Do you gossip?
Gossip sounds a little too forward, Africans call it gisting.
What is gisting?
Well, it’s basically talking about something someone did (or didn’t do). To spice the gist up, we add a sprinkle of exaggeration and turn a simple event into an award-winning script. This story might spread to 5…10…20 people or even go viral. Leaving the person spoken about little or no room to save themselves from the masses talking about them and making judgements.
But it’s just a story that goes around, how bad can it be?
Let me tell you about Jayson.
Jayson, a short lanky fellow in his mid-teens was on his way back from school one sunny Friday afternoon. Fridays were always his best days, he could play as much as he wanted without having to worry about school or assignments. Like he did every weekend, Jayson went with a few friends for a football game after school.
They were divided into teams and he played in the first round of the game.
After his team won, he quickly picked up his bag and ran off. Hoping to get to the house before his father who usually came home late from the farm on Fridays. He was lucky enough to get home in time and avoid any trouble.
The second football team match was over about an hour after Jayson left. The boys all rushed to get their school bags and head home before sunset. As they struggled to grab their bags from the pile lying on the dusty field, Jayson’s friend Shu couldn’t find his bag. The others quickly collected their bags from the pile and it was evident Shu’s bag was indeed missing.
He was the class head and had collected the contributions from his classmates to buy a gift for a friend who was ill.
The other boys helped to look around the field for the bag but it was nowhere to be found. The bag had indeed been stolen.
Jayson might have stolen the bag they one of the boys suggested in an unsure tone. Oh yes! He was the first to leave and the only one who knew you had money in your bag… another boy exclaimed in agreement.
As the boys headed home, they recounted the story of how Jayson had stolen his friend's bag while they were playing football to anyone who cared to know why Shu was looking so worried.
The weekend slipped through pretty fast and Monday came.
Immediately Jayson got to class, his friends treated him like someone with leprosy. They avoided his company and looked at him distastefully. A few moments later while he was still trying to find out what he did wrong, the principal came in. Standing at the classroom door, the principal summoned Jayson to his office.
Shu, in order to avoid being punished, told the principal Jayson stole the bag containing the class contribution. The other boys with whom they played football supported Shu’s claim firmly. They also added that it wasn’t the first time he had stolen from his mates… in their words “Jayson is a big thief”.
The principal barely gave the accused 5minutes to defend himself before handing him a convocation letter.
This meant he had to bring his parents to school and maybe face serious disciplinary action.
When he returned to class, he looked devastated. No one can happily bear the shame of being called a thief. But that was the least of Jayson’s worries. He spent the entire day trying to figure out how he will give the letter from the principal to his stern dad.
His father’s question was obvious.
What were you doing in the field after school hours?
Unsure of how his father will react added to the humiliation from school, Jayson ran back home, seized a bottle of bleach from the bathroom and drank.
His parents found him unconscious a few hours later and rushed him to a nearby local clinic.
No worries, he survived it.
Jayson’s story may seem a bit extreme. He should have defended himself rather than try to commit suicide. This sounds more logical.
There’s more to the story though. His father who was a poor farmer had chosen to sponsor him out of 8 siblings. The only condition the father gave him was to stay out of any trouble both in school and outside school. A convocation from school literarily meant the end of his education.
His dream of becoming a doctor just came to a crash in a matter of hours.
That’s not where the story ends.
Jayson did leave the field first, but he wasn't the person who stole the bag of money. While the others were playing, one of his friends tried looking for the money in Shu’s bag during a short break. Since he couldn’t find the exact location of the money, he put Shu’s bag which was relatively small into his.
While everyone was busy looking for the bag on the field, it was in someone else’s bag.
When the news about Jayson’s attempted suicide came out, the thief’s younger sister who saw him searching through a strange bag knew he was the one who had stolen the bag and reported what she saw to the principal.
It was then that Jayson was declared innocent.
We all love happy endings.
Finally! He was vindicated.
But these questions still run through my head;
- What if he didn’t survive the attempted suicide?
- What if he didn’t attempt to kill himself but his father stopped paying for his schooling?
- What would his image have been like if he wasn’t declared innocent?
Impact is always seen after an action has already occurred. It will sound absurd to ask people to live a “gossip free life”. Most of our daily conversations are made up of gossip so eliminating it completely is almost impossible. However, we can make a conscious effort not to indulge in negative gossips that can tarnish someone’s image. Especially if we don’t have concrete validity proof of the news we are sharing.
I read an article by Hannah Rose “The Toxicity of Gossip” on Psychology Today. She gave a very practical way to deal with gossiping or better still become a better gossip.
“The most significant thing to help me avoid the gossip trap is surrounding myself with people who are also trying to better themselves and hold themselves accountable.”
It is also important to admit that not all gossip is negative.
Researchers at the University of California Riverside categorize gossip into 3 main groups; “positive/flattering gossip, neutral gossip (i.e., observations about people that aren’t necessarily positive or negative), and negative/malicious gossip” — Mark Travers, Psychology Today.
An ideal world will be one without gossip.
Our world is far from ideal. So rather than wish gossip disappears overnight, we can all make a conscious effort to be part of positive gossips on our best days and neutral gossips on our worst days.
Do you think we can achieve this? Is it possible to become a better gossip?
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