I was at a crossroads. The other day, I was at a luncheon for a club in which I am an officer. One young lady started to gossip about the misfortunes of a mutual friend.
Now, when she first brought it up, I said, “I don’t want to hear it,” but she was persistent. So, finally, one of the members of our group said, “Go ahead, tell us about it.” So she did.
What bothered me is that she began the conversation by saying one of my friends has been arrested. Then she proceeded to tell us about it.
I listened in horror and felt not only sad but defensive. I felt bad that the young lady had gotten caught up, and worse that her friend felt she should share the details of her misfortune.
I felt I should have said something at the time, but I didn’t.
That event stayed with me throughout the night. In fact, I didn’t sleep much. I tossed and turned all night, feeling guilty about not saying anything.
So, the next day, I called her. I told her that I love and respect her and I hoped that she would listen to me because I was offering my advice to help her.
I said, “I think you’re incredible, you’re smart and caring and thoughtful but I want you to understand that sharing the misfortunes of others is gossip.
“It can lead to hurt feelings, drama and broken friendships. You are better than that. Our circle of friends is better than that. I would not be a good leader if I didn’t try to teach you and help you with this. I hope that I set a better example.”
She replied, “You do set a good example.” Then I said, “People are fragile and none of us is perfect, but you have the opportunity to help people or hurt people. Which do you prefer to do?”
She replied, “Cher, I prefer to help people.”
“I do too,” I said. “We can help a lot of people. Let’s do it together.”
I could hear her crying but I continued, “Please know that I think no less of you. I’m not judging you and this conversation does not change the fact that I think you are valuable and important, and I respect you, but I want you to be the best you can be.”
She sniffed and then said, “Thank you, I want to be better.”
In the end I felt better for letting her know that you can’t help people by sharing their misfortunes. In fact, it can hurt.
How many times have you sat silent while someone talked about the misfortunes of others. Worse, how many times have you participated in the conversation? How would you feel if you were a fly on the wall and people were talking about you or someone you love?
How many times have you seen or heard someone doing the wrong thing and said nothing? Maybe these days people are either too apathetic or afraid to speak up and speak out.
I am reminded of a quote, “Bad things happen because good people do nothing.”
As we celebrate Christmas and move into a new year I’ll ask you what I asked my friend: If you have the opportunity to help people or hurt people, what will you do?
If your answer is to help then speak up when you see someone doing something wrong. Don’t be judgmental or angry or confrontational; just try to teach them a better way.
People do better if they know better; at least that’s what I prefer to believe. None of us is perfect but we all need to try to be better and do better in 2012.
I’m willing to try.