I pride myself on being a good, kind person. However, this morning I did something that made me feel like a complete fraud in that capacity. I was on the phone with one of my best friends. She’s the kind of friend to whom I can say anything.
Here’s the thing, though – just because you can say anything to a person, doesn’t mean you should.
We got onto the topic of a particular woman. I do not know her well and I have absolutely no business judging her (nor anyone else for that matter!). Nevertheless, I went on to share what I presumed to intuitively know about her (insert eye roll), in addition to what had been shared with me, about her, by others.
I am not known to be a gossip. Quite the opposite, I have been referred to by my friends as “the vault” because they trust me to keep their confidences. So why did I feel it was appropriate to have entertained gossip about this woman at all? Just because she isn’t a close friend? Whatever the reason, I not only listened to the gossip about her – but then, worse – I repeated it to my friend, suffused with my own psychoanalysis of this woman I barely know.
Hold on while I climb off of this horse of mine.
It might take a while, because it is A HIGH f’ing HORSE.
At the end of this (almost entirely one-sided) conversation with my friend, I stopped and said, “Wow, I feel disgusting. I am an awful person.”
We’ve all been in social situations in which gossip happens, and we all have different levels of comfort (and discomfort) about it. We might find it entertaining, even argue it is harmless. Sometimes it’s fascinating or titilating, and it is easily forgotten that we are taking in a version of a story which has likely been passed on “telephone game” style, tweaked by the memory recall and perception of each subsequent storyteller.
We forget it isn’t our story to tell.
Sometimes we might even fool ourselves by disguisng the gossip as concern about a person, or we might turn it into some philosophical discussion about personal evolution.
(Please excuse the dry heave…)
If we aren’t judging a person nor being blatanly unkind to them in person, then isn’t it just harmless banter?
No, it isn’t.
First of all, I should know better than to do something that makes me feel physically uncomfortable. After the above conversation, I felt like I needed a shower.
I felt ashamed of myself.
Second, there’s no more accurate moral compass for me than to think about whether I’d be proud to have my children witness and emulate my behavior.
I would never, ever want my girls to hear me making sanctimonious judgements nor spreading petty gossip about another human being.
I want to teach them to be better than that.