I kind of like having a blog, where I can spout my opinions. Here’s one: Too many people can’t keep a secret. If you ever think of me, “Golly, he’s not the most open fellow in the world,”—you talk like that when you think; I know you do—it’s probably because too many people enjoy gossip. Not just enjoy it; are gluttons for it.
Hey, man, I’m not here to judge you if you are one of those people. I get it. Gossip is fun. Heck, celebrity gossip is its own cottage industry. More than a cottage industry, actually. Big business these days. There are lots of hours to fill on cable TV.
Now, I listen to gossip. I just try really hard not to contribute. Not saying I never have. But it’s a very bad habit to engage in. I suppose even listening could be judged to be naughty, too, and if I really had strong morals I would excuse myself at times like those. Well, these are my rules. I’ll listen. But I’m not terribly likely to repeat whatever salacious hoo-ha I hear.
People seem to think that the sharing of someone else’s secret empowers them. You might say to a friend, “You know what Sally* told me?” Then you spill the beans on whatever Sally told you. You’re in the know. Secrets. Powerful. Except for the fact that the power lies in not telling.
Every time you tell someone a secret, you diminish its value. Soon enough, everyone knows, and where’s the value in that? Also, just like the childhood game of telephone, where you sit in a circle and whisper some phrase to the next person, and see how it gets butchered before it gets back around to you, the more gossip gets passed around, the less rooted in any semblance of fact it’s likely to be.
Most of the time, I think, gossip is motive-neutral. Sometimes people gossip for bad reasons. They know something about someone, and want to diminish that person in others’ eyes. Also possible is that the secret keeper just can’t emotionally handle the task of keeping the secret. It eats them up inside, and passing it on is the only way to unburden themselves. That’s not exactly evil on their part, but it shows a certain lack of moral rectitude.
When someone shares a secret about themselves, they’ve offered you a great gift. It’s an invitation to know them on a tremendously intimate level. This is something they don’t care for the general public to know, and they’ve come to you, offering that glimpse inside. Maybe they want your advice and counsel. Probably they just need someone simply to hear them, learn the truth, and love them anyway. I have a great deal of respect for people who take the risk of spilling the beans about themselves. I have just as much for people who get the beans spilled to them, tuck the beans in their pocket, and leave them there.
Without trying to be self-aggrandizing, let me say that I’m really, really good at keeping secrets. I’ve been privy to some big ones. I take keeping other people’s secrets very seriously. One advantage I have, were I to for instance be tortured—not that I’m encouraging that, obviously—is that I’m terribly forgetful. So if you’ve told me some deep dark secret in the past, it’s possible I’ve forgotten all about it. If I don’t use it, I lose it. And since I’m not telling anyone about you, and I’m not sitting around judging you privately, it will fade from memory.
This topic dovetails nicely into the extensive thoughts I have about those who sit in judgment of others. That’s probably a topic that deserves its own entry, though, and I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually.
So for now, go forth my friends, and keep those secrets entrusted to you.
*I don’t think I know anyone named Sally, yet it’s the first name that came to my mind. Go figure.