A friend came over a few weeks ago to talk about some serious marital problems she was going through and asked if she could make a request of us, but first quite emphatically stressed that we needed to keep her request to ourselves, which we've done without hesitation or problem. She said, "I really need you guys to promise you won't mention this to anyone else because I gotta tell you, you are two of the biggest blabbermouths I know!"
Well, be that as it may (my favorite expression these days), what I said back to her was "Be that as it may, (see?) you also must know that we are also equally capable of keeping things to ourselves, or you wouldn't be making this request of us." It may not have been the most Quakerly of replies, but what I also could have said was that if she thinks we share a lot about the things we know, she'd be amazed at how much we know that we don't tell anyone!
So, on the way to a dinner party that evening, Cheryl and I talked about what she'd said and agreed that for the most part, we don't believe in the concept of gossip when it is applied to the sharing of information about people's lives we care very much about, or even less invested in, for that matter. It's the original form of Social Networking. When I tell things about our lives to our friends, I do it with the full assumption they are going to share that information with others, unless we specifically ask them not to, and even then, one has to assume that doesn't mean it's 100% certain that it won't be shared.
But of course, there is the sharing of information that just has a bad feel to it that falls into a different category. I was talking about the same couple to the Overseer Committee at Meeting and even though I knew that the reason for the break-up was that there was another woman involved, I chose not to share that with the group, as it didn't seem relevant, and I knew it wasn't something they would want spread around. I was pretty sure that I was the only person the husband had told that to at Meeting. And that's not to say that I am always able to be so circumspect, if that's the right word, as I'd like to think I should be. It's hard to keep somethings to oneself sometimes, and I don't know why that is or what the impulse is that causes it or what need it satisfies, but it is a strong one.