We’re at Day 6 and the prompt is ‘where I end and you begin. Write about whatever that phrase conjures up for you. It might be about a person, a thing, an activity — whatever comes to mind for you’.
I played around with this one for fully three days because it opens up so many possibilities, but I kept circling back to one place.
For several years now, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable around what we can loosely label gossip, with a dollop of judgment thrown in.
And yes, hands fully up here, I’ve gossiped and judged with the best of them — indeed, I used to be particularly adept at coming up with clever but hurtful nicknames for those who might find themselves the absent object of a bitching session.
But as I’ve ventured further along what I’m now relaxed enough to call my spiritual journey — remember, this is the daughter of fervent atheists speaking here, so it’s been quite a journey — I find myself shifting in my seat when the conversation turns to shredding a third party. And while I recoil more when it’s somebody I know, the same principle applies when it’s a complete stranger, or even a politician or celebrity.
Not to say I don’t still sometimes get stuck in — and you’d need to be a saint never to judge anyone else — but much more often I’ll edge away and just stay quiet.
Hands up again: at the time, a good gossip feels great — much hysteria, or opprobrium, or taking of the moral high ground, and a lot of superficial bonding. But at some level — whether conscious or not — I now recognise that I’ve always had this uneasy undercurrent of a feeling that this isn’t at all healthy.
Now they say that when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear and among the teachers to appear most recently for me is the very wonderful American research professor and storyteller Brené Brown. She is, for me, genuinely inspirational and some years ago she coined the trust-related acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G, the ‘v’ of which refers to ‘vault’. (You’ll find the full acronym here, but to understand the context you need to read her books and watch her TED talks!)
Dr Brown’s vault, in her own words: ‘You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.’
Parking for a moment the more altruistic aspects of this, here’s the nub of it, right at the point of pure self-interest: if you’re gossiping to me about someone else’s confidences, how can I be certain you won’t do the same with anything I tell you? How will I know that the moment we part you’re not going to grab the phone and start texting someone else with all the details of our recent conversation?
It’s so very easy to get drawn in — it’s especially seductive when we’re short on conversation — but I’d suggest we’d all feel a great deal better about ourselves if we set some clear boundaries around what we are and are not comfortable sharing and having shared with us.
And I have to say that I do feel a lot less compromised for allowing in more circumspection, more engaging of brain before opening of mouth. I hope too that I am becoming significantly slower to judge, a little more respectful, a lot more careful about what I say and to whom, and a great deal more aware of where it is I end and you begin.
Photo: durantelallera, Shutterstock