Monday, March 18, 2013

Harbingers of Hate

Wikipedia describes gossip as ‘idle talk or rumors about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander’
We all gossip in one form or another.   It’s part of socialization.  Most times its innocent little rumors or facts shared among friends or family about mutual acquaintance such as “Have you seen Rachel lately?  She looks so young and refreshed.  She says it’s the result of her long vacation in Spain, but I really think she’s had a facelift and she’s been in hiding while recovering”.    That’s not so harmful, is it?  Or is it?   I’m quite sure Rachel doesn’t want everyone going out and spreading the word she’s had a facelift when in fact she has been on vacation.  I can’t honestly say that it hurts Rachel in any way but it’s rumor, not fact.
I’m not throwing stones because I’m just as guilty as the next person.  I’ve gossiped, yes I have – and not very proud to say, I would have probably shared something like Rachel’s facelift rumor with my best friend.   But then there’s that gossip that really hurts people.  I like to call it High School Gossip because it’s typical of what a lot of middle or high school kids do to take out their frustration for a puppy love gone wrong situation – a defense strategy of sorts.   Bobby broke up with Susie and all Susie’s friends are declaring that Bobby’s new girlfriend Jill is a slut.  That’s a form of bullying – and it’s gossip that hurts and can ruin a reputation if taken too far.

 But we’re far past that, right?  Here we are adults leading a moral and Christian life.  We hear gossip, but if we share it at all, we share it only with our spouses or someone we trust explicitly.   My mother once told me during a lesson of remonstration that she had carried something bad about someone she knew in her heart for over thirty years and had never shared it and was glad that she hadn’t because that person grew from her mistake and moved on to become a well-loved and respected person in her community.  If Mom had shared what she knew it could have affected that person’s life forever.  To my knowledge, Mom took that gossip to the grave – she certainly didn’t share it with me

We feel good about the wisdom we’ve gained over the years and look at gossip as a childish thing.  Or do we?  Are the emails we forward without checking the facts considered hurtful gossip?  I know I've received my fair share and when you fact check the messages, they are so far fetched I don't know how anyone could believe them.  Now these same things are showing up on Facebook.  Aren't we as Christians held responsible for the things we send?  Christ taught love, not hate.  Maybe people just get so caught up in their own opinions that they just spread whatever sounds good to them.  And these same people wonder what has become of our country.  Do they not realize that spreading untruths causes discord?   Unsolicited hate mail can strain fragile relationships between friends and family and it can damage the reputation of the person it's about and damage the image of the one who sends it.  Maybe people just don't care anymore.  Recently when ‘Googling’ how to handle hate emails, I ran across this question asked by a daughter about email she was getting from her own father.  It has definitely affected this father/daughter relationship. She's feeling such frustration just as I do when I receive these things.  Here it is:

“My dad has really been annoying me lately by spamming me with political hate mail ever since the election. What I mean by that is that he forwards me (and half his address list) lies and tall tales that are simply ridiculous. You know he never bothers to fact check anything...he just forwards it.

We have always been very close and we would always understand and respect each other. However, ever since the election he seems to have gotten weirdly opinionated. He is a veteran and businessman and I can understand someone his age being opinionated, but there is a time when you stop - especially when someone asks you to stop. Talking politics and family doesn’t mix. We have gotten into it many times and I told him he seriously needs to shut up about it. He kind of just laughs it off.

He stopped for a while and now today I got something else. DH tells me to stop taking the bait. Today when I got that message I replied and said I thought he was going to stop this. I also did a "reply all" and placed a link to a Snopes article debunking what he said and said you shouldn’t believe everything you read; that just because it came in an email doesn’t make it true. If he wants to spam me, well then bring it.  What do I do?  Ignore?  Is it fair that I am frustrated? I just feel his behavior is so inappropriate and I don't want him to turn into an old crab.  I feel irritated like he is trying to provoke me.  I just wish he would stop!”

One of the wonderful things about our Nation is our Freedom of Speech.  If I have an opinion about something, I can announce it to the world if I want and I respect the rights of everyone to do the same.  But before sharing something I’ve heard or read on the internet, I always do my fact checks – even and especially when it’s something that I wholeheartedly would love to believe and share.  One time I didn't and I was called out on it, but I went back and apologized to that person and sent a recant to everyone I had emailed it to.   I don’t want to be the one that causes hurt and I don't want others to think less of me because of my spreading something I don’t know to be the truth.

Trivial and trite gossip that doesn’t hurt or slander is a fact of life – we’re all going to do it - we’re human.  I just don’t want to be known as a harbinger of hate.


  1. That's a very thought provoking post for us today..I'm sorry youve been receiving e mails like that.I did notice on facebook during the election that a lot of your countrymen were really very fixed in their views, either for one side of the other. Yes, we all gossip, but I certainly hope not in a nasty or malicious way. None of this sort of thing is very Christian, is it?

    1. Yes Diane. It's sharply divided down the middle and not much give in either direction. That's what democracy is all about, I suppose - but it's sad that so many people feel more strongly about their own opinions than they do about their personal relationships and about the people they influence with fictitious stories.

  2. Couldn't agree with you more my friend!

  3. My mother was obsessed with not being gossiped about ... quite frankly I tell people whatever they want to ask - that way it's all come straight from my own mouth; I don't volunteer things to them though, only what they ask.

    Gossip leaves me cold - I have absolutely no time for it.

    1. Thank you for commenting Di. I try to surround myself with people that are above malicious gossiping - but sometimes even the best of people succumb to it. No-one is perfect.


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