In my adult Bible class on Sunday morning, I read a letter written to Abigail Van Buren by a woman in Georgia. She explained to the famous advice columnist that her mother and her friends were polite to each other’s faces but habitually critical behind turned backs. The mother defended the behavior as an innocent pastime, but her daughter learned to distrust kind people. Their compliments surely weren’t sincere. Only abusive people could be trusted. At least they were honest. It took a year of therapy for the writer of the letter to gain some self-confidence and find a balanced perspective. Her sisters didn’t fare so well. They both married abusive husbands.
Touched by the woman’s painful experience, Abby answered by printing “Nobody’s Friend,” an anonymous piece about gossip. One of the students in my Bible class asked if the item could be put in the bulletin. See below:
My name is Gossip. I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name or face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I am nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it never is the same. I topple governments and wreck marriages. I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches and indigestion. I make innocent people cry in their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip. I make headlines and headaches.