Some people use divisiveness to garner false loyalty from others. They will unscrupulously take certain statements out of context with the intent of spreading misinformation and confusion.
They will often talk about what the other person did or said, from a first hand perspective. Often omitting the critical common sense question: “Why did this conversation take place in your presence, and what was your response?”
Growing up, I remember my mom used to save various “Love is” newspaper clips and prominently display them in the kitchen. The one that stands out the most read, “A true friend will hear the worst about you but refuse to believe it.” I’m so grateful to have learned such an important lesson early in life. I have met many people who presented themselves as “friends.” Time and experience would prove otherwise in some cases.
Friends who hear negative things about you have a responsibility. Actually the responsibility is mutual. If someone discusses your friend in a negative light, you can remove yourself from the discussion; let the other person know that you are friends with the so-called bad actor, or simply offer an opposing viewpoint, (e.g., “I’ve never experienced that with her, maybe you can let her know how you feel?”)
There are different perspectives on whether to let your friend know “the tea” that you have been served. This could be complicated at best because it begs the key question: how did you get invited to this particular tea party in the first place? There are also other complicated situations, perhaps involving family, close friendships, and even work situations, where discretion is required. Going back to my earlier point about mutual responsibilities in friendships, I don’t think it’s our jobs to ensure that no one speaks badly about our friends. People are entitled to their opinions based on the experiences they have had with a person even if this happens to be “your person.” I think we do have a responsibility however, to let others know where we stand. Whether it be about another person, or from an integrity perspective, we will not be party to one-sided conversations or accusations.
I believe the heart of the matter comes down to the following: Did this “tea” (e.g., gossipy, maligning, negative) information change you? Specifically, change or challenge the way you think and feel about your friend? If it did, how and why?
Which leads me to another quote by the amazing Joan Jett: “You’ve got nothing to lose and you don’t lose when you lose fake friends.”
It takes time, maturity, coupled with fearless clarity to acknowledge and accept who our friends and loved ones really are. To fully accept and embrace ourselves even. If we know them, then we know them. We know what conversations or statements they are capable of having, and with whom. We often know what motivates them, what ticks them off. And vice versa. So if we’re being honest, how was someone else (essentially a stranger), capable of manipulating an existing friendship by introducing “new” information? Who exactly did the stranger expose…you, or your friend?