“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7:3, 5b: NCV
Gossip is a six letter word that causes a whole lot of problems. It’s a snake that slithers into conversations, striking a terrible blow, and it leaves its poison in minds that soak it up like a dirty sponge. I really hate what gossip does to people. It has the ability to turn even the closest of friends into betrayers of trust. The sad thing is that even when we don’t intend to gossip, the temptation of sharing tidbits of information about the newest Scarlet Letter victim makes even the best of people listen and repeat what they’ve heard. Human beings are curious, and stoking the fires of gossip comes as naturally to some people as breathing. My view is that those who participate in it do so to point the focus away from themselves to show the world that the victim’s life is so much more screwed up than theirs is. Perhaps people gossip because of sheer boredom. I admit to listening to it when I really wasn't doing anything else important at the time.
We are fascinated with what goes on in others’ lives. We watch shows like Jerry Springer in all its potato salad throwing glory while staring intently at guests who spew curses and accusations at each other with body guards stepping in when fists start to fly. We sit on the edge of our seats when Maury Povich announces whether some poor guy is or isn’t the father of his lover’s baby. The fact is people devour other people’s drama like a ravenous beast on the prowl. So many feed on the negative energy gossiping causes. At the end of it all there is so much wood in peoples’ eyes that they could open a lumber yard with it.
I know how much gossip hurts. Nobody gets by in their life without becoming the victim of gossip and finger pointing at some point. Last year was a really bad year for me. I admit to doing some things I wasn’t proud of, and to a certain point I understand that I opened myself up for others to talk about me, especially because I live in a community where everyone knows what everyone else is up to. It was unavoidable for me to escape criticism for my actions.
At that time I worked in an RV park where I saw many of these people on a daily basis. I would smile, ask them about their day, and even on days where the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anybody, I’d put on an actor’s face because I didn’t want my bad mood affecting anybody else. I understand that sometimes people just need to vent. They’d also ask about how I was doing in school, and after a while I genuinely started caring about many of them. During Christmas of 2013 I received more Christmas cards from the majority of them than I had received in all the previous years in my life. Things were good.
Once I screwed up, all that changed. My husband and I were going through a really rough time, and I ended up leaving and attempted a relationship with someone else. It didn’t work out with the new guy, but that’s another story. Some of the people I trusted, and even looked up to, turned on me faster than a deer fleeing a hunter’s missed gun shot. As I said, I understood being criticized, especially since it wasn’t like me to do the things I did, but when the outright lies started, that was when I’d had enough.
At first, I felt a range of emotions. I was hurt, sad, angry at myself for opening myself up to attacks in the first place, then, after all that, I became angry. I ended up leaving my job so I wouldn’t cause problems for my boss or any more problems for my family. At first, I understood the most basic emotions I was going through. I also knew I needed to do a lot of repenting, asking for forgiveness, and solving the problems my husband and I had that caused such a mess in our family. I hurt people who mattered to me, including myself, and I vowed to never do that again. But when it came to those who acted as though I was lower than dirt, I felt betrayed by them once they spread lies about me. To this day I’m not sure exactly who said what, but I do know that I was hearing some crazy and outlandish things, things that I supposedly did, and I have to admit I was almost impressed by the accusers’ sheer imagination. I stopped going to the office where I used to work, and with the exception of very few family members, I gave up on human beings in general. I didn’t trust people easily as it was, so I really didn’t care if I ever trusted anyone else again. I had a lot of rough days with God who listened to some sad and pitiful prayers.
I started to become a person who is nothing like who I truly am, and it almost destroyed me. I sank into a depression where I felt like there was really no reason for me to be on earth anymore. Later, I went in for help, and my psychiatrist ended up diagnosing me with bipolar disorder. After being put on a mood stabilizer, I started to come back to life, yet I was still bitter. While I didn’t expect people to feel bad for me because of what I’d done, I didn’t expect such a backlash when, in reality, my decisions had nothing to do with them. The only people who had any real right to judge me were those closest to me, and while I was friendly with my gossipers at one point, that right didn’t include them.
In Christmas of 2014 I received only one card. Just one. I learned a valuable lesson about how much it hurts to be at the center of vicious gossip. I learned that certain people didn’t actually give a crap about how nice or caring I was toward them, and they didn’t remember the times I lent a listening ear to their problems. They labeled me as someone who became like a kind of joke to them because of my mistakes. That small RV park office had become a log cabin. While I have gone on a journey of healing and releasing my bitterness, the lessons still hold true. I felt bad for the times I acted so cruel to others by talking about them when I shouldn’t have, and I try my best now to avoid gossip as much possible in a world of some people who seek to talk about only the worst in others. In looking only at the faults and weaknesses of others, we only add to the pile of wood.