Today, I will tell you a little story about how I lost a friend and why I do not take part in gossip.
Many years ago, I met a young girl and I instantly took to her. She was younger than me, but I saw many admirable traits in her. I am one of those people who do not allow age, race, gender or marital status inform my choice of friends, so I allowed her close to me. We started spending time together, and soon enough I discovered that she loves shoes as much as I do. And, so Amy, (not her real name) became like a younger sister to me and I honestly loved her (I still do).
She would call me most evenings after she put the kids to bed and we would chat and laugh and share stories of the day’s activities. Then with time, gradually as our conversations winded down, she would start telling me about someone who had done something or the other. The first few times, I listened because I thought that they were things that directly affected her and she just wanted to share. So, I lent a listening ear and sometimes the sympathetic nods and short sentences;
” I understand”
“Oh my God!”
“It is well”.
These were all I could add to most of this kind of conversation as I was being careful not to hurt her feelings before trying to change the subject. With time, she started getting irritated by my contributions (or lack of them) and one day she told me, “This your “it’s well” is not funny ooo. Is that all you will say?” I told her that yes, that was all I would say as I didn’t know some of the people she was telling me about and that the ones I knew, I didn’t really know their side of the story.
She didn’t like my response and she didn’t hide it. Actually her transparency is one of the things I really like about her. She told me off and told me in pidgin English “you no dey ever get gist”.
Next time something similar happened, she told me “Abeg, you too dry. Na so so “it’s well” you always dey say.”
I didn’t try to defend myself. It was not necessary.
It was only a matter of time before the relationship cooled off and eventually I became the brunt of her conversations with someone else. Someone who was more than willing to contribute to the story. I did feel guilty, blaming myself for the part I played in allowing one conversations to get to that point.
It’s been a few years now since I spoke to Amy, and even though I still love and admire her greatly in a lot of things, I guess that she is convinced that I was “too dry” and boring to be friends with. And, it’s ok. There has been other Amy’s in my life and there will be many more in the future. There have been people who said that I was “not honest about my feelings, because I always tried to make excuses for the other people”. There have been people who think that my ideas are too lofty and my projects bore them to death. There are people who would rather discuss other people than talking about how we can live a life of meaningful and extensive impact. I have met people who think that every time someone opens their mouth, it is with the intent to gossip.
I have learnt that there is a difference and I know the difference between open dialogue or constructive observation and gossiping.
I do not begrudge any one. Everyone has the right to choose their priorities. And, I respect people’s decisions to put up with me or not, especially when our priorities differ.
I blame my Mum.
Yes, it is her fault that I do not know how to discuss people. Mum believed that gossiping is only setting yourself up for trouble and I have been reminded time and time again that it is true. As a result of the nature of her job and her active involvement in different religious organisations, Mum had constant access to a variety of information and people tried to involve her in a lot of the gossip that go round in the communities. Instead of gossiping and/or circulating rummers or information about other people, my Mum is always quick to change the subject, she tries hard to point out some of the positive qualities the person has. in extreme cases, Mum has been to known to either start humming/singing a song or directly leave the room.
It is Mum’s fault that I learnt not to indulge in petty gossip. I have learnt not to be friends with people who do. And when I find the Amy’s, who are not exactly gossips, I have learnt to see the good in them and love them equally, even when they may never understand me. Thanks to Mum, I learnt that it is ok to be “dry” and “boring”. And over time, I have been blessed by many more wonderful friends who do not want to discuss people with me. Friends who are more than happy to join me and talk about their own lofty dreams and big projects. And, I am glad that I learnt never to take part in gossip.
Be firm and save yourself some trouble. No matter how much you love someone, don’t become something you’re not to keep them in your life.