The post in which I tell one of my many recovery stories

Oh, for the love of gossip.

Guys, my name is Kara and I am a recovering gossip… a recovering, dare I say, mean girl.

I started gossiping sometime around the age of 8... give or take a few months. It was in third grade, Ms. Moncada’s class, when I realized that sharing secrets or talking negatively about someone else can get you a lot of ears and wide eyes. I remember being surrounded by freckle-faced girls with bony knees and Little Mermaid shirts… all staring. Hanging on to my  words. Treating me like I mattered. Like I had something to say.

Me, the ESFJ, loving to be the center of it all, had found my drug of choice… attention. And my way to get attention? Be a provider of information.

I was by no means wealthy… so I didn’t have the best clothes. I had some fairly messed-up teeth (thank you to my orthodontist for correcting this issue with 3 years of braces and to my parents for footing the bill) so I couldn’t be the pretty one. I was fast, but a little on the short side, so I couldn’t be the best athlete. We are all clamoring to find our niche. Our thing. A way to be known. An identity to cling to.

So, once I realized that talking about people got me the feeling of being the center… being important… I took it and ran with it.

This continued through middle school, junior high, high school… the painful years. I so desperately needed to be the one with the information… the one to share it to those who did not yet have the information. I needed to be Katie Couric. But with Abercrombie shirts and boot cut jeans. It’s interesting looking back how I never caught on that people don’t particularly like sharing their secrets with the person sharing everyone else’s.

It was a hard role to fill. Because you can’t ever really keep up… and the role isn’t one that garners you a ton of friends. It’s difficult to be likeable and also be a gossip. I was constantly torn between the desire to stop and the desire to be known… and this was the only way I knew how to be known. It was my comfort zone. A true addiction.

The thing with this addiction, is there isn’t really ever a moment of sobriety. I don’t think you take a hard turn from gossip and never  look back. There isn’t a “last secret shared” or “last lie about someone to make yourself look better.” You just slowly stop seeing the value in it. You slowly stop desiring the attention of people who seek the information. You slowly stop needing others to listen to second-hand information. You want to have your own thoughts, opinions, values… and to be loved for those things, not for what you heard by the water cooler (or outside of civics class).

This morning I was on a walk with my kids, and I remembered so vividly a moment when I had emailed (AOL days) someone (we’ll call her Ann) making fun of a mutual friend (we’ll call her Melinda). I remember the exact words I used. I wrote Ann, criticizing Melinda for a party she was planning to which she had invited some of the more popular kids at our school .I said something about Melinda thinking she was better than she was and how none of those kids would come anyway. The bad thing was, I was right. The “popular kids” did not, in fact, attend Melinda’s party. I think part of me wanted to lash out in jealousy… that Melinda felt like she could invite those people and put herself out there, risking them not showing up to her party. Part of me wanted to predict what would happen and then later have evidence I was right and justify my mean words. Part of me wanted to be in on some kind of inside joke, that happened to be at the expense of a friend.

Thankfully, Ann didn’t forward the email on to Melinda (she was definitely more considerate of others’ feelings than I was) but as I remembered this poor quality of my former self and how careless I was with my words as I was out walking this morning made me cringe. I felt pangs of embarrassment. So ashamed of the person I was. Tears brimming in my eyes over the immeasurable hurt I have caused. Wishing I could go back and change it all. Wishing I could go back to little 8-year-old me and beg that poor girl to choose another way. Begging that poor girl to just be content with who she was… a little too loud, a little awkward, a little too goofy, but all in all, an okay kid. Maybe even likable.  

And, guys, I had to preach the gospel to myself this morning. Out loud. Like a crazy person. I had to tell myself that Kara the Gossip was crucified with Christ and no longer lives. It’s true, I am still very capable of gossip. It’s not like God swooped in and gave me only positive thoughts about all the people all the time. But can I tell you, by the grace of Christ, I really don’t gossip anymore. The temptation is alive and well, trust me. I can feel it welling up at times, the urge to share a secret or a joke at the expense of someone else.  Because people still do enjoy being in the know. But God, thankfully, uses his Spirit to gently prod me in another direction. To keep it to myself. To thank him for the slow change he is making in me. That Christ died for all of the unkind words I had sent out into the world over the last 29 years. That he died for the unkind words and thoughts I will undoubtedly have in the next 29 years.

It’s okay to be known as someone who can be trusted to keep secrets. It’s okay to keep that sarcastic comment to myself… because funny at the expense of someone else really isn’t worth the funny. It’s okay to rest in who Jesus made me to be and not have to draw attention to myself.  It’s okay to give God the glory and not try and hog it all for myself.  And it’s okay to just be okay.


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