It wasn’t too long ago that I struggled with a negative friendship. No matter how positive I remained, bitterness and animosity poured out of this person. After enduring the toxic relationship for far too long and beginning to build up resentment myself, I finally let down my guard and shared my hurt with another friend.
The Truth Comes Out
Within an hour of sharing my raw and fragile feelings with my supposedly safe friend, she called the person and relayed my words. By the time I got home from church, I no longer had a toxic friendship in my life; instead, I had an enemy. Although I had to take responsibility for my words and for staying in a bad relationship when I needed to end it, I also had to look at why my close friend would gossip about me and share something so close to my heart.
One of the best parts about a having good friends is the ability to let down your guard and share your heart. But when the details of those intimate thoughts, feelings or actions are broadcasted, your once intimate relationship feels precarious. Most of us think of gossip as an immature behavior relegated to high schoolers and mean girls. Unfortunately, gossip goes far beyond the school halls and hurts well into the adult years. It has the ability to damage relationships and reputations in the office, church and community. Social media has only escalated what used to be a word-of-mouth problem; now, gossip can move at the speed of light with the push of a button.
Watch What You Share
We all know people who love to gossip, and we watch every word we share around those individuals. However, we aren’t usually as careful with our close friends. In fact, a marker of closeness is the ability to keep another’s secrets.
Sometimes, we assume a friend is a vault where we can hold our treasured emotions, but they are actually more of a sieve. You share your soul, and they pass it on without discrimination. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, but it’s possible that they aren’t safe people worthy of our trust. Loose lips are often a symptom of an underlying issue; maybe they are insecure, seeking attention or simply careless with their words and the effects on other people. Usually, we don’t mind too much if the juicy gossip is about someone else, but when it turns on us, it can be devastating.
I forgave my friend who betrayed my confidence because I really liked her and spending time with her, but when it happened again (this time she shared something from my past) it was time to put some distance between my private world and her mouth. We still spend time together, but I don’t share anything I wouldn’t put on the internet myself.
Find Safe Friendships
Most of us only have a few truly safe people in our lives. They are the friends we can be 100% ourselves with, and they won’t judge us for the good, the bad or the ugly parts. These friendships are rare, precious and worth hanging on to for a lifetime.
The problem is that we often give this special trust to people who aren’t careful with our hearts. Maybe we are longing for a friendship to go deeper, so we overshare and get burnt. But vulnerability is a two-way street. If we go deep too often without a reciprocal transaction, we give away our power and allow the person to hold us hostage.
One way to determine if someone is safe is to share a little bit at a time and see what the friend does with the information. Protect your heart and allow friendships to stand the test of time before you hand over your deepest thoughts. True friendship and trust are earned privileges.
Confront The Friend
So what should you do if a friend betrays your trust? If you believe the best about your friend, make every effort to confront the situation after you have checked your heart for malice and anger. Getting defensive and upset will not help a gossipy friend to own their words.
Sit down and tell them how you felt when you heard through the grapevine that they said hurtful things about you. A safe friend who values your relationship will hear your heart and choose to guard their mouth in the future. An unsafe friend will continue to gossip, at which point you will have to choose whether to continue the relationship or end it.
Shut It Down
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the best way to deal with gossip is to simply shut it down. When I hear something negative, I quickly respond with, “I’m staying out of that, and I’m sure there are two sides to every story.” If that doesn’t work, I change the topic of conversation or walk away.
I don’t always get this right, but I’m learning how to keep my own mouth shut after getting torched too many times by unsafe people. These days, I want to believe the best about people and forgive quickly, encouraging positive conversations that bless others rather than tear them down. Our words are powerful, so let’s use them as a tool to spread the love of Christ and avoid malicious talk.
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