Whether you are a teenager, a CEO or a seasoned parent, finding out that a person or persons have spoken behind your back in a negative way can be hurtful. There’s nothing wrong with being angry, feeling sad or otherwise betrayed when you learn this information. What you do with this knowledge and how you act upon it is what really matters in the end.
Being the parent of two children with developmental disabilities, in my case autism, I could and should probably write a book about all of the ways that I’ve been spoken to inappropriately, rudely, dismissively and condescendingly. Sometimes however, you will find out that people will sometimes say nice things to your face and behind your back they’re criticizing your every move. I’ve never really been able to quite understand what their purpose is, other than perhaps not understanding what they’ve been told, what they’ve learned, or never learned the skills about how to not talk about people behind their backs (the latter being HIGHLY likely!)
Years ago, I received a message from my former childhood bully. She contacted me and asked me out to lunch. It was quite the understatement to say that I was surprised by hearing from her. When we met, she said that she reached out to me because for years she had wanted to apologize for the way that she treated me when we were children. She wound up revealing that she was jealous about some aspects of my life at that time. For example, I had a pool and the latest jeans to wear and her family struggled and she didn’t have the “things” she thought would have made her enjoy life more. Finding herself jealous, she ended our friendship and wound up doing things that were spiteful and hateful towards myself and my family. Sometimes she would crank call our home late into the night, other times she went so far as to throw eggs at our home and even steal some of my mother’s flowers.
What touched me the most about our meeting is that she found something inside of herself that made her want to correct a wrong from many years ago. Even though we did not stay friends nor did we keep in touch, we were able to heal from an incident and move forward with more peace in our lives.
Since losing my husband and both of my parents, I have long struggled to rise above things, move past things, and do my best to become a better person by not constantly bringing up the past. It’s not easy to do. When you have been a victim of abuse, whether verbal or physical (or both) and through years of control and manipulation, staying bitter and angry can sometimes be seen as an obvious choice. Only when we are ready to transcend that anger and bitterness, to rise above and become a better person by choosing peace and tranquility can we truly begin to heal.
Very recently, someone very dear to me told me some upsetting statements that another person was saying about me. The old me would have been very upset, stewed about it for days and allowed the stress from thinking about it to rule my life and prevent me from being happy. This time, I chose to use the information for what it was; an obvious, sad attempt at undermining my parenting. I used the moment as a teaching opportunity, a way to explain that allowing others cruel, inappropriate, misguided, and uneducated comments to dictate how you feel about yourself will never be a positive thing. It would be easy to fire back with anger and unkind words, but would it really change the opinion of the person who talked about you in the first place? No. In all probability, it would add more fuel to the fire and enable the person to add your angry rant to the next opportunity to gossip about you. Sometimes initially, having that rant can make you feel good, but I guarantee you that nothing good will come of it in the end.
While cutting off contact by refusing to speak to the person ever again is sometimes the only way that you can cut this negativity permanently from your life, there are other ways that you can cope with those who talk behind your back. In today’s hyper connected world, slowly and deliberately removing yourself from this person’s cruel radar can sometimes be the only way to solve the problem. Alternatively, not contacting them as often or not visiting can sometimes make them think about the choices they’ve made with their mouth. Sometimes, none of these things work and you have to make the decision about what is best for you and your family. Oftentimes, taking the time to speak to the person and let them know how you feel about what’s been said can be difficult and stressful. Once in a while, the person might take the time to think about what they’ve said and realized that it was not kind, but this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like!
In the end, we are the only people who can make decisions for ourselves.
Those who know me are hyper-aware of my incredible passion and devotion to Star Trek. In the 2009 Star Trek movie, Spock’s father speaks to him as a young boy after he is reprimanded for getting in an altercation with his bullies. This quote has stayed with me for years and speaks volumes to those who cannot refrain from making poor choices….
“You are fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is, which path will you choose? This is something only you can decide.”