There are a few things in life I have control over. One of these are my actions. There are also a few things that I don't have control over and that's the things people say about me. I would rather people talk about how wonderfully talented I am or my keen sense of style and whatever but sadly not everyone does. I'd like to be viewed as good friend, as someone who cares and who love but again I'm not always. I would love to be sought after as a friend, but sadly that isn't always the case. Fair? Justified? No. Reality? Yes. I was once told that I can't control what people think about me, but I can control what I say or do to other people.
I fear at times that sometimes a person may have a lot of good to say but that they will never be heard because of gossip spread about them by others. Sometimes this is even second or third generation gossip that has evolved into something completely not true but that has lingered on to haunt that person. I've also found through my own experiences that at times the very people who should understand how hard it is will often be the most cruel, the most hurtful. The ones who give you the cold shoulder. This could be because I remind them of what they are trying hard themselves to overcome or perhaps they feel some sort of fear based on "what so and so has told them." But at the same time I don't think we ever progress along the path of salvation by climbing over another person and forcing them under. I hope and pray that I never do that to another person or that my actions never make another person feel that way.
We can be the greatest support to others who struggle with SGA because we know what it's like. We can also be the ones who make it worse for others when we do as you said and let gossip or other shallow things prevent us from reaching out.
It takes a very brave person to stand up to a friend we love who may be doing this and say "I've heard that." It takes an even braver friend to take it a step further and say, "Why do you think that is the way it is?" or "Have you actually talked to that person and know that that is the truth?" Challenging them to step back, to take a walk in the others shoes.
Joseph Smith taught that if we have an issue with someone, we should take it up with them personally and in such a way that we resolve it. We do this so that we don't become stumbling blocks to each other. Often times I know from experience that I may have slighted someone or done something to them in the past. I may have since then moved forward and have tried very hard to live the gospel. However, my past actions will always cloud that persons opinion of me and my new good actions may even come off as hypocritical, unless I take the time to make peace with that person and try to resolve things. And yes, I realize that that clouding could be the result of the other persons pride or whatever or maybe its easier to vilify me then to make amends.
There are times when no matter how hard you try to resolve those things, that person may never ever want to and before jumping to whatever conclusions we can come up with we should consider maybe there is something within their own space that prevents them from being able to do that. Once we have apologized sincerely in such a way that it should mean something to that person and not just makes us feel better we should consider walking away but as my grandma once said, leave the door open to them.
Yes, I do believe there are times when it is needed to reach out to warn another person if you feel that they may be getting involved with something or someone that we may know isn't going to be good with them. But there are ways to do that that are uplifting and that may even build up that person you think is dangerous so that they may become someone we don't fear. Why not try to reach out to them and build them up? Again going to that person personally, seeing them as a child of God first and foremost. We need to be careful that we do this out of love for that person. And yes maybe sometimes our fear are justified and we do need to stay clear of them. But I think those times are few and far between. Our motives need to be well meaning and not to tear down. Understanding why a person may be motivated to act or think a certain way goes a long way to developing empathy for them.
If people were less judgmental of each other over stupid things that don't matter, or if we were to let go of second or third generation gossip that we often cling to in order to justify the boundaries we throw up around ourselves, we may soon find that there are a lot of good people out there. Boundaries are there to help protect ourselves not to hurt others. I have found more times then any that there are a lot of human people out there, a lot of imperfect people. And a lot of people just like myself.