We all know it happens. We have all likely participated in it. I know I have. But smack talk in our spiritual communities is a serious problem. I’ve been in discussions about the health of gossip in communities. Many folks feel that gossip is an integral part of being in community, it is after all, how a lot of information gets shared. However, when smack talk goes beyond “harmless” gossip. It is ugly, trouble making, and should be a red flag.
Yes, It’s Personal
Full disclosure, I am writing this blog as a means of venting my current frustrations. I have recently discovered a mentor and leader in a specific community has been saying disparaging things about me behind my back. That’s fine, no biggie, but it goes further. This “leader” has also taken it upon themselves to tell people that my business is not doing well and I’m struggling with money. The “leader” in question is attempting to sow seeds of doubt to my potential clients and students to help their business look better. Not okay. (Just to be totally transparent, my business is absolutely thriving and has been for the past few years.)
This situation has brought up some of my other issues with shit talking community members. There are more than a few relationships damaged due to the rumor mill. There is a coven in splinters because of community drama that was not dealt with in a clear and positive manner. Other leaders, mentors, and teachers, have done things that caused a lot of harm in my life.
Failure in communication happens. People get emotional and may not say the right thing at the right time. We are imperfect beings. I get that. Mistakes will happen, feelings will be hurt, and repairs may not be possible. But my (perhaps naive) hope, is people involved with spiritual communities are attempting to become better people themselves. Calling someone out on bad behavior, as awkward or uncomfortable as it may be, is important to keep our communities healthy.
The person speaking ill about me is well known for this behavior. People who have been around for awhile won’t be surprised at all by these antics, it’s par for the course. But new folks to the path, those looking for real help and guidance won’t know this person is toxic until it’s too late. What’s a witch to do?
In my current situation my decision is to cut my losses and get out of dodge. It’s not a relationship I want to repair. Too much damage has been done and I don’t see this person as being willing or able to hear my feedback on their behavior. I won’t let myself be abused by this person again.
Gossip, Lies, and Healthy Feedback
In the Reclaiming community we value feedback. We ask students for feedback after teaching a class. We share feedback with people in leadership. And it’s not always easy. But there are key points to sharing feedback that are helpful and I believe these same points of sharing feedback can also be applied to sharing gossip.
–Is it helpful? – is sharing this information (gossip) going to help someone? If not, do you need to be sharing it? Make sure that you’re not dragging your own baggage into the situation. If you don’t know for sure that something is true, don’t share it.
–Is it specific? – is this feedback (or gossip) specific? Do you have a clear example of the behavior that feedback needs to be given on? Specific examples make feedback easier to receive.
–Is it timely? – is this feedback (gossip) from recent events or something from ten years ago that may not really apply anymore. People change a lot in a decade.
–Is it actionable? – is there something that can be done with the feedback (or gossip). Can you provide help or information to make things better?
As with everything we do, it is important to have clear self awareness. Stay spiritually healthy people!