much attention one way or another. I mindlessly rattled on, unaware that the other person wasn’t really participating.
I’ve learned how to avoid gossip
I slip sometimes, especially in awkward conversations. (I am the queen of awkward conversations!) These slips used to zap my energy. I felt so worthless.
I am improving on that. It’s like crashing on a bike. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Get back on and try again.
But I need to vent!
We gossips use a lot of terms to justify ourselves. Venting is our biggest. “Sometimes you’ve just got to vent.”
My biggest struggle remains when I am faced with an opportunity to discuss someone who is still actively hurting me. And if the other person is also being hurt, watch out!
Here’s the thing about “venting.” If you gossip, it is going to get back to the other person. This continues the shame cycle, which drags you and everyone else down.
If you want to heal, you’ve got to stop.
You’ve got to remove yourself from it. I know this. And yet…
I am still actively working on it. But I have accomplished the first step, which is to identify my weakness. We can’t solve a problem if we don’t even know what the problem is.
Venting is okay, but you should be venting to the same positive, forward thinking people you are talking to the rest of the time. You shouldn’t have venting friends and the rest of the time friends. You should just have friends.
Seek out friendships with healthy people
What is your weakness?
What drags you down into a shame cycle? Think about it. Identify the source of your shame, then work relentlessly to remove it from your life.
Published September 17, 2019