“What you think of me is none of my business.” Rev. Terry Cole Whittaker said this in her book by the same title and that statement has always stuck with me. But how many of us can ignore what other people think of us, especially if it is something negative? Not many can, at least not all of the time, and that includes me.
Most of us have been the targets of gossip and have been badmouthed by others, and yes, it can hurt. A lot. I know I have been that target more times than I can count, and as much as I try not to let it get to me, sometimes it does. In those times, I try to remember Rev. Whittaker’s statement, and when I do, it takes most if not all of the sting out of it.
We have no control over what others say about us. Some of it may be true, and many times, it can be completely false. Someone gets the information wrong and yet passes it on to others anyway without even trying to find out if it’s true or not. Then there are those who are vindictive for whatever reasons and they make up stuff in order to try and hurt other people. These reflect more on the person doing the gossiping and bad-mouthing rather than the person who they are speaking against. Those who do this are basically insecure and the only way they can make themselves feel better is by putting others down.
Before computers, cell phones, and social media, all this was pretty much spread from person to person. Today, it’s a whole other monster. Anyone can spread vicious gossip and lies via the Internet and the information can be seen by thousands within seconds. You also see this a lot in schools and colleges. It’s become a new way of bullying and many, especially our children, are the recipients. We’re now hearing more and more children are committing suicide because of this cyber negativity and that’s beyond sad.
There is no easy answer to putting a stop to gossiping and badmouthing. One of the things that did it for me was that I finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t like it being done to me so why should I do it to others? It’s also a part of the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
In “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz, the first agreement states, “Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”
We can also ask ourselves, “Is what I’m saying lifting someone up or tearing them down?” Or, “How would I feel if someone were saying bad things about me?” If we don’t like it, then we shouldn’t be doing it to others. Instead, use your words wisely and spread kindness along the way. We can also teach our children these things from an early age.
I admit I’m not perfect at it. Sometimes I can get so frustrated or angry about the way someone has treated either me or someone else that I’ll spout off to a friend just to get it off my chest. There are those times when we need our closest friends whom we can talk to or to vent our frustrations, but those friends also know that we do not mean any ill will towards the other person and it stays between us.
We can also control the way we think when we’re the targets of such negativity, though it can sometimes be very hard to ignore and not let it hurt. Louise L. Hay has a great affirmation I would highly recommend using: “I am far more than other people’s opinions. My opinion of myself is the only one that counts. I love and respect myself no matter what ‘they’ say.”
Ephesians 4:29 states “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” And of, course, there’s the great Rumi who said, “My dear heart, never think you are better than others. Listen to their sorrows with compassion. If you want peace, don’t harbor bad thoughts, do not gossip, and don’t teach what you do not know.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper February 12, 2016.