Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spewing Gossip

I'm a gossiper.

No lies. I gossip. I gossip regularly.

It's not that I want to spread gossip and be a known gossiper. I just like being in the know. And I justify it that being in the know helps me do my job better or helps me know my peers better or helps me be a wiser more educated person.

But really, I just want to be in the know. I want to be the person who knows things.

I want to be the person who the boss trusts to tell her woes about coworker X to. I want to be the friend trusted to hear the story about what friend A did to friend B all under the guise of advice and a listening ear. I want to be the person who knows. And I want other people to know I know.

I am a pretty good secret keeper and for the most part I think I can be trusted, but all too often the thought passes through my mind, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but... Especially if you haven't said to me those important words, "Don't tell anyone."

And I know I'm not alone because you gossip with me.

You tell me secrets and what you heard about person Y and situation Z. You come into my office, and I go into yours. You text me, and I text you back. I email you, Skype you, call you, talk to you, and you listen and you gossip back.

And men, don't deny it, you gossip too. Just as often. Just as much.

Coming into my new job, I didn't want to be the gossiper anymore. I wanted to remove myself from the situation when the gossip starts. I wanted to fight the urge to go tell so and so what what's his face just did. I wanted to keep my excellent, social worky, empathetic listening skills in check, and not use them to get my peers to start gossiping.

I wanted to keep it all to myself and not be that gossipy girl.

I think I'd been doing a pretty good job of it. No, I know I'd been doing a pretty good job of it. Or at least I was doing a pretty good job until I got home at the end of the day and let my parents hear it all. But that's just venting, right? Not gossip?

Yesterday, however, the urge got to be too much. I knew something good. I knew something really good. And I knew colleague G would be interested in my gossipy news.

It was like one of those moments from the old cartoons when the little demon and the little angel pop up on your shoulders and debate the good and bad with you. Why is it the little demon and his pitchfork and horns are always so much more convincing?

I b-lined for colleague G's office. My erupting volcano of gossip spewing all over her.

I expected to feel relieved of my burden and satisfied with the release, but this time, for maybe the first time, after releasing my gossip, I saw with clear eyes the mess I had just made. I saw the stains on the wall. I saw her gossip splattered clothing and at that moment knew no mop, no amount of bleach, no rag would ever fully clean those stains.

I had dishonored one coworker by gossiping about them and disrespected another by sharing my gossip with them.

My friend Claire once told me about a pact she had made with some of her girlfriends to hold each other accountable when they started gossiping. Just a simple, Hey, that's gossip, and an agreement to end the conversation there and go on to another topic. No judgement. Just accountabilty.

To be honest, when Claire told me this, I remember thinking, Wow, that's a bit idealistic and over the top.

But then we all know just how hurtful gossip can be. Even the gossip we think is harmless can be incredibly destructive.

So maybe Claire and friends and their idea isn't so over the top.

James wasn't exagerating when he called the tongue "a fire", a small spark able to catch an entire forest on fire (James 3:5, 6).

I also agree with James that at least this side of Kingdom come, I will never fully tame my tongue, but I think I can work on breaking it in. I know the Spirit of God within me is much more powerful than my gossipy tongue. I know the heart and the will not to gossip is stronger than the desire to gossip.

And I just keep thinking, what a testimony, what a light, to be the one who walks away from gossip and refuses to take part. The one who chooses to not judge those who are gossiping, but rather to call others out when you can and walk away when you can't. To be the person everyone knows will never gossip about me and is completely trustworthy.

I want to be that kind of testimony to the goodness of God within me.

Today, I went back to my colleagues office with a "Hey, I owe you an apology. That thing I told you yesterday was really gossipy and I feel like I dishonored colleage C and disrespected you."

No agenda. Just an apology and a I want to better in the future.

Does gossip trip you up? How are you learning to manage gossip in your own life?

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