Why gossip is like drugs

Dear Daughter,

In life, there are a number of bad things that you could get into: drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, etc. I hope and pray that you don’t go anywhere near those habits. But there’s one other habit that can be just as damaging as the ones mentioned above.

Gossip.

Gossip can ruin friendships, marriages, jobs and lives. It is so dangerous, and yet we all do it. I’ve struggled with gossip for a long time. When someone does something that bugs me, I tend to want to air it out. I like to tell others about it. I don’t know why. Maybe because I want validation for my feelings. I want to know that it bugs other people too, that I’m not crazy.

For some reason, gossiping makes me feel good. At first. It’s a high, a relief, when I unveil my feelings about another person. But eventually, slowly throughout the rest of the day, I start to feel an ache in my stomach as I realize absolutely nothing good came from that conversation… and what if they find out what I said about them? Guilt takes over and I become a wreck.

One time, back in middle school, my sister and I had a bunch of friends over. We were outside playing some kind of game. One of my sister’s friends, Sarah (not her real name), was really irking me for some reason. I thought I saw her go inside at one point, and I chose that time to tell the rest of the girls about why I didn’t like her. As I was talking, I noticed everyone’s eyes go big. I turned to my right, only to see that Sarah was still standing there. She had been listening the whole entire time. She looked devastated and no matter how much backpedaling I tried, nothing could take away the damage I had already done. I cringe with regret whenever I look back on that day.

Whenever you feel tempted to gossip, remember the Sarah story. Imagine that the person you’re talking about is right there, listening to your whole conversation. If you know that the person would be hurt by the things you’d like to say, then don’t say them. If you feel the need to release your feelings somehow, I suggest venting through prayer. God will listen and will guide you on how to handle the person who’s bothering you. I’ve also learned that exercise helps, particularly aggressive exercise like kickboxing or running.

BTW: There’s another type of gossip, where you find out juicy details about a person’s life and you want to spread those details to the rest of the world. That’s different than the “venting” kind of gossip I referred to above. Stay far, far away from the juicy gossip. It really has no effect on your life, and therefore is pointless. Plus, we don’t know the full story behind why people do the things they do. What seems unusual to us might actually make sense in the context of their life. So, while neither type of gossip is good by any means, the juicy kind is particularly damaging and I encourage you to run as far away from it as you would (and hopefully will) from drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and the like.

Love,
Mom

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