Written by: Jane Kim
I’m very fortunate to have had genuinely kind friends for most of my life and a loving mother for all it. However, growing up as a soft-spoken, bookish girl, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with bullying, ranging from youth group teasing to explicit physical and verbal abuse. My most relentless bully was a girl who used to force me into secluded spaces and tell me things like, “You’re so ugly, you should kill yourself.”
I entered high school believing that I was finally safe from the senseless hate, only to be met with the craftiest bully of all: Gossip.
Naively, I held my hopes up in college for a second time.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I’m starting to fear that there really is no magic number, no age at which bullying just quietly expires.
Now, let me call myself out: I gossip. And I’m of the evilest type of gossipers, the ones that think they’re clever and disguise their abuse with flowery language and feign innocence. I literally preface it with, “I don’t mean to gossip or anything, but . . .”
But . . . there’s just no excuse. I need to stop. And if you gossip, so do you.
Perhaps, it’s a matter of bad habit. As children, we tattled to our teachers and parents. Some kid would push us on the playground and, regardless of our actual hurt, we would unleash the waterworks and recite our dramatic telling of injustice and woe. Then, we would secretly revel in the subsequent satisfaction of watching our antagonist be pulled aside and chastised.
Isn’t that the same sort of satisfaction we get out of gossiping? Someone annoys us or hurts our ego, so we tell others. We exchange juicy details in “confidence.” We air others’ dirty laundry. We slut-shame. And for that very, very brief moment, by focusing on someone else’s humiliation, we hold to the illusion of feeling better about ourselves.
There is so much that is worth exploring and discussing in regards to bullying, but I can’t not highlight gossiping. In our fast-paced, media-driven culture where words spread like wildfire and hold incredible power, gossip is nothing short of devastating. In my lifetime alone, I’ve witnessed it burn down too many friendships and families, even entire churches.
Like all forms of bullying, gossip leaves in its wake the scars of its sullied victims. And there’s no way of truly undoing the damage, ever.
Jane S. Kim is a senior at Northwestern University studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. She serves as a student leader of Asian-American Intervarsity on campus and is a devoted reader of the works of Jane Austen. Her other areas of interest include urban medicine and community development, the Chicago Bulls, and green tea flavored desserts. You can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jane_kimbo and read her ramblings at jane-sk.blogspot.com.