Sarah waved goodbye over her shoulder. Her friends continued to talk outside of the school after they dropped off the kids, but she had to leave. She couldn’t participate in the gossip any longer. She had already stayed too long and heard things she knew weren’t meant for her ears. Why did they have to talk about other people? It was a struggle for her at times too, but lately talking about others seemed like their favorite activity.
I wonder what they say about me when I am not there. Do they tell each other things I have said to one of them in confidence? Do they twist what little they know into big ugly rumors that aren’t true? I can just imagine what they are saying right now.
“I can’t believe Sarah just walked away in the middle of our conversation.”
“Ya, what was that all about?”
“I think she was in a bad mood again today. I wonder if she and her husband are having trouble again.”
“She told me things were so bad that she is going to counseling and taking anti-depressants.”
“Really? I didn’t realize it was that bad!”
And on and on it would go. Talking about her mood, her marriage problems, what a bad parent she was, how she spends too much money, etc. Who knows what else they would say, but Sarah had heard them talk about others that way, so why not her? For an instant she felt the heat of her anger rise up from her neck to her head.
Maybe I should find some new friends.
I don’t want this to ruin my day. She knew she had to let it go. What could she do about it anyway? If they were going to gossip about people that was their problem. She had tried to change the subject with them before when they starting talking about someone, but they always managed to turn the conversation back to negative gossip. It was as if it made them feel better about themselves.
Why did they need to feel better about themselves? Was something wrong that she was unaware of?
Sarah’s heart softened. She remembered something she learned from her counselor a few months ago. Our behaviors, good and bad, serve a purpose. What was the deeper benefit that her friends were getting from gossiping? Why did they do it? Yes, getting juicy details about someone’s life is interesting, but it also makes us somehow feel superior. When we gossip and listen to rumors, we don’t have to think about our own problems. Sarah remembered reading that people subconsciously use gossip as a way to give themselves an energy boost when they are feeling exhausted. It is much like someone who uses caffeine to help get them through the day.
Suddenly, Sarah felt a wave of compassion for her friends. She wasn’t angry anymore. They were hurting badly too, like she was, but they couldn’t face their own issues. It was easier and safer for them to see the log in someone else’s eye. They were exhausted from trying to keep their own secrets.
Sarah turned around and headed back toward the group. She decided to say nothing about the gossip. It would probably just make them defensive any way. She would take a risk and tell her friends what was going on in her life, her marriage, counseling, how she felt about being a mother and her struggle with shopping. She would be truthful and ask them specifically to keep what she said confidential. She hoped that her transparency would make them want to talk too. They wouldn’t solve each other’s problems, but maybe they could create a safe place to talk truthfully about themselves rather than falsely about others.
She prayed as she walked back, “Lord, you have just given me this insight about my friends. We are all hurting and you created us to be in relationship with one another. Help me to take a risk for you and share my pain and struggles with my friends. I pray that their hearts would be open to sharing too. Help us to speak the truth. Help us all trust in you. Please show me what to say. Amen”
“Ladies?” she said. “Can we go get a cup of coffee? There are some things I want to share with you about what is going on in my life.”
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