May 28, 2016

The Danger in Believing Negative Talk about People.


Joe Ramas memorial

“There are three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth.” ~ Robert Evans


Today I was given the gift of seeing a second side of a story.

I attended a funeral of an acquaintance. Although funerals can be pretty awkward, I felt drawn to go and followed my intuition. I wore a lovely black dress and tucked my favorite vintage hanky into my pocket.

I arrived a few minutes early an ran into a woman I knew. She was genuinely excited to see me and I was somewhat taken aback because I’d never been particularly warm to her or given her a fair chance.

Today was my opportunity.

Several years ago I was dating an old friend from college. We were having a lot of fun together but he was coparenting with his ex-girlfriend and they had quite a volatile relationship. I got to hear enough of his side of the story that I believed him and and formed a negative opinion of his son’s mother.

Today at the funeral here she was reaching out to me.

She opened her heart and was looking for someone to talk to. And she chose me. Her warmth was contagious and I felt myself begin to soften.

We sat together during the funeral and visited. As it turns out, she was close friends with the man who’d died. She needed a shoulder to cry on, so I let her use mine.

Without any prompting from me, she told me her side of the story with her ex. Not surprisingly, it was completely different than the version I’d heard from him. But the things she said rang true. I believed her side of the story too.

As the funeral went on, she was crying a lot. Without a second thought, I gave her my best hanky. By the end of the funeral my heart was 100 percent warmed to a new friend.

We even got to discuss how there are three sides to every story—his side, her side and the truth.

Now I get to enjoy understanding my own truth about my friend’s situation. And I feel lighter.

Believing the negative things I’d heard about her was weighing me down, without me even realizing it. The trouble about listening to what my friend said about his ex is that I decided not to like her. Now that I’ve gotten to know her a little bit I think she’s great. We could have spent all of these years being friends instead.

I feel blessed that I get the chance to be friends with her now.

There is nothing to be gained from gossip.

Talking about people can be mildly entertaining but is not a creative or thoughtful use of our words.

When we are willing to listen to ill things said about someone, we are just as guilty as engaging in gossip as the person saying the mean things.

And gossip hurts. Because the harm done by disparaging speech is nearly impossible to repair.

When we listen to hurtful words someone says, we’re polluting our opinions about the person being gossiped about. And it can also hurt their feelings.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” ~ Golden Rule

What can we do when someone starts gossiping?

It can be awkward when someone starts gossiping. If we don’t want to participate, we can say, “I don’t really know x and would rather form my own opinion about them. Or we can shift the direction of the conversation and say, “One thing I really like about x is_______.” Another tactic is to simply change the subject.

I like to set a good example by not being a gossip myself.

Today I went to a funeral not knowing why I was going. As it turns out, I went to make peace.

“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.” ~ Pema Chodron


Author: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of LisaMiaStudios

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