What do I say the next time I see my classmates who were talking about me at the party when I walked in?
I threw this question out to a crowd at a 28th birthday party. The consensus was that your next move should be tempered by your relationship to the backstabbers. If they are your friends, like people you have knowing trusting relationships with, you should definitely say something. If they are just acquaintances, you don’t mention it, and you both note the behavior and file it away in your assessment of these individuals for further notice, as well as continue like nothing happened.
Shit-talking and meanness are the pits. According to a nine-year-old Chabadnik, in Judaism they say gossip hurts three people. It hurts the gossiper, the person being gossiped about, and the listener. Having been in all three of these shoes, I think some rabbi knew what he was saying.
One story that comes to mind happened to a girl at a sleepover party with her “best friends.” Everyone thought she was asleep and three girls starting ripping words, something about “do you think anyone will ever kiss her? Who would want to?” They went on and on and when she couldn’t take it anymore she walked to the bathroom to announce her existence, and make it clear that she was not dead asleep as they imagined.
Not until nearly ten years later did she ever say anything. The only mention of the incident was when one girl found her in the morning. She had slept through breakfast, not feeling like joining the group, and the other girl came downstairs. The one who spoke so meanly started crying immediately and said how sorry she was.
Everyone has the capacity for cruelty, the capacity to be the victim of it, and the capacity to enable it. Everyone. When you get caught up in slanderous speech, on any end, the best thing to do is walk away or shut it down, or, if time and space and ego allow, do like this girl did and apologize. If you are on the short end of the gossip stick, I would say do whatever feels right to restore your heart. Silence, confrontation, conversation: do what you need to address it, and then let it be.
Holding on to ugly words will hurt you. According to Noah Levine, Mr. Dharma Punx, whatever people might say behind your back is none of your business and not worth worrying about. Also, the mean things people say most often have to do with their own self-hatred. Just flush their faux pas if you can, and continue to believe in your own goodness.
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