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Badmouthing breaks trust and reaps bitterness. Are we the accuser or the accused?
Caitlin had always been happy at school with many friends. But when she was 9, Jenna, a classmate who was jealous of Caitlin's popularity, began waging a campaign to turn Caitlin's friends against her. Jenna took a girl’s purse and claimed Caitlin had stolen it. She falsely confided to another that Caitlin had been talking behind her back. Jenna convinced Caitlin's friends that Caitlin was a ‘loser’ because she was neither slim nor fashion-conscious. Consequently, they stopped inviting Caitlin to sleepovers.

The story of Caitlin was told by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer in her article ‘Surviving the Rumor Mill’ at Scholastic.com. Hartley said it is important not to underestimate the havoc reported rumors or gossip could wreak, especially those in their tween years—however unlikely, untrue or trivial they may seem. Fortunately for Caitlin, she was able to make new and more reliable friends.

“Tweens are trying to make their mark, and there is often a constant undercurrent of competition as they attempt to be top dog,” Hartley wrote. “It's no secret that children can be mean, especially those whose own painful experiences make them more inclined to strike out at others.”

The statement made by Hartley, in actuality, applies to people of all ages. During times of uncertainty, the gossip mill turns faster than ever in environments beyond the schools and campuses to workplaces and businesses, often contributing to lower productivity and affecting relationships.

A good way to deal with the gossip or rumor mill is to stay away from it, and when falsely accused to keep silent if we are not ready or unable to make our defense. Badmouthing to position ourselves above others or to hide our own misgivings breaks trust and reaps bitterness. Spreading rumors and premeditating steps to another person’s fall are uncivil and unethical. Like Caitlin, we can make new and more reliable friends.

Are we falsely accused by others for something we did not do or are we among those who talk behind people’s back and spread rumors or gossips about others? Do we make attempts when falsely accused to find out why our accuser is doing it? Could our accuser’s past or painful experiences be an opening for us to understand and help? Are we the accused or the accuser?
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