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I went to lunch today with a friend, and we hit the chinese food buffet. At the end when we got our fortune cookies, we opened them up and shared like we always do. This was my fortune, "Speak only well of people and you need never whisper"

This was kismet at its best. You see, recently I've been thinking about this. I like to imagine that I'm a good person. I would never deliberately hurt anyone, and I go out of my way to avoid it. I am kind to animals and small children, but I have one bad habit ( well way more than one, but I mean in this context).

I like to gossip. I don't mean to be malicious about it, and I don't spread rumors, but I love to know what's going on. And I freely comment on what I see and hear. It's only ever with a few friends, but recently I've started thinking about what my actions, or lack of actions, might be doing. And it occurred to me that talking about someone, even when I don't mean any harm, IS harming them. Maybe not directly, but we all know what it's like to be talked about. Even if you don't know exactly what's being said, you just KNOW when someone is saying something about you. And it can eat away at your self-esteem like nothing else. And that's just assuming whatever is said doesn't get back to you.

It's easy to speak ill of someone. To talk about their relationships, cast judgment on who they date, how many times they change partners, what clothes they wear, how they behave in public, weight, height, eating habits, education or lack thereof, hygiene, etc. The list is endless. But by doing this, by passing judgment we're hurting at least two people. The one we're talking about, and ourselves. The harm to the other person should be obvious. But the harm to ourselves maybe less so. Sure, if you hang out with people that are gossips like this, you have to imagine what they might say about you when you're not there. But also, we could be loosing a valuable friendship, or at least a chance to learn something new, or help someone, even if it's just be lending a little understanding. No one likes to be the object of talk like this, but many of us don't seem to mind talking about others. And some of us never even stop to think about reasons. We don't try to empathize, or put ourselves in that person's place. We make snap judgments, not knowing a person's history, mental state, or medical condition. We talk about people who have bad breath, joking about mints, and toothbrushes, when they could be suffering from halitosis, something it is sometimes hard to control. We talk about people's weight, without even trying to understand why they are heavier. They could have a medical condition, an eating disorder, be an emotional eater, or have a physical problem that limits their activity. And as a fat girl myself, I SHOULD know better, but I still make these judgments. I can hear myself saying "How did he/she let themselves get that big?" Like it's something they consciously did and have control over. We talk about people's lack of education but fail to consider where they grew up, if they were able to finish school, or had a family to raise and had to work. We talk about people's many relationships, past and present, without bothering to even wonder why those relationships ended, and without knowing the dynamic between the two.

Well, I've discovered something about myself. When I talk about others its to make myself feel better. Instead of celebrating myself and my life, I belittle and make fun of others to prove my superiority. As I said, I don't do this to be mean, and until recently I've never even thought about it. So what's changed? I have. As I discover things about myself to like, and to celebrate, I see more and more behaviors on my part that need to change. This is one of them. I don't need to put someone else down to feel validated. I've accomplishments that I can be proud of, reasons to celebrate my life and body without hurting someone else.

So to all those people that I've gossiped about, made comments about, or hurt by my lack of empathy I'm sorry. Some of you are in my past and I will probably never see again. Some of you I see almost daily, but I'm not going to walk up to you and say this, because it would serve no purpose except to make me feel better. You don't need to know everything I've said or thought, but I do want you to know that I'm sorry, and I do regret it. I can't promise to never make these types of comments again, but I do promise to be more mindful. To try to watch what I say. To make an effort to be more empathetic to you. And if I don't become your friend, I will at least be friendly and courteous when I see you. I will be respectful of our differences, and try to find commonalities between us.

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