It’s funny, I’ve actually been taught a serious lesson about gossip and the consequences of it a long time ago, but it’s only somewhat recently that I’ve genuinely understood it.
It was 5th grade. As one of the quieter girls in class, I had a knack for eavesdropping. It was hard not to – I’ve always been fascinated by people, with all their different personalities and the worlds they carry around in their heads. Even now, I love listening into the conversations around me when I walk in a public place. It’s a habit that’s hard to kick, and since it’s not a sin to process things your ears transmit to your brain, I probably won’t be stopping any time soon.
So, there I was, sitting in class while we were all doing (read: supposed to be doing) our work. Several girls who were more social than me were huddled around the desk of a girl I didn’t like at the time (if you’re wondering why, I simply didn’t take kindly to people who insulted me through no fault of my own, although I’ve forgiven her now). They were speaking in hushed tones, and, being the curious 10-year-old I was, I strained myself to hear what they were discussing.
“Who do you like?” I heard. Interesting, I thought. I was a vengeful little girl, and learning the crushes of your enemies was great blackmail material in elementary school (since, you know, anyone of the opposite gender had cooties).
So my then-enemy whispered the name of one of the athletic boys in our class, and a sly smirk crossed over my face.
Having been inexperienced in the field of gossip, I turned to speak to the very last person you would ever want to tell a secret: the class clown. But what can I say? I wasn’t planning to blackmail the girl immediately; I was saving it for a later time, for when she happened to insult me again. I just needed someone to laugh with about this new piece of information, and the class clown was a good friend of mine (yes, even if he had cooties).
And, in his typical fashion, as soon as I whispered the gossip to him, he began to yell.
“Whaaaaaaat?! Whaaaaat are you telling me, Ada?!” he exclaimed, loudly and slowly, for all to hear. Frantically, I pretended to slit my throat with my hand, signalling him to stop. But, alas, his voice just became louder as he continued.
“JO~RDAN LI~KES JOH~NATHAN?”
I had quickly glanced over to see the poor girl’s reaction. I had thought I would be happy to embarrass her, but my heart sunk when I saw the embarrassment and fear [of rejection] on her face. My conscience immediately put me in her shoes: to have someone reveal a secret of mine without my consent. I felt extremely guilty.
It’s practically impossible to keep anything to yourself nowadays. Everyone wants to know your secrets and have a piece of your brain, and if they think you’re hiding something, they won’t let you go until they find out what. They’ll do everything in their power to discover sometimes the most intimate things about your life, and then blab about it to everyone else “in confidence.” And it’s not just the NSA, politicians, and activists; everyone does this.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to live an open and honest life. Honestly (pun intended), it’s a lot better than feeling insecure and alone. But whether or not someone reveals their secrets is not up to you – it’s ultimately their decision. You have no right to dig for the skeletons in their closet unless they’ve committed a crime. Some doors are better left unopened.
If someone reveals a secret of theirs to you, or you find out somehow on your own, and they don’t want anyone else to know, listen to them. They are placing their trust in you and you alone. Even if you inform a third party and tell them not to tell anyone, you’re just opening up a chain. That third party is likely to tell someone else, even though they themselves weren’t supposed to know, and then they will tell more people, until…eventually, the only secret that exists will be that the person with the secret doesn’t realize the violation of their trust. And when they do realize it, it just gets even messier.
This is why the Bible says don’t gossip.