Several months ago my phone rang. I saw who it was, but decided to let it ring through to voicemail. Although I like who was calling, I just didn’t have the energy.
No voicemail. Whew!
I usually don’t get so relieved when this happens; it depends largely on my mood. Some days I wished callers left a message so I could make a more informed decision as to whether to call them back. Other days, I simply didn’t care.
Then, there are days like this one where I knew exactly why the person was reaching out even without a voicemail: she heard “the news.” My news. My very, very, personal news. And she was just itching to know more. And I had no interest in telling her. Zilch. Nada. No ma’am.
Three minutes later, my phone rang. It was her – again! Odd. I didn’t answer – again. No voicemail – again.
One minute later, a “CALL ME” text came through. What the what? At this point, I’m thinking someone’s hair MUST be on fire. I’m serious.
For fear of her calling or texting again, I knew I had to bite the bullet. I dialed. It rang…once…she was an eager beaver answering that phone. The conversation went something like this:
Me: What’s up?
Her: I don’t know, you tell me.
Me (playing stupid; acting cool, calm, and collected even though I wanted to puke): What do you mean? What are you talking about?
Her: OH COMEEEE ONNNNNNNN! (her voice was intense)
Me (still on par to get an Oscar): What? No, seriously…what are you talking about?
Her: Corey, I heard…
Me: Heard what?
(I asked just in case what she had heard was about me leaving work in an ambulance that one time, way back when…a story for a different time)
I went round and round for several minutes, trying to pull out what it was that people – at my work – were saying. And who – at my work – had that much free time, or interest in me or my love life?
At one point in the conversation, after she told me what she had heard and from whom, I remember telling her that I wish people would stop gossiping about me, and if she could help spread that message, I would be forever grateful. What she said next has stuck with me for months. Her response was (and I quote), “Well…..it’s not really gossip if it’s true.”
Hmmm…that’s an interesting point of view…that I’m not sure I agree with.
Are these little factoids about my life considered “rumors”, “gossip”, or simply “news?” Or what about a little blend of all, which we’ll call “facts sprinkled with conjecture” just to make it fancy?
Webster says that gossip is a “rumor or report of an intimate nature” and defines rumor as “talk or opinion widely disseminated with no discernible source” or “a statement or report current without known authority for its truth.”
My heart was uneasy because people were in fact gossiping, spreading rumors, and discussing facts sprinkled with conjecture. While the fact may have been that I was in the midst of a divorce, the reason(s) they were circulating were (aside from none of their business) assumptions.
But then God reminded me: I had been “that” person plenty of times in my life. The person who just haphazardly perpetuated little stories with no regard for whether the person I was discussing was probably at home, in the fetal position on the floor of their dark bedroom wishing the days away, and if not that extreme, then certainly wishing that people would just pretend they didn’t know their business.
And, equally were the times that although I may not have repeated what I had heard, I certainly sat through the story without finding a polite way to simply say, “Let’s talk about something else.” I get it – I wanted to know, too. Until now.
Going through something so personal, and having it creep into the public domain, is (to put it lightly) gut wrenching. Yes – people get divorced every day and you’re probably thinking it’s simply “not that big of a deal”, right? Wrong. Just believe me. Please.
While I feel the sincerity in most people’s voice (or text) when they acknowledge the elephant, there have been others that haven’t been so graceful. I’ve since decided that sometimes elephants are ok left alone.
So, can we make a pact with one another, and more importantly with Jesus, that we will follow His Word? From this day forward, let’s be more deliberate to:
- avoid anyone who talks too much; gossiping betrays people’s confidence (Proverbs 20:19)
- avoid being a fool (or person lacking judgement) by not spreading slander (Proverbs 10:18)
- not be a wicked (or morally very bad) person who listens to deceitful lips, or a liar who pays attention to a destructive tongue (Proverbs 17:4)
Let’s promise each other that the next time you or someone else begins a conversation with, “Did you hear that…” or “I don’t know if it’s true, but…” or “Don’t say anything, but…” throw the imaginary red flag, make a cute little police siren sound, and change the topic. For if you don’t, it’s considered a sin because we know better (James 4:17).
Dear Lord, please help me to be someone that can be trusted, and not someone that spreads others’ personal information, regardless of whether it is true. Help me always put myself in their shoes and remind me how it made me feel when I knew people were gossiping about me. In Jesus’s name, Amen.