In the last post, we talked about the reasons to avoid gossip and its control on our society. While writing it, however, I kept thinking to myself, “but what about the times we need to talk about others?” I like to think of this as the “clearing the air” caveat to the problems with gossip.
Every day, I realize more and more how large the capacity is for humans to harm other humans, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. From sibling rivalries to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, pain seems to be the modus operandi of the human race these days. Perhaps it is a reflection of the news we hear, but it seems to be getting more and more intense.
And as it gets more intense around the world, it gets more intense in our daily lives. Have you ever had one of those days where a family member, close friend, or even coworker did or said something that hurt you? If the answer to that question is no, count your blessings and stop reading here. And while you are at it, post in the comments about how you have managed it.
If you have felt that, what is the first thing you want to do after being hurt? Me? I want to tell someone. I want to shout from the rafters how wronged I was. And of course, I never want to accept how wrong I was. So the conversation becomes, “so-and-so is so mean, I cannot believe s/he did that to me.” But is that true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
It may feel necessary in the moment, but if we handle the conversation like that, it becomes gossip, and leads to all the negative effects associated with gossip, that eventually only hurt us more. I think there is a different way to handle the situation. A more yogic approach. A way that could potentially nip the downward spiral of email in the bud.
There are all sorts of teachings about using “I” statements. So, instead of saying, “Johnny hurt me,” we say, “I was hurt.” Instead of bringing the negative energy of gossip into the conversation, we can honestly look at a third party, explain our pain, and potentially ask for help in dealing with it. While in the moment, it may feel better to shout from the rafters what a terrible person Johnny is, at the end of the day, that solves nothing, the pain gets worse, and in addition, we have gossiped.
This step requires those attributes we learn on the mat – awareness and reflection. On the mat, we learn to be aware of our bodies and our minds. We notice when we take the body to a place of pain, and we think to ourselves, “ow, that hurts, I should stop.” If we do not take that step, we pull a hamstring (or whatever). Taking that moment also helps us find reflection. Learning to breathe, we learn to reflect and not react to life as it happens. “I” statements are similar. The reaction is the shouting and the blaming and the gossip. But we can own the hurt we feel without perpetuating the pattern of gossip and all the negativity that brings to ourselves as well as to others.
The second step of the process is a wee bit more difficult, and by a wee bit, I mean it feels impossible. The second step is owning our piece of it. As someone who works with abused and neglected children and sees a lot of domestic violence victims, I find myself saying, “it’s not your fault” a lot. And I always believe it when I say it. But outside of purely abusive situations, we often do have a part in the pain we perceive is caused purely by someone else. This is where an outside observer can be helpful.
Of course, we want someone to say, “you did nothing wrong, and Johnny is just a jerk.” (For the record, I have nothing against anyone named Johnny. I think I only know a few, and I have always had wonderful interactions with them. It’s just a name here to stop saying so-and-so.) But in order to clear the air and truly move forward, we need to get out of the gossip mode and into the healing mode. And that requires looking at our own part in the pain.
Did I say something I knew would make her angry? Did I want him to react that way to validate my belief about who he is as a person? Did I want to make her angry because I was still mad about our fight last week?
To be clear, owning our part in the process does not minimize our pain. We can still be hurt. We can still reflect and tell someone else, I feel hurt. But we can do it in a way that is true, kind, and necessary. The necessary comes when we realize that we need to get this off our chest or it will stay there forever. But we can have the conversation in a true and kind way and not simply as gossip.
Easy? Absolutely not! But when we actually take these steps, we begin to see the difference between gossip and necessary air clearing, and we also begin to see that when all is said and done, we can make a choice as to how to move forward. A choice determined by reflection and awareness and not one made in the heat of pain. And perhaps this process can even lead to forgiveness.
How do you clear the air of your pains?
© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.