It may be that, as I grow older, I’m slowly morphing into Larry David... but I’ve found that life can be like an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” at times. You only have to make one innocuous throwaway comment and, before you know it, someone has misconstrued the whole meaning and turned it into something entirely different. The offended party have then told two other people and they’ve told two more people – and suddenly someone dislikes you based on something you didn’t do or say in the first place.
I’ve also found that when you moan about someone behind their back the universe seems to find a way to make sure the person you’re moaning about hears exactly what you said about them. Whether you’re having a gossip with a close friend, rubbishing someone to your spouse, or tearing someone to pieces in your WhatsApp group – sooner or later, whether it’s in this life or the next – your “victim” will hear everything you had to say about them.
Of course it’s easily done, and I’m certainly not judging anyone for talking about a mutual friend or family member. I’ve been in situations in the past where I’m with a friend, there’s a lull in the conversation and suddenly I start talking about someone who’s not present.
Thankfully, my brain intervenes with; “Think about what you’re saying… Is it necessary? Is it helpful to their situation? Is it kind to the person involved?”
When I talk about someone I do my best to imagine that person is sitting in the room, and ensure my words are never spiteful or malicious. The reality is that moaning about someone behind their back is both cowardly and unnecessary. Unless you’re just talking about something that will benefit them at a later date – like a Christmas present or surprise party.
So it was rather dispiriting for me to hear that someone I considered to be a “friend” was moaning to someone about what I share on social media. Apparently I “shouldn’t” have been so open about my financial struggles – or any problems relating to mental health.
I already knew this person didn’t like my posts, simply based on what they say and don’t say to me anymore – but hearing it from someone else only confirmed my suspicions.
Yet had I kept my financial struggles a secret I know they'd have moaned about me not sending them a birthday card or inviting them out to coffee – because they wouldn't have known I was in poverty; and just assumed I was an ass.
Yep, it’s disappointing… but not entirely surprising. I think I’d have to be incredibly naive to think that nobody is saying detrimental things about me behind my back – especially when I’ve sat in a room with likeminded people who’ve mocked and belittled others right in front of me.
One person I once knew even implied my posts were “manipulative” and said as much to their band of “followers”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended. I’m just thankful they’re not in my life anymore. Simply because these are the kinds of toxic souls you don’t want or need in your friendship circle.
This accusation was also unkind to my real friends. Nobody has ever helped me because they were “manipulated” or "hoodwinked" into doing so, they helped me because they were kind, decent human beings. They do exist.
Perhaps, if I wasn't doing anything to improve my situation, I could see how people might think I was relying too heavily on others to help me out of a hole. Except in the last two years I've taken on two retail positions that couldn't be further removed from my comfort zone.
I have a huge amount of respect for someone who is brave enough to say they’re struggling – especially in a public forum – and I have absolutely zero respect for a coward who just sits and moans about a person being open about their struggles.
My only question to these people is… What is the alternative to not talking about your problems? Are we meant to suffer in silence? Only tell one or two people? Let things get so bad that they overwhelm us?
“Oh, he felt he couldn't discuss his problems so he took his own life… but at least now I don’t have to feel bad about ignoring his cries for help!”
I have to say that 95% of people I’ve spoken to are incredibly kind, incredibly supportive – and some of those are pretty much strangers who’ve suffered similar experiences.
If you find that you don’t want to share personal things on social media then I obviously respect that… but please don’t “bury” your problems by not being completely transparent. People say social media is not the place, but that’s complete nonsense – and mostly said by people who are incapable of offering support or encouragement to others.
Don’t worry, I know exactly who my critics are – even if they think I don’t know.
I’d still happily meet them for coffee and a chin-wag but I’d never instigate such a meeting again – and I’d only share a very limited amount of information with those individuals.
Some years ago a former toxic friend asked me how much credit card debt I had accumulated. When I answered the question they replied; "No wonder you're depressed! How did you get in so much debt?"
Obviously my answer to the original question should have been "It doesn't matter" and if they responded with "Of course it matters!" I'd have expanded my reply with; "It doesn't matter... to YOU!"
This world is a complete mess. You only have to watch the news to see what a cold, dark place we live in – but we’re also all here for a very short time. Therefore I don’t think it should be too much of a stretch to be kind and considerate to everyone around us.
Sooner or later I’m going to be doing well for myself. My business is slowly expanding and now I’m juggling several jobs it will only be a matter of time before I'm in a good position. A pretty, pretty good position.
When that day comes I will be helping others as people have helped me. Although I certainly won’t be helping anyone who spouted venom because I was so open about a difficult chapter in my life.
Like it or not, we reap what we sow in this world.
Writing is my therapy, so if you don't like it the obvious no-brainer solution is to not read it. Although I'm sure I'll hear that someone has moaned about this blog at some point!
I think we also need to be mindful when talking favourably about other people. Your close friend may have confided in you about their pregnancy or new job – but they may not want that information repeated [for whatever reasons] to another close friend.
Yes, it's good news gossip, but sometimes we just need to curb our enthusiasm.