Neighborly Gossip: Dissed Respect or Just Down Right Un-Neighborly?
Many of you know I had the pleasure of making a film with Rich Allen and Mountain Lake PBS titled Dissed Respect: The Impact of Bullying. Since that time I find myself thinking a great deal about the different ways we bully one another. After talking to a couple of friends recently about neighbors and gossiping I found myself wondering "Is gossiping a form of bullying?" Now this is an intriguing question. When we get away from the target of our gossip and retell tales or fabricate stories about people that are not present, it isn't a heroic act. It is simply a juvenile antic that really should have been left behind in high school, perhaps even middle school. So, why do mature adults gossip? I inquire about this a bit later, but I do wonder if it could be because the one who is being gossiped about is different enough from the gossiper and the group she/he gossips with. Is the victim of gossip somehow the Other? I often wonder what would be a solution to ending someone’s gossiping, especially gossiping of a mean spirited kind. After all, there is gossip that is put out there that is really more inquisitive (like discussing with others if mutual friends may be getting married) than incredulous.
I toyed with the idea of what I would say or do to a hostile gossiper that might reside in my neighborhood and whom chose to take aim at me. I finally realized that what I could do is send a letter throughout my neighborhood with the ultimate intention of it being read by the potential character assassinator/bully. The letter would go something like this:
To My Neighbors,
It has recently been brought to my attention that one of our neighbors has felt it necessary to personally attack me. This neighbor, in a conversation with some co-workers, upon mention of my name started spewing unsolicited, venomous unfounded accusations about me. Well, whether the neighbor is wrong or right, it is even more problematic when it comes from a neighbor of mine who was not identified to me other than as one of my neighbors. Couple that with the fact that I learned of this gossip from a friend of a co-worker of my neighbor and neither that co-worker nor my neighbor was identified. All I have to go on is the fact that I know the profession of the co-worker, so I can surmise the identity of the neighbor, but am not sure.
I do know that there are reasons why people would make-up vicious untruths against someone. While I don’t know all those reasons, I can surmise some.
1.) The neighbor doesn’t have a life and must therefore achieve some status from attacking others who have developed a vibrant life that possibly excludes them.
2.) The neighbor is an extremely petty person that endeavors to denigrate others because the neighbor feels, perhaps subconsciously, that she/he has gotten a raw deal in life and misery loves company.
3.) The neighbor is racist/sexist and does/doesn’t know it, but somehow can’t deal with someone different from them being more successful.
4.) The person is accurate in their description of me and feels that the world needs to know the type of person I am, in contrast perhaps to what I project.
If #4 is the reason, something is still a problem with the neighbor’s decision. Based on this choice, I should be disclosing the identity of the neighbor to the public for the very same reason(s) the neighbor may have done this to me. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, correct? Doesn’t the world deserve to know about a neighbor that is as far away from the concept of neighborly as you could define it. Wow! Am I wrong in believing that I am doing the same thing my gossiping neighbor did by revealing to the world that my neighbor is a gossip? What should I do here? Should I turn the other cheek just so my gossiping neighbor can talk about that side of my face as well? What would you do?
Well, the primary purpose of this letter is to let you know that we have a snake in our midst. If there is a neighbor in our community that would fabricate untruths like this about me, what would one do if she/he had access to the truth about any of us? I want all my neighbors to be on their guard for this neighbor who probably doesn’t have a life, is quite petty, possibly bigoted, and quite hypocritical. Again, I say hypocritical because she/he obviously didn’t consider how she/he would feel if the same thing occurred to her/him. It could be quite interesting to see her/his reaction when it occurs.
My neighbor, thanks for taking the time to read this correspondence. Please be cautious of whom you talk to and what you do in our neighborhood. There are people who will already construct reality for their own ill-gotten gain. Beware giving them something tangible to talk about!
First, please feel free to use this letter as a template or weapon to fight un-neighborly neighbors. Also, do you have neighbors out there who resemble the neighbor I described in this blog? Do you think this letter would be effective if such a neighbor actually read it? What approach would you take if not this one? Are there reasons beyond the ones I gave that you could suggest that describe why neighbors (or people in general) would do such nasty, mean spirited things, or is it just that those actions simply reflect a nasty, mean spirited disposition? Should the victim of this type of bullying feel disrespected, or sympathy for the poor misguided miscreant that engages in this type of behavior? What are your thoughts?