The Nightmare of Gossip

Gossip " what a destructive word. It can actually destroy a person s life. We live in a free society that values freedom of speech. It is an important right and privilege that unfortunately is ...

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Gossip " what a destructive word. It can actually destroy a person s life. We live in a free society that values freedom of speech. It is an important right and privilege that unfortunately is being abused at the expense of literally destroying people.

Repeating the truth, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it might be, is not wrong. However, when we amend the truth, change the context or market our interpretation of the truth, trouble begins. People should be held accountable for distorting or altering the truth.

Facebook and My Space are taking the internet by storm. Although there have been some efforts to establish some reasonable boundaries and rules, it is still a major venue for distortion, misrepresentation of the truth and downright negative gossip.

There is something profoundly wrong with a society that tolerates a communication network that can destroy the character and integrity of another.

More and more, we read and hear stories of talented students who have lost scholarships or have been denied admission to a school due to internet postings that were blatantly misleading and negative.

Students who have been victimized in this way only found out after the damage was done. A picture from a party was posted without permission with an inappropriate quote. Only after a promised scholarship was denied at the last minute and was awarded to another, did the student find out why!

The alleged picture in and of itself was harmless. However, the context in which it was posted was definitely misleading and mislead it did.

It was a group of high school coeds who were away at a leadership weekend. The picture was taken midway through the weekend in the early morning hours after a very intense day. Everyone in the picture looked shot and weird. That picture was posted on a party page where there were all kinds of wild pictures of high school students drinking and smoking. The picture only identified one young man " the student who had applied for the scholarship. That misrepresentation cost him a $40,000 a year scholarship.

How often have we engaged in gossip about a friend, a neighbor or a family member? Probably at some time in the past, most of us have been guilty of repeating something that did not need to be shared. Most petty gossip lives and dies in the present moment.

Unfortunately, today among younger and older people, it does not seem to be short lived. Too often, it spins out of control into a life of its own. That is when it becomes destructive and dangerous.

A group of college coeds were in a student lounge talking about a party they had all been to. They talked about how the drinking and drug use had gotten out of control. Although they were all over twenty-one, a number of party goers seemingly had gone too far. The girls started telling the story but were exaggerating the actual facts. They started talking about a young woman at the party who was out of control. This particular young woman was active in leadership on their campus.

Their storytelling was overheard by the table next to them. They in turn further embellished the story. By the time it got to the Dean of Student Life, the story had this highly respected student leader doing lines of coke and dealing prescription drugs.

When the story reached the Dean s Office, she felt compelled to call the student in for a conversation. Based on the gossip going around, the Dean was concerned that this very popular student leader was a coke addict who was dealing drugs on campus.

The student willingly agreed to meet with the Dean, not for a moment suspecting what the agenda was about. The Dean nervously indicated that there was something very serious they needed to discuss. The Dean showed the student a couple of postings on a college party site that made reference to her at a wild party. The student was stunned. The Dean then shared the content of the conversation that had come to her from one of the students who had been part of the gossiping table.

After the young woman stopped sobbing, she said she couldn t believe what she had just heard. She told her side of the story of the wild party. She confirmed that it was wild and out of control. She confirmed that everyone was of legal age to drink. However, her account was from a point that was radically different. The student in question was a very active and visible student on campus. She was not a drinker. She indicated that in fact, she rarely drank because she admitted that she does not hold her alcohol well.

The night in question was her 22nd birthday. She was a senior and her friends were determined to get her drunk. They were successful. However, that is where the story begins and ends. There was no drug use or sharing of any pills at all.

When other students heard what she was accused of, an endless number of students who were there that night came forward to affirm her and support her character and integrity.

For a brief moment, that gossip was a nightmare for this student. Potentially, it could have destroyed her character and integrity.