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Own Your Ears! Keys to Sifting the Truth from Gossip Groups
You big, fat bully! Wow. What an earful you just got. And how did that feel to you? Not nice, I am sure. I will bet that you never thought that you did not own your own ears. Truth is, sometimes your ears belong to someone else and you do not even know it. In hurried times, busy days and in large bustling cities, our ears and eyes take in so much information, literature and resources in one single day that sometimes we relinquish our ears to those who have the biggest mouths.
Busy, busy and No Time For Reflection: What I am saying is that sometimes when we are too busy and our days are too filled with activities we tend to just listen to what people are saying instead of finding out the truth ourselves. Sometimes even our own friends can lead us astray by what they say about other people. We listen to our friends and we trust what they say. That is a given. After all, who would not trust their friends? The problem with this process is that today in our cities, we too quickly call someone a friend, when they are not a friend.
You have acquaintances at work and at school who are just that. They begin as acquaintances. But they are not true friends until we really get to know them, and they get to know us. You cannot be a friend to someone who is in a message board or chat room where you know little about them. And even if you happen to go to school with them, you need to know a little bit about them before you trust their every single word.
Your Listening Skills: So, when listening to what people say about other people (we should stop right there) , you need to decipher for yourself what is true and what is not true. If your friend (acquaintance) says something about someone and then continues to play the childish game of he said,she said, he said , instead of allowing you to make your own decisions or make your own judgments, then that person is obviously not a real friend to you or to anyone else. The process that I just described is the process of gossip.
All Gossip is Gossip, whether it is true or false; it is all gossip: What some do not realize is that some gossip can be true and some gossip can be false but in the end, all gossip is just that gossip. In our fast-paced society, in our vastly-growing cities, people tend to leave their brains open to anything that is out there. And they do not realize that they are being brainwashed by whatever anyone else wants them to take in. There is so much gossip out there. There is gossip in our schools, workplaces, places that we volunteer in; there is even gossip in our churches, and in our church meetings. It seems like there is no limit to the places where gossip rests its’ ugly head.
Gossip in Groups, Message Boards & Chat Rooms: These kinds of places usually consist of three kinds of people. In these places you have a handful of your normal or average people, a handful of non-participating people — usually the listeners and the followers, and then you have a microscopic handful of gossipers, attention-seekers, and trouble-makers. Most the group or chat room are what you would consider okay while the microscopic handful of the rest are there for the sole purpose of bringing attention to themselves and at the same time finding a scapegoat for their own inadequacies, failures and personal problems. These are the kinds that begin the gossip and begin the trouble in these places.
How Do You Differentiate? If you just listen and observe for a while, you can see which persons consistently put people down, call people names, insult people and belittle people. These are the bullies in the groups and chat rooms and even in some message boards. Sometimes what happens is that you can have a friend (acquaintance) in these places that is part of the bullying and you never noticed that about them before. But if you read his messages or posts you will see that he is constantly calling someone names, or belittling them. This gossiper, troublemaker will do his best to make others in the group think that someone else is the problem. When in reality, the gossiper is the problem and the gossiper is the troublemaker. But you, being his friend, believe his gossip and begin to side with him. And that begins a roller coaster of many people in the group joining behind the gossiper thinking that the gossiper is the one who is correct in all his judgments. Wrong. It just seems that way. Appearances can be deceiving. And everything is not always as it seems.
Solutions? The solution to this simple problem is to examine the situation yourself, and make your own judgments rather than listening to anyone else’s words about someone else or about some situation. If something happened and you want to know what really happened, then go right to the source, do not ask someone else what happened. For example, once there was a group and one person in the group began to say things about a group member. That group member chose to ignore the verbal attacker. What happened was that other group members saw the typing and the messages of the gossiper and they began to think that what the gossiper was saying was truth. (He would type sentences like, mary said this or mary wants this or that . As soon as you see a person typing like that in a group or chatroom, do not assume that what he is saying about Mary is true. On the other hand you can know that your friend (the one that typed about Mary) is a gossiper. Yes, that person is telling gossip, whether the statements are true or false, you are in the presence of someone who gossips. And know that once that person gossips about someone, they will surely gossip about you next. If you want to know what Mary is really like or what Mary said, indeed ask Mary. But do not ask her in the same room or message board that the gossiper has posted his attacks in. The solution to this very simple problem is to stop listening to gossip,period. Another solution is facing the gossiper and telling them that you do not want to hear about it anymore. Just tell them flat out that you do not listen to gossip. Now, that will shock him, as most people do not have the courage to say that to a person who habitually gossips. But you do have the courage, so bravo!
Gossipers are bullies: Did you wince at that? The bottom line is that gossipers and bullies are sometimes just as harmful to society. So forget the wincing and make it your decision to stop listening to the gossipers. The reason that gossipers are bullies is because the whole aim and goal of a bully is to control something. They want to control either a situation or a person or something in between, but they do want to control something. Most times they have lost control of their own situations, homes, families or even of their own self-control. And so they graduate from no self-control to trying to control others by bullying them. So, next time you see a gossiper, know that person is a bully and keep on walking by if you do not have the courage to confront that person with the truth. Your life will be less complicated and you will have more joy if you just stop listening to gossipers (bullies). When people begin talking about other people, they want you to think a certain way about them. If you think for yourself and use your own ears and own your own ears, you are one step ahead of the gossiper.
Making Your Own Decisions: When a person gossips about one or two individuals, instead of listening to the gossip, pause, and observe the person for yourself. You will learn more that way than you will learn by listening to some gossip from a bully. When you accept the bully’s judgments and statements about people, then you give the bully power and you begin to alienate people around you. Why? Because as time passes, others will see that the bully was just trying to control people, and then you will be left standing there, on the outside of the circle because you listened to two-cents worth of gossip.
How to React To Gossip: You have many options and you have many ways that you can react to gossip. This is a short list of some of the ways that you have available to you right now:
- Have no reaction. That means do not validate what the bully is claiming or saying. Do not listen to the bully, praise the bully.
- Never repeat to anyone what the bully says. Never help spread the gossip. How would you feel if you were the victim of this bully? Do not participate in spreading gossip, stories, lies or even the truth. When spoken behind someone’s back it is still gossip.
- Leave that message board or group or chat room and go to another one that does not accept nor promote gossip.
- Become friendly with Mary and that way you will see what Mary is truly like. You might be surprised if you find out that your friend was just spreading lies, or misinterpreting things to suit his own cause. So many times, others will paraphrase what you type and make it suit their purposes even though you never said any such thing. Again, that is the mission of the gossiper, to take control of others.
- Face the bully, face to face, and inform the bully that you know he is fibbing and or exaggerating and tell him that you will no longer believe anything he says because you cannot trust him. You can discuss it all out but in the end, you need to inform him that you will not listen to any of his gossip about anyone. Yes, about anyone. Sometimes you might be tempted to listen to gossip if it is about someone that you do not like. That is just joining the bully. Stay above that level. Do not join in with gossip or bullying. Rather, side on the side of what is right and good.
- Tell : Always tell someone if you have witnessed bullying. When you keep the bully’s secret you are just as guilty as the bully is. Just tell someone in authority. Let bully’s know that their secret is no longer a secret.
Thoughts that Help: These are ways that you can help stop gossipers and bullies. And these ways stop the gossip even if the gossiper is your friend or co-worker. If you can’t seem to find the courage to avoid listening to gossip, you might try remembering that the Bible teaches us to avoid talking about people and to avoid harming our neighbors. In fact, the Bible says that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Knowing that you probably love yourself, then you probably would think that you would love your neighbor Mary enough to refrain from spreading gossip about her. So even if you do not have the strength to come forward and face the bully, surely you have the strength to remember your faith in God. Once that you remember your faith in God and once you remember that God is stronger than any bully you will ever meet, then you too can do what is right. Even when it is hard to do what is right, you can do it. After all, wasn’t it the Bible that clearly states, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me . So there you go, you have the strength to avoid spreading gossip and to avoid validating a bully, even if the bully was a friend of yours.
Bullies Need Real Friends: Now, you do not want to totally isolate the bully or ignore him completely if he was a friend to you. If you feel that he has the capability to be sincere but perhaps just got out of bed on the wrong foot, perhaps you might talk with him about bullying and express your own feelings to him. If he is a reasonable person, he might listen. And then he might not. But just remember that perhaps he might need a friend too. Refrain from being his friend when he is in the process of bullying or gossiping. Tell him outright, that is gossiping and that is bullying and I want no part of you when you are doing that. Goodbye. He should get the message then and if he ever valued your friendship, he might refrain from being a bully just because he does not want to lose your friendship. Check this link about gossipers to get more information.
Learning About Yourself: I have learned about myself by writing this article. And what I realized is that I have gossiped myself without even realizing it. There was a time when I was speaking about someone, and felt free to speak about it because the topic was posted in an online group. At the time, I felt that was okay because it was posted. But now after reading my own words here on this screen, I realized how I must have sounded, repeating the gossip. Repeating stories or something that was posted online is still gossiping. It is all just not the right thing to do. And by writing this, I learn, or am reminded that it is so very easy to gossip about a person. Take any steps that you can take to safely, professionally stop gossip. Take that first step by not listening to it, and take the second step by not repeating it. Even if something is true, (like what was posted), it is still gossip if you repeat it. Gossip is spreading a story, item, fact or a lie, but the process of spreading it makes it gossip.
Leaving the Bully: If you must cut the friendship off because the bully just loves to bully people, then that is what you need to do for your life. Do what is right and good for you. Once you get the bullies and gossipers out of your life, you will have remarkably joyful, peaceful, creative and productive days and weeks ahead of you. You can do it. If only you would try, you can do it. I urge you to do only what is safe for you to do. Only you know what your real situation is and only you can decide which action or non-action you can take against a bully or gossiper. As always, only do what is completely safe for you to do. If you need help from a professional, call the operator and most likely he or she will refer you to someone who can help you. Remember that sometimes when you are ready to leave a bully or stop a friendship with a bully, they then might react to you and start to bully you. Perhaps that is why so many individuals are afraid of bullies. They think that if they back up the bully that leaves them protected from being bullied. But nothing is further from the truth. The truth is that friends and those closest to bullies are always targets when the bully looks around and gets bored. Even bullies get bored. Once they are bored with their original target, they will just move down on the food chain. Next? !
One of the most important things that we need to know about bullies is that most times, and most likely, that bully is the biggest coward. Have you ever noticed that bullies always some a bunch of people with them or at least one other person when they gang up on someone or pick on someone? And have you noticed that when they are alone they do not assume their bullying role –unless they are bullying someone half their size or half their age? That alone should tell you that bullies are cowards and that strong people, emotionally and socially strong people, and people with normal or high self-esteem are not bullies.
Remember that the bully is a coward so do not even explain yourself to a bully. And always TELL! Yes, you heard me tell! Tell someone about the bully. They are cowards and someone needs to tell someone about them. It is ALWAYS okay to tell on a bully. And if the person that you tell does not listen to you or do something about it then you need to tell someone else and keep on telling until you make progress. Once the bullies are found out, the cowards usually go back into hiding.
Gossip Seems Harmless: In our society, people offend people in so many horrible ways that you have probably learned or thought that gossip is harmless. In a day and age when people are stabbing, shooting, and maiming one another, a little talk would seem harmless. But it is not. The pen is mightier than the sword. That old saying is tons of years old and yet still the truth. Ask any assassin of any peacemaker, the pen, the words live on, long after the body is dead. Martin, Abraham, John, Gandhi, all of their words live on throughout the whole world. Remembering that the pen is so much mightier than the sword might help you the next time that you are tempted to gossip about something or about someone. If you remember that the pen is mightier than the sword, then you will remember that your words of gossip can harm someone just as much as an attacker’s fists. Refrain from all forms of gossip.
We, as a society, take gossip lightly because Hollywood and celebrities have tried to legitimize gossip. They glorify gossip and their fans around the world follow their pattern like the bunny rabbit follows the Captain around for that bunch of carrots. Gossip is not glorious, not pretty, not anything of value, and surely not Christian nor spiritual. This writing is a call to all Christians and to everyone who believes in any kind of God or spiritual faith, follow your leader and stop gossip in your own social circles. It is the right thing to do.
Updated May 10, 2008
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