“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” – Proverb 26:22
The student was certainly upset. His anger was quite clear. “What seems to be the problem?” I asked.
“He said that I was the one that broke the class globe. I didn’t, and he wasn’t even in class on that day it happened. How could he have even known?”
“Aha,” I thought as I got the scent of a ruinous rumor enroute through my classroom. I had the class sit down as I began to publicly track down the treacherous trail of the elusive gossip.
I approached the accuser, and queried, “Is that true? You are sure he broke the globe? You saw it happen?”
“Well, I didn’t actually see it happen. Keith told me he broke it.”
“Oh, I see. You were just believing the gossip and assumed it was true,” I summarized.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” On I proceeded to Keith and continued the inquisition. “So Keith, since you passed the story, you must have seen him break the globe?”
“Um, not actually. I got it from Tony.” Then on to Tony, I went. The whispering in the class was telling me that the class was starting to see a pattern to the scuttlebutt. Tony also admitted he had not seen the deed, but also heard it from another. In the class of less than 20 teenage boys, I followed the path of the rumor as it traveled through ten lips. Finally, I approached a boy where it seemed the tale originated. “So, Brian, you see how much damage your story has done, and how far it has traveled. Did you see happen what you accused him of doing?”
Brian was quite nervous. He was picking at some bit of dirt on his desk and would not make eye contact with me. “Well, not actually,” he murmured in a low voice. “But he broke an airplane model of mine a couple of months ago, and never even said he was sorry. So, I just know he broke the globe.”
The truth finally came out. “So you never saw him do it. You just assumed he did it because you were still mad at him for what he did a long time ago.” “Um, I guess so.”
The whole class shook their head. They had been misled by someone else’s bitter grudge. Each one had believed hearsay and each had misjudged an innocent person. Fortunately, although quite embarrassed, each publicly apologized to the accused and hopefully learned that a rumor cannot be trusted as truth. It was from that episode that Brian realized that he also lost much trust from his classmates.
The best way to stop gossip is not to offer a listening ear!