Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Respecting others' privacy is a difficult thing to get right sometimes. You desire to be open with your friends and family. You want to be known and the way to do that, of course, is to let others know you. So, you share things with the people in your life. Joys, sorrows, successes, failures, your strengths, your weaknesses, the good, the bad, and occasionally the ugly. The people you choose to tell are those you trust. You share yourself with caution, and you believe that your trust in others will be respected and returned. And others', in turn, share with you.

And then, out of the blue, someone is gossiping.

It's probably not a 'secret'. You've shared yourself openly with someone or even with many. And yet someone has taken that information and been careless with it. Perhaps they passed it on unthinkingly. Perhaps they didn't consider the information significant or sensitive so thought it open for casual conversation. Or maybe it's just that it's 'old news' - something that isn't even really all the important to you anymore and they're so familiar with it that they spoke without thinking.

Any of those possibilities has the ring of understandability. You've probably been guilty of it yourself a time of two. You spoke without thinking, in earshot of the wrong person, about the wrong topic at the wrong moment. You could kick yourself afterward, but you recognize that what's done it done and you walk on, hoping that those who heard it will either keep it to themselves or perhaps not even register any significance to what you said. You hope.

Most of the time, your hope is well founded. Plenty of the people we interact with are not the mean or vindictive type. They practice the Golden Rule or they remember what their mother said about "if you don't have anything nice to say..." Most likely, they're too busy living their own life and trying to do that the best they can that they don't have either the time or the inclination to be messing around with someone else's.

Occasionally, though, there is the gossip. Some gossips love to pass on whatever they hear to whomever will listen. They want to be the person 'in the know.' Other gossips pretend not to be, letting things drop and then coyly giving out the 'Oh, but please keep that to yourself" line. Then there are those who use the gossip as a weapon. They are the manipulators - the passive aggressives who don't have the courage to come after you outright. They sit on their tidbit of information and wait and when they think the time is right they pull it out and they use it in a deliberate attempt to try to harm and create hardship.

The gossiper should be relatively easy to dismiss. After all, they are petty, small-minded, mean and, certainly, have an essentially pathetic life if they have nothing better to do than to gossip about you anyway - right? For all practical purposes they are a nonentity, a nobody, and are deserving of your contempt, similar to the reaction you would save for something you would scrape off the bottom of your shoe.

And, while you tell yourself that and know the truth of it in the deepest part of you, their influence can still have an impact. The real difficulty is perhaps the knowledge that the gossip got their information from someone that you trusted. It makes you a little more cautious. A little more careful about what you share and with whom you choose to share it. A little more private.

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