In the Middle of a Mix-up

I sat at my desk, deep in preparation mode—the start of the school year was just a few days away. Across the room, returning students finalized their plans for that day’s freshman orientation session.

One of the girls turned to me.

“So, what’s this I hear about Mr. Moore being in Germany for a year?”

“What?” I asked.

I must have looked totally confused, so she clarified. She had heard that my husband was studying for a year in Germany. He was, wasn’t he?

The answer was a definite no—and where had she heard that information? I shook my head and gave her the right information.

“We did go to Germany this summer—together. And we came back—together,” I said, emphasizing the “together” part. “He is studying German, but at Mizzou!”

“Oooooh,” she exclaimed. “That makes SO much more sense!”

It had seemed strange to her that he would choose to leave me behind to go study abroad for a year, and it seemed strange that I would choose to stay, rather than go with him. How on earth would I cope? And why would we do such a thing?

Her instincts were right. It didn’t sound quite right because it wasn’t true. And she was smart enough to ask about it.

I’m sure this rumor was a complete accident. Nobody was being malicious, and nobody was trying to stir up drama. It was just a little confusion.

Probably, someone heard something about our trip and his decision to go to grad school and got the facts mixed up. Maybe someone had the right information, but the person they told misunderstood. Maybe someone had some of the information and made an assumption about the rest. Whatever the case, little by little, the wrong information spread.

Eventually, it got back to me. (It also managed to get home to at least one parent, I later learned.)

I laughed as I repeated the story to my husband and my friends—there was something entertaining about it all.

But then, I got to thinking: This is how rumors spread. What if it had been something serious? If the wrong information can spread quickly by accident, imagine how fast it can spread intentionally.

This mixed-up little rumor was harmless. It didn’t hurt anyone. It was a simple mix-up, and the worst thing it caused was a little confusion.

But not all rumors are like that. In fact, very few are. Most of them cause deep, deep wounds.

The truth gets twisted—sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose—and the lie gets passed on from person to person. Everyone is talking about it—except the person it actually affects.

The person at the center doesn’t find out what’s being said until it’s too late to keep the destruction contained.

Reputations are damaged, friendships torn apart, and trust broken.

The truth eventually comes out. Apologies are made, people forgive, but things aren’t quite the same. Friendships can be restored, but they’re different. It takes time and effort to restore trust. It takes time for everyone to heal.

But this is not a lost cause. We have a choice.

It only takes one person to start a rumor. But it takes a second person to keep it going.

Don’t be that person.

If it seems a little strange, like maybe someone is misinformed, seek the truth from the right source. Your friend will thank you for caring, and you will be equipped to stand up for them.

And just because something tells you something, that doesn’t mean you have to pass it on. It can stop with you.

If it starts with, “Don’t tell anyone, but,” then you probably shouldn’t be talking about it. If you have to lower your voice to a whisper, then you shouldn’t be talking about it, either. And if you’re afraid that the person you’re talking about will find out, it’s definitely off limits.

If the conversation starts to take a turn down the rumor track, do yourself and your friends a favor. Turn it the other way. You can say something like, “I’m not sure we should really be talking about this,” or “Let’s talk about something else.”

Or, you can keep it even simpler. Don’t even respond. Choose a new topic of conversation, or dismiss yourself from the situation. It’s OK to step away from a situation that’s getting unhealthy.

There are better things to talk about than other people’s business. And you and your friendships will be stronger if you spend your time talking about things that build each other up.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

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