Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Things We Say About Other People

I want to share as an example of how gossip and rumors could have destroyed a friendship. I've held back writing this, sharing it with some friends first to help me say what I want to say in the best way possible. I want to make sure that I begin with the ending. It turned out to be really positive experience in learning just how tolerant and loving a friend can be.

I had a friend who came to visit. He is an RM, he doesn’t struggle with SGA but he’s having some issues of his own. We both noticed on myspace and facebook that we had a mutual friend. This mutual friend does struggle and my friend knows about it. I hadn't really told my friend about my struggle, mainly because it didn't come up and we never really got on that topic. We had other more interesting things to talk about. The mutual friend knew a lot of other guys who do struggle and is also friends with some guys who have given up their struggles and moved on into the gay lifestyle, some of whom don’t like me because of my opinions.

When I saw that my friend and this guy were listed as friends I got a little worried about being "outed." I really didn't think this guy was a mean spirited person, but I also know that he close to people who don’t like me and who I know have gossiped about me to others in the past. I know he doesn't think that highly of me as a result, so you can see why I am concerned.

When my friend got here, I asked him in a roundabout way how he knew this other guy and he said they had grown up together and had been friends. I said cool, I asked him if he had ever talked about me. He said "Um, not really” and changed the subject. Later we got on the topic again when we were online, and he asked me how I knew him, I told him how. And he said, "Well since you brought it up I guess I should tell you the rest. He warned me that you were a gay recruiter and that I should be careful of you."

A couple things really hit me in the gut at this point. A. This guy did out me. B. He also not only outed me, but he did so by saying I could possibly been a threat to a friend.

A lot of things went through my mind. I was mad.

But I was also amazed how nonjudgmental my friend was. I mean a good childhood friend had warned him that not only was I gay but that I recruit others to the lifestyle and yet he didn’t immediately get scared. He planned on staying the weekend anyways. That part really made me realize what a good friend this guy was when he asked me if I did struggle, and I told him yes. He said he understood and that he would like to be a support to me if I ever needed it.

He said that he knew that his friend was only trying to protect him, but that it was wrong for him to be listening to gossip. He said it was apparent that his friend had never taken the time to get to know me as a person or he would know that nothing could be further from the truth. It still stung because I was beginning to wonder who else this guy has talked to about me. But the funny thing was as much as I didn't want to like his friend and as much as I wanted to delete him from my friend list so that he couldn't "expose" me to anyone else, I respected him trying protect his friend, even if it was unfounded. At the same time I realized just how much the things we say can have devastating effects on others efforts to do good if we speak without really knowing the truth.

I guess what really bothered me was the things that had been said about me--that I was a gay recruiter and that I have a major reputation of going after SGA guys trying to befriend them to pull them into the lifestyle. I've never done that. In fact I’ve tried to do the exact opposite. It did also bug me that to say these things about me, he cited people who I know and who have made it pretty public that they are out and no longer living the gospel, and in fact have publicly mocked the church and its teachings, who DO influence others to do immoral things to "be true to themselves." It’s ironic that it’s their words that he believed knowing how they were now living.

My friend who was visiting told me not to worry and that he knew I was a great guy. He said that he still loves his friend but is disappointed in him. He told me to forgive him and be open to being his friend. That is the part that I admired the most that he was able to acknowledge that what his friend did was wrong, but that he was trying to protect him. He did stand up for me and at the same time stay friends with both of us and try to reach out and fix things. Talk about being a peacemaker. That is surely a spiritual gift.

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